Dreams from the Threshing Floor

At the beginning of the year, I was challenged to pray about a word to set the tone of 2016. I prayed, and to my delight and dismay, God put the word “Yes” on my heart. Terror and exhilaration encapsulated in three little letters. I am a goal-oriented woman. My dreams are well known by those who love me. Now, half way through the year, I am still unsure what this “Yes” year means specifically to me. In fact, I have simultaneously been experiencing a season of restlessness without clear direction in sight. God and I have been wrestling through many doubts, and confronting untruths I have believed about myself. In short,  He has been making me uncomfortable. At times, it has been painful; and yet, I trust Him entirely.

A wise, God-fearing gal pal in my life reminded me the story of Gideon and his fleece. The book of Judges, in the Old Testament, unfolds the telling of a man who God allowed to experience unrest and in turn, trust.

Judges 6:11 begins with Gideon beating out wheat in a winepress. Now we must become aware of the fact that a winepress is not where wheat is threshed; he was there because he was hiding. Hiding from the Midianites. He was terrified of his enemies, so much so, that he sacrificed productivity for security. In his moment of weakness, an angel of the Lord showed up, and called him out. The angel addressed Gideon not with shame but with titles such as “mighty man of valor.” From my perspective, Gideon was behaving cowardly, but God sent a messenger to sift through the lies he believed in his heart. Gideon said “I need to hide.” God said otherwise.

Reservedly, Gideon proceeds to question God’s plan. God intended Gideon to save Israel from the Midianites. God had a plan. A big plan. One that would cause Gideon to cling to His goodness and trust Him entirely. However, Gideon, bless his heart, continued to come back at God with fears and doubts. Gideon says, in verse 15 of chapter 6, “My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” Of course, Gideon’s apprehension did not phase God.

As I read further into chapter 6 of Judges, I began to see why my friend thought of this story in regards to my own wrestling with God. Gideon had already been called out by God. He had been affirmed as a man of valor. And yet, he still needed proof of God’s word. He audaciously came before God with a test of faith. As a harvester, Gideon was used to the threshing floor. It was a big, open space used to separate wheat from the chaff. In his line of work, the threshing floor was the place where the wheat would be refined. In verse 36, Gideon comes before God with a wool fleece on the threshing floor. He wanted God to affirm him again in his calling. Make the wool fleece dewy, but keep the ground dry. And the next morning, when he arose, God did just that. But this was not quite enough for Gideon. He then asked God to allow the wool fleece to be dry, and the ground to be dewy. When the next morning came, sure enough, God did just that.

God allowed Gideon to approach him boldly, again and again. He allowed unrest and uncertainty in Gideon’s life to be laid out before Him on the threshing floor. I know now, that in this time of “Yes” and unrest, this is what God is calling me to do. I am to come to Him at my own threshing floor. Here God is allowing me to bring forth fears, doubts, and the uncertainty of my dreams and future. Here He is separating the chaff of doubt and fear from the wheat of my faith.

This threshing floor of dreams and life is the place I am called to go to so I can meet God, be brutally honest with Him, and seek discernment on His will for my life. As God continues to lead me into new dreams and who he already knows me to be, I can ask Him to show up repeatedly, and He will.

Readers, How has God revealed himself and planted new dreams when you are in seasons of life that feel confusing?

0752d-sarah2bsquareSarah believes God has called her to this space to bring joy and encouragement through words to friends and family, near and far. You can find more from Sarah at her blog, and you can find her stories for Anchored Voices under the tag Sarah.


The Broken, Steadfast Heart

“Adult Medical Emergency! Adult Medical Emergency!” I stared incredulously at the lady calling out these words over the PA system. Before I could regain my composure, a nurse was behind me compassionately commanding that I sit in the wheelchair she had parked and locked into place behind me. Seconds later I was flanked by another nurse who I could tell was making a hundred assessments as she sped toward me with defibrillator in tow. They showered me with a deluge of questions to which I could muster a few cogent answers. I tried to reassure them, and myself, that I was just coming in at the doctor’s request, but medical professionals tend to get right jumpy when you say words like chest pain and dizziness. Especially, when the last EKG came back abnormal.

They rushed me into a triage room and scrambled around me. Helpful, but strangers. I hadn’t told my husband I was going in, because I didn’t think it was a big deal. Now I wished I had. After leaving friends to care for my four children, I had driven myself.  I had no hand to hold but my Jesus was near; He always is.

“So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
-Isaiah 41:10

My children, and the dreams I dream for them were on my mind. Earlier that day, I had tried to teach my four-year-old how to dial 911. It wasn’t working, so I resorted to telling him, “If you can’t wake up Mommy, you run as fast as you can to the neighbors house, bang on the door, and tell them call 911.” A sick mama is not what I had anticipated for their childhood, but God—He sees. He knows. He cares. I am confident that no matter what, He’s got this. Even if I don’t get the answers I prefer.

The nurses in the room relaxed as my blood pressure cuff hissed its release and revealed the numbers they wanted to see. I was given some water and a tissue, because the breaking of the tension also set free a steady stream of silent tears. I wasn’t afraid when I walked in, but their panic made me question if I should be. It made it all too real. I am in my thirties, and there is something serious going on. I held tight to the verses the Lord had used to comfort me since the first tests came back:

“They will have no fear of bad news;
 their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear…”
Psalm 112:7-8 (NIV)

I still don’t have definite answers. They doctors have decided there is no immediate threat, which I am grateful for, but they have only given me possible explanations and more tests. Each new diagnostic is performed, and I pray they do not call back immediately. When the doctor calls, it is not usually due to excellent customer service. Yet even then, even if, it be the doc, the specialist, or the surgeon who calls, it is still news I need not fear. For I love and serve a God who binds up broken hearts, and in the end makes all things new. My hope is not shaken by the woes of this world or the weakness of this body. What waits ahead is unknown to me, but known to Him.

I will not cower from the fear that whispers lies filled with tragic tales. The enemy of my soul attempts to use the unknown to unravel the peace that passes understanding, but I will stand firm on the promises of God. Like Joshua I will be strong and courageous; like Esther I will look for the purpose in such a time as this; and like Jesus when the next day is daunting I will find solace in seeking help from the Father.

“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?” Luke 12:25 (NIV)

Being bound by worry is something I found freedom from when I began to follow Christ, but a new layer of awareness came into reality when my husband and I began to attempt to raise these little humans. The adventurer in me that swam with sharks and shared the gospel in closed countries now seeks wisdom before jumping. This does not mean I will not risk, but it does mean I listen carefully to make sure it is God who is doing the leading instead of my own predilection for adrenaline. I hold teeny hands, kiss little foreheads, and pray mighty prayers for these lives entrusted to my care, so placing myself in the path of unnecessary harm is a thing of the past. Unfortunately, we live in a fallen world and our bodies are prone to unpredictable sickness and death.

I put my life into the hands of my Savior in my twenties. I believed He knew if I would or would not marry, and I was rest assured that He knew what work I would do. With each birth of my children I sought Him out and asked Him to watch over the new life He had given. I proclaim, “I trust God with my life. I trust God with the lives of my children.” What I don’t always like to remember is that this also means I trust Him with my death, with their deaths. His goodness covers all the days. He carefully planned the first beat of our hearts, and He knows the day each will beat its last.

“’Where, O death, is your victory?

    Where, O death, is your sting?’

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:55

It is abundantly clear to me that our time on this earth is limited and not decided by us, but this I know—heaven awaits. Jesus has already claimed victory over death and there will be a day with no more sickness. Though I hope for many more days, I cling to the word of God daily, so I can be reminded of who He says He is. Who He will always be. It is in those pages I meditate on my deepest hopes and present joy. When the fears for my children creep in. When I find myself holding to the things of this world. I turn my eyes to him and pray He makes me like the psalmist who proclaims, “My heart, O God, is steadfast, my heart is steadfast…” -Psalm 57:7( NIV).

Readers, Where do you need to trust God more today? How can you take a step towards doing so?

e9d88-chara2bbio2bpic2bsquare2b600pxChara is a freelance writer, certified biblical counselor, and speaker. She holds a MSEd from Corban University and is passionate about seeing people set free through God’s truths. She loves to write about faith, culture,  and the deep truths that drive our fascinations with it. Chara is the founder and editor of  Anchored Voices and can be found on multiple social media platforms @CharaDonahue.

Dreams Remodeled

About five years ago, after paperwork, paint samples, and hurried home inspections a nearly 90 year old, less-than-900 square foot cottage received its new resident dreamers. Few people had visited the old charmer, despite it’s “character”, because time had taken it’s toll. Toll that would require a whole lot of work. Goldenrod Formica, that oh so dated layered plastic, not only graced the counter-tops but somehow had managed to make it over to the windowsill as well. Let us not forget, the mountain scene mural complete with covered wagon that was sketched into the aging shower tile. The list of defects was long, but we saw endless possibilities.
Walking through the rooms we hoped to fill with love and laughter, we didn’t only see the present, but the potential. How many people could we squeeze into the living room? Which vantage point in the kitchen allowed for full view of the yard where our future children would play?
As we dreamed of our life in the cottage, there was a subtle feeling that for once we were in control. Goodbye apartments and awful management companies who were always cramping my style! I was free. Time to renovate. We lugged gallons of paint into our new home that should have been labeled “most difficult color to paint over.” If we wanted to paint the door blue(or orange, or purple) we could! Deep red in the kitchen provided a coffee shop vibe. Slate blue and gray to offer a soothing atmosphere in the living room. Trendy teal in the bathroom to highlight my husband’s hard work tiling over where the oregon trail landscape had taunted us. Life was open-handed, progress was possible, and change was expected. Little did I know that the highest hopes I held for that new home were merely a shadow of the ways God would work. The maker of the universe wasn’t only interested in the big dreams we had for this home, for our life, but for the moments we could never have anticipated.
People don’t often move into their house envisioning the ways their heart will be broken, or enter into marriage predicting how the highs and lows of extended family will be what you live out together.  They look at the walls and paint the pictures of joy, peace, and togetherness instead of looking at the doors that might be slammed, the pillows that will be cried on, the rooms that will hold deafening silence. I want to laugh when I see quippy statements that insinuate that all there is to achieving your dream is making goals, and taking small steps towards them. Sure, no one gets far by not dreaming, but life happens. And life, well, life can be full of nightmares.
Our cottage is where God began to teach me Psalm 34:18; The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.
Just a few days after the house became ours I knelt in the living room and prayed fervently for my grandpa. He was on life support as I painted the walls. On my knees, on the ladder, to my knees again. Waiting for the phone to ring. Praying. Layer after layer of paint. Question after question.
A few months later, that cottage with the painted walls was the last place I saw my other grandpa. He and my grandma had stopped by to see our gardening progress. Then shortly after that afternoon visit, I was sitting in the living room when I got the call that he had passed away suddenly. Grief is another one of those places in which God meets us in ways different than anticipated.
Late at night, when others were asleep,  the 90 year old house witnessed my tears as I confronted infertility month after month. I was fiercely aware of how opposite this was to our plans and dreams. Yet brokenness drew me to Jesus again and again.
God’s dream for me wasn’t a Pinterest perfect life or a great Christmas card, but it was nearness to him.Had life continued just as I had designed, I would have tempted me to believe the lie that I was doing fine on my own. Instead, from my shabby chic chairs to His glorious throne, He drew me. From my thoughts of perfection to His promises, He transformed me.

“…let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”~Romans 12:2b

From my will to His will, He carried me. I did not want to walk the paths in front of me, and I did not lay the stones for the ones behind me. But my God never left me to walk alone. In fact, I can see now that his plans were crafted from deep love and redemption, but I was only able to find them when I began to let Him remodel my dreams.
Readers, How has God remodeled your dreams so that you may fully see the potential He wanted to reveal?
Holly is a wife, mother of one, and foster mother to many. She seeks to glorify God in all she does, for all her life. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She welcomes people into her life, into her heart, and into her home with hopes of offering encouragement. You can find more from Holly here at Anchored Voices or at her blog Called to Restore.

When Dreams Change

Author: Holly Berg

“Well?” he said, waiting for an answer. “What are you going to do?”

We were sitting in his office – him, leaning back in his chair with his feet on his desk, me, in the swivel chair across from him with my feet tucked beneath me, spinning myself around and around and around as I tried to make a decision.

I had been planning the cross-country move for more than a decade. I attended university after high school like my parents wanted, even earning a “sensible degree” in economics – but my passion had always been horses. The deal was that if I graduated from university, my parents would support me in whatever I chose to do next, even if that meant moving 3000 miles away to study horses at the best school of its kind in the country.

Hours earlier I had received a letter from that school informing me that I had been wait listed. They allowed ten students into the English Horsemanship program and I was unlucky number eleven. I had flown across the country a month before to tour the school and perform a riding test. I made one mistake – picking up the wrong canter lead and not correcting it quickly enough – and I was done. “You’re welcome to try again next year!” the letter said.

What was I going to do? 

“I’m going to go anyway!” I finally decided, surprising even myself with the boldness of the statement.

“Seriously?” he asked.

“Seriously.” I reached out to stop the spinning chair. “It’s now or never, right?”

“Well, if that’s what you want to do …” I could tell he wasn’t sure.  I don’t have a history of courage, and the thought of me, moving across the country to a place where I didn’t know anybody, had no place to live, and had no job lined up must have seemed a little bit silly.  But I was sure.

Three months later he dropped me off at the airport with a crushing hug and a promise to keep in touch, and I stepped onto a plane with two suitcases crammed full of my worldly possessions.

* * * *

I spent the summer working as a wrangler at a ranch for inner city kids, allowing me to combine my passion for horses with my passion for youth. Midway through the summer I received notice that I had been accepted into the English Horsemanship Program at my dream school, and everything else fell into place.

At first it was everything I dreamed it would be. I took classes on saddle fitting, tractor driving, and hoof trimming. I rode horses every day – for college credit! I loved every second.  My dreams were coming true!

But somehow, something wasn’t quite right.

During the summer I used my horse knowledge – my passion – to reach kids. For whatever reason, even the toughest of the tough opened up at the corral – and I was able to tell them about Jesus. For the first time in a very long time horses weren’t a tool to achieve my own aspirations – they were a tool to reach hurting youth for Jesus.

But that wasn’t the dream. And I couldn’t change my dream – could I? What would people think? That I had given up?  What would I do? Drop out of school? Where would I live?  Where would I work? Would I have to move back home? What would people think?

I fought it at first, clutching tightly to what I had always worked for. I didn’t want to disappoint my friends, my family, or my coaches. I was afraid to stop my full-steam-ahead charge towards achieving what had always been my dream.  For twenty-one years my life had been pointing towards one goal and one goal only. Changing direction seemed like a waste, especially since I had no idea what the future held.

But then I realized the truth:  “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.”(Proverbs16:9, NKJV).  I had been dreaming and planning for my entire life, but had I allowed the Lord to direct my steps?

Psalm 37:4 says “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”  (ESV)  The more we delight ourselves in God, the more aligned we will be with what He wants for us and our lives. Our desires become better aligned with His – and nothing else matters. Not what our friends think, or our families, or our coaches.

The bottom line:  Dreams change, and so do we.

God doesn’t. He is the same yesterday and today and forever.  (Hebrews 13:8, NIV). If we trust Him and allow Him to work in our hearts and our lives, He will pour on the blessings in astonishing ways.  (2 Corinthians 9:8, MSG).

Readers, How have your dreams changed over the years? Have you seen God use your own plans to better reveal His own?

Holly Berg is a wife, mama, writer and horse nut who wrangles children by day and words by night. She writes to challenge, encourage and inspire others to see beauty in the everyday, minister in the mundane, and share their stories along the way. Read more of her writing at http://scattered-words.net.