On this day…

Facebook can be cruel, right?  Bringing up old memories and the good old days.  The ones that we are trying to forget or maybe long to go back to.

It’s this cruel joke really. Reminding of what use to be.  I don’t know about you, but some days those memories are hard.

  • “I use to be skinnier.”
  • “Look how much fun I had.”
  • “I had so many friends.”
  • “That was when things were good between us.”
  • “Look how happy we were.”

Those memories maybe remind you that you are a long way from where you used to be or where you want to be now. Reminding you of what you used to have or are still waiting for.

Recently, because I didn’t want to sit alone in my pity party, I took a screen shot of a post from a year ago and sent it to one of my best friends.

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I might have said something like… “last year was very different, huh, ugh, sigh!” Not really sure how I felt and not sure what kind of answer I was hoping to get or wanted to get.

This is how she replied. “It is very different. But oh friend, I am so encouraged and encourage you to be comforted with your words. “Everyday He shows his abundant love for me in ways I can’t even imagine” it’s cool to think, wow, he’s still doing that.”

What I wanted in that moment, was maybe someone to say that I was better off now.  Or even to say, I am so sorry that you aren’t as happy! Or maybe even a snarky, cynical remark about how much Valentine’s day is stupid.

How dare she quote me to me!!

The truth….the pity party doesn’t work. 

It feels good for a second.  It feels good to draw someone else into your loneliness and bitterness. We long to have company in that.  We want others to validate our outlook and make us feel comfortable in those feelings. And to quote Gilmore Girls…..

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It is a vicious circle though.  The pity party is one with deflated balloons, and left overs from someone’s wedding. It doesn’t provide encouragement or hope.  In fact, it is the kind of party that you leave feeling worse than when you came.

We look to our circumstances to dictate how we feel about ourselves, the world, and God. Maybe we think our circumstances are a reflection about how God feels about us.  Choosing to bless those he loves more than others, to answer their prayers.

It is easy when things are good to think God is good.  It is easy to say, “Hallelujah” (praise hands emoji) to God when everything is peachy. But what about those days when the invites to pity parties are strong, when you can barely get out of bed, and your heart is heavy and hurting.

My words that I said a year ago mean just as much as the did on that day “Everyday he shows his abundant love for me in was I can’t even imagine.”

He is working out all things for the good of those whom he loves. And oh, how He loves you. 

He loves you, not just because you have it all worked out.  Because you can do at lot of great things for him.  Not because you have all those spiritual disciplines down.  Not because you have all those ducks in a row.  Not because you can smile at strangers or keep a tidy house.  Not because you don’t complain or are good with your money.

He loves you because he loves you because he loves you.

It might sound trite in your circumstances today.  It might seem empty and lame to whatever you are walking through.  But it is no less true.  There is no other truth I want to lean into. And I long to have a faith that is quick to see His goodness even in the midst of hard days.

Our God is not one of empty promises or of accidents.  He is not wondering what to do next in your life.  He is not surprised by the things that happens. He is the God of Jacob and Moses.  He comes through. He is faithful.

Because a pity party is really about ourselves, it is about us looking at our lives and thinking only of ourselves, the only thing that helps me make a quick exit, is remembering. 

Remembering the one in whom I say I trust.  Remembering the works that he has done in my life and those around me.

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“I will remember the dead of the Lord, yes, I will remember your wonders of old.  I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.” -Psalm 77:11

Remembering His faithfulness.  Remembering how he has answered my prayers and fulfilled desires in the past.  Remembering how he hasn’t given up on me, even on my darkest days.

Our God is not like us, one that gives up on people, letting us just figured it out on our own or resigning to defeat.  He is a God that works….sure it may not be how we hope he would work.  It may not always wrap up in a neat little tidy bow.  And it may not be in our timing. But He isn’t like us, thank goodness!

Psalm 77:16-20

“When the waters saw you, O God, when the waters saw you, they were afraid; indeed, the deep trembled.  The clouds poured out water; the skies gave forth thunder; your arrows flashed on every side.  The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind; your lightnings lighted up the world; the earth trembled and shook.  Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen.  You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.”

 

Friends, sometimes God’s way is through the sea, through great waters, where we cannot see his footprints.  I pray that if you are in that spot that you would remember. Remember his works, his faithfulness, his goodness, his grace and love for you. He is trustworthy.

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God Had a Different Plan

God has a different plan than I do.  (#storyofmylife)


He turns things out in a different way then I anticipate.  Always for the best.  Always for the better.  I used to interpret this as him loving me less because he didn’t fulfill my plans in my ideal way.  Oh, how wrong I am.
God works like this.  He works out his story, his plan, in the way that is best and for the good of those that he loves and for his glory. And OH….how this paints the most beautiful picture of the way he loves us.  

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” –Isaiah 55:8-9
Stories throughout scripture, Abraham and Sarah, Abraham and Isaac, the Exodus from Egypt, Joseph. All of these stories, he made a promise and fulfilled it, but not in the way that was expected.  
God is a God of the unexpected.  Maybe because he is all about the dramatic twist or he is all about the March madness type of ending.
This what makes Easter so powerful.  It is the ending that no one expected. 

Except God himself, he knew, he planned it this way.  
As I read and ponder this story today, I can’t get over what the disciples must have been thinking as they watched Jesus die on the cross.  They probably couldn’t fathom what could or would happen next.  They were in total despair and hopelessness.  

If they were anything like me after a big disappointment or heartbreak, they wanted to crawl in a hole and watch Netflix all day, trying to escape that feeling of despair.
They were in mourning, not only over his death, but what his death seemed to mean to the story they thought was unfolding in their world.  They thought he was supposed to come and save them on chariots and horses.  They thought he was the great leader that would help them physically rise to power and overtake their oppressors.  They thought he had come to free them physically from this life of oppression they were experiencing.
They didn’t see, they didn’t completely understand. They didn’t understand that Jesus came to free them the greatest oppressor that they would ever know, sin and death.  He came to give them a new live of freedom and oneness with their heavenly Father. 
As write these words, I am struck by the fact that I don’t think I fully understand this at times.  The prayers I pray; the things I hope for are all for things that would change my physical circumstances or relationship status.  I pray for God to free me from this situation I am in in this world, not spiritually.
“Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”  —Luke 24: 45-47
Friends, often, we water down what Jesus and scriptures say to fit our needs of the day, to encourage ourselves, to fill our cup a little more.  We look to God to answer our prayers for physical needs, and to help us in our circumstances.  We get frustrated when God doesn’t answer in the way we think he should. (Not to say that he doesn’t care about those things, because he certainly does.)
However, we forget that God’s primary goal in sending Jesus was to free us from our sin, to bring in the light and to spread the light in the darkness of the world.  

“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12
Our primary need isn’t physical circumstances, but a spiritual one.  And because He love us, he isn’t going to address our physical needs without first dealing with our spiritual needs. We are in the dark and he has come to let the light in.  At the end of the day, all the other prayers could be answered but we would still be in need of something that WE cannot doing anything about, the darkness.  But the good news is that is exactly what he came to do.  In the 1stcentury, they didn’t get it and often we don’t either.
“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.” –Isaiah 60-1
Friends, some of you may be in a very dark place, goodness I know how that feels, I know how it feels to want to hide under covers, to avoid happy people, to live in fear of what else could go wrong.  The darkness sometimes is overpowering and debilitating.  The darkness is all you can think about.  You feel trapped, paralyzed and utterly destitute.
But there is GOOD NEWS…..he has come. 
He has died the death that darkness wants us to die, and he came back.  
He overcame death, so that we wouldn’t have to.  
He came to bring light into our lives so that the darkness would not overcome.  
He came to save us from the darkness.

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation.  BUT TAKE HEART; I HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD.” –John 16: 33
He came with a different plan in mind.
He came with a plan that was there from the beginning.
He came to save us from something that we couldn’t never be able to save ourselves from, sin and death.
He came to give Himself as a sacrifice, so that we could live free of death and condemnation.

Friends, on this Easter Sunday, there is GOOD NEWS. He is risen, and he conquered death, so that we wouldn’t ever have to, so that we could live free and in the light.  The darkness will be always be there on this side of heaven, tempting us, calling us back, but…..we he made the way, he died to give us a different and better option.

Do I really believe it?

“Do you believe that God truly loves you?”

Sitting across from my counselor, staring her down a bit, I thought I was ready to do the counseling thing.
I had read somewhere that everyone should go to counseling at some point in their life. So I thought this was a wise decision, especially after several anxiety attacks and this deep anger and frustration in my heart.
What I didn’t realize maybe was that most of the work of counseling is down outside that office, beyond the couch.  
It took me a while, but I realized that in order to begin healing, I had to start doing the work.  I had to do the homework, and challenge myself to open some of those partially healed wounds.  When I began doing that, God started to disrupt things.  He began to push me out of my comfort zone, to a place of uncertainty but profound freedom.
One of the first places he started was when my counselor asked me that question.

“Do you believe that God loves you?”
As a good Christian girl, growing up in the church, I knew all the right answers, I knew the right scripture to quote, I knew how to pray in a way to impress people, I knew the songs.  On the surface, I could answer that question.  I could say, yes, scripture says he does.
Scripture says it but do I—in my heart of hearts—believe it?  Do I believe that he loves me at a deep, soul wrenching, unwavering level?  Do I believe that He loves me, not just because he created me but because he truly knows me and is my Father?
At that moment, I couldn’t respond.  I didn’t know if I really believed that. That kind of answer scared me.  
See for years, I have been chasing this “Christian Life” that I thought I was supposed to lead. It looked neat and tidy, it was clean and simple.  However, I some how couldn’t achieve it,  couldn’t reach that level. 
I was always messing things up.  I couldn’t get up early enough to spend time with Jesus every morning.  I wasn’t disciplined enough, didn’t pray enough and had too much sin in my heart.  

Ultimately, I thought I made wrong decisions that led me down this path of singleness and loneliness.  I had somehow messed up God’s plan for my life and now I missed out on this “Christian Life.”
What I realize in typing all this out is that somewhere along the way, I got the idea that there was this one way to love Jesus, a formula for living the joyous Christian life.  
Slowly I am discovering that there isn’t.  God didn’t design us to all live in the same way.  In fact, our relationship with him is going to look very different, because he made all of us unique and special.  He made all of us one of kind, so our stories are going to be different. 
Unique is the way that he designed it.  He wove our DNA to be so very different for every person.  He placed us each in the womb, and knitted us together from the beginning. He is the great creator, ultimate artist. For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. (Psalm 139:13-14 ESV)
What is even greater is that GOD LOVES US for all those unique and special things he created.  Even when we mess up and sin, he loves us.  Even when we aren’t super disciplined and avoid him, he still loves us.  Even when we run, and try to hide from him, he loves us.


Nothing we have done can separate us from his love.  
Nothing we will do can separate us from his love.
Nothing this world will do can separate us from his love. 

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

(Romans 8:38-39 ESV)

But yet we still continue to fight that thought, right?  

We still carry our guilt and shame around, thinking that he will reject us if he really knew. 
He already knows, he knew before we did, and loves us before and after and through it all. 
Friends…. Oh, how I want that truth to soak into my heart and yours.
I feel like I just scratched the surface on understanding this, and want to continue to the day I die, knowing and understanding his deep love for me.  

Because when I struggle to love myself or feel rejected by others, I need to be able to stand assured in his love.  Isn’t that an amazing concept, that on his love we can stand sure.  Because of his great love, we can live in broken world and not be torn down or shaken. 

Because his love is so strong, we don’t have to do it all on our own.  Ultimately that is the message that I cling to even when I doubt his love for me.  That he is stronger than my doubts, fears, and weaknesses.  

Friends, we can live confidently in is strength, his power, his grace, and his love for us.  I pray that you and I would believe that and when we don’t, we will run to him. 

It won’t always turn out how you think

“Just enjoy where you are at.  Just enjoy this moment, let yourself soak up this moment and don’t think about anything else, but right now. Breath it in, this experience, this day. Just be still.”
Oh that is so hard for me.  It is so hard for me to not let my mind wander and jump to all sorts of conclusions, because I am that girl.  The one that jumps to the worst possible scenario or five steps ahead.  (Can I get an Amen!) I have always been that girl, leaping ahead instead of just living in the moment. However, I have learned a few things about myself in these last couple of years.
It won’t always turn out how you think.
Ladies and gentlemen, this year didn’t turn out at all how I thought.  It took a while, but I have finally found my sweet spot.  After years of rolling around in a weird awkward tension of not yet, but already adult hood.  I have found the spot where my soul is at rest.
I started this year with the theme of REST, thinking I have been so exhausted trying to figure my life out.  Trying to dream new dreams, have hope again after some major disappointments and despair over life. God did that and more, not only did he teach me to be at rest in him, but he also taught me how to wait for him alone and put all the longing onto him. 
God gave me strength to finish well, to finish strong, to go after things that I wanted and not deny that where I was at was not okay.  He gave me permission to be confident in the skills and talents that he has given me, he opened the doors.  He gave me strength to let go of insecurities and fears and run forward.
As I stepped into a new role at work, and a new place to live, God stirred other things in my heart, he pursued me, he drew me near him, and showed me how much he loves me.  

He revealed how much I hold up walls against him, only fearing his judgment and anger.  But instead finding, a Father whose love has no match or end.  A Father that has never abandon, given up or just tolerated me, even at my very worst.  (Oh, and there are so pretty bad moments.)

Friends, never have I felt at ease with God as I do now.  Not to say I have arrived, (I used to think that everyone else had and I would never) or that I have figured it all out, because there are certainly things that are still confusing and anxiety ridden.  However, my trust in the one that knows how it all ends is stronger than ever.
After reflecting this last month on how God has transformed my life and my heart, my heart is bursting with excitement to see what he does in this next year.  I already feel it.  His doing more than I can ask or imagine and I can’t wait. 
Oh, I serisouly can’t wait, to see the lives he changes, to see how he would change this world, bring justice, and peace.  I can’t wait to meet the new people or find myself in new places.
With all this to say, my theme for this year is to Be Present and to Be Joyful. 

Too much of the time, I spend in the past or the future, but I want to be here, right now, and leave the rest to Him.  I want to be in the moment and really live for now, this time that God has put me in.  I don’t want ot look back in 10 years and long for this time back too much or regret not enjoying it more.  I want to know that I lived this moment, this season to its fullest. 
As for joy, God has renewed the joy within my heart in a myriad of ways and I want to share that with those around me. Joy of salvation, eternal joy, joy of a hope unseen, all of it! 

I work in a job that is easy to forget the joy, because it is hard on a daily basis and we need joy. We desperately need it and our students need it too!  I want to be known as a the joyful one.  I want to be known for my joy.

Friends, my challenge to you is to set your minds and hearts forward in hope and joyful expectation in how much God can change in year.  He is without bounds or limits, nothing is impossible for him. 

Because HE loves me.

When all seems lost and confusing,
…….He gives us direction because He loves us.

When we mess up and try to cover up
…….He knows, draws us near and still loves us.

When are drowning and feel like nothing goes right
…….He rescues us because He loves us.

When the waves keep coming
…….He gives us an anchor, because he loves us. (Hebrews 6:19)

When the darkness surrounds us
…….He gives us a light because he loves us. (Psalm 18:28)

When feel empty and have nothing life
…….He fills us up because he loves us.

For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things. (Psalm 107:9)

When we are alone and weary
…….He provides for us people and himself, because he loves us.

When we are trapped by anxiety and fear
……..He storms the gates because He loves us. (Psalm 18)

As my soul is thirsty to hear every day, our God loves us to a depth and width and breadth that I will never fully comprehend.

photo credit: Iceland via photopin (license)

Many are the things that tell us that he doesn’t.  The world is drowning out the truth in our hearts.  The darkness, the hurt, the injustice, the anger, the loss, the grief, fights to crowd out His truth, that He loves us.

We are quick to say we are sinners and deserve God’s wrath.  We see the sin that we are capable of on a daily basis.  We are surrounded by it.

But are we quick to remind ourselves and each other that HE, the God of the heavens and the earth, the God of Abraham and Jacob, the commander of the Sun and Moon, loves us?

Are we quick to remind each other that above all else, he first loved us?

We can quickly name off the thing in our life that say otherwise.  But when we start with his love, perhaps those things will look different.

In my singleness, loneliness, I can be quick to think that God has forgotten me, that he doesn’t love me.  But when I say He loves me enough to give me this time, this season to learn and grown closer to Him.  To give me rest and knowledge of him so I am first His before anyone else’s.

In our unanswered prayer, we can say that he doesn’t hear us, that he doesn’t want to bless us.  But when we first say He loves us, those unanswered prayers look like our dependence, our reminder that he is the giver of ALL things.

In our trials, we can say that he has left us alone and made our lives hard.  But when he say he loves us enough to provide opportunities for our community to love us.  He makes a way for us to see his Church as a helping hand.

Friends, are we quick to see Him as a God who first loves?  


Fully Known, Fully Loved

Ugh, gross, another Valentine’s Day themed post.  Seriously.  I know, I know, I really don’t want to be THAT person. 

Honestly though, this has been on my heart for over 2 months, so it isn’t really just about Valentine’s Day.

What I DO want to talk about is holding ourselves back from love. But I don’t necessarily mean the romantic kind.  Because the romantic sort of love begins somewhere else. 

This thought is a burden on my heart and the forefront of my story for a long time and is the cause of some weary and lonely days. 

“I am afraid that once they really get to know me, they won’t want to be my friend.”  I uttered these words over a cup of coffee with my bible study leader, whom I desperately was afraid of being real with.
This was after years and years of unraveled friendships as a teenager.  I came to college searching for friendships that would be the answer, that would fix that loneliness in my heart.  It was a line that would continue to linger in my heart for years to come.  I would just show enough of myself, of my heart to gain friendships, but never fully letting in anyone.
This has often held me back from admitting sin, or being real with friends.  I cared so deeply of what people thought of me.  In so many ways, I held it as an idol in my heart. I still do.
But what I found was that a fear had grown deep in my heart. Would anyone be able to penetrate my heart?  Would I always be this guarded?  Would I always feel this lonely?
We often times, hold out on people.  We put them at arm’s length because we are afraid. At least I am.  I find myself often lonely because I have held people at bay because I don’t want to let them all the way in.

This thought struck me, as I was complaining about why I am the person that does things for other people, but people don’t often serve me.   (Okay, I know that sounds extremely ungrateful and selfish.) But the point I am getting at is that people can’t serve us if they don’t know us.They don’t know us because we don’t let people in.

 And….we don’t let people in because we are afraid. 

Afraid of what happens when they really get to know us.
Afraid that if we are our true selves and we care for them, they will disappoint us or hurt us. 
Afraid of being rejected.

So we put up walls, we learn how to be independent and not attach ourselves to anyone.  We learn how to show only what we want people to see.  We learn to protect the very parts of us that we don’t want anyone to see.  This is so easy in our Facebook and Instagram culture, with just a picture showing people what we want them to see of our lives, not the mess beyond it.

If you are like me, there is corner of your soul, that longs to be fully known and fully loved. Even with our built up fortress around our hearts.  We long for someone to take a sledge hammer to our walls and see our muck and jump in anyway.  We long for the unconditional love that our hearts are created for.

Friend, I don’t write this because I have fully grasped this, but because I know the loneliness and these are words that I desperately need to hear, truly.

Psalm 139: 13-16
For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,
    when as yet there was none of them.

He shows here in the Psalm that he already knows us.  So much more deeply than anyone else ever could.  We cannot keep any part of us hidden from our creator.  Even more so, he loves us.  Despite everything, he loves us. God loves you, he loves you.  Can we let that sink in….
Psalm 31:7
I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love,
    because you have seen my affliction;
    you have known the distress of my soul,

We so are loved by the God of the universe, what do we have to fear of men. God knows every bit of muckiness in our heart, and yet he still sent his Son to die for us.  
When we rest secure in that, what do we have to fear?  What can others do to us.
 
Really it comes down to the fact, do we believe what God says about us? That we are adopted into the family, that Christ has covered us, that we are now righteous in his eyes.  Do we rest secure in that?  Do we believe that to be true?
If we do believe that then we can do as Detrich Bonehoffer says: 
 “Because Christ stands between me and another, I must not long for unmedi-ated community with that person .. , ‘Christ between me and an other’ means that others should encounter me only as the persons they already are for Christ … Spiritual love recognises the true image of the other person as seen from the perspective of Jesus Christ. It is the image Jesus Christ has formed and wants to form in all people.”
We can fully love others, and let others fully love us, when we know that God fully loves us, and fully accepted us.  We do not have to fear rejection, because we have been accepted. 
Friends, take heart, we are fully known and fully loved by a God who sees us and welcomes us in, under his wings, into his family.