Happy new year, my dear readers! I pray that January 2019 began full of hope for you. And that you continue in the strength and joy of the Lord each day!
I have the absolute honor and joy of telling you about what God has been doing in my life & heart already this brand new year. Friends, He is so good. I’m nearly in tears just thinking about this past week and my faithful Father.
The year of 2018 had some tough points for me. So good things, too. But it seemed that amidst all the little blessings in December, I did a lot of wrestling and just struggling against anxiety and depression.
Like, what did I even do to make a difference this year? Am I any different? What is my life? I can’t do this, Lord. I don’t know what it’s all for. I don’t know why I’m even here.
I have a family. But I don’t feel like I belong in my home.
I have a church. But I don’t feel like I’m intimately a part of them.
I have people. But I don’t feel like they see me. Really.
I have ministries and opportunities. But I don’t think I’m using them to their full potential.
I have Christ. But I feel like I’m drowning and keep losing sight of Him.
So I prayed. And prayed. And reached out to godly friends for counsel. Had many phone calls. And prayed some more.
I couldn’t do anything but pray! And God began to teach me something powerful through that.
Surrender, Shantelle. I’ve got this.
You worth is not found in what you accomplish, Shantelle. Or in other’s opinions of you. Or if someone validates you. Your worth is found in ME.
Pray, Shantelle! It’s the best thing you could do!!
Do you not see how mighty I am, Shantelle? I’m taking care of you right now, daughter.
So. My long-distance friends asked me if I’d like to go to a conference about missions with them. And I was like … I guess? I mean, I hadn’t seen them for about three/four years and really wanted to! And maybe a Christian conference was just the refreshment God wanted to give me.
After some prayer, I decided to go. And then I prayed a lot leading up to the conference, for a variety of things.
And God worked out every detail beautifully and in His time. What food I should pack (what with all my diet restrictions). Travel and transportation plans. The needed funds. Peace. Confidence. And even what outfits I would wear.
The beginning of this year I traveled to the C.R.O.S.S.19 conference, met up with my friends and their church group, and experienced one of the biggest blessings of my life.
I’m not exaggerating. It was beautiful. ❤
I prayed for provision. Peace. Grace. Outfits. Manageable travel plans. Food. Joy. Fellowship. Friendship. Growth. Community worship. Awe for Jesus Christ. A deeper understanding of what my part is in global missions.
And I believe God answered each of these prayers so richly through the C.R.O.S.S. conference.
I caught a glimpse of what it is like to be part of a tight-knit, loving, Christ-like, passionate, local church. And that vision has captured my heart.
23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
12 For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. 14 For in fact the body is not one member but many.
I have moved and bounced around from one big church to another for almost all of my life. I’ve never been intimately involved in my church. I’ve lacked solid, godly, loving people to disciple me and shepherd my heart. I’ve rarely (if ever) associated godly, beautiful fellowship with Sunday morning worship. I’ve suffocated under the burdens I bear, feeling like there was nowhere to turn to for help. I’ve grasped desperately for faith & cowered in terror under unanswered confusion … while pasting on a smile every week at church.
I feel like I’ve been alone … living inside the scary realm of my mind, for most of my life.
But at this conference, one of the big focuses was the importance of being part of your local church. Truly part. Like, they’re your family. They know you. And you know them. And you work together for the glory of God. You love each other deeply. And you together share a heart to reach all people for Christ. Ephesians 4 sums it up so perfectly!
11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
My long-distance friends who went to the conference with me have an awesome home church. So, simply being part of their group for four days gave me a taste of belonging to a church family and encouraged and strengthened me in ways I cannot even describe. My heart is so full!
I had good conversations with almost every one in the group. (And for my quiet, rather introverted self who sometimes takes long to really open up and show my real self … especially to men … I found this an exceptionally wonderful surprise.)
We had incredible prayer time together. In little groups of two or three during the conference, praying for unreached peoples. And with our whole group of eleven. And seriously, this was one of the highlights of my week. Seeking God & sharing your heart with Him along with some of His other children who you know care about you. It’s amazing! Beautiful! Delightful! It shifts something in my heart, soul, and mind.
We sat under the incredible teaching of God’s Word together. We learned. We shared. We exclaimed in excitement for what we were hearing. We encouraged each other in the Lord.
We worshiped together! We praised the name of Jesus together. The worship truly was sweet. Lifting our voices together along with about 7,000 others. Seeing your brothers’ and sisters’ awe for the Lord can so encourage you! We sang a lot of hymns, which was so lovely.
We laughed together!
We ate together.
Got coffee together. 🙂
I saw personally the passion and seeking hearts of ten of my brothers & sisters in Christ, being within this group for a time. And this strengthened me in my own faith.
I was able to go to members of the group with questions or concerns I had. And they gave me godly advice and thoughtful guidance. This is such a gift! It’s like a beautiful, awesome revelation that I don’t have to struggle through this life alone. God did not mean for me to.
I made lovely connections, and remembered what it was like to have close girl friends who are my own age! Such a sweet joy!
I felt comfortable and safe to talk with my brothers in the group. And this strengthened my heart … I think just seeing their passion for the Lord, and them caring enough to stop and talk with me. I feel like it’s vital for women to have brothers in Christ who speak into their lives … without it having anything to do with romantic interest.
I received hugs from old and new friends alike! I like hugs. 🙂
My friends’ pastor was with our group, and he is such a shepherd.
2 Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; 3 nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; 4 and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.
15 Then Moses spoke to the Lord, saying: 16 “Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation, 17 who may go out before them and go in before them, who may lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be like sheep which have no shepherd.”
I don’t know if I’ve ever met a pastor with such a shepherd’s heart. He saw me. He cared. He empathized. And he gave me solid, godly, loving wisdom. I was beyond blessed. I felt like he shepherded my heart for a brief time, and I came out more grounded in Christ because of it.
One thing he told me that especially stuck out was: “Every decision we make, we make to the glory of God.” Basically, don’t let feelings of fear, pain, vulnerability, pride, despair, etc. get in the way of you bringing glory to God in every area of your life.
I was welcomed into this group. Treated as part of them. Seen. Cared for. Discipled. Guided. Given wisdom. Prayed over. Prayed with.
It was incredible.
But now to the actual conference! I heard from absolutely amazing speakers such as J.D. Greear, David Platt, John Piper, Trip Lee, and so on. I learned about missions, making disciples, goers and senders, local churches, God’s glory, God’s love, Jesus Christ, discerning a call, and just so much!
I would very much recommend going to the C.R.O.S.S. website and listening to the sermons and outbreak sessions! So much wisdom and practical advice!
So I sat under phenomenal teaching.
I was prayed over by strangers and friends alike.
I was encouraged in the gifts and talents God has given me, bolstering my faith that He is indeed doing a work in my life and is going to use me in His kingdom, for His glory, and for the reaching of souls!
I received a bunch of free books!
I had Christ and His love & glory proclaimed to me along with a group of thousands, and also was taken aside personally and taught from the Word of God. Which is just an extreme blessing! Even to be taught individually … I felt like my heart is being guided in Christ.
I found a peace about being a sender for now. But also a passion about being a disciple-maker as part of a local church, and an openness to going the mission field should God ever call me there in years to come.
18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
I was able to encourage others.
I was convicted that my view of God has been too small. I was amazed by the POWER of the Holy Spirit! Even in my own insignificant, weak, struggling life!
I was led in prayer for unreached people groups.
I heard awesome stories of God’s glory, love, power, and grace!
I saw unashamed passion for Jesus Christ from so many!
I was able to get some valuable and helpful advice from breakout sessions … “Should I Just Do Something?: Discerning a Call to the Missions” by Kevin DeYoung and “I Think I’m a Sender?” by David Platt.
Oh, my heart is full and I am just in awe. What a perfect way to start a new year.
I would highly recommend that you go listen to The Gospels: The Commission of Christ by J.D. Greear, 1 Corinthians-Jude: The Significance of the Church by Trip Lee, and Revelation: The Urgency of Eternity by David Platt. Or just go listen to them all! I learned from each of them.
I hope to share more with you about what I learned from the main talks and breakout sessions specifically, but for now I’ll just leave you with a question Pastor J.D. Greear asked, and pray that you consider it as you start off 2019:
“Am I going to take up a supporting role in Christ’s story?”