Thursday, September 27, 2012

He is making all things new....

There's a Jon Foreman song that says "God knows what I need. You know what I need." And you know what? That is TRUE! (Actually all the lyrics to that song are perfect, so... listen to it.) It goes on to just repeat over and over "Your love is strong." Also true. I've said before that I hope I get to a point where I'm still amazed by how God shows His love for me, but not surprised. Because that's just who God is. That's what He does. He loves us, and He loves us well! Sometimes we may not understand how things work or why things happen, but God is sovereign, and that means He knows. And I don't have to. I can rest in Him and just breathe deep and trust that He knows. Because He does. DO YOU GET IT YET!? There are days that I don't. Honestly. I always should get it because He never fails to amaze me, but sometimes I get all human and I forget. How silly. Forgetting. That's why it's so important to hide God's word in our hearts and to fill our minds with things that draw us to God and not away from Him. Because when our circumstances overwhelm and we forget, we need to be reminded. God is faithful. He will bring His word to the front of your mind. But it has to be hidden in the back to be brought to the front.

"I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you." Psalm 119:11


God is faithful to His word. He is NOT human. Praise Him! Gosh, I am so glad God is not human. He is trustworthy and always remains true to His character. He says if we seek His face, He will heal. And let me tell you, He is not lying. He can't lie anyway. It's not in His nature. (!!!) He isn't joking when He says He will hear us from Heaven and forgive us and heal us. And I am so thankful.

"if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14


God is faithful to His promises. Some of you, if we've known each other for a while, know this about me already but... God has placed a desire in my heart to see renewal and refreshing in His church. If you want more details about this, just ask. But I have been so amazed lately by His confirmation and affirmation of the vision He placed in my heart years ago. I'm also amazed by how He brings the right people and experiences into my life at the perfect times. He tells me He will, and He does. I love that.

Right now, specifically, like right this very moment, New Ministers' Orientation is happening in the building. I've been fighting back tears all morning. Not because I'm a sap, because I'm not. (Some people might even call me cynical...but I don't cry much.) No. The tears are here because of God's faithfulness. It is such a blessing to see people who are excited about the work God is doing here. People of all walks of life...full time and part time pastors...pastors who are still learning how to speak English...pastors from the mountains and pastors from the depths of the city. All here together to learn how to be more effective in reaching people for Jesus. That is so exciting! If you know me at all, you know I love orientation of all shapes and forms. I love the enthusiasm and excitement that surrounds the "new". My prayer for these pastors is that it would stay. That they would not be discouraged by people, but would be renewed by the Spirit. And my prayer for pastors who have been working at it for a long, long time is that they, too, would be renewed by the Spirit. That they would remember why they surrendered their lives to God and ministry in the first place. That they would remember the light that shines in a person's eyes when they hear about Jesus for the first time and decide to trust Him!

God is at work. Here and everywhere. I just want to be focused on being a part of His plan. I don't want to get distracted and forget. I want to be here. Present. In the middle of the excitement of His work!

"Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. 
For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told." Habakkuk 1:5


Monday, August 27, 2012

Bro? Brothers? ...Brethren?



This week has been a rough one for the littlest sister. I won't go into details here, but she's been sad and her heart has been hurting. She's my sister. We're "cut from the same cloth"..."kindred spirits". When she hurts, I hurt. Physically and emotionally. I don't know if that's normal or unusual because I've never known anything else. I have 3 sisters, and we all not only love each other, but we like each other too. We enjoy spending time together. Whenever I go home, I always see a sister. I don't always see my friends, but I always see at least one sister. That's what we do. The oldest is coming through Atlanta on Thursday, so we're going to get coffee. That's what we do too. Coffee. It's our thing. Sister-friendships and coffee.

Anyway... thinking about how my sister's pain causes me pain and how seeing any of them happy makes me happy got me thinking about another family I'm in...the family of God. I taught in Sunday School this week, and our lesson was about how nothing can take us out of the family of God once we're in. It's the same type of bond that we share with our physical families. Just like nothing I do can change my DNA and make me no longer related to my biological family, nothing I do can change my status in the family of God. Once you accept His gift of salvation, you're in forever.

Paul writes to the Romans about how we, as Christians, should act...


Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 
Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 
Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. 
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 
Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. 
Never be wise in your own sight. 
Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 
Romans 12:9-18 

All those things in italics remind me of my relationship with my sisters. Or how it should be. That's how our relationships with ALL other Christians should be. With ALL PEOPLE even. The verse that confirms this for me is 18... "so far as it depends on you...". So many times I allow my self to get in the way and I don't let the love of God shine through me. So many times I base my actions and reactions on the actions of others. That's really not smart. Especially if that other person is not a Christian. 

I grew up fighting with my sisters. I still fight with my sisters. But if any of you decided to fight with my sisters, you'd have to go through me. Back in May, I wrote a blog about how stupid it is for us (Christians) to fight with each other when we're really on the same side of the battle. Ephesians tells us our battles aren't against flesh and blood anyway. And Exodus tells us that the Lord will fight for us, so we just have to be still (and not try to fight for ourselves). But here we are...fighting amongst ourselves instead of sticking up for each other like siblings. We don't defend each other against our enemy. We don't go to the Lord in prayer on behalf of each other nearly enough. We don't try to outdo each other in showing honor. We try to outdo each other in popularity and recognition and accolades. (Pharisees, anyone?) If possible, as far as it depends on us, we look our for ourselves. If our needs are met and everything we want is happening, then we'll be perfectly peacable with each other. If not, then the gloves come off and Lord help whoever is in our way. Because obviously our personal agenda is much more important than God's agenda, right? No. Not according to Paul in Romans 12. Paul says we're supposed to bless those who persecute us. What do you think that means we should do for those who love us? Good news. Read it again. He tells us. Thanks, Paul! 

Let me assure you that I do not get this right. Especially Even with my biological siblings. But I'm trying. Ask me about it. I'm trying to be more like Jesus. I want to be more like Jesus. And it sure is a process! Hold me accountable. And let's try to live like Paul tells us to. 

Loves.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Brakes.

Do you ever feel like your life is moving a lot faster than you'd like? Kind of the same feeling you got as a kid when you're riding your bike or a skateboard or a sled down a hill and you suddenly realize you're no longer in control? You have two choices: bail out or ride it out. Both carry their own dangers and consequences and uncertainties. If you bail, you might miss the best part, and who knows what you'll hit when you try to stop. If you ride it out you could end up hurting, or you could coast to a gentle stop. There's risk in both bailing and sticking with it. And whichever you end up choosing, you never know what would've happened if you had gone with the other option.

Life is a lot like that sometimes. This summer, someone asked me where I was from, and I just looked at them because I could not think of the right answer. My instinct was to say "Nashville", but I haven't lived there in a year and a half. So even though it's where I'm ORIGINALLY from, it's not the answer anymore. Even though I moved away a while ago, not living there is still an adjustment. Every. Day.

There are times that I think life would be easier if I just moved back. And it probably would. But when I chose to follow Jesus, I gave up on having an easy life. Following Jesus means that I have to be uncomfortable sometimes. So I find my comfort in Him. It means I have to be uncertain sometimes. So I find truth and certainty in Him. It means I have to be exhausted and spent sometimes. So I find rest in Him. If I moved back to Nashville, between me and the people who love me there, we could figure out what the whole rest of my life would look like. I'm sure it would be very sweet and easy. However, I don't want that life. I want the life that God has designed for me. I don't have a clue what that looks like past today, but I'm sticking it out and hanging on. I want to see where this one goes. I bail out of scary things a lot. But I'm not doing it this time. I know without a doubt that the Lord's plans for me are way, way, way better than anything I could ever plan for myself.

This morning Christine Caine tweeted this:
"To avoid burnout, 
ensure you are doing what God wants you to do, 
not what everyone else wants you to do."

So that's what I want. What God wants. Not what I want for me. Not what you want for me. I want what God has. The End.

Loves.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Piano Lessons?

Dear Parents,
When your 7 year old cries and begs you to let them quit piano lessons, say no. They will regret it when they're 25.
Sincerely,
A 25 year old who regrets quitting piano lessons at age 7


Lots of thoughts today. Most of them are disconnected from the others. It's Thursday, and some weeks Thursday is the best. This week, Thursday is weird. All day long, strange things have been happening.
Here are some examples:
  1. This morning, I sat still in traffic for at least 20 minutes. When I finally reached the reason for sitting still, I found 3 police cars and one "civilian" car with no hubcap. ...really? 
  2. When I was getting off the interstate, a policeman walked across the road in front of me and I almost had to come to a complete stop to let him cross. There were no cars behind me. He couldn't just wait? 
  3. Yesterday, I spilled coffee down my dress like a normal person. Today, I spilled coffee up my nose. Yes. This is real life.
  4. My office building smells like pizza and a hot glue gun, but my desk smells like perfume...which I did not wear today.
  5. Most of what I've touched today I have either dropped or knocked over.                                                 Exhibit A (at least it was empty): 

 

So that's what my Thursday has looked like so far. I like rockin' Thursdays more. On a brighter note, I did learn something new this morning, and everyone I've talked to on the phone has been pleasant! Also, I haven't sneezed yet. My coworker and I consider the day a success if we can make it to 2pm or later without sneezing. Well folks, it's 2:15, and I'm sneeze free. So far. Success.

On an even brighter note, one of the blogs I read really resonated with me today. Katy Brooks writes about Jesus and fitness and pretty things and health, and I like her. You can find her blog here. The post I'm referring to was actually from last night. Katy writes about how being concerned with your body image is really living a life of bondage, and I needed to read it. Maybe you do too. Even if you're a boy. It might help you (boys) get a better handle on how we (girls) think sometimes. Or don't read it. Totally your call.
Anyway, I just think Katy is spot on. We do live a life of bondage even though Jesus took our punishment and has set us free. We are so dumb!

So my prayer for you today is that your Thursday is beneficial even if it's weird like mine. I hope it's taught you something or helped you grow or allowed you to invest in someone else. My prayer for you AND me is that we would live in our freedom and not be stuck in the bondage of our humanity. Praise God for freedom!

Loves.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

what growing up SHOULD be like

I think I'm supposed to be an adult. I'm 25. I moved away from my family and friends. I've had a big girl job for a year. "Adult" makes normal sense, right? I don't feel so adult though. I feel like I'm growing into and out of strange things. So I decided to make a list. :)

Things I'm growing into:
  1. Tucking my shirt in
  2. Wearing black & brown together
  3. Flossing consistently
  4. Budgets
  5. Self-discipline
  6. Multivitamins (don't worry. they're still gummies...)
  7. Wearing cardigans almost every day
Things I'm growing out of:
  1. Eating sweets
  2. Giggling
  3. Passive Aggressiveness
  4. Wearing makeup every day
  5. Over-accessorizing (thank you, Jesus, for this one)
Don't get me wrong. I don't think these things are bad. I just wish they were a little more exciting. I've been thinking a lot lately about things I wish I was growing out of. So I made a list of those things too.

Things I would grow out of if the world were perfect:
  1. Getting mosquito bites
  2. Shaving
  3. Badly fitting jeans
  4. Blisters
  5. Spam Emails
  6. Bad music
  7. Indecisiveness
  8. Acne
  9. Allergies (particularly sneezes)
  10. Bitter people
  11. Fear
  12. Inhibitions
  13. Dying phone batteries
  14. Fake people
  15. Budgets (...i just really hate them.)
  16. Losing my tan
I'm sure I could think of more things I'd like to grow out of, but I'll leave it there for now. I feel like it's a good sampling. And the world is not perfect, so I'm still forced to deal with these things. If you look at the big picture, they're not so bad. I'm blessed. And sometimes spam emails make me laugh.

Loves.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Once upon a time in Tennessee...

I should've written about this yesterday, but I'm still processing.

I went to Tennessee last weekend for a wedding. This was wedding 4 of 8 for the year (April 2012-Feb 2013). I introduced Kelly and Drew at the Freshman Festival at Belmont 5 years ago, and they got married on Saturday. It was a beautiful evening filled with people that I love, and I wouldn't have missed it for the world!

I drove up Friday evening after work, and met my mom and sister at Fido (one of the best coffee shops in the world) in the middle of a monsoon. On our way home, we dropped my car off at the shop. This was planned. My car had been putting off a gasoline smell for the last two weeks or so, but my gas mileage didn't change, and there was never any other evidence of a gas leak, so I put off getting it checked out until I got to Nashville.
The wedding was Saturday night, so I was thinking my car would be fixed sometime Saturday morning, and I'd be good to go. My mechanic called me around 11 on Saturday (they close at noon), and said I wouldn't be able to get my car back until Monday. They had found the gas leak, but couldn't find what was causing it without taking the gas tank out of my car, and they couldn't do that until Monday. This is someone I trust, and I knew it was serious when he said "I can't let you drive it. Someone could flick a cigarette out their window, and you'd be a fireball." So I left it. I drove my mom's car to the wedding and rode with her to church the next morning. No problems. At lunch we discussed my options for returning to Georgia. 1. I could wait until Monday and drive my car back. 2. I could drive mom's car back since she's coming down tomorrow anyway. We decided that it would be best for me to go ahead and come back on Sunday evening so I wouldn't have to miss work. Mom would just pick up my car when it was ready and drive it down this weekend so we could trade. This was a good plan until we left the restaurant. We made it about 5 feet before realizing we had a flat tire and needed to stop. I looked at her and said "Looks like I'm staying until tomorrow!" I made all the necessary contacts and we called AAA to come take care of us. We made it home, and I was able to spend some time Sunday night with more of my family that I would've missed had I gone back to Georgia that day. I'm extremely grateful for that.
Monday morning came. Autumn headed to Giles Country High School to teach color guard at their band camp, and mom headed to work--leaving me at my grandparents' house with no car. I was just waiting. That's been the recurring theme of my life lately. Maybe you've picked up on it in earlier posts. I'm in a waiting phase spiritually, but on Monday, I was waiting in every way. I found out Monday afternoon around 3:30 that the gas leak in my car was a result of a broken fuel pump. Those things are made of plastic, and part of mine was cracked. I drive a Saturn. No one makes Saturns anymore. None of the vendors my mechanic uses had the part that my car needed. He had to call GM dealerships to find the right one, and he ended up finding a dealer who had one model like the one we needed. He couldn't get it to the shop until Tuesday morning. Mom's tires were coming in and being changed on Tuesday morning also. So I was stranded in Nashville for another night. I called my sister in New York because we understand each others' struggles. We talked for a really long time, and she reminded me that I had JUST blogged about how much I missed my grandparents' house. And that's where I was stranded. I should be happy in spite of the circumstances! She also reminded me that this world is not our home, and nothing will ever be perfect until we get to our real home--Heaven. If it wasn't the fuel pump on my car and the tire on Mom's car, it would be something else. Monday night, I was able to spend some time with just my mom. We haven't really done that in years. We made dinner and watched "Pride and Prejudice" and ate ice cream. It was great.
Tuesday morning, I got up and ran in hell. Seriously. The heat index was 101 and the humidity was at 70%. But I was grateful to get to run there again. It's my favorite place. I packed up my stuff and showered and went with my parents to pick up my car. It was really expensive, but through the generosity of my sister and some strategic planning from me and mom, we made it happen. Oh! And, for the first time in about 4 years, I drove between Nashville and Atlanta in gorgeous weather the whole way!

I'm so thankful for my family and friends and good memories and for my car. I try to not take anything for granted because I know that the Cross was enough. I don't deserve salvation, but God gave it to me anyway. Anything above and beyond that is blessing, and I want to be appropriately thankful for everything the Lord gives. This past weekend in Tennessee was a growing and learning experience for me. I feel different being back. It's always nice to gain a little perspective. I'll leave you with snippets of the weekend in picture form.

Love.

 Clouds on the way to Nashy

 Fido Fun

With my beautiful MARRIED friends! (and mark...)

 The Fellowship at Two Rivers

 Sunday Highlights

My favorite place

Heat.

 Driving home

"Can't count the barns I've passed...painted red, white and black..."

Friday, July 20, 2012

a something, a storm, and an oversized fish

So there's this something in my life. Something I should've given to God a while ago. But I've been holding on to it. I think I've been scared that if I give it to God, He might take it. Really good logic, huh? Promise I'm an adult. I'm not going to tell you what it is because in the grand scheme of things, it doesn't really matter, does it? We've all got one of those somethings. Most of the time we can trace our somethings back to pride. Why won't I just let it go? Why am I still holding on? Honestly, it's because I think I can handle it better than God can. Guess what. I'm wrong. Actually, I'm REALLY wrong. I can't handle anything better than God can. HE MADE ME. I don't get to call the shots.

Have you ever made anything? Cookies? Playdoh creations? LEGO buildings? A book? A song? A journal entry? When you are the maker of something, you have control. I can leave something out of a recipe or add to it. It's up to me. Because I'm in charge. Here's the thing about God though... Yes, He is in charge. Yes, He made us. BUT He also gave us the ability to think and choose for ourselves. What if your LEGOs could think for themselves? If you had that one piece that kept jumping off of your building because it just didn't want to be there? Not only would that be strange and kind of scary, it would also be frustrating. If that happened to me, my first instinct would be to just pick up that stubborn piece and fling it across the room (where I would undoubtedly find it with my foot in the dark at a later time). If it doesn't want to be used, then fine. I won't use it.

I'm impatient.

God isn't.

HOORAY! Good news for us! He loves us so much that He just keeps trying. He doesn't give up and fling us across the room. Sometimes we miss out on things and He does use other pieces/people to accomplish His will, but He never ever gives up. He wants us.

Look at Jonah.
God told Jonah to go to Nineveh. He wasn't vague. He said "Arise, go to Nineveh..." (Jonah 1:2). Plain and simple. What does Jonah do? Verse 3: "But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord..." Tarshish isn't Nineveh. Jonah heard the voice of the Lord, but he blatantly disobeyed and did something else. But God was persistent. (haha. understatement?) The ship Jonah got on to go to Tarshish faced a massive storm. The crew figured out Jonah was running from God and causing the storm. Jonah knew it too, so he had the crew throw him overboard. Once Jonah was in the water, the storm stopped. This caused the other men on the ship to fear Jonah's God, and they made sacrifices and vows to the Lord. God used Jonah's stubbornness to draw people to Himself. I love that. If you don't know the rest of the story, don't worry. Jonah didn't drown. He was swallowed by a fish that the Lord appointed. :) Verse 17: "And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights." While Jonah was inside the fish, he gave up and prayed. He gave up his pride and stubbornness and decided to do what the Lord had originally said. "And the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land." (Jonah 2:10) Chapter 3 starts out like this: "Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, "Arise, go to Nineveh..." Verse 3 says: "So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord." Looks like Jonah learned his lesson. Jonah didn't get everything right after that. He still struggled. But he went to Nineveh and did what the Lord told him to do there. And the people in Nineveh repented. Mission accomplished. The book of Jonah could have been 2 chapters long instead of 4 if Jonah had just listened in the first place. But this way, we have a great story of God's power and persistence. God never gave up on Jonah. Jonah ran away from Him. God could've said "Okay. I'll use someone else." But He didn't. He wanted to use Jonah to reach Nineveh, and He wanted to use Nineveh to reach Jonah. So He used a storm and a very large fish to get Jonah's attention.

What is God telling you to do today? Where's your Nineveh? Maybe it's not a physical place. Maybe it's just a place of deeper intimacy with God. No matter how close we are to the Lord, we can always get closer. That's God's desire. I pray that it is mine too. Maybe you're in the middle of the storm or in the middle of the fish. Either way, don't you think it's time to let go of our pride and just do what God says? I do.

I'm laying down my something. I want to trust God with it because I know that He can do greater things with it than I ever could. I don't want my mediocre plans. I want what God has for me. He made me. He knows what's best. I don't want to pick my something back up again. I need your help. If you see me or talk to me, just say "Don't pick it up." "Leave it." "Let God handle it." Anything like that will work. And pray for me? Please. I cannot do this alone. I need the strength of Jesus and community to help me leave it alone. Will you help me?

Today at (in)courage, one of the writers quoted a song. She was talking about something completely different and focused on one line, but a different line resonated with me. Maybe you need one of these lines too.

Here are the lyrics:
At the foot of the cross
Where grace and suffering meet
You have shown me Your love
Through the judgment You received
And You’ve won my heart
Yes You’ve won my heart
Now I can
Trade these ashes in for beauty
And wear forgiveness like a crown
Coming to kiss the feet of mercy
I lay every burden down
At the foot of the cross
("At the Foot of the Cross", Tammy Trent)

Friday, July 13, 2012

if home's where my heart is, then i'm out of place

"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."
CS Lewis

"But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, 
but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God"
Ephesians 2:13,19

"But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ"
Philippians 3:20


I'm homesick. Not for Tennessee (although I think about it a lot), but for Heaven. For HOME. For a place with no imperfections. No pride. No jealousy. No insecurity. No uncertainties. No pain. No questions. Just Jesus. I want to be there.

Moving stretched me. It still does everyday. I love living in Georgia. If for no other reason (and there are TONS), I love living here because I believe God called me here. He orchestrated the events that led to me being here. He's still orchestrating the events of my every day.

But sometimes I ache for familiarity. For people who know my history and have lived it with me. For a place where I know where everything is and how to get there and how to tell you how to get there too. For songs that I know all the words and notes and rhythms to. For food that came from the woods and the garden that I walk through barefoot while the sun goes down. For the smell of tomatoes and cucumbers and okra and potatoes and just good dirt. For miniature iron skillets and homemade biscuits and headlamps and tractors and getting up before the sun to go hunting and staying up later than the moon to go frog gigging and fox calling. For sleeping less and feeling more. For family and blood ties and puzzles and heat lightning. For lemonade in jars and haunted attics and wrap around porches. For memories. For family. My heart aches to return. And sometimes I do. But it's never the same. Not like I remember. Things changed. Life happened. Home is different. I'm different. Everyone else is too. The originals are gone and new ones have joined us. Sometimes I grieve over the changes, and sometimes I rejoice. Don't you do that sometimes too? Grieve for the past and rejoice in the now?

If I miss all of those things that much, I miss Heaven more. That might not make sense to you because I've never been there. But the Bible says my citizenship is in Heaven because I have been adopted into the family of God. I miss my earthly family, but I miss my Heavenly family more. I ache for rest and for a place of no striving...a place of just being with Jesus. If my experiences of growing up in a family that loves me is a glimpse of what it's like to be in Heaven, then I cannot wait to go.

Of course, I will stay here until God calls me Home. And I will try to seek His will for my time here. If He had no purpose for me, I'd already be Home. The same is true for you. He has a plan for you. If you're still here, He's not finished with you. Let's not waste the time that we have because it's not very much.

"Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit'--yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. 
What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes."
James 4:13-14

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

the problem with being a thinker

I tend to over-think things. I'm sure that statement causes the jaws of those who know me to just drop straight off. Just kidding. I'm painfully aware of the fact that I over-analyze most situations. I'm pretty sure that causes me to try to handle things that I really should be leaving at the feet of Jesus. Therefore, my tendency to over-think is a problem.

I love texting so much because it gives me time to think before responding. Most of the time, I still say the wrong thing. Go me. Super effective system, huh? If I had to guess, I'd say my wrong responses stem from moments of over-thinking. I'm so concerned with how my words are going to affect the person on the other side of the conversation. I don't think being concerned with how my words affect others is a bad thing. The problem is, I'm putting myself in their place and trying to figure out what they're thinking. But they are not me. I am not them. So they won't respond like I would. Do you ever play out conversations in your head before they happen and then get disappointed when they don't happen like you planned? Have you realized that the other person was not present at your little role playing session, so they obviously have no idea what their lines are? It's becoming clear to me that most of my disappointment in other people comes from my having unrealistic expectations. People will disappoint you. We live in a sinful, fallen world. The one constant is God. Everyone else falls short. No matter how perfect a person seems, there will come a time when they will falter and not live up to expectation and they will disappoint you. THIS IS NOT THEIR FAULT! If I have not made someone aware of what I expect from them, they are not responsible for not living up to that expectation. Even if I do make someone aware of my expectations, that doesn't mean they're capable of living up to them.

Sometimes I  Most of the time I  I always create these perfect versions of people in my head. And then I'm audacious enough to blame them for not being the Stepford versions of themselves. How boring would it be if everyone acted like I wanted them to? I haven't created anyone. God has. He's WAY more creative than I am. I can say that I love the little nuances that make people different from each other all day long, but until I start really appreciating those little differences, I'm just blowing hot air.

So. If I have to stop holding people to my crazy, unrealistic standards...what standard do I hold them to? What standard would I want other people to hold me to? The answer (both "Sunday School" and legit...) is Jesus. I would want to be compared to two people: me and Jesus. The marching band I worked with in Tennessee had a mantra that we all lived by. We would always try to make each show better than the one before, and only strive to beat yesterday's band.

Compare me with yesterday's Alicia. Am I better than I was yesterday? Even just a little? Am I more like Jesus than I was last week? I'll try to do the same for you. Only compare you to yesterday's version of you and to Jesus. I can't promise that I'll always be perfect at this. Or that I'll always be better. You won't either. And you know what? That's okay. Because, as Ann Voskamp says, "All is grace." I'm really starting to believe this. And I love what that's doing for my relationships. Thank you, Jesus, for grace in all its forms.

PS... Ann Voskamp has had some of her friends guest blogging at her place this week. Yesterday's post (aside from the fact that I am not a mom or a farmer's wife in Iowa) could've been written from my heart. If you'd like to read it, you can find it here.

PPS... THIS SONG! Yes. Right now. I love it.
http://youtu.be/cTLfQ05Otk0

Thursday, June 14, 2012

My Anti-Fairy Tale.

Have you ever felt like something wasn't real until you put words to it and wrote it down? That's how I feel about most things. There's an idea I've been wrestling with in my head. I've only vocalized it once, and it was really scary. I don't know if I'm really ready to write it down, but I'm trying it today. So bear with me.

"And my God will liberally supply (fill to the full) your every need 
according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus." 
Philippians 4:19 (AMP)

Do I really believe this? I'd like to say that I do. But I don't know if I'm living like I believe it. Actually. I know I'm not. There are two huge areas of my life that I've noticed this lately. The most tangible is my finances. I know that God can and will supply all of my needs because He says He will, and because I've experienced His provision before. Over and over again. [Oh, how easy it is for me to say that. Lord, help me to LIVE IT.] So, if I've experienced God's faithfulness before, and I say I believe His Word...why do I still worry about money? When I give something up to God (even though it's already His anyway...), and then continue to worry about it or let it consume my thoughts, haven't I just picked it right back up again? It's like I'm saying "Here, God. I'll let you handle this...but just in case you can't, I'll keep trying to figure it out on my own over here on the side." I must be really dumb. Compared to God, I know nothing. Nothing. But I still like to pretend that I do. That's so much extra work! It would be significantly easier for me to give everything over to God and just rest in His provision. Instead, I fight it. I try to stay in control of something that has never once belonged to me. Why am I so afraid of relinquishing control?

The bigger issue related to my distrust is my singleness. [I tried to find a better way to say that. There wasn't one.] Again, I know that God can take care of me, and He has promised to do just that. I believe Him. The problem occurs when I try to take control. Sometimes I try to take control because I'm lonely. Most of the time, I'm fine being a single. But sometimes it gets awkward when everyone else is pairing off, and I make the total number odd instead of even. In situations like this, it's easier for me to stay home. Yes, this means I miss out on things, and I hate that. But it also means I don't have to risk humiliation or questions. When you're 25 and single, you inspire a lot of questions. Especially at church.Sometimes I try to take control because I'm just tired of answering questions. No, I'm not married. No, I'm not dating anyone. No, I'm not miserable. No, I don't feel like less of a person because I'm not married. Sure, I'd like to get married and have kids one day, but that's not what defines my life. Sometimes I try to take control because somewhere deep down, I still think my life is a fairy tale. This is honestly the one I struggle with the most. Doesn't that seem silly? No, I don't think I'm secretly a princess... Let me try to explain this thought process to you a little better.
I'm good with being single. Really. Yes, it's lonely sometimes, and I hate answering the same questions over and over again, but I don't really feel like I'm missing out on anything by not being married. There is freedom here. There's freedom to go where God sends me without coordinating anyone's life but my own. There's freedom to spend 5 days in Nashville to be involved with my best friend's wedding. There's freedom to visit my sister in New York City. There's freedom to travel and be there for the birth of my friends' future children and my future nieces and nephews. All of these things (and more) could still happen if I was married, but it would certainly be more complicated. There's simplicity in being single. I firmly believe that the Lord will sustain me no matter my situation. Still... there's something in the back of my mind. This, most likely, can be attributed to the Enemy. Doubt. Pride. Selfishness. That's where that little "something" stems from. Let me tell you what it sounds like...
People always tell me they found "Mr. Right" as soon as they stopped looking. So I'm not looking for Mr. Right. Is that because I'm genuinely not concerned with getting married? Or is it because I think as soon as I stop looking, he'll magically appear? (Fairy Tale life...) I can honestly tell you that I don't know what my motive is in not looking for Mr. Right. That scares me. I don't know which one is my answer. Am I not looking because it doesn't bother me? Or am I not looking because I think that's what it takes to actually find him? I don't know. Either way, I can say I'm not looking all day long, but I'm still evaluating every guy I meet. It's like I'm wondering if he'll be the one to "break the spell"...Like I'm under some kind of curse (think Snow White or Sleeping Beauty or Enchanted or The Little Mermaid, etc.). I'm just waiting for "The One" who will break the spell and release me from the curse of singleness. Wouldn't that be sweet.

Here's the thing though...singleness isn't a curse! If being single is God's will for my life, then it's the best gift! Whether it's His will for now or His will for always, I should treat it like a gift because God has given it to me. It's part of His plan for my life. It's part of His grace that has been extended to me in spite of myself and my shortcomings. I should treasure my singleness. I know the Lord will sustain me. In Matthew 6, it says:

"Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. 
Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." (Matt. 6:25-27, 33-34)

So I can rest in this. God provides for the birds and I am more valuable to Him than the birds. So He will provide for me as well. I know this in my head. It's time for me to believe it and know it in my heart. Just like the father in Mark 9 cries out to the Lord, "I believe; help my unbelief!"

Will you join me in praying that we can live out what we say we believe? More than that though, let's be thankful for our current situations because God will use them to shape us into who He designed us to be.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Righteous.

Good day! (do you ever feel like we've lost some of the beauty of our language? i do...)

I've been wrestling with something over the past week or so. I think I'm ready to put words to it. Bear with me.

"Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you;
 he will never permit the righteous to be moved."
Psalm 55:22

Okay. First part of this verse...good. "Cast your burden on the Lord and he will sustain you..." Got it. Good. GREAT, even. The Lord will sustain me. Lots of people stop there when referencing this verse. But there's more to it.
Part 2: "...he will never permit the righteous to be moved." Hmmm. Here's where my struggle is. It's great that God won't let the righteous be moved, but...am I righteous? I mean, I'm a good person. I don't do bad things, right? But that doesn't make me righteous. And. Here's the bigger deal. I mess up. A lot. I definitely do not make the righteous choice every time. So what does that mean? Does that mean the Lord will permit me to be moved unless I start acting righteous all the time? What does "being moved" entail? Is it dangerous? Is it painful? Where am I going? Who's doing this moving? Here's the thing. It doesn't matter. I don't have to worry about what happens to those who are not righteous because, through Christ, I have been given the righteousness of God.

"For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, 
so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." 
2 Corinthians 5:21

I don't have to worry because Jesus IS righteousness. And because He lives in me, my sin is covered. When the Father looks at me, He sees Jesus. So I can rest in Him. I can cast my burden on the Lord and be sustained by Him and trust that He will not permit me to be moved. I can stand steadfast in Him. So I just have to cast my burdens.
The word "cast" means "to throw or hurl; fling". Wow. The psalmist doesn't say "set your burdens gently at the Lord's feet"...he says "cast". THROW your burdens on the Lord. He is ready. He will sustain you. Get those burdens away from you as fast as you can. Don't stand there holding on to something that hurts you, something that keeps you from doing what God has called you to do...THROW YOUR BURDENS on the Lord. Throw them. Hot potato. Get rid of em. And praise God we have the righteousness of Christ!



So let's work on getting rid of our burdens as fast as we can and not picking them back up again. (i'm guilty of that too...I'm like the Indian giver of burdens to the Lord...). I'll be praying for you, and hope you'll be praying for me too. Let's throw our burdens to the ready and waiting Savior and rest in His righteousness.

Monday, May 21, 2012

(in)couragement

I just want to brag on God for a hot second.

I've told you before that my b. friend gave me Ann Voskamp's book "One Thousand Gifts" for Christmas. I started reading Ann's blog shortly after I started her book. Through her blog, I discovered that she wrote sometimes for a blog community called (in)courage. Lots of women contribute to that blog, so it's not always the same voice. Sometimes the posts are about being a wife or mom, and that doesn't apply to me. But the posts are always about being a woman, and that always applies (and is always needed). So I subscribed to the (in)courage daily emails. Through this blog community, I've been exposed to some of the most sincere writing I've ever read. These women are real. They're people. They have struggles. They have success. They have times when they need prayer. They have times when everything is peachy. And they write about it. All of it. Through (in)courage, I've found many of the personal blogs of these writers, so I'm reading some of them every day...or at least every post. Every sentence isn't always applicable, but I'm learning from them that sometimes all you need is one sentence to speak to someone's heart. There has not been one day that someone associated with the (in)courage community has not blessed me.
Sometimes I'm afraid to read today's post because I'm afraid it might step on my toes or draw out some deep conviction that I've been trying to dampen and deaden. And it usually does. But that brings growth. That brings closer relationship with my Jesus. That brings a feeling of community centered on these women that I have never met or spoken to...but there is something about them that is like me. We share a common bond. Each of them is different, and they're all different from me and the other readers. But in one way we're all exactly the same. We're women who love Jesus. That tag can be put on each of us, and that means connection. It means none of us are alone. It means these ladies can put a need on their blog and ask for intercession and they can rest in the fact that they have intercessors! It means that no matter how lonely this life gets for any of us, or how much we feel like we might be the only person to have ever experienced something...there is always someone out there. Someone who has been where we are, or someone who will be. The thing is...we have to reach out sometimes. We have to get out of our comfort zones--no matter what they look like--and trust that God will provide. He created us for community. That's where we thrive. Where we don't have to do everything alone. Where we can join up with others and depend on Him. He gifts us with people and we oftentimes just take them for granted. I know I do.
So today, I am thankful for (in)courage and the community it has allowed me to be a part of. Through (in)RL. Through its contributors. Through its raw truth and honesty. Through its affirmation that I am not alone. Through allowing Jesus to live through and within.
Thank you, Lord, for using (in)courage on a daily basis to speak to my heart. Thank you for knowing me and loving me. You are good.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Redemption.

Do you ever make the same mistakes over and over again? Or have a hard time taking your own advice? Or spend so much time looking at the specks in the eyes of others that you never notice the huge plank in your own? I do. I'm guilty of all of those things.

Oftentimes, I'm so busy doing what I think is good... encouraging others to seek the Lord, reminding my friends that God is in control, blogging about how we use our words and living a life filled with grace and thanksgiving, tweeting Bible verses and Charles Spurgeon quotes...I get so caught up in the doing that I forget to be.

Jesus calls me to be still. And I respond by being anxiously frantic. I try to fix everything and everyone myself. I miss out on the whispers because I'm looking for neon signs. My relationship with Christ suffers because of my misappropriation of attention. Not only that, but my relationships with the people I care most about suffer as well. It's pretty easy for me to respond to people that I don't know that well with grace and mercy. But my best friends? My sisters? My favorites? I am hardened and harsh.

WHY? I try to write it off as feeling like I can "be myself" around them or thinking that they'll forgive a snippy comment because they've had more experience with my "good side", but those are nothing but excuses. The real issue is me. My pride. My selfishness. My sin. Those are the relationships I should be most careful with. I can say that I cherish them with my mouth, but until I cherish them in my heart, what good am I doing? The BIGGER issue is this: If I feel like spouting off is part of "being myself", who am I? Like I mentioned the other day, the Bible says that our mouths speak out of the abundance of our hearts. If I'm snarky and judgmental when my guard is down, what is in my heart? Snarky judgment. How many relationships have I ruined and how many hearts have I wounded by "being myself"?

I'm thankful that my God is the God of second chances. And third chances. And hundredth chances. I'm thankful that He responds to me with grace and mercy when I deserve nothing but hell. I'm thankful that when He looks at me, He sees a new creation and not the filthy, sin-stained person that I once was. I'm thankful that He has promised to finish the work He has started in me. I'm thankful that He has removed my sin from me and placed it as far away as the east is from the west.

Oh God, get me out of the way. Live through me. In You, I am a new creation. Help me to act like it. Thank You for grace and mercy and redemption and restoration. Make me more like You.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Struggle.

In this quest to become more graceful (as in "full of grace", not as in "not clumsy"--that's a whole other battle), I have become more and more aware of my words. Ann Voskamp writes about thanksgiving and how all of our sin stems from the original sin of ingratitude. Beth Moore writes about realizing that Christ crucified and raised is enough. And I copy these nuggets of wisdom down and tweet them and retweet them and add them to my notebooks and journals and try to hide them in my heart with the promises of God. I even invite others to join me in my endeavor to be more grateful and choose gratitude and joy and respond in grace through this platform and my Twitter account and my Facebook page... but when I get in a situation where I need to respond in grace, it is still not easy. Now, I'm not dense enough to think it would be easy. I'm not surprised. I just feel like the daily (hourly? minute-ly?) struggle should be acknowledged. There is no "quick fix". Honestly, I'm kind of glad it's a process. It affirms my constant need for Jesus and His grace when I have none of my own to offer.

Proverbs 15:28 says: "The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil."  (NIV)

Yep. Gushes. How many times has it seemed like I could not stop my words? I could've, but it was easier for me to just let the evil gush out of my mouth. Wondering why? In the book of Matthew, Jesus is talking to the Pharisees (the religious ones...the ones who had all the answers...the smart guys...the "holy" ones...the rule followers...me?) and He says: "You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." [Matt. 12:34, ESV] I'm the same as the Pharisees. How can I expect good to flow out of my mouth when my heart is filled with judgment and anger and unforgiveness? THAT is why it's so easy for evil to gush out when the opportunity presents itself.
So. How do I fix it? The truth is... I don't. The good news is...Jesus can. And He does. If I ask Him to. Isn't He so good? Too good for me, for sure! But I am so glad it's in His character to love me in spite of my gushing evil mouth and disgusting heart. And PRAISE THE LORD that He has covered all of me--mouth and heart included--with His blood, so when the Father sees me, He sees the perfection of His Son and not my broken sinfulness. Amen? Isn't it true then? Christ. Crucified and raised IS enough. It's more than enough. It's everything. That should put everything else in perspective for us. We have no right to be ungrateful. Christ DIED for us. Anything else we get is just because He loves us and delights in us and sings over us. How dare we ask for more. We are so arrogant sometimes to think we know best when we know nothing. And, truthfully, it doesn't matter if we know anything at all so long as we know Him.

Praise God He wants to know us.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Micah 6:8

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (NIV)

This verse keeps popping up in my life. I know it's significant, and I can't wait to see how God uses it!


Act justly.


Love mercy.


Walk humbly.


What does the Lord require of you?
Act justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly.

He hath shewed thee, O man, what [is] good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? (KJV)

He has shown you, O man, what [is] good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God? (NKJV)

No, O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. (NLT)

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (ESV)

He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God? (NASB)

No, the LORD has told us what is good. What he requires of us is this: to do what is just, to show constant love, and to live in humble fellowship with our God. (GNT)

Mankind, He has told you what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God. (HCSB)

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, and to love kindness and mercy, and to humble yourself and walk humbly with your God? (AMP)

But he's already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It's quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, And don't take yourself too seriously -- take God seriously. (MSG)