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“...Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son,
 your only son.” Genesis 22:12

In Genesis 22, God asks Abraham to sacrifice his most prized possession, the dream and gift he had longed for 100 years. The blessing that he begged for as the lack of a son brought shame and a knowing that all he had worked for would go to a servant. He didn’t even question God when God asked him to sacrifice his son. He didn’t hesitate to let go of his hopes and dreams of a future that by the world’s standards was a picture of success. 

 There are a lot of people saying that Abraham knew God’s character so he knew that God would intervene, and I believe that to be true. However, the Bible simply states that Abraham obeyed. Abraham knew the promises that God had given him: God would establish an everlasting covenant through Isaac’s descendants. Further, he stated that, “We will come back.” Therefore, we can assume that Abraham had a firm faith that God would intervene and keep His promises. Ultimately, however, he took Isaac and placed him on the altar. I have found that God often will give us a gift and then ask if we are willing to lay it down on the altar. 

 What are the “Isaacs” in your life? What are the hopes and dreams that you waited for years to be fulfilled? Maybe you strived for them and even took things into your own hands to make them happen. Then, suddenly, you were living the dream or at least the image of the dreams you had hoped for. I believe that every gift we are given, we should hold onto with an open hand, gratefully accepting it from the Father, but also being willing to hand it back when He asks.

 When I began photography, I dreamed of capturing gorgeous wedding images, photographing in the most luxurious venues, and being booked out a year in advance. It may sound silly, but it was a sign of success that I wanted to see. It all happened at once! When I began opening up to weddings, my name got around fast, and suddenly, I was booked a year out. People began to book their wedding dates around when I was available, and I was photographing in highly sought-after venues. I was living what I always dreamed. 

 One day the Lord spoke to me and told me He had given me what I had wanted, but now, He wanted to give me what He had planned for me. He asked me to stop booking weddings. It was an offer, and He gave me a choice in it. Of course, I knew His plans would be much greater than mine so, I stopped booking weddings. At first, I deeply grieved laying down my dreams, all I had built and accomplished, while simultaneously being excited for whatever lay ahead. I finished the bookings that I had set for the following year plus and waited to see what He had in store. 

 Six months after the last wedding, we had a huge surprise. We found out we were expecting our youngest son, and the following roller coaster of a year, I can look back and see where God had clearly prepared me to be where I needed to be. Once life settled down, I began picking photography back up. Each time, He reminded me that He had asked me to set it down. Again, an offer to see what lies ahead and trust Him. 

 Many years ago I began asking God for a home of our own. We had a good house in a quiet neighborhood and a great landlord, but we wanted a space of our own and room for our kids to play. One day, the Lord told me He was preparing a house for us. Of course, I jumped on it thinking that meant “buy now.” We searched and searched finally finding a home we loved but that needed an extensive amount of work. We put an offer in at the same time as a cash buyer, and our offer was declined. My husband had a dream prior to the decision, and we realized that we were doing things in our own timing, not God’s. We pulled back from house hunting for several more years while longing and dreaming of a home of our own. 

 One day, it suddenly all came together and we began looking again. We kept looking at homes that felt like we were settling for third-best. Then, one day, a home came on the market. Four bedrooms, a huge yard, a fenced-in back yard, a beautiful and quiet neighborhood, a deck, mature dogwoods, a red bud, a huge rose bush… It had everything we had discussed adding onto whatever we settled for. We looked at the house within 36 hours of it being listed. When I walked into the fourth bedroom, I nearly broke down. I looked at my husband and said this is our house. The realtor looked at me and stated that she just found out the sellers were on their way to accept an offer, one of four that had been put in the day before. 
 The Lord gave me an amount, and we put in an offer. Not only was our offer accepted, the following few weeks produced miracle after miracle until we were in our home, after seven years and one month of waiting. We were overwhelmed with gratitude and talked about what it would look like decades from now celebrating holidays and summers with grandkids. Each time we went on walks through the neighborhood or pulled into the driveway, I would be overwhelmed again stepping onto our property knowing the goodness of God and how He got us the home of our dreams. 
 One day, the Lord asked if I would give up my house if He asked. The house I begged for, dreamed about, prayed for, and saw the miracle of it being placed in our hands. Would I let go of this gift and give it back to Him? Could I hold this gift with an open hand ready to hand it back in a moment's notice? What about my children? Can I hold them with an open hand, loving and caring for them but knowing they are called into places where I cannot keep a firm hold on them? I have to hold them with an open hand allowing God to take them into what I may not understand. 

 It’s not that He wants to take away every good thing He gives you, He just wants to know that you hold Him at a higher value than the things of this world. He wants to know that your heart is fully devoted to Him so you can steward the things that He places in your hands well and with honor. 

Maybe it isn’t a house, car, or job, maybe it is an appearance or status. Maybe He wants you to lay down looking like you have it all together, a relationship, or even an unfulfilled dream. Laying it down won’t always be discarding something, it may simply be a willingness in your heart for God to do what He would like to with it. 

“...Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” Genesis 22:12b

Because of Abraham’s willingness to give God all he had been given, the Lord blessed him and the whole earth through him. We are even heirs of this blessing today. God is looking for children willing to obey Him in all things so He can bless them in a way that affects the generations to come.

 “The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, ‘I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring, all nations on earth will be blessed because you have obeyed me.’” Genesis 22:15-18