these are my names.

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I woke up this morning with a heavy heart. The weight of the world on my shoulders. The worry and fear and anxiety finding it’s way back into my heart once more. I did not feel like getting out of bed today, to be honest. I just wanted to lay in bed and watch endless hours of Netflix and just forget about my troubles for the day.

Something happened last night that shook me up a little bit, to say the least. My heart was wounded and attacked by the Enemy. The result of this was waking up with an overwhelming feeling of insecurity, worthlessness, shame, guilt, disgust. These are feelings I am not familiar with. I am not this person most of the time, but my goodness when they hit, they hit HARD.

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Unmerited. Undeserved.

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I’ve been a bad Christian lately. 

Surprised I would admit something like that? I’m certainly not.

The truth is, I’ve been less-than-stellar at being a Christian these days.

In an effort to keep up with my crazy work schedule, social life, and spiritual life…guess what has fallen behind on my list of priorities?

You’ve got it.

A few days ago I woke up and vowed to myself that I would have my morning quiet time before work. I woke up with a new sense of ambition. “THIS is the day. THIS is the morning I will become good at being a Christian again. I won’t miss any more quiet times. I will start journaling more again. I will get up and got to church and not just lazily watch it from my bed on my computer.”

I eagerly opened my prayer journal and looked at the date of my last entry, October 13th. 

My heart sank. It had been over a week since I last sat down to spend time with the Lord.

I asked myself, “What happened to me?” I used to be so diligent about waking up before the sun, brewing a fresh pot of coffee, and sitting down in silence to meet with my Savior before I began my day.

Those were the days. 

I felt an instant sense of guilt come over my Spirit. How could I let this happen? How did I let my time with Jesus fall on the back burner while I dealt with the many other “appointments” I had with other people, things, and events in life?

How did I let sleeping in become the priority over going to church every Sunday morning? I used to pop out of bed awake and ready for Sunday’s service to begin. It used to be my very favorite day of the week.

How did spending time alone in silence with the Lord start to feel more like a burden than a blessing? How did a MONTH pass by without me writing a blog entry…?

Life happened, my friends. 

Life came and took my feet out from under me and whirled me around like a hurricane. Life happened and took my alone time. Took my peace. Took my energy and my health and my passion.

Life happened and I had to get a second job. Life happened and I got really sick. Life happened and by the time the hurricane subsided, I felt like I had lost every bit of strength that I had been desperately clinging onto. I felt like all I wanted to do was lay in bed all day and catch up on the sleep I so desperately needed.

Last week, I was talking to the precious group of freshman girls my best friend and I lead in Boulder about hearing God’s voice. About hearing the whisper of the Holy Spirit amidst the LOUDNESS of every day life, and I was reminded of the very first time I heard from the Lord. The first time that I was finally quiet enough to hear that still, small voice. It was a moment I will NEVER forget. 

I was driving home down highway 93 after my heart had been broken…no, shattered into a million pieces by yet another “man” who had promised he would stay.

I was angry with God.

It was the first time I had ever voiced my anger with Him and I literally probably looked like an absolute crazy person just driving down highway 93 screaming through my tears at God.

“Why is this happening AGAIN, GOD?”

“YOU put this person in my life, this is YOUR fault.”

“How am I supposed to do this again? How will I possibly get through this?”

I was so hurt and my heart was breaking and I was angry. Just plain angry.

And suddenly, through my silent sobs I heard Him. Small and still, for sure. But absolutely undeniable. I recognized my sweet Shepard’s voice. Breaking through all the pain and anger with perfect love.

“I will carry you, and I will sustain you.” 

Clear as day, I heard the Spirit and my soul was instantly calmed. I felt a peace wash over me like never before. I immediately went home and I wrote the phrase on my mirror and there it stayed until I moved out of the little red brick house.

You see, when you have an encounter like that, you miss it terribly. You crave the realness of the Lord in those moments. You start to think something is wrong when you go through “dry” periods of hearing nothing but empty silence.

And I think if I could sum up how I have been feeling in the past month or so, I would say just that…empty. 

Like my God has been silent. Like I haven’t had any real encounters with him for quite some time now. And I have found myself asking, “Where are you?”

Until the other night.

I was worn out and tired from a hard work week. I knew I needed to spend time with God but I could not seem to muster up the energy to move, let alone open my bible. But it was laying on my bed and it was taunting me..I swear it was taunting me to open it up. I kept looking over at it and then getting back on Facebook for another ten minutes of wasted time.

Finally, I willed myself to open it up. I am currently studying Isaiah and I opened it up to the next chapter, chapter 46  and immediately my eyes saw the verse, “I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”

Divine intervention. 

My eyes welled with tears as I realized He never left. He was DEEPLY and intimately involved in my every day life. He sees me. He hears me. I am LOVED.

He knew exactly what I needed to hear that day. That day when I was too tired to move. When the hurricane called Life had knocked me over and scraped me up. When I felt like I could not take another step. He met me right where I was and drowned me in His ocean of Grace. 

And the thing is, I felt SO undeserving. I had been such a bad Christian! I hadn’t been spending time with Him like I should. I hadn’t been reading the word every day. I hadn’t even been going to Church on Sundays!

How could he still love me like this?

Oh, but He does! His Grace is sufficient. In that moment, that became not only a phrase I heard in Church or in fancy Christian jargon, or as the caption on one of my Instagram posts.

It became my reality.

His Grace covered me in that moment. Refreshed my soul. Brought my Spirit back to life. My Father loved me so much in that moment. He spoke right to my tired and aching soul… “I’m here. I see you. I haven’t left you. Come back to me.” 

The Lord completely wrecked me that night. Stirred up my soul and left me asking, “How? How do I deserve this unconditional love? This doesn’t make any sense. I’ve done NOTHING to earn this.”

But that is what Grace is.

So, fellow Christian… can you relate to this? I have a feeling deep down in my heart that this message is for so many of you who also feel this way. Feel like you keep failing Him over and over again. Feel like you don’t deserve His love and Grace?

Well, let me tell you that is A LIE.

And you’re right. It doesn’t make sense. But neither does a perfect, sinless man hanging lifeless on a cross covered with the blood that PAID our ransom. 

It is all mysterious. I do not think I will ever make sense of Grace.

Of how I can be a really bad Christian and still be LAVISHED by his love each and every day?

It doesn’t make sense, but my goodness am I grateful for the gift.

Praise. Him.

more than all of these things?

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“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world”

-C.S Lewis

If you would have asked me a year ago what my life would look like a few months post-graduation from college, I would never have explained it like this.

I would have probably said something along the lines of, “I would be in nursing school, living in a cute house in Denver with all of my best friends, going out and having fun on the weekends, spending lazy nights on the couch talking about everything with my soul mates….”

I would have never said…

Living with my parents, working a really hard job with really hard hours for only ten dollars an hour, not seeing my friends nearly as much as I would like to, feeling lonely more often than not…

A few nights ago, I attended a really special worship session at my boyfriend’s parent’s house. During worship, I was led down a path of vision from the Spirit that at first, I couldn’t seem to make total sense of.

I was in the midst of praise and worship and thanking the Lord for all He was doing and has done in my life when He began to show me all the people and things in my life who I love the very most and asked the quiet question, “Do you love me, more than all of these things?” 

YES Lord, of course I do! I love you more than life itself. I was almost offended by His question. Does He doubt my love for Him?

Days have passed since that night, and I began to slowly forget that aching question.

Until this morning.

I woke up this morning with an empty sense of loneliness I have yet to experience in my life thus far. You see, I have always been surrounded by good community and great friends, and I am just about a month out from leaving my comfortable house with all of my best friends. I am not used to being alone…

Loneliness is my worst fear. It is a place I avoid at all costs. I will do anything to avoid being alone all day long. I have just never enjoyed the feeling. But this morning when I woke up, I once again remembered the question the Lord had asked me just days before.

“Do you love me more than all of these things?”

And it hit me in that moment that this season of my life serves a very specific purpose. Jesus is taking me through this season to teach me how to abide in Him, depend on Him, get my comfort from Him, spend time with Him.

I am entirely blessed to have INCREDIBLE friends, amazing family members, a wonderful and supportive and loving boyfriend… but all of these people cannot satisfy my deepest needs. All of these things cannot fulfill me.

I LOVE my family, but my sister is away at school and busy with life and my brother just started college and is no longer around the house. My parents aren’t always around either.

I ADORE my best friends, but we are all going through a season of transition and change and the business of life and new jobs and new relationships has taken over and I don’t see them near as often as I would like. My heart hurts because I miss the days of waking up to them. I miss the days when our friendships were convenient and easy. Oh, how I miss those days. 

I CHERISH my boyfriend, but we are separated by state lines and miles. We both have jobs and responsibilities and other commitments and sometimes it’s hard to go a week or longer without seeing each other at all. It is hard to hear his voice on the other line of the phone and feel the ache in my heart to be near to him. 

It is hard to feel uncomfortable with the way my relationships are now. They are no longer easy or convenient. I can no longer walk down stairs and grab a cup of coffee with my best friend from the kitchen and sit on the porch of the little red brick house and vent our hearts out. I can’t hang out with my sister every day anymore. I can’t drive over to my boyfriend’s house real quickly when I miss him too much.

And suddenly, I realize what the Spirit was trying to convey to me that night during worship. “More than all of these things?”

The Lord is trying to take me to a place where I am fully and completely satisfied in Him. A place where I no longer feel lonely when I am not surrounded by community because HE IS ENOUGH. A place where all of my deepest needs and desire for intimacy are met at the cross. A place where He is my best friend, my confidant, my place of rest, my comfort, my cup of coffee with my friend on the porch… 

And the best part of it is, being close to Him is the easiest thing in the world because He is ALWAYS there when I need Him. He never leaves. He is the one thing in my life that is steadfast and never changes. The one person who will never let me down or fail to meet my desires. He ALWAYS satisfies, ALWAYS loves, ALWAYS fulfills.

This morning I woke up feeling sad and lonely. I woke up feeling empty and missing my “old life” when I was surrounded by my best friends and life was easy and comfortable.

But now, my soul has found a new comfort. A new sense of community. I am fully and completely satisfied in Him alone because I realize He is the only person or thing I can always rely on. This doesn’t mean that my relationships with my friends, family, and boyfriend aren’t completely awesome and life giving relationships…because they are. I am eternally blessed by the people the Lord has graciously put in my life.

But when the Lord asks me, “Amanda, more than all of these things?” I can confidently answer…Yes, Lord. More than all of these things. You are my everything. You alone fill the empty places in my heart. YOU are my best friend above all. You have my whole heart for my whole life.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way…

So if you are feeling lonely today. If the transitions and changes of life are overwhelming and scary. If you are feeling hopeless, afraid, and desperate for someone or something to fill you up. I encourage you to turn your eyes to the cross, because we were never meant to be filled by the things or people of the world. 

We were meant for Him, and Him for us.

And THAT is such a beautiful gift. A BEAUTIFUL exchange.

Praise Him.

she has done a beautiful thing to me.

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I always love reading in the word, but there are those occasional very special moments where I read something and am immediately convicted, blessed, and moved to tears.

This morning was one of those moments.

I came across a passage in Mark 14, which I have heard and read countless times but it hit me in a brand new way this time. This story is about a woman named Mary who gave everything she had for Jesus. She was so moved by love for this man that she showed up at a gathering at Simon’s house and broke a bottle of her finest perfume and POURED it out over Jesus’ head.

She quite literally poured out her life for this man because in those days, this perfume was very costly and extremely valuable. She could have sold this perfume for wealth or stored it up for her own sake, but instead she willingly gave it all to Jesus because she recognized that having Him was of surpassing worth.

The disciples complained about this action and were very bothered by what this woman had done because they thought it was a waste. “Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence and given to the poor?” said Judas. Even Judas, one of Jesus’ own disciples could not recognize the worth of the precious Savior. He walked along Jesus’ side and listened to His teaching day in and day out and he was still caught up in things of this world. You see, Judas was not actually concerned with the poor. We later find out that Judas’ greed for worldly wealth eventually led him to betray Jesus. The people who were supposed to have loved Jesus the very most could not see the priceless value that He held…but this woman did.

Mark 14:6 reads, “Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.”

She has done a beautiful thing to me.

That phrase repeats over and over in my head and I moved to tears thinking about how much this woman loved Jesus that she was willing to BREAK her life for Him and POUR her whole self-everything she owned of the world over His head. And she did it with love. She offered herself to this man with love because she just knew there was nothing more valuable than Him.

And there is more.

Jesus goes on to say in Mark 14: 8 “She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever my gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

She did what she could.

Jesus recognized that this woman did not have extravagant wealth. She did not have tons of money to give to Jesus or tons of possessions to lay at His feet but she DID have this one precious jar of perfume.

And it was enough.

This woman’s sacrifice was part of the glorious story of redemption. She prepared Jesus for his grave and her story would become a part of the history of the redemption of the world through Jesus’ death on the cross.

This woman gave her EVERYTHING for Jesus and in return, Jesus made sure that her story of sacrifice would be preached throughout the world throughout the ages.

She gave EVERYTHING for Jesus and in return, Jesus gave her the MOST important thing. A place in the grand story of the gospel and a place in Heaven with her precious Savior forever.

Isn’t this what we are called to as Christians in today’s world? Isn’t this the same offer that Jesus makes us today?

“Give me your life and I will give you my love.”

And it may look slightly different. Instead of expensive perfume it might be money, time, your career, your family…

For me, it is my relationships.

Daily, taking up my cross and POURING myself out into my relationships. Giving them up to the Lord as an offering instead of selfishly clinging to them for my own benefit. Is it always easy? Absolutely not. But its the “beautiful” thing that I choose to do for my Lord because He chose the cross for me.

Selflessly giving of myself for the sake of my Lord may not always make sense to everyone. But people don’t know where I was the night Jesus found me. They don’t know the love I have experienced since that night. The redemptive story He is daily writing in life.

And those of us who have tasted and SEEN how good His love is. How satisfying and sweet and ABUNDANT this life is when we have Jesus. Those of us who like Mary, recognize that there is NOT one thing or person more valuable than knowing and loving the perfect Savior of the World.

It is a sacrifice worth making.

So, what is your alabaster flask? What can you give Jesus today?

What beautiful thing are you willing to do to Him today?

look how LONG I will love you.

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The sunsets last longer when they stretch across the skies of miles upon miles of open plains.

I remember a few months ago when my best friend and I were driving to Oklahoma for a conference, and we both just marveled at the sunset that seemed to last for hours and hours. The colors changed and morphed and created a new masterpiece every minute and the spectacular show never seemed to end. God was certainly showing off that evening in Oklahoma-it was a night I will never forget.

This past weekend, my boyfriend and I set out to make the drive from Laramie to Jackson Hole WY. I was once again stunned by not only the color and the vibrance of the sunset, but by how LONG it seemed to last. It was as if long after the initial brightness left the sky, there was aftershock upon aftershock of color. Words will never do these sunsets justice, but The Lord taught me a huge lesson through them.

As I was admiring the handiwork of God through His amazing sunset last weekend, I asked Him the question, “Why do the sunsets last so much longer out here in the middle of nowhere?”

Because there is nothing to block out my beauty.

I felt myself exhale. Like the answer to so many of my questions were answered in just that moment.

I started to wonder how many times God has tried to get my attention by demonstrating His beauty to me and I have been too busy or too distracted by things of this world to notice. I wonder how many of us miss the beauty of every day life-the very miracles happening right in front of our eyes each day because we surrender to the distractions and lies of the world and not to the beauty of our Creator?

The thought saddens my heart.

See, I believe in a God who created this world for beauty. Simply looking around with the right mindset on any given day will show you that.

The colors, the textures, the smells, the way the wind gently kisses our skin.

Beauty surrounds us and most of us go through each day missing it…over and over again.

And we just keep missing it.

We miss the beauty and we wonder why we are always feeling worried, anxious, saddened, depressed. We miss the beauty and we buy into the lies of this world and we are left feeling hopeless.

There are so many distractions each and every day being thrown at us. In the age of social media domination and instant gratification it is so easy to get lost in a worldly mindset and lose sight of the eternal mindset we were designed for.

The other day, I was experiencing one of those days when nothing seemed to be right. I was stressed out about my new job. I was feeling unsettled in this time of transition between college and the “real world” and I could not seem to catch my breath all day long. I was driving down the street where I live, where once again, the sunset caught my eye and the Lord whispered to my weary heart, “Are you focusing on things of this world, or eternal things?” 

Silence.

Yes, Lord you are right. My mindset was certainly not on eternal things and there was the source of my problem. There lies the very source of my problems everyday.

I started to wonder how many times The Lord was trying to catch my attention with spectacular sunsets before and I completely ignored them because I was too preoccupied with things or people that didn’t really matter eternally? How many times did He whisper to my tired and aching heart and I didn’t hear Him because the noise of the world was simply too loud? 

I learned so much from the sunset that seemed to last forever this past weekend. I learned that when there are miles upon miles of “nothing,” we really can find everything. We can find Him there. And He has been there all along. He is there in the chaos. He is there in the noise. He is there in the distractions and the lies.

We just don’t see Him. 

I learned that when we make room for Him to work in our busy lives. When we stop and breathe in His goodness. When we look at this world with eternal lenses… He shows up. He shows up and paints us a spectacular masterpiece with all the colors in the rainbow and more and even better, He makes it last forever.

As if He is saying, ” Look how much I love you. Look how LONG I will love you.” 

So after this weekend, I made a promise to my precious Creator.

I will never again miss the beauty of His sunsets again.

I will take each and every sunset to stop, readjust my focus onto things eternal, and praise Him for the beautiful artist He is. I will praise Him for how much and how LONG He loves me. 

for darkness is as light to you.

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My baby brother’s friend passed away in a car accident a few nights ago.

The scene of the accident was just a mile away from my childhood home. On a road that I have driven more times than I could ever count.

And it got me thinking this morning about how life is so fleeting. 

We hear about these accidents. One minute, we are with our friend-laughing and talking to them in living breathing form. The next minute, they are gone.

We hear about these shootings. Innocent people showing up to watch a movie in a place that should be safe. High schools. Elementary schools. Kindergarten classrooms. These places that should be safe.

We should be safe. 

We hear about these fathers and mothers. One minute they are smiling and hugging and kissing and the next minute their hearts decide to stop beating. They just quit. Maybe they got too tired from beating every single day, twenty four hours a day…

And we should be safe. 

So I hear about this accident and how this 18 year old kid had his whole life ahead of him and in one instant he is gone. And I hear about how my own baby brother had to see the scene of the accident on the night that it happened. And my very first instinct is to cling.

Cling. 

Cling to my family. Cling to my baby brother and keep them all safe inside with me where I can always know exactly where they are and I can always know they are safe and healthy and their hearts aren’t going to just stop. Their hearts aren’t going to break because they will be safe with me. They won’t be here one day and gone the next because they will be here safe with me.

Safe. 

I want to cling and control and hoard them from the world because these are the people I love more than I could ever express into words.

Because I love my baby brother because he is the best person I know and he is a better person than I could ever hope to be on my very best day.

Because on the night his friend lost control of his vehicle and passed away someone lost their baby brother. And I physically cannot bear the thought of losing my own. I can’t bear it.

So I want to cling.

Because when I saw his car pull into the driveway this morning and I got up to hug him I felt like maybe if I never let go then I could protect him from all of the harm in this world. From heartbreak and illness and cars that lose control at 9:00 at night. 

But I can’t cling and I can’t worry because worry is simply the illusion that I can control what happens to these people in my life. These people who I love so much that I sometimes feel like I can’t breathe. I can’t control because as much as I want to know all the answers. As much as I want to know that everything will be okay and I won’t ever have to wake up and see them one minute and say goodbye the next. As much as I want to know the answers as to why people like my brother’s friend had to go way too soon. I can’t control and I can’t know the answers.

But I can turn to the One who does.

The One who gives and takes away.

The One who knows all the answers and holds ALL the control.

The One who carried that boy away from the scene of the accident that night and brought him home.

The One who carries my own baby brother and the rest of my family day after day.

And this is the dichotomy my soul struggles with each day. I want to cling. But I need to surrender. I want to hold tight. But I need to let go. I want to hoard my loved ones. But I need to release them into the care of The Almighty. I want to protect them from all harm. But I need to realize that even if the worst of the worst happens. The outcome that I cannot fathom. That phone call that I dread. He is still good. And with Him, death has never been the end of the story. Death has always been a story about redemption. About life made new.

Pslam 139:12 read, “even the darkness will not be dark to you; for the night will shine like day, for darkness is as light to you.” 

What we perceive as darkness is as light to Him. Our mourning here on earth has no comparison to the glory that is in Heaven. The pure joy that my brother’s friend must have felt the moment his soul was welcomed home. Oh, how the angels must have sang. 

John 14:1-4 reads, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.”

Not only is there a room in Heaven prepared just for us. Just for our mothers and our fathers. Just for my friends. Just for my baby brother…

But he promises to come and take us himself.

And with this perspective, I suddenly have to fight the strange urge to rejoice in death. In this backwards point of view that is the kingdom of God. Darkness is light. Sadness is joy. Mourning is rejoicing.

My brother’s friend met Jesus and is in now in the safest place he could possibly be.

The same will happen for my friends and my family.

Lastly, 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 reads, “So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” 

Be of good courage, my friends. This thing that we so fear. This thing that I worry about so much for my loved ones. This thing that came to my hometown on Saturday night and took my brother’s friend from us.

Death.

There is no sting in death. 

Death is not the end but merely the beginning.

And this is what I will cling to.

it is finished?

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About two years ago, I got the verse, “And she laughs without fear of the future” from Proverbs 31 tattooed on my left side.

I wanted it to be close to my heart.

I wanted it to be a daily reminder.

A reminder to laugh. 

A reminder to not worry about my future.

A reminder to trust. 

But if I am being really honest, sometimes I feel like a hypocrite having that tattoo. I feel like a hypocrite because more often than not, I am worrying. I am living in fear of the future. And I am certainly not always laughing. I don’t laugh nearly as much as I wish I did…

The other day I was getting dressed in a hurry in the morning-like I often am lately. I was pulling my shirt over my head when I got a glimpse of my tattoo in the mirror. I sometimes forget it is there-but it hit me like a slap in the face.

And she laughs without fear of the future. 

On this particular morning, I was worrying about a gazillion different things at once like I always am.

I am going to be late to work.

My car is out of gas and I don’t have any money to fill it up. 

I’m tired and I am worried that I am getting sick. 

That relationship is really really hard right now. 

I’m scared. 

What about the future? What is my life going to look like 6 months from now? 

What about him? Is he the one? 

Shoot. I forgot to make coffee. My day is ruined. 

I’m serious. This is what my mind is like about 95 percent of the time. Crazy huh? Doesn’t quite sound like someone who should have that tattoo does it? Doesn’t quite sound like a woman who is truly living in the freedom of Christ does it? 

I have to confess to you guys, I live in fear the majority of my life. I have faith in Jesus, but I still worry about my future just as much as the next person. I have faith in Jesus, but I still wake up each morning in fear about what the day might hold. Will my heart be broken again today? Will I be disappointed by someone I love? Will something happen to someone I love? I have faith in Jesus but… 

There shouldn’t be a “BUT.”

That slap in the face moment I was talking about?

It went something like this. Earlier that morning I was reading my bible and I came across a verse in John 19. John is recounting the death of Jesus on the cross and verse 30 reads, ” When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”

I don’t remember paying too much attention to that verse that morning. After all, that verse is very popular in the Christian world- I have heard it over and over again. But it all came back to me in the moment when I caught a glimpse of my tattoo in the mirror and I swear everything stopped moving for a few seconds. It was just me and Jesus and He reminded me once again that He is enough. His DEATH was enough. 

Why am I still living in fear of my future when it is finished?

Why am I still striving each and every day to be perfect when it is finished? 

Why am I doubting the goodness of God’s plans for my life when it is finished? 

Why am I holding onto the shame and guilt of my past sins when it is finished? 

Did my sweet Savior die in vain, then? 

Last night, I got to watch thousands of people in my church walk up to a giant wooden cross and nail pieces of paper with the words, “sin,” “death,” and “shame” to it. There was a resounding sound of nails being hammered and it was LOUD. Some people did it gently and others pounded those nails so hard you could just sense they were FED UP with those words running their lives. And as I listened to the sound of the hammers… POUND POUND POUND, my eyes welled up with tears because I was reminded of what it may have sounded like when our precious Savior’s hands and feet were nailed to the cross 2000 years ago…

POUND POUND POUND. 

His perfect, flawless, sinless, hands being nailed to that tree.

Was it all for nothing, then?

I sure live like it was sometimes. 

It is finished. 

Those were His last words before He died on that cross that fateful day.

Friends, there is something so important about those words that He wanted us to know. Out of all the things He could have chosen to say before He breathed His last…He chose that.

Thank God that He has grace enough for me to cover all of the times when I have lived like His death was in vain. Oh Jesus. Thank you for forgiving me for choosing to live in bondage. For choosing to live like a slave when you came to set me free.

I promise to TRY to live more like a FREE daughter of Christ from now on. I promise to live more like the woman in Proverbs 31 tattooed on my left side under my heart. I won’t be perfect. But I promise to try. Because why would I want to continue living like a slave to my guilt, my shame, my sin, my fear…when Jesus is offering me His perfect peace and abundant freedom right here right NOW?

Oh. What a Savior. 

He died so that I could be free. So that YOU could be free. So let yourself off the hook today, friends. It is finished. It was finished 2000 years ago when the man named Love willingly sacrificed  Himself on the cross so that we could become flawless and blameless before God.

Live like that today. I promise to do the same.

“It is for freedom that Christ set us free. Stand firm then, and do not let yourself be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1

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Oh, Gracious Giver.

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Trust in the slow working of God. 

I think truly walking with Jesus means humbly accepting seasons of growth and seasons of pruning.

I like to think of my walk with Jesus as a little baby tree. There are seasons when God asks me to grow, and seasons where He ever-so-gently prunes away the branches that are hindering me from becoming all that He wants me to be.

Seasons of growth are usually exciting. Sometimes it means He is asking me to step into a new leadership role. Maybe it means He is leading me towards a new friendship or relationship. Maybe a new job or new opportunity. Growing in Jesus is usually exciting and for me, these seasons do not usually bring much pain.

Usually though, following an exciting season of growth, comes a season of pruning. These are seasons when He is asking me to rid myself of the things or people that are hindering me from growing ever closer to Him. Much like a tree, these people or things are a part of me. They are a living and breathing part of me, and sometimes the pruning is painful. But it is always for my good. And always for His glory. 

I am in one of those seasons right now.

Perhaps God saw that my seasons of growth had left behind some unneeded “branches” that needed to be trimmed away. Maybe I was growing out of control. Maybe just maybe, some of my branches were diseased with sin or doubt. Whatever the reason, He is asking me to rid myself of these things. He is lovingly asking me to allow Him to strip away the branches that are no longer benefiting me. And it hurts.

Impatience. 

He is asking me to rid myself of impatience. A struggle I have dealt with all of my life, and I have a feeling I am not alone in that.

As humans, we are just naturally impatient. We want to know the answers…right away. We want our prayers answered how we want them answered…right away. Things are black and white. YES or NO, God? None of this in between stuff. None of this waiting. None of this patience you speak of…

The other day, I found myself becoming increasingly more demanding with God. There is a prayer that I have been praying for what seems like forever. Every day, I have faithfully and confidently approached Him with my request. When I began to pray, months ago I was excited and anxiously awaiting the answer to my prayers. I just KNEW God would pull through for me, and I knew it would be quickly. At least I thought I knew.

Days went by. Then weeks. Months.

Silence.

“Hello, God. Me again. Hey, I know everything happens in your perfect timing but I am really in a time crunch here. Could we speed this process up a bit?” 

“Lord, I KNOW you are able to answer this prayer for me. This is something that will be of service to you, even! I am anxiously awaiting your reply…” 

I approached Him every day with the request and sat back and waited. And waited. And waited.

Finally, the other day I found myself becoming frustrated with Him in my prayers. That frustration turned into demanding. And then, I was stopped right in my tracks and humbled beyond belief.

“Trust in the slow working of God” 

Clear as day, I was presented with this phrase. I immediately felt convicted. Who am I to say when God should answer my prayers? Or how He should answer them? I don’t even deserve for Him to answer a SINGLE prayer for me. I do not deserve anything from Him, quite frankly. So where did this sense of entitlement come from?

And the pruning began.

Patience, My Child. I am working everything together for YOUR GOOD. Trust in me. I am NEVER late. 

I breathe deeply once again and I am brought down to earth-where I belong. I am reminded, once again that He is God and I am not and there is nothing I can do about that.

I think so often, we get caught up in the gifts that He gives and we don’t spend enough time focusing on the Giver. We are so narrow minded that we miss the slow workings of God. We want an answer right away, and we want it to be clear. We want our blessings to be delivered to our front porch wrapped in a pretty package. We don’t like to hear “wait” and we certainly don’t like to hear “no.”

So, He is pruning impatience away from my life. Slowly, but surely He is cutting the sick branches. Trimming away the desire to control. Snapping the diseased ones-chock full of entitlement and stubbornness. All the while, speaking tenderly to my heart.

This may hurt now. But I promise you, child. When I get finished with you, you won’t even recognize yourself. I am making you into a new creation. Trust me, The Master Gardener. I promise this is for your good.

I once heard that God is a lot more focused on the process than He is on the destination.

It is in the process that we are changed. The process. The sometimes very slow process. 

I think we get lost when we take our eyes off the Giver and focus on the gifts. We become entitled. We become ridden with arrogance and impatience. We grow resentful with God. This was not His design.

I believe God is a good God. I KNOW He is good. He is also faithful and He has proven His faithfulness to me over and over again. And He is gracious-thank God…He is SO gracious with me. He knows my tendency to be impatient. He knows I am human, and so feeble-minded. He knows that I don’t know His ways and He knows how desperately I WANT to know His ways…

I believe He wants to bless us. After all, He is all GOOD, all LOVING, and we are His children. He wants good things for our lives-just not always the things we think are good at the time we think is best. 

So the pruning continues. He teaches me more and more with each passing day that I can resist and I can struggle, or I can let go and submit to the pain of pruning. I can stubbornly insist on demanding things from the Giver in a spirit of entitlement. Or I can humbly accept and trust in His SLOW workings and wait confidently upon Him to deliver the gifts when He sees fit.

Remember that prayer I was talking about earlier? The one I have prayed over and over to the point of tears for months and months…

That prayer was answered this morning. 

Out of the blue.

Unexpectedly.

Mysteriously. 

Oh so graciously.

And once again, I find myself on my knees in praise. Completely in awe of His faithfulness, despite my impatient and demanding nature. Despite the fact that I fail Him day after day. Despite the fact that I am eternally indebted to Him for His son’s death on the cross. Despite the truth that I do not deserve a single gift from the Gracious Giver.

And friends, THAT is the kind of God we serve.

🙂

He gave thanks.

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There was a night in history long ago, a night unlike any other.

It was THE night. 

THE night before God changed the course of eternity though His one and only son-a God man named Jesus Christ.

On this night, Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with his disciples in a place described as the “upper room.”

It would have been an honor to have celebrated The Last Supper with the Savior of the world in this room. The disciples were however, blissfully unaware of what was about to happen to their friend and Teacher. To them, this was just another night celebrating a holiday. That all changed when Jesus began to speak.

Luke 22:19 reads, “And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them saying, “This is my body given for you, do this in remembrance of me.”

Growing up in private, Catholic schools my entire life and having the privilege to study the Bible at length during my personal walk with Christ the past two and a half years, I have heard and read this story of the Eucharist countless times. I admit, my eyes have glazed over when I heard this phrase repeated over and over during Sunday mass. One of the things I love most about the Bible-the Holy Word of God-is that no matter how many times you read a story, God loves to teach you something different through it each time.

“…He gave thanks…”

This phrase in particular stood out to me the last time I read this story and I marveled at how the Savior of the World, the God Man, The Star-Breather-He gave thanks. 

He was grateful.

And what was most amazing to me about this phrase is that Jesus was about to face His death on the cross. He was about to be beaten and bruised. He was about to suffer beyond any comprehension. He was about to literally hold the weight of the world’s sins on His shoulders and be separated from His Father for our sake. 

Yet, He gave thanks. 

There is something in that, my friends.

I decided to look up what “He gave thanks” was in the original language of the passage.

“Eucharisteo” which means “Thanksgiving” 

Beautiful, but I want more.

I delve further into the word “Eucharisteo”

“Charis” the root of the word, means grace. 

Jesus saw the bread as grace from God. How ironic that the God Man saw the gift of bread to be grace when He was about to shed His blood on the cross in just a few hours for us-for grace.

Eucharisteo also has the Greek word, “chara” meaning “joy.”

JOY.

Jesus had joy in thanking His Father for the bread. For the sacrifice He was about to make. He had joy sharing this last supper with his best friends-the men He loved. Hasn’t that always been the goal we are all striving after in this life? To find joy-abundant joy.

Charis-grace. Chara-joy. Eucharisteo-THANKSGIVING. 

I can’t help but wonder if this word means everything to us. If this word means everything to me? Does this word hold the secret to fully living in Jesus? To not just going through the motions, but FULLY living, DEEPLY living.

To receive grace. The gift freely given to us by the cross. The gift we can never earn. The gift we are merely victims of.

To have grace. With ourselves and with others. Always being gracious because we know how gracious He has been with us.

To have joy. Not a joy that is contingent on our circumstances-for those will always change. No, I am talking about the kind of joy that surpasses our circumstances. The true joy that is found when we keep our eyes locked with the Savior’s. The joy that comes with knowing Him so deeply and intimately that we do not need to seek out anything in this world to bring us joy. The joy that fills. The joy that overflows. The joy that can never be stolen from us. Abundant. Joy.

Thanksgiving. Giving thanks in all circumstances. Calling out the blessings-one by one. The gifts from God, no matter how small. The kind of thanksgiving that comes with recognizing that NOTHING is ours. EVERYTHING is His. Everything is a gift. Our very breath. The first sip of coffee in the morning. The feeling of sore feet from a night of dancing. Dancing. The twinkle in the eye of a new friend. The possibility of love. Heartbeats. Cold ice water. Laughter. Tears. That kind of thanksgiving.

Jesus wasn’t giving thanks because everything in his life was peachy. He wasn’t filled with joy because His life was comfortable and blessing-filled. He was making a CHOICE.

And I think that is where we can learn the greatest lesson. JOY is a choice. THANKSGIVING is a choice. GRACE is a choice- to receive it and to give it.

It is not always easy to choose these things. When our lives aren’t turning out how we wanted them to. When the waiting seems too hard. When we feel like we can’t go another second. When things are so tough it feels hard to breathe.

But there is beauty in the choice. The choice to look beyond our circumstances and have contentment and joy in knowing that it is well.

It is well because He lives.

It is well because we are deeply, deeply loved.

It is well.

Lets choose these things today and everyday.

The three words that just might hold the key to what we have all been searching for all along.

open your eyes.

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I had an amazing moment today. 

No, it was nothing extravagant. Nothing out of the ordinary, really. Oh but it was profound.

You see, I think women have a tendency to believe lies about themselves. We hear these voices all day long telling us we aren’t good enough. They are relentless. They cast doubt on everything we do and say. They force us to become insecure, even when we are the farthest thing from it. They are evil.

I know that women struggle with this because I have struggled in the past and still struggle to this day with believing the lies. Currently, I have several friends who are fighting against the lies and doing their very best to stay afloat. It breaks my heart that this is an ongoing struggle for almost every woman I know. It breaks my heart because these thoughts we have are NOT from the Lord. I repeat-those voices you hear telling you that you are unworthy, guilty, ugly, overweight, not pretty enough. etc-those are lies and they are evil.

So, back to the moment.

Today was one of those days where I was feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders. It was one of those days when I just woke up feeling “off” and I couldn’t quite pinpoint why. I was feeling heavy for a friend who was struggling with her self-worth, and feeling extra heavy because I realized while talking with her this morning that I had felt those very same feelings so many times in my life. I was feeling heavy for ALL the women who were feeling that way today.

I forced myself to go to the gym and turned on some worship music and just willed myself to quiet all the noise in my head. All the competing voices. All the chaos, and just listen for the still small voice of truth. It is truly amazing what the Lord will do with a listening heart. 

It wasn’t long into my workout that I began to feel the weight lift. I felt lighter once again and my heart felt at peace. It was then that the question came up in my head, “Who are you trying to please?” 

It was the truth I had been searching for straight from the mouth of God. I felt deeply convicted. The question repeated itself over and over. “Who are you trying to please?”  

My mind searched for an answer-the right answer. I would love to say that I am only trying to please God in my life. That is, of course my primary pursuit and something I am striving daily to work on. However, if we are all honest with ourselves-we are all a bunch of people-pleasers.

If we are all honest with ourselves, there is one question that all of us have in our lives. And we are constantly striving to find the answer to it. “Am I enough?”

Am I enough? 

The problem we all face is when we try to take this question to sinful, fallen, and broken people. Human beings are all of the above and more. When we take our question to a person-whether it be a friend, a family member, a significant other, we are running into dangerous territory. When we take our question to anyone other than God, we are accepting the lie that our worth lies in how that individual answers that question. 

I realized in that moment at the gym that this is the root of all the negative thoughts that we struggle with everyday. You see, people are never going to answer this question the way we desire it to be answered. Their answers will most likely sound more like, “You are enough if….” or “You are enough, but…” or maybe their answer will sound more like, “You aren’t enough. Do better. Be better. Look better.”

However they answer it, you will never feel satisfied. Bringing our question to other people is like drinking from a well filled with salt water-there will never be satisfaction, only more thirst.

In that moment at the gym, I was reminded again of something I have heard so many times. “Your worth is in Christ alone.” I do believe this. I believe this with all of my heart, I just lose sight of it sometimes, and that is okay.

The beautiful thing about finally deciding to take our precious question to the Lord instead of to humans is that the answer is always the same.

Always. Yes, my child. You are enough! You are so enough that I died to know you. I died to love you. You could not be more perfect in my eyes. You are my creation. Be still and know this truth. 

Ephesians 2:10 reads, “For we are God’s masterpiece…”

You and I are His masterpiece! The creator of the world considers you His beautiful masterpiece. There is nothing about that statement that is false. Breathe that in, friends. That is glorious truth.

My moment in the gym didn’t end in the gym. I left and drove out of the parking lot and saw a homeless woman sitting on the corner with a sign. Now, this was nothing out of the ordinary. But I felt a tug on my heart to “open my eyes…”

Open your eyes. This isn’t what it seems. 

It was at that moment when she turned around and revealed the writing on her sign.

“Believe in love. Stop believing the lies.”

Wow. God is so so good.

Stop believing the lies. Call them out for what they are. Instead, go to the Almighty with your question and bask in His perfect love for you when He answers.

And I promise you, His answer alone will satisfy.