Quiet

Quiet….what does that word even mean?

A few months ago, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. To me, quiet would have been escaping to be able to attain it, or waiting for the husband and baby to go to sleep. I longed for quiet, I tried to demand it, and I sought it with selfish motives. I thought having some “quiet” would make me happy, give me peace, but it didn’t. And the rare moments I did get some quiet, I didn’t enjoy them. I was too on edge, too overwhelmed, and too exhausted. In fact, those moments were anything but peaceful. Because:

PEACE, true peace, can only come from JESUS.

It doesn’t come from just escaping to a place of quiet or hiding in your closet with a bag of Reese Pieces (whoops). However, I do believe we have to get quiet before Jesus and come to Him for peace. We have to quiet our souls before Him, remove some of the distractions (no, sorry, that doesn’t include kicking your family out of the house every day; I’ve tried). But the great thing is that right there in the midst of chaos Jesus can bring you peace.

“Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm” (Matthew 8:26b NASB)

But back to quiet. The dictionary defines quiet as:

  • making no noise or sound, especially no disturbing sound
  • free, or comparatively free, from noise
  • silent
  • restrained in speech, manner, etc.; saying little
  • free from disturbance or tumult; tranquil; peaceful
  • being at rest
  • refraining or free from activity, especially busy or vigorous activity

If you know me at all, you know that “quiet” is NEVER a word I ever thought I would use to describe myself. In fact, I am the complete opposite of some of these. When I read this, it makes me think of the story of Mary and Martha (Luke 10: 38-42). I used to get so mad when I would read this because clearly I was a “Martha” and didn’t think it was fair that she had to do all the work that Mary had stuck her with. I mean, come on! If she didn’t do it, then who would after all? Clearly, neither did Martha think this would be fair, because in verse 40 she says to Jesus, “Tell her to help me!” And His response?

“But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things;” (Luke 10:41 NASB)

Ouch. I have a sense that even though Martha was physically busy with the preparations, her mind was busy as well. “Distracted” is the word verse 40 uses. I don’t think it really mattered so much as what she was doing while she was busy (even if she did blame it on the “house work”), as much as it mattered that she was not doing the best thing at that moment.

I can just imagine the tender voice of Jesus beckoning her to Himself. “Mary, Mary”, He called. He was trying to get her attention. “You are worried and bothered about so many things.” How many times have I missed the voice of Jesus because I was too busy with distractions, whether they were physical or mental distractions?

but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:42)

Necessary. Only one thing was necessary: Jesus. You missed it, Martha, just like I have for so many years. Time and time, month after month, year after year I missed the “one thing necessary”. I didn’t get it. I was worried and bothered, distracted, with so many things. I was unaware of how it was affecting me, of how it was affecting my family, and the others around me. And because I was unaware, I didn’t think this was a problem, so I did not seek help. Even many would speak into my life regarding these actions, my business, how distracted I was throughout the years, I was unaware. I could not hear them. And so the downward spiral continued until I decided I couldn’t take anymore and mentally hit rock bottom.

There, in the darkest point, Jesus spoke into my mess.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28 NASB)

The gentle words of my Savior spoke these words to me and I cried. I wept. But I was released from the chains, the yoke that I had given to myself. Jesus knew how much I needed these words and I began to cling to them and claim them as a promise of God.

Rest, freedom from noise, saying little, tranquil, peaceful: these are all words I think of when I read this verse. This is what Jesus is promising to bring: QUIET.

So Monday as I was driving to meet a friend for coffee, as I was trying to come up with the accurate word to describe what I have been feeling the past couple of weeks, the Spirit whispered, “Quiet”.

Quiet. A word I didn’t know if I could ever fully experience now describes me right now. I’m not distracted anymore, and honestly I don’t care that I’m not. I’m not worried and bothered by so many things. Jesus has been helping me simplify my life and remove distractions over the past few months, and I have chosen to be led by the Spirit in this removal. And I feel ALL the ways that quiet is described. Why?

Because HIS yoke is easy.

I made the decision to take on His yoke and lay down my own. He didn’t force it on me, but He did ask me to come. It’s a gift He wanted to give me, but I had to come on my own. I had to choose to take it on. And Jesus was right as He spoke to the disciples that day, just like His words are still true today. HIS yoke is easy.

 

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Death of a Dream

A few months ago I found out I wouldn’t be able to start my Master’s Degree this fall. Though I was already accepted into the program, after registering for classes I found out that I was going to have to pay a lot of money out of pocket. Sure, there was the option of a loan, but I had already made up my mind that I was not going to put my family in any more debt. So, feeling it was the right decision to make, I withdrew and did not start the program.

To say the least, I was disappointed, and I took time to grieve this loss of a dream. Because although people were telling me, “It doesn’t mean it’s a no forever, it’s just something that’s not right for you right now,” on the inside I knew that this was it. I would not pursue this path again. It was all for selfish gain, and I had let my pride get in the way. What was an idea passing through in my mind had turned into a major career decision. So right there, as I was crying in the bathtub one night, I let go. I gave it all to God. I asked for Him to bring contentment in this season and for Him to teach me to cease striving. I needed to learn who I am to Him and what my identity is as His daughter.

Sometimes dreams have to die. Dreams that come from a deceitful heart, dreams that are for selfish gain, have no place in the life of a believer and are outside the will of God.

Contentment did not come instantly, it took some time. Honestly, I am still learning what that means. So as the months rolled on I allowed Him to put to death my old ways of thinking and to destroy what was left of my “old” mind. I prayed for Him to renew my mind, to build it back up on a foundation built on His Word. Brick by brick, that is what he has been doing, and I believe this process of renewal is one that will continue until I am made complete in the day of Christ.

“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”            (Romans 12:1-2 NASB)

Renewal is not easy. Sacrifice – that is a heavy word. If you know anything about the sacrificial system of the Old Testament then you know how serious God is being in this passage. By presenting our bodies as a sacrifice, our whole bodies, we are actually worshipping Him. Within sacrificing our bodies is the command not to be conformed to this world. How? Renewal of the mind.

I’ve never truly grasped how important these verses – and the whole passage – really are. If something is to be renewed, then that means something must break first so that it can be renewed. Renewal isn’t possible without brokenness. You can’t renew something that is still working.

I was doing the working. Me, by myself, trying to control everything. Fix everything. Figure out life on my own. I was not giving my body as a sacrifice in worship to God.

One Sunday soon after, crying out to the Lord in complete brokenness, I laid it all down. Everything. My whole body and my whole life I laid bare before Him. I asked him to renew it, to restore myself completely to Him.

He is faithful and is doing just that.

Somewhere along the way, I got confused on what I thought God was asking of me, because I didn’t really understand what contentment was. I began labeling certain things, a lot of things, about me as “bad” or “immature and childish”. I told myself it was “time to grow up” and to “stop dreaming”. I tried to become “normal” or at least the “normal” I see so much around me. I began trying to fit the mold of what a “Christian woman should be”. I asked God to guide me to become this “normal” person that I should be.

Then the ideas came back and the dreams began to flow. With every single thought of a dream or a plan, or even an idea, I would submit it to God. “That’s not who I am anymore. I am being renewed.”

It turns out that Satan can be disguised as “an angel of light” even today (2Corinthians 11:14).

I am guilty of trying to “follow my heart”. I did it for years, and I know the heart is wicked. I told God constantly that I was willing to lay everything aside for Him, because I just wanted to follow His will and His plan. I wanted to put His Word above all. But I still made assumptions on what God wanted me to do and who He wanted me to be.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it.”  (Jeremiah 17:9)

This led to the internal struggle that has been raging war inside of me. Finally today I had enough. I was pleading to God “to take these thoughts away” – the ones that planted ideas of dreams in my head. The thoughts that took me away from the normal I thought I was supposed to me.

“What is this is the fire, the light that shines within me, just waiting to shine out. If so, then why was I trying to get rid of my little spark within me?”

Where did that come from? I quickly began to refute this thought and dismissed it as selfish. But the feeling of restlessness was still stirring. Thirty minutes later I was back to pleading, “God, please. Take these dreams away. I don’t have to have a career. I don’t have to go back to school. I’ll stay where I am Lord. I’ll even quit in a couple of years to homeschool if that’s what you want. Just remove these desires, put out these little flames inside me and just help me to be content. I’m trying so hard Lord to get myself out of your way so that you can work your Will and me and guide me through this life. I know now that my identity is found in you, not my job or anything else. It’s just in you Lord.”

It was right there in the midst of the chaos inside that I heard it, that still small voice of the Lord. He spoke to me, “I never told you to stop being who you are”. Relief flooded over me and the tears flowed freely. I had been trying to be what I thought He wanted me to be, but the truth is, I am already who He made me to be. He has uniquely made me who I am, and instead of trying to change that based off of the enemy’s lies, I need to remember that He already loves me perfectly, and no matter what season of life I’m in, I can be content because Christ lives inside of me. True contentment isn’t giving up everything God gifted you with, the talents and skills He designed you with. Those things are there for a reason, for a purpose, for His Kingdom.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, so that we would walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10 NASB)

I still don’t have all the answers to the questions down in my heart. I know I still have a whole lot of growth left in my walk with Christ. One thing, however, that I am learning is that my identity is FULLY in Christ, clearly outlined in His Word, and that He created me as me, on purpose, to be the “me” He created me to be. Because I get the opportunity to play a role in His story. Because I am blessed to have a specific role to play in the body of Christ. Because He loves me.

We have to die to ourselves, recognize who we are in Christ, so that our true dreams – the ones God placed there – can be revealed. Those dreams align with His great purpose for us and His Kingdom.

Renewal (09.24.17)

In the 13th year, on the 9th day, of the 14th hour, I began to prepare the place of my memorial to the Lord. I began by praying to the Lord, and then read Joshua 3 and 4. I cleared a space against the tree and laid the 9 bricks to form my altar to the Lord – 9 for the number God gave me as a promise long ago that was founded in His speaking of Genesis 9:13 to me. It also just happened to be 9 days into my 13th year of salvation. These numbers remind me of a great promise He gave me years ago, and of His faithfulness He gives us in the rainbow from Genesis 9:13.

1

Next I gathered the 5 jars that represented the 5 idols of my life, idols that had only recently been revealed to me. I have spent the majority of my life obsessing over these 5 idols, consumed with them and all they represent to me, and I knew they must be destroyed.

2

I then took up my pen and paper and wrote my letter of repentance to God, for Him alone to know. I laid it upon the altar and lit it on fire to be consumed for the Lord while reading Joshua 4:24 aloud: “that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, so that you may fear the Lord your God forever”. I then read it a second time, this time replacing “you” with “I” and “your” with “my”.

3

By this time the letter had been consumed and I gazed upon the jars which I had filled with water. The read, “My plans”, “My dreams”, “My education”, “My career”, and “My MIND” – this last one was the driving force between the other idols and had been my most treasured idol, so it was the biggest jar. One by one I took each jar and poured it onto the altar. The ashes of the letter were washed away, and I continued this process until all the jars were empty, for to be filled we must first be empty.

With the idols now dry of any and all investments I once had in them, I again laid them on the altar, one by one, and destroyed each with the hammer, praying with each movement I took.

4

With the idols now destroyed, I opened up the Word and read Matthew 26:26-28 and took communion before the Lord, for I now understood my spiritual position. I then played “Have It All” and worshipped before the Lord, singing aloud in that place, praising Him for all He has done and for this season of renewal.

5

I named the place ἀνακαινόω (anakainoō), which is Greek for “renew”. In Greek this means to renew, to restore, to bring back; make new; restore. Whenever I see this place, I will know my inner self is being renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16), and I will know the hand of the Lord is mighty so that I may fear the Lord my God forever (Joshua 4:24). For I will speak of this place forever as a physical representation of how God has moved in my life. This is the place where I was washed in God’s grace. This is the place where destruction became renewal. This is the place that speaks of what the Lord has done.

6

Oh praise Him, praise Him forever!

Renewal (Intro.)

“A time to tear apart and a time to sew together; a time to be silent and a time to speak.”   – Ecclesiastes 3:7 NASB

If you keep up with my blog at all, you’ve probably noticed it’s been a while since I have posted anything. All summer long I have wanted to write, but I have felt like something was preventing me, like there was this wall up. There were several times I would sit down to write and nothing would come. Other times I would start writing a post, but would be lost minutes later. Then, about halfway through summer, I read this verse and realized that I was in a season of silence. I honestly didn’t know when this season would end, but I tried to be patient and hang on through the season until I became released to speak (which is writing for me) again.

Today, just days into the Fall season, my release has come and I enter into a time to speak. You see, a few weeks ago, God revealed to be that in my heart I had been guilty of idolatry. Those idols had to be destroyed, or as the verse above says, torn apart. This was the reason for my season of silence.

But nine days ago I entered my 13th year of salvation, and I knew on that day that these idols had been destroyed, yet there was a deep yearning in my heart to do some sort of physical representation of this. I could feel God moving, but doing something on that level was completely unknown to me. I knew I was to build a memorial, but I didn’t know how or from what, and so I begin to pray for God to guide me and show me what to do, and I promised obedience in return.

Then today came, and today I heard one of the most convicting sermons ever in my life. It was exactly what I needed to hear, but still made my soul so heavy. I knew I would need time to process the words I had heard and all that God was moving in my soul.

After arriving home I got Autumn settled for a nap and went outside to cut grass and clean my head to prepare my heart for what I was about to do. I prayed again for God to show me how to build a memorial for Him, and when He answered I grabbed what was needed and began to build my memorial for Him…

*Read my next post “Renewal (09.24.17)” to see what happens next!

Community Group

It’s Wednesday night and this is the first “free” Wednesday night we’ve really had since last September when Community Groups started back at our church. This was Brandon and mine’s first time being in a community group, or a small group of any kind for that matter, and it was just simply amazing.

This past week I’ve been reflecting on how much our group has meant to us, and I would like to share some of those thoughts with you.

We started going to Dublin Bible Church in early April 2016, so just over a year ago now. We knew that first Sunday we went that we were “home”. Not long after we started going we heard them mention community groups, but they end in May and we never got a chance to go. However, the women’s Bible study started that June and I decided to join in. I’m so glad I did because I loved it and it helped me meet some of the other women in the church. But as the fall started approaching, talk of community groups began again and I brought it up to Brandon. We talked and both agreed that we wanted to join a group, but neither of us really knew what to expect since we had never been in a small group before.

In August we found out our first group meeting would be mid-September (we would then meet every Wednesday night at our leaders’ home) and we found out who would be in our group. We sort of knew everyone in the group at that time, but when the time came for our first time to get together, we were both nervous. I can’t speak for him, but all summer long I had heard about how great community groups were, and how much everyone just loved their group, so I had pretty high expectations. I didn’t expect us to all instantly connect, but I did hope that we would all grow close, and that’s exactly what happened.

We didn’t talk a whole lot the first couple of weeks, but it was not long at all before we started opening up and connecting with the other couples in our group. Wednesday nights very soon became my favorite night of the week. Each week Brandon and I found out we had more and more in common with everyone there, and each week it seemed like God was teaching us the same lessons, and speaking into our lives in very similar ways.

The holidays came and went, and 2017 began with adding another couple to our group, and it even more completed us. This made 10 of us total, and each week we continues to grow, both in each other and in God. We began to talk more during the week, and they became “my people”. They were my people to laugh with, to lean on, to confess to, to discuss with, and to just simply do life with. Wednesday nights became treasured memories of comfort and security. Our group was a place where each of us could be completely honest and vulnerable with each other, knowing no one would look down on us or judge us, and we could be confident that what happened in our group would stay in the group. That honestly I believe brought us even closer together and molded us into a little family.

This family changed our lives. Maybe that sounds dramatic to some, or over the top, but it is the truth. It has had such a huge impact in our relationships with God, in our marriage, in parenting, and really every area of our lives. Brandon and I have both grown so much this past year, and I know that so much of it is because of being a part of this group. Community is something both of our souls were so desperately looking for, and this past year, we sure found it. It has become so important, so special to us, and it’s all because of you, living out life in obedience to Christ, “doing life in circles, not rows”. A.J., Ashley, Casey, Clint, Buck, Jasmine, Kenrick, and Julia: from the bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU! Thank you for loving us and allowing us to do life with you! We love you guys and look forward to the future with you!!

Growing Up Is Fun Too

5 days out of the week I am surrounded by millennials. I’ve said before how fun I think this group is (I may be partially biased because I am a millennial), but the more I’m around millennials the more I just love them. Yes, this group has their problems. We all know they can lack promptness, don’t always view the world realistically, and can be obsessed with technology. However, I believe EVERY generation has its own problems, so it’s best not to discriminate against millennials and just write them off because like it or not, THEY are the future. They are full of big dreams with big hearts, believe in savoring the moment, and have courage that most of the world dreams of.

3 of my student workers are graduating this weekend, just a few days away. I haven’t know them for very long, but each of them are amazing and unique and I know they will do amazing things. Graduating is bittersweet, and I’ve heard them comment more than once lately that they’re “not ready to grow up”. While I agree that growing up can be scary and hard, it’s also super rewarding and can be an awesome experience. So girls, this blog is for you!

You learn A LOT about yourself growing up. I know, you’ve all been in college for the past few years, and 13-15 years of school before that before then and you’re probably thinking your tired of learning and just need a break. Don’t worry, learning about yourself is fun and it’s a kind of learning that never really stops. Take time to learn the things that bring you comfort, the things that help you rest, and the things that energize you. Learn how you relate to others so that you can communicate more effectively with them, and learn about your own life’s mission and how YOU were specifically made to change the world.

Experiences make for good teachersComing from being a perfectionist, I absolutely hate failure, but I’ve learned that sometimes failing has been the best thing for me. I’ve needed the failure experiences to show me how to get back up again and soar. Failure helps us grow and show us what we need in order to succeed. But cherish those great experiences too. Take note of the ones that make your heart spark joy and your face light up – that’s how you know you’re doing what you’re passionate about.

Do what you have to do. There’s nothing wrong with doing what you have to do to make it in the world, like starting out in a low paying job doing what you don’t necessarily like to do, but find purpose in the mundane and know how it will help you meet your goals along the way. Sometimes you have to do the hard stuff to get to do what you really love. Other times you take a job not knowing if you’ll like it or not, and that ends up being something you love.

Keep your mind and heart open. Have a plan, have goals, but be open to new things. Try a new food, travel to a new place, talk to someone different from your usual crowd. Listen to music you don’t usually listen to, read a book from a different opinion than your own, and go to an art gallery. The world is full of so many amazing, beautiful cultures and people that most people won’t even recognize because they don’t step out of their comfort zone into something different. Chances are you will find something that you love, something that you connect deeply to that you would have never known otherwise if you hadn’t taken that stuff.

Finally, don’t rush it. Maybe you think the past four years took forever to go by, or maybe you feel like they flew by. Either way, I promise time seems to “speed up” after you graduate. There will be times where you feel empty, lonely, and like you don’t know what you’re doing in life and you think “I wish this stage would hurry up and get over with already.” I know the thoughts will come, but when it does, tell it to “STOP IT” because you really don’t want to fly through this part. This is normal and these are the times you need to cherish the most because you will learn the most during this time. Cherish every memory made, even the mundane, and stay focused. Stay true to your beliefs – whatever yours may be. There is beauty in every moment and I hope you won’t take this time for granted because once it’s gone you can never get it back.

I’m not going to include your names, but you 3 know who you are. Know it was an honor working with you and getting to know each of you. As my “first” students, you will always hold a very special place in my heart, and I wish you the very best in life. Live your life, dream big, and work hard. You’re gonna do great! – TS

Peace Please

Twice this week we have had storms. Not just your typical thunder storms, but destructive storms with walls of rain, hail, and damaging tornadoes. Level 5 tornadoes at that, demolishing buildings. And while destruction was all around me, a wall of protection was up around my family and friends. No one was hurt, and no one suffered any loss, praise God! But the thing that really stuck out to me as I scrolled through photos that people submitted to a local news page were the photos of the sunsets.

I’ve always loved sunset. I remember watching them with my Grannie looking out across the lake, the different shades of color painted in the sky. Sunsets always brought warmth and peace to me, and they still do now.

It happened first on Monday: there was a gap in the photos, and what started as rows of storm damage turned into rows  of magnificent sunsets, all over central Georgia. This happened again on Wednesday: I scrolled through in disbelief at what this beast had done, when all of the sudden the rubble and debris turned into caramel-colored skies.

Majestic – the kind that make you stare in awe, not only because of the beauty that was contained in that moment, but because you knew the storm that had come before the beauty.

Dark turned to light. Fear turned to comfort. Chaos turned into calm.

There’s something about experiencing the storm first that makes one so grateful for the calm. For if there was never chaos, we would not know how to fully appreciate peace.

While this particular storm was raging on Wednesday, and I had the weather man updating me on its location, I thought back to Jesus calming the storm in Matthew 8. The disciples had followed Jesus onto a boat and at some point Jesus had gone to sleep. Yet, while He was sleeping, a great storm arose, so much so that the boat was being covered with waves (v. 23-24). Can we just pause and picture this scene for a moment? Storms are bad enough on land – I saw this yesterday – but can you imagine a storm of the magnitude on the water?! Nope, not me. I know I would be anxious, no, most likely hysterical, and would be believing I was going to die. In fact, that’s exactly what the disciples thought. “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!” (v. 25) they cried to Him as they woke Him up. And what was Jesus’ response? He didn’t “freak out”. He didn’t tell them they better make peace now because they were all going to die. Instead, He said to them, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” and then he got up and rebukes the winds and the sea and it became perfectly calm (v. 26). The disciples were amazed (v. 27) and I imagine ever person that reads this passage stops with the same expression on their face.

I truly believe the disciples were experiencing real fear and real anxiety in a very real storm. And in looking at the situation, they were even justified in their fear. So why did Jesus say, “Why are you afraid?” Did he really expect them to have faith and be at peace during this great storm? Yes, I believe He did. Why?

Because peace is not a place; it’s a person.

If we keep our eyes on our circumstances and what’s around us, we will fear every time. We will be anxious in the storm, and we will have very little faith. No peace can come to us in this state. Yet, if we recognize that Jesus is peace, and we keep our eyes on Him, I completely believe it is possible to have peace even in the midst of the deadliest storm.

1 Peter 5:7 tells us to cast all of our anxiety on Him because He cares for us. I have to stop right here and think how much differently my life would actually be if I practiced this regularly. So very often I don’t “hand over” my anxiety until it has consumed me and I can take it no longer, but imagine the peace I would immediately feel if I immediately gave God my worries, and did this with ALL of my anxiety.

Imagine what life would be like if we really believed that God cares for us and wants us to give Him our burdens. Imagine the freedom it would bring. Imagine that kind of peace. 

It’s almost like we would be able to have peace even being surrounded by a storm…

In a world that preaches meditation and yoga, anxiety meds, “me time” and more, real PEACE can only be found in Jesus, for “the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7)”.

TIME

It’s the one thing we can’t get back, the one thing we can’t “create” more of. We use it every day to create plans, to make schedules, and to keep track of where we’ve been and where we are headed. Some squander it, some value it, and others just simply take it for granted. School-aged kids believe it to go by so slow until those same kids grow to be adults and long for it to slow down. It interacts and intertwines with every part of lives no matter what age or walk of life we are from. We wish we had more of it, wish we could make it stand still, long for those moments where loved ones were still part of it.

TIME

I really don’t know why “time” has been on my mind so much lately, but the more I think about it, the more complex it seems to be. I really believe the only person who had a complete grasp on what exactly “time” is is the Creator Himself, God Almighty. Even then, He views time so differently than we view time, but when You’re eternal and not bound by time, I would expect nothing less.

Eternity. It’s something I struggle with comprehending because my mind it too small to fathom a world where time is no longer a part of it. Especially since time seems to be one of the most important aspects of this world.

I used to think time was going by soooo slow. I clearly remember telling one of my second grade teachers about a dream I had the night before that class: I was 16 and driving my friends around. We were going to the mall to just hang out. Fast forward to when I actually turned 16 and it seemed like that dream was only weeks ago instead of 8 years ago. Once I graduated high school time seems to accelerate, and even more so after getting married. Now I’m a mom of a 2 year old who is currently kicking me in the side with her toes of metal as I write this, wondering how it’s possible that time is flying by so fast. I remember waiting in the hospital to meet this precious girl I could feel every second that went by. And that is distinctly the last time since I can recall time going by “slow”.

Death , or the anticipation of death, makes one think about time in a different light. It’s sad to think that so many people who receive a “death sentence” brought on by cancer or some other horrible disease don’t truly to start to “live” until they realize they are going to die soon. When the expiration date on your time is near, I guess it makes you want to stop and smell the roses and realize what’s truly important in life. But the truth is, all of us is going to die a physical death at some point. Our time on this earth will end. And the only one who knows this moment is God.

So why do we so often take our days for granted? Why do we “live for tomorrow” and plan out every detail of our lives like we can control it?

Imagine a world where we actually valued our time here on earth and thought every moment was important. Imagine what would happen if we realized tomorrow isn’t guaranteed and we lived for the day, guided by the Spirit in every moment, being the hands and feet of Jesus so that His Kingdom could be “on earth as it is in Heaven”. Imagine if we kept God first and our family second above all else, and we waited just a little while longer before checking our e-mail. Imagine if we lived like our work actually mattered because our days our numbered and we wanted to influence all of those surrounding us, and even those that we may never even meet, because we stopped and said “Yes” to God and “no” to watching that next episode on Netflix.

Imagine a world where people cared and took a stand against world hunger. Imagine a world where people were passionate and zealous for the Gospel and weren’t so easily offended because they understood that our time here is but a vapor. Imagine a world where people understood that people are different, and that’s something to be celebrated, not held against one another.

Imagine a world where people actually LIVED in the moment instead of trying to capture it on Snapchat, filter it on Instagram, and talk it up on Facebook. Imagine a world where you could actually remember the moments you lived instead of having to “review your timeline” because you were never really there to create the memory yourself.

A couple of weeks ago, a former co-worker of mine was murdered. It was completely out of the blue, totally unexpected, and he was found innocent – his murdered charged completely guilty. It was a total shock for me, but definitely for those closest to him. He truly was a great guy, a great friend to so many, with a warm smile and so much kindness in his heart. I still think back to one of my favorite memories of him. We were sitting in the back at work and he was telling me about some of the places he traveled, and some of the places he was planning to go. I very quickly realized that this guy had the right attitude. He never took it for granted. He was generous to others, spent time with his family and friends, but also took time for adventures, to see the world. And he was someone I admired from that moment on.

In a recent sermon series, our pastor encouraged us to “spy” on our money.After doing this, I felt God leading me to “spy” on my time. A few nights ago I wrote out all the hours in my week and how I spend them. I was shocked to find that on week nights alone, I only have 1-2 hours of “free time”. I thought about this as I turned to a previous list I made a couple months ago of all the things I was trying to do with my time, a list I had made after being told by a dear friend of mine that I was trying to “do too much, to fix too much”. I knew it was true to some degree, but after looking at the two lists side-by-side I was absolutely speechless. The truth is I was spreading myself too thin and doing a bunch of things just “okay” that I was not able to do anything well at all. I did not really see just how precious my time was. I was taking it for granted, thinking I had way more of it than I actually had. And in that time I actually had, I was “so busy” I couldn’t enjoy a single moment of it.

I’m starting to view time differently now, trying to enjoy every moment of life, even those that seem so small or  don’t feel that great, because all of it matters. I don’t want to be 60 years old one day shaking my head saying it was all a blur. I want to live in every moment and remember the way it felt, all the colors, the scents, and the sounds. I want to make a difference while I’m still here and just sit and be. Life goes by so fast already, I don’t want to “wish” the smallest moments away for the “larger” ones. The truth it, it’s probably the “mundane”, the “day-to-day” that impact us more anyway.

Because I believe time matters. It’s precious. Every hour, every minute, and every second of every day. It makes a difference. And I want to spend all of my time guided by the Spirit, living like Jesus, in glory to the Father. Amen.

Moons, Move, and Mess: Reflections from the past month

It was a crisp January morning. The moon was full, huge, a rarity for this time of morning. The fog loomed above the ground and roamed throughout path, encompassing everything in its midst-trees, houses, and my truck. It looked like something from a painting, a movie, maybe a book. Yet, aren’t all of these first inspired by scenes of nature itself? Art and culture are performed in awe and admiration of the Creator and truly are acts of worship in glory to His name. All of these are thoughts I had while staring breathlessly into the beyond while driving to work.

December had gone and a new year had started. Is the wait and see over? Did I miss it God? I began to reflect over the last few messages…

  • I realized I had a control problem and needed to trust God more because HE can bring chaos out of the mess I created. Because, chaos is a sign of not trusting God, but rather trusting in yourself, reminding me to humble myself and submit myself to the Lord. I wrestled with what submission really meant, and what is the difference between control and discipline.
  • I learned that I had, once again, built a wall around parts of my heart, a wall that I thought would give me strength, but true strength is to be found by remaining in God, not locked away in a tower from Him. The Spirit whispered things to me during this time, like “Love doesn’t always look like Mr. Darcy, sometimes it looks like a warrior” and  “The Father loves you unconditionally and nothing you do can make Us love you more or less”.
  • Perhaps one of the most painful epiphanies I received was realizing I lacked peace in my life, but was, instead, in a storm because of trusting in myself and not God. I created my own storm, but worst of all, I wasn’t even asking God to take me out. I was still trying to get myself out, even though I knew I could not. Even though I consider myself to be a disciple of Christ, I was still placing faith in myself and not Jesus. I knew He was the One who held the power over the storms, and yet I still said “That’s okay, I’m good” and proceeded to try to fix my own mess.
  • Probably the most profound and meaningful truth that I gathered from this particular series, however, comes from Sunday, December 11, 2016. “The Mighty God can create order from our chaos,. He moves on behalf of His followers, but not in the way we think.”

In my previous blog, I noted that I thought I had received my Word from God before 2016 was even over, which was unusual but fitting. God had been teaching me to have faith in Him and to come to Him and ask Him for things. So in my heart I asked what my word-if there even would be one-for 2017 would be, honestly not expecting an immediate answer. However, just a few minutes later He spoke, “Move” to me, not like a physical move, but more of a personal, life-changing move.

I think in the last few weeks of 2016, as I thought about what this word meant I had a lot of it backwards. I thought of it in light of my marriage an how God would “move us” to something greater. I thought about work and how He might would “move” me to a different position at work. And even the scary thought of “moving houses” appeared briefly before I smacked it back into left field where things like that belong. I am now sitting here in bed, almost a month into 2017, realizing that God didn’t intended my word to be ANY of those things. When God spoke to me “Move”, He was and still is speaking of a personal move, a move in the very deepest parts of my soul. This move isn’t about anyone else or changing them, it’s about how He’s going to change me, and how HE is going to move in my life.

Sometimes I get so obsessive and controlling and want to be in charge of everything in my life that I “try to remove the speck from my neighbor’s eye instead of looking at the log in mine”. Translated: I worry about my daughter being “good” and behaving the way I think she should while also trying to get my husband to fit into this spiritual mold that I’ve constructed in my mind as the way to be a “godly man and husband/father”, both of which are totally legalistic and so far from what the Bible instructs me to be as a woman of God.  So no, “move” isn’t God telling me He’s going to work wonders and turn my family into perfect angels that suddenly fit my selfish “wishes”. Oh, and “move” really isn’t about God suddenly deciding He’s going to fulfill expectations and plans I put into my head long ago without receiving any sort of guidance from Him at all.

No, “move” is about something far greater. I see now the beginning stages of God doing a total, absolute, MOVE in me, a complete paradigm shift. For starters, this year along with my word came scripture I’ve been instructed to study, as well as a personal assignment, both of which I’m sure I’ll blog about some other time as it will be something that takes a while. “Move” is about my life becoming less about me, and ALL about Him. “Move” is me believing that God really WILL create order from my chaos, moving on my behalf, but not even in the slightest way I would think.

Would you really expect any less from God, for Him to completely blow our minds and do something totally out of the comfortable norm?

In looking back now, I don’t think I “missed it” at all. What God had me waiting for in my “wait and see” was totally different from what I thought it would be. God didn’t suddenly give me a better job, or a cleaner house, or a “fix-it-all” solution to the multitude of insignificant worries rolling around in my head. He didn’t increase our salaries or give me a new washing machine and dryer, nor did He throw anything else at me like a genie whose lamp has been rubbed three times. So, what did He give me?

He gave me a word, but oh He gave me so much more than just a word. He gave me a movement, in its beginning stages so far, that will change my life, and change me forever, all for His glory and to further His Kingdom. He gave me a promise and a purpose, to move and be moved. And while I know I’m beginning on a journey that will last a long time, the truth is that even if this were all He ever did, His promise is already fulfilled. HE is faithful. He has moved and will move again. And I look forward to the movement.

Fasting from social media…so far…

I believe that everything happens for a reason, and nothing happens by “coincidence”. I believe we are all part of a story that God has so eloquently written for our lives. I believe we still have free will, and make choices, but that God already knows the choices we will make. Oh, how He wants great things for us, just as any loving Father wants great things for His children (Matthew 7:11), but sometimes we don’t always see what we are going through as “great”.

Last Sunday, exactly one week ago from today, I made the decision that beginning on Thursday (December 1) I would give up social media for at least the month of December. My reason being that I am currently in a “wait and see” (see last blog for info.) and don’t want to miss what God has for me, as well as an attempt to be more present with my family, which is more important that SnapChats and Instagram posts this Christmas season. That being said, I have known since last Sunday that I would make this decision, and so far had has only 3 full days without social media. Only 3 days that is, and yet already I can feel a difference. It’s still not easy, but as of the first night I slept more soundly than I have in I can’t remember when, a pattern that is still continuing.

So that’s why my body woke me up like clockwork at 5:45 this morning (that and I accidentally fell asleep about 8:30 last night so when you sleep for 9 hours in a row you probably should be waking up). I fought it for a few minutes but then decided it would be nice to have some silence in the house before Brandon and Autumn woke up for me to “get things done”. Only God quickly reminded me that today is our Sabbath Day and that I was to just sit and spend time with Him, not to mention while I did that I could put some ice on my foot and rest since that’s the purpose of Sabbath anyway. Well played God, I thought to myself, and grabbed my Bible, my study book, and pencils and headed to the couch. I’m ashamed to say I haven’t opened this particular study in weeks, but I started reading through the pages and when I came to one particular passage of scripture I decided to stop and look it up in my own Bible translation to see how it would read. Then the very last verse from this passage stood out like a lighthouse on a dark and stormy sea: “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16 NASB). As soon as I read it I realized this is what God has been trying to teach me all week. In fact, let me give you a little play-by-play of how this week has gone:

Monday (1 day after being obedient and making this decision to fast from social media): God pours an enormous amount of thoughts into me on the way to work, for which I am hugely grateful. I think I have gotten my word for next year, which surprises me because I usually don’t get that until January or February, but okay cool.

Tuesday: I begin the process of wasting entirely too much time on social media, knowing it will “end” in 2 days.

Wednesday: I get myself ready to give up social media. I tell my small group and post this great blog called “Wait and See” to explain why I am doing this crazy gesture of giving up social media. I stay up until 11:58, falling asleep as I scroll through social media for the “last time” before finally deleting all of the apps on my phone.

Thursday: It feels weird not waking up by looking through Facebook, or checking Snapchat, so I decide to just get up already and I end up leaving for work almost 20 minutes earlier than usual so I go to Starbucks and get a FREE Starbuck’s Venti Iced Caramel Macchiato with fat-free milk and extra caramel drizzle (I’m sorry but did I mention FREE???). I get to work and get my day ready, nice and calm, not stressed, slightly annoyed at how much time I waste in the morning on social media. Several times throughout the day I tray to take a Snapchat or think of something funny to say on Facebook, and try to do mindless scrolling on everything. I whine to my community group (shoutout to y’all for being so amazing and patient) about not having social media. But right before I fall asleep something interesting happens: we have more money in our checking account than I have logged in my budgeting book. I try to figure this out for about 20 minutes and end up falling asleep.

Friday: I wake right on up and realized I’ve had a wonderful night of sleep, and think about how I actually wake up better and faster without social media. Go figure! I get ready and spend about 15 minutes trying to figure out my budgeting error but give up, only having partially figured out what went wrong. I go to work and do slightly better (but not much), mostly due to the fact that I had an enormous amount of work to do. That afternoon I decide to look at my budget and check log one last time and finally find ALL the errors and got us balanced up. And for the first time EVER I actually found unspent money. It was truly a mistake on my on part since all of our transactions really had cleared. God had provided a way for us to pay all the bills on time. That night we have our Supper Club Christmas party and I actually feel more involved not constantly checking my phone and had a great time.

Saturday: I take a few pictures as we work on the house but slowly don’t even think about “posting” anything. I go to check the mail and find the huge bill I’ve been dreading that is due January 1, but I also find my retirement refund check I’ve been waiting for for over a month to come in, and it is significantly larger that I had anticipated. Actually, to be completely honest, it was only $60 less that the huge bill that had came in. I screamed for joy and gave many thanks of praise unto God as it felt like an anvil had been lifted from my shoulders.

Sunday: After waking up after a 3rd night of complete sleep and rest, I do some Bible study and realize how much God is pouring into me and start writing this blog.

If you read “Wait and See” you know what a huge answered prayer some of these things really are, both financially and spiritually. God pulled through yesterday with this check and with the “found” money on Friday. The cool thing is how by not having this money sooner God protected me and kept me from Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping. I finally surrendered, and obeyed, and asked God with pure motives to provide this week on Wednesday (as He instructed last Sunday), and oh how HE provided! I asked Him for spiritual guidance in some matters (some of which I can discuss in a later blog) and He really overflowed my cup on those and my heart is just in awe of my Heavenly Father right now.

If you go back and read the verses before 16 in Hebrews 4, there’s a lot of great stuff there, but one of the things the author writes in verse 15 is that we have a high priest in Jesus, “who has been tempted in all things we are, yet without sin.” I stopped and realized that a lot of time I don’t cling to Scripture like I should, and I don’t let God hold me, leaning on Him for things like I need to. Do I really believe that I can come to God with confidence and receive mercy and find grace? Do I really believe that God has ALL wisdom and guidance and has been temped in ALL things, to where He can pour perfect insight into my life? I think part of me has doubted those things in the past, but just by taking a step in being obedient unto God, He gave me so many wonderful gifts this week, more than I could have even imagined in different ways than I would have thought, but I am even more grateful for these.

I don’t think it was just a “coincidence” that I lost money during the two biggest “sale” days of the year, but still found the money in time to pay the bills I needed to pay. I don’t think it is a coincidence that I read this passage of Scripture in a book I haven’t picked up in weeks, at 6AM this morning after having this particular week. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I am writing the last thoughts of this I hear Autumn sweetly call for “Mommy!”. I do, however, believe God, instead, holds for us a much greater life than we choose to live in 90% of the time. I believe we can walk in abundant life and hold fast to His word and abide in Him always and we will see just how much we are missing out on before with all of the distractions of life.

Does this mean everything is going to go right all of the time and life will just be perfect? Absolutely not. But God already gave us what we need to press on, we just have to make sure we use it.