When God’s Plans Look Different Than Yours

The angel said to Mary,“Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.’” Luke 1:28


“And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” Luke 2:7

After an already exhausting, seemingly ill-timed journey, there was no place for them. 


With weary body and emotions, I wonder if she questioned God. Life was not going as she had always dreamed. She was a pregnant, misunderstood (I’m sure) young woman, with no home to give birth to her child. 

O favored one?! I assume she wondered at times, “Is this what favor looks like?” And yet, yes, here she was a part of an extraordinary plan of God that was unfolding just as an all-knowing God (Who can be trusted), who loved them, had planned. 

No, it did not look like anyone on earth would have expected or would have planned it. But God…

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.” 
Isaiah 55:9
 

God certainly could have had a special place waiting to receive Mary and Joseph upon their arrival. In fact, that would be reasonable and rational to expect, but He had different plans. He was fulfilling perfect plans in His perfect love for us all. And He can be trusted, to love us well and take care of us and to be in control. His plans are greater, higher, and not always like ours. 

May we find encouragement here. All of us who have experienced, are experiencing, or will experience the plan of God unfold in ways that are incomprehensible to us, may we trust in His perfect love and be held in His peace.

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” Isaiah 26:3

Listening section:

-Lord, in what instances have I reacted and erupted in unbelief because you have not worked in the reasonable and rational ways that I have would have expected? I repent, and I choose to trust You in these areas and find peace.

-Where have I determined that I must not be on the right path because things aren’t unfolding the way I would have planned or I am being misunderstood or rejected, but it is absolutely where You are leading me?

-Would You, even now, show me how You see the circumstances that I don’t understand.

-Choose, resolve (make a decision) to trust Him. Write it out in the form of a prayer, and allow Him to speak into it.

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

“‘for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.’” Luke 2:11-14

With love, Traci

Do Not be a Forgetful Hearer

God is always growing us. He is always speaking to our hearts and calling us deeper into His Word, His truth, His ways, and to KNOW Him. He opens our minds to understand the Scriptures (Luke 24:45), and we are taught by the Holy Spirit Himself (John 16:13).

How are we safeguarding those lessons so that we take them to heart and put them into action? The Word says that we deceive ourselves if we are hearers of the Word only (James 1:22-25).

It’s not those who hear and have a head knowledge of the truth and the ways of God who are compared to the wise man whose house is built on the rock not falling in the midst of the storms, it’s those who act on that knowledge (Matthew 7:24-27). It’s those who obey.

What He is teaching, what He wants to say, and the assignments are just too important for us to rush by and forget. Let’s have a plan in place to record what He is teaching, a journal or notebook, for this next year. Then, furthermore, let’s set aside specific times to go back and re-read what is written and ask ourselves, “Am I living accordingly, like I really believe this truth? Am I obeying what I know to be truth, what He has spoken to my heart, what He has taught me in His Word?” Or will we find that we have been lulled into thinking that we are walking in obedience to scripture just because we are familiar with it?

Let’s allow the Holy Spirit to search our heart and our motives (Psalm 139:23, 24), and make the necessary adjustments. May we not find ourselves building on sand, having only heard His Words but not doing them, not living accordingly.

He is intentionally pouring truth into your heart and life, for a purpose. Will you believe Him and act upon it? Or will you become a forgetful hearer?

“..prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” James 1:22 NASB

This is the time of year that I intentionally read back through my journal, underlining, marking, and color coding as I go. It’s a great exercise that reminds me not only of the faithfulness of the Lord, but of all the many things He has spoken and taught me in His Word, in our time together, and through the life experiences of the year.

Here is a little of what that looks like for me in case you find it helpful:

-I number the pages as I go. This not only alerts me that I’ve re-read that page, but also gives me a way to reference back to it if needed. For instance, if the same subject shows up 5 pages later, I can just jot a note of the page # to cross-reference those entries.

-I use colored brackets (or lines drawn down the length of the page) to highlight items. For example, any teaching I want to highlight I use the color blue and will write the subject of that teaching in blue at the top of the page. If it’s an area where God started speaking as I was journaling something out, I use orange to highlight that portion.

-Just as I mark key words in my bible, I mark key words in my journal. There are subjects that are repeated that I want to easily spot. That way I can see the particular instructions or insights I wrote down throughout the year on a subject (and maybe even go back and make a list of what I learned about each later).

I would love to hear how you ensure that you don’t forget the lessons He’s taught you.

I pray that you are enjoying this Christmas season!

May we not neglect or lose anything that He is teaching our hearts. And may we resolve to act upon it.

With love,

Traci

Do You Need a Fresh Start?

Looking back and looking forward.

As we approach the end of another year, it’s often easier to contemplate the losses, the disappointments, where we have failed in our plans for this past year, where we wish we had done better, and the resolutions we wish we’d kept, knowing that we would be in a different place and have different results if only we had followed through. But let’s choose to reflect on the wins instead.

You and I have had extraordinary WINS this year!

Let’s choose to remember His faithfulness (Lamentations 3:21-26), to thank Him for all that He has done and is presently doing, and rejoice. “Rejoice in the Lord, always, I say again, rejoice” (Philippians 4:4), a present tense, imperative verb, which means it’s a command to continually and habitually rejoice. This is another remedy for our worry and anxiety.

What has He taught you?
Where has He grown you and your faith?
What have you learned even from suffering, hardship, or failure?
Where have you trusted Him and found Him faithful?
Where have you seen positive life change?

This is a great time to review your journal to be reminded.
And worship Him. With a grateful heart, rejoice in the wins of the year and be spurred on
to trust Him more,
to believe that He is able,
to choose to obey Him,
and to make a fresh start today.

Move forward.

Listening section:
-Lord, remind me of the wins this year. Where do You know that I have grown and maybe I have failed to recognize it? Where have You and I gone deeper? And remind me of how I have seen you at work this year.

-Spend some time praising Him for each and every win. And thank Him in advance for all the many wins to come.

-Dream with Him and allow Him to drop future wins into your heart. What is on His heart for this next year? And how can you make plans to cooperate, to believe, to show up, to be prepared, and be used?

To Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us (Ephesians 3:20) and is able to keep us from stumbling and to make us stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen (Jude 1:24,25).

I pray that you are enjoying this Christmas season and taking the time to reflect and to look ahead, with thanksgiving, and are turning every fear and worry into a prayer, “everything by prayer” (Philippians 4:6, 7).

With love,

Traci Shinnick

Press into these questions with the Lord. You don’t have answers? Good. Hear His. Just put pen to paper and starting with the truth that you have no idea how to answer, write the questions in ways that make sense to you. And just ask Him. Listen to how He answers. I’d love to hear some of your insights. Click on the title and leave a comment or email me at traci@tracishinnick.com. I can also make sure these devotionals go right to your inbox when I post if you’ll email me and let me know that you’d like that or you can subscribe right here: Sign me up! 

To download and print a Chronological Bible Reading Plan for 2019, clink on this link: My Favorite Reading Plan   This is the one that I have personally used for almost 20 years. It can be folded and used as a bookmark to mark off as you go. The Psalms show up every 7th day and make for an easy catch up day if you find yourself behind, and you can also check off as you read ahead.

How To Deal with Anxiety and Worry

You and I need not be anxious about anything. 

Will we choose this path of peace? Are we truly able to make this choice?

As we head into a new year and set our hearts afresh to read His Word and to know His truth, may we determine to read with the purpose of TRULY believing and obeying, so that we may stand strong when the storms come. It’s those who hear and act upon the word, who will stand and not be shaken (Luke 6:46,47).

And the Word gives this clear instruction to obey: “..do not be anxious about anything,..”

How is that possible? BY PRAYER.

Making our requests known to God with thanksgiving (rather than being anxious about all the many details of life) will guard our heart and our mind in Christ Jesus with the peace of God (Philippians 4:6, 7).

The Greek word for “guard” in this scripture is actually “a military term picturing soldiers standing on guard duty and refers to the guarding of the city gate from within as a control on all who went out… The heart is the center of each person, from which thoughts and affection flow.1

We may think of this peace of God as guarding what enters our heart and mind or what goes on there, but the idea here is actually a guard on what goes out, what erupts from our heart and mind. Ponder that. Can’t we all readily recognize how we have been influenced (and have possibly influenced those around us) by eruptions of unbelief that, because of our lack of prayer, we’ve not controlled?

The solution to our anxiety is “everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” This is in stark contrast to the default of everything by worry, which is so easy to fall into.  Worry strangely gives us a false sense of control, making us feel like we are DOING something about the situation. But living in a habitual constant state of worry and being anxious is not only being disobedient to the Word, but is also forfeiting the peace that we are promised.

How often do we indulge ourselves in anxiety and worry and the what if’s, when the Word instructs us to not be anxious and to take our thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5)May we choose to obey the Word, to be “an effectual doer” and not “a forgetful hearer” (James 1:25).

Let’s resolve (decide firmly on a course of action):
I will not be anxious, I will trust, I will believe, and I will obey:
I will PRAY about everything, and give thanks, “…that which ought never to be absent from any of our devotions- namely, the grateful acknowledgment of past mercies, as distinguished from the earnest seeking of future.”1

One closing thought from Oswald Chambers:
“We imagine that a little anxiety and worry are an indication of how really wise we are; it is much more an indication of how really wicked we are. Fretting springs from a determination to get our own way. Our Lord never worried and He was never anxious, because He was not “out” to realize His own ideas; He was “out” to realize God’s ideas. Fretting is wicked if you are a child of God. Have you been bolstering up that stupid soul of yours with the idea that your circumstances are too much for God? Put all “supposing” on one side and dwell in the shadow of the Almighty. Deliberately tell God that you will not fret about that thing. All our fret and worry is caused by calculating without God.” My Utmost for His Highest, 1935, Devotion for July 4.

Spend some time with the Lord, ask, hear His answers, allow Him to speak to your heart, and write it down:
-Lord, where I have given into the default of anxiety and worry? Remind me to pray in my moments of anxiety. I confess that I too often fall into this sin, and I name it for what it is, as it stands in opposition to the instruction of Your Word. And I repent.

-Remind me, even in this moment, of all that I need to practice thankfulness for. You are such a good Father working miracles all around me all the time. Open my eyes to see.

-I resolve that when I begin to feel worried or anxious, I WILL PRAY. I will talk to You about it, the One Who has solutions, and I will do so with thanksgiving, reminding myself of all Your faithfulness and Your great ability to do anything and everything.

“Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving.” Colossians 4:2

“…but in EVERYTHING by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6,7).

 

Lord, raise up an army of praying BELIEVERS!

1Rogers, Cleon L. The New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament. 1998 Zodervan

Friends,

Just imagine with me how this world would be affected if we continually, habitually, immediately prayed about all the rising concerns. We would ALL pray more! And MORE would be accomplished in the Name of Jesus as a result!

Let’s rise up and start a prayer movement, how bout it!

Blessings to you all,

Traci Shinnick

Exciting News & A Reintroduction

Hi Friends,

This is not going to be a typical post today. In fact, I don’t expect that it will be a devotional in any way. This is just a little bit of my heart and where I am and a reintroduction of sorts.

I have ‘accidentally’ stopped writing to you for two months now, and I will give you all my excuses below. But the bottom line is that this is what happens to my life without hard deadlines. And these results are why I don’t dare take a break. It is so hard for me to know where to begin again. It’s like starting all over. So I procrastinate and let the weeks continue to go by.

But here are a few reasons I have not been here with you:

-It’s football season.

For those of you who do not know (because you do not know me personally, and I have still not written my about page), I am the wife of a brilliant college head football coach, who was Division II Coach of the Year last year. (Yes, I am a bit proud of him.) He started the football program here at the University of West Florida (his second start-up program), and we made it all the way to the Division II National Championship Game last year in our second season as a program- unheard of, and only explained by the favor of God, a lot of prayer, and a lot hard work by all our coaches and players. The Bible says that we have not because we ask not, so just as we prayed last year, we pray for another chance to go and win this time (I’ll keep you updated on that). All of that to say that this is a little busier time of year with games and family and visitors and traveling. So it’s easy not to write.

-But also if you are on my email list and have been following along this summer, our family had a great loss as my beautiful sister-in-law had complications with her pregnancy and they lost sweet Lysander after 11 days of miraculous living. Please continue to pray for Becky and Chris and their 3 other kids as they continue the long healing process. Here is the link to 2 amazing messages: ‘The Road to “Well Done”’ and ‘Hope in The Dark’ https://westflorida.manna.church/sermons. The first is by our former pastor, Michael Fletcher, as he filled in for Chris, and it will challenge you in whatever you are walking through. And the second is my brother-in-law telling of their whole journey and teaching through the hope in Psalm 42 and 43. They are SO, SO good and powerful!

So I just stopped posting here somewhere in the midst of all of that plus:

-my spectacular mother-in-law (pictured with us above) coming to help Chris and Becky and then staying with us quite a bit to give their family time to be alone as well,
-and my grandma passing away at 100 years of age,
-and then two other writing assignment that I was busy with,
-and the start of small groups,
-and my son-in-law getting his wings (he is a Naval Aviator) with top awards: (Golden Stick for top grades in his class, Top Gun, and Top Hook),

(Us with all of our kids.)

-and finding out that they will be stationed in Virginia Beach to fly the F-18 Super Hornet. They are in the process of moving there now.

 

-AND finding out that they are pregnantDue in April.

with TWINS!!!!

Wow!

We are so excited!

…. and in the midst of all of that, you stopped hearing from me.

 

Are those enough excuses for not posting in two months? I’m sure I could tag on a few more…. And I imagine that I will share a little more of my heart about this little hiatus next time.

But I just needed to reconnect with you before I try to/before I get back at it with some deadlines for myself.

Thank you all for being here and for giving me this outlet to share.

And just because it feels weird to connect with you and not leave you any devotional thought:

 

As I shared the testimony of my husband’s success (and my son-in-law’s), let me share with you one of my favorite verses to pray for my husband. You may want to use it for those you love as well.

 

“Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us;
And confirm for us the work of our hands;
Yes, confirm the work of our hands.” Psalm 90:17 NASB

A great prayer for all that we put our hands to.

Blessing to you all. May He confirm the work of your hands today and may His favor be upon you.

 

With love,

Traci Shinnick

What We Need to Know in Times of Pain

“You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on You,
because he trusts in You.”
Isaiah 26:3 ESV

 

When people are hurting,

O Lord, You are the balm (Jeremiah 8:22).

When we are wounded,

You are the Healer, the Mender of our very souls,

Right down to our emotional being, to joint and marrow depths You go (Hebrews 4:12).

 

So Lord, we come along.
On this journey with You, we say “yes” to the process and trust You with it.

Yes.

Come what may. We look to You, knowing that You can be trusted ALWAYS and forever.

Always.

And FOREVER.

 

You DO keep in perfect peace the steadfast of mind because he trusts in You. So we take that stance TODAY moment by moment. We trust You with our very lives, with our whole hearts, with our moments, our possessions, and with those we love and care for. We trust You, as You love and care for us best.

 

Your sovereignty certainly does rule over all (Psalm 103:19). You are good, and we thank you that Your mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22,23),

day by day by day and step by step.

 

Be our vision, our song, our strength this day, our resolve, our Strong Tower (Proverbs 18:10), our Rock (Psalm 18:1).

You are.

 

“Yes, I Am.”

 

“The Lord has established His throne in the heavens,
And His sovereignty (kingdom) rules over all (the universe).” Psalm 103:19

 

“This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.
The Lord’s loving kindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul,
‘Therefore I have hope in Him.’
The Lord is good to those who wait for Him,
To the person who seeks Him.
It is good that he waits silently
For the salvation of the Lord.”
Lamentations 3:21-26

 

 

Any scripture included in this post can be seen in its entirety as you hover over the reference.

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Excel Still More

 

“Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more.” 1 Thessalonians 4:1 NASB

In other words, “Hey, you’re actually doing it. Good job. But don’t be satisfied to stay where you are.”

 

These are words to encourage us on, no matter where we are, whether we are walking in victory, successful in the world’s eyes, or in a not so successful season of days.

I include the distinction “in the world’s eyes” because things may look so different from God’s perspective. What we see and enjoy as success, He may KNOW is a detour from His perfect plan. And likewise, what we are considering a complete waste and failure, He sees as the perfect tool and path to make us exactly who He wants us to become: conforming us to the image of His Son (Romans 8:28, 29).

There is always room to “excel still more” and more every day.

 

Don’t ever settle.

 

May we always have this attitude, looking to Jesus for our direction,

 

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.” Psalm 32:8

 

and “forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,”

 

let us press on to lay hold of (grasp) and make our own, that for which Christ Jesus (the Messiah) has laid hold of us and made us His own,

 

and press on toward the goal (Philippians 3:12, 13, 14)

 

and excel still more.

 

Keep growing, keep grasping, keep seeking His face, and keep being transformed by the power of the Word, by the renewing of your mind.

 

 

-Is there any area of your life that your growth has ‘plateaued’ and you have decided to ‘settle’ there? Ask God to show you.

-Talk to the Lord today about where He longs for you to be in that area of your life (and others). Put pen to paper and ask Him to speak His vision of growth and maturity over your life.

And choose/make a decision to “walk in a manner worthy.” Colossians 1: 10, 11, 12

-What is TODAY’S first next step toward growth?

 

If you are not currently in His Word every day and meditating on His Word, that is your starting point. Need a good reading plan? Check out my favorite here. Need some encouragement, click here.

And remember you can hover over the scripture references on this site and see the verses in a pop-up window.

 

Want to receive devotional encouragement in your inbox each week, simply subscribe here. I will also send you a copy of my 6 Week Prayer Strategy with a week of devotionals.  Click here. Yes!

How Do We Tap into Faith?

In a moment of fear and unbelief, I heard God speak these words to my heart:

 

“I have enough faith for the both of us. Borrow Mine.”

(You can read about it here if you missed it.)

 

Suddenly the raging seas of fear and doubt were calmed, with a word.

 

Like “Peace! Be still!… and there was a great calm.”Mark 4:39.

 

This is what He can do with just a word if we will listen and allow Him.

Fear and doubt are often simply a result of placing our faith in the wrong place,

so let’s place our faith in the One with Whom all things are possible (Mark 14:36).

 

When you can’t find the faith to act, tap into His.

 

How is this done practically? How do we borrow His faith?

-Be in the Word of God.

When we are constantly bathing our minds in the truth of His Word and in His power and ability and all the impossibilities that He has accomplished and promises us, then our faith is built up and made strong in Him.

In the Word, you will come across some outlandish solutions to impossible difficulties and be reminded and encouraged that He truly does work beyond any way that we can imagine. Therefore, when you are up against a predicament that you can’t see a way out of, you have faith that it is not too complicated for Him. He makes a way where there is no way.

 

-Be in prayer.

Talk to Him about it all and listen to what He quietly speaks to your heart. (Write it down so you don’t forget. You’ll need it again.)

“Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God. And God’s peace [shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace] which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6, 7 Amplified Bible

 

-Write out your fears (or excuses).

See them (your ‘truth’ that feels very true) in black and white.

This usually will quickly show them as the ‘liars’ that they are and His corresponding truth, but if not, pray and ask God to show you the truth about those fears.

Allow Him to reveal His truths that oppose the fears.

 

-Fix your eyes upon Him.

“But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” Psalm 86:15

It’s almost impossible to gaze upon Him (focus on His loving greatness) and drown in fear and doubt at the same time.

“… let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us, Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher [bringing it to maturity and perfection].” Hebrews 12:1, 2 Amplified Bible

 

Use His faith and run your race.

 

“You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you.
Trust in the Lord forever,
for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.” Isaiah 26:3, 4 ESV

 

 

Hi friends,

Borrow His faith for whatever ‘mountain’ seems to be standing in your way this week. He is so faithful and longs for us to walk in His victory even more than we long to.

What is keeping you from tapping into His faith and moving forward? If you aren’t sure, ask Him and allow Him to show you.

And then lay that down and surrender it to Him.

Is it how you spend your time or the fears that you rehearse in your mind?

Is it the lies that you are currently believing or what people may think? “The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted.” Proverbs 29:25

Refuse all the snares and all that would hold you back from His best, and keep moving forward, step by faithful step, in His power and strength.  Abide in Him continually and habitually.  And go “fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5).

Blessings to you,

Traci

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