Life, Interrupted

“Every time I look down and see you’re calling or have called, my heart does a happy dance. Sweet dreams to my wonderful daughter and love forever!”

This was the last text I received from my mom before my sister called me the next morning to tell me she had driven herself to the emergency room (yes, you read that correctly). Going in for what she thought was either a severe case of pneumonia or a broken rib, the nurse saw something else in the X-Rays.

A suspicious shadow.

Cancer is not something that happens to OUR family. Cancer is seen from afar. I have watched  other families go through this. I have prayed for other families going through this. My mom and I have fund-raised and walked hundreds of miles for OTHER people. Not her. Not OUR family.

Initially, I was breathless. Suffocating. The words “cancer” and “more than we thought” are words that tend to do that to you. The phone call from my sweet daddy left me speechless and sobbing. This was NOT my mom’s life. This was NOT our family’s life.

Take a step back. Gain perspective. Pray.

There is boundless uncertainty because I am human.

But GOD.

With God, there is boundless certainty. He is not confused. He is not surprised. Let me tell you what He IS. Caring. Loving. Unconditionally sovereign. Healing. Powerful. Faithful. Invincible. Greater. 

Isaiah 54:4-5 (NIV) “Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by His wounds we are healed.

My faith has not been tampered with. My faith is unwavering. My faith is zealous. My faith gives me peace that surpasses all understanding. My faith gives me no room for Satan’s lies and schemes. My faith gives me a boldness to pray BIG prayers. My faith makes me confident that my prayers will be answered. My faith convicts me that this trial will be used for a greater good (Romans 8:28). My faith gives me hope that my family will glorify the King’s name through it all. My faith gives me belief that miracles are modern.

Dear Mom: I want you to know that you are tenacious and unyielding. Your faith surpasses any mountain that could be placed in front of you. We are in the valley, but your heart is still dancing with joy. I have watched you give the glory to God in the most minuscule victories, such as walking to the door or eating a bite of grits. Your sociable persona makes you want to visit with every friend that walks through the hospital door, even though your body is weak and tired. Answering nearly 100 texts daily for you is a testament to the kind of woman you are. The influence you have had in your community and beyond is unmatched. My favorite part of this journey is listening to people tell me how much you mean to them. How you have touched their lives. How you have been their light in the dark. Whole congregations and small groups and offices have prayed for you. People who have met you once or twice have fasted meal after meal for you. Your importance in this world and to this family is matchless. You live life with spunk, newness, and adventure every chance you get. You put your family first. You love the people you work with and your clients so well. The phone calls and video chats we have mean so much to me because you have become my best friend, the one I confide in, and the one I seek prayer  and encouragement from. I hope you know that you have loved me best. You have loved this family unceasingly. You have never given up. You are a fighter for what you are passionate about. You have raised strong and confident women through your example. We are strong through this because of you. I love you to the stars and back, Mom.

Genesis 50:20 (NIV) “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

This is just a small detour, not the destination. 

The Art of Surrender

Have you ever been at a point in your life where you would do almost anything to think about nothing?

I have been in places where my mind felt like it had been overtaken with fear. Something had to give, so I decided to try running. I put my headphones in and blasted my music so loud that it was impossible to hear my own thoughts. I ran long and hard. For even a little while, I wasn’t filling my eyes with my Instagram feed and VSCO, I was filling them with sunsets and dandelions. Before I knew it, running had become like a drug to me. I could not go a day without it. I started running miles and miles. It seemed to be the only way to temporarily relieve my angst.

I am not telling you to take up running to relieve a very real pain that only God can heal. That is not the part of this story I want you to take away from. Pay attention to this:

sunsets and dandelions

You probably did not even give these words a second thought. Usually, neither would I. So often we forget what nature is and who created it.

My God is a star-breather, a moon setter, and a sunset painter.

Romans 1:19-20 (ESV) “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

When we saturate ourselves in God’s perfect handiwork, we take a step back. We stop holding a mirror to ourselves and we start seeing a reflection of God. No wonder being outside is therapeutic for people- it is not about us anymore. 

Do you ever go outside and think about all of the mistakes? Of course not. Ten times out of ten, we are admiring the glimmer of the ocean, the silhouette of a mountain, or the turquoise sky. We think about how glorious everything is. 

We surrender control. We slow down. We realize that everything grows gradually, as do we. 

There are times when we feel like there are useless seasons of our life- constantly waiting for the next thing. While we are single, we are anxious to be in a relationship. While we are married, we are anxious to have kids. We feel a sense of sadness and loneliness when we are not up to speed with everyone else around us. 

In a world where we are expected to have a degree by 23, a spouse by 24, kids by 25, and a career by 26, we need to stop looking in this temporary, misleading mirror.

Take a look at the untouched and authentic mirror God has given us. 

Just like we can’t stop rain, we can’t stop suffering. Just like we can’t stop darkness, we can’t stop pain. Sometimes we grow fast in these seasons and sometimes it takes longer. God gives us a perfect illustration for how we should cultivate love during these times.

Without darkness, there would be no light.

Without trials, there would be no dependence.

Without rain, there would be no sunshine.

Without pain, there would be no endurance.

Those hands that put the stars in the sky and are constantly holding the earth are the very same hands that bled for us. When we stand in awe of Christ’s workmanship, we see how flawless He is. The enemy has no place to make us fearful for what is to come.

Find Your Wild

Do you want to hear something really sad? Throughout middle and high school, I was ridiculed for being too much. I was too loud, too crazy, and too candid. I chose to dance while everyone else simply swayed, and I laughed obnoxiously at inappropriate times. I took risks. I was spontaneous. I was dangerous. I got into a lot of trouble (before I came to know Christ). I did not care. 

I was the wild girl.

At some point, their words got to me. The more I was told I was too much, the more I tried to lessen. My smile was not so upright anymore and my laugh became a little duller. I practiced speaking quieter in my mirror. I stopped expressing my opinions. I suppressed my emotions. I lightened my appetite. I conformed. I became less.

Now, I grew up believing a stereotype about Christian women. I thought they were required to be mild, tasteless, and bland. Never did I think the passionate, fearless, unpredictable, wild, untamed, risky, ambitious, brave, rebellious, outspoken, adventurous, eccentric, curious, and loud girl would have a place in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Now, what if I told you that I am all of these things and still follow Christ? What if I told you the wild girl is allowed in church? The loud girl can pray. The unpredictable girl can follow God’s plan for her life. The outspoken girl can encourage others. The curious girl can ask questions.

We can learn a lot from the wild, untamed, rebellious girls. Instead of using these attributes for temporary, worldly satisfaction, we can channel these qualities for the Kingdom of Heaven. Christianity would be a lot more radical. Our faith would become reckless and daring if we were rebellious in complying with the ways of the world. Instead of solely focusing on taming our sin, we could focus on becoming untamed in love. Living for Jesus would be an audacious affair.

If you are that girl, God gave you this vivacity for a reason. You are a blazing, hot fire. The world is going to tell you that what you do and what you stand for is too much. They might tell you your worship is too eccentric and the giving of your time is too bold.

Being a follower of Christ is all of these things… and much more.

Being a wild girl means that we have a deep and constant yearning for more. How immeasurable and supernatural is it that the only one who can satisfy this yearning in our soul is the One who CREATED it. We live our life through the One who gives us life.

“Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come” FEARLESS.

“She’s like a trading ship that sails to faraway places” SPONTANEOUS.

“She makes her own clothing, and dresses in colorful linens and silks” ECCENTRIC.

“She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy” BOLD.

“When she speaks, she has something worthwhile to say” OUTSPOKEN.

“She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard” RISKY.

“She senses the worth in her work” PASSIONATE.

“When it snows, she has no fear for her household” BRAVE.

Wild girl, you are going to be tempted to chase the stars. When you feel that longing, remember that there is nothing we need more desperately in this life than the One who launched those stars in that massive, endless sky.

Our creator made us wild and bold. He put sparks of curiosity in us. He created these things for HIS glory. Psalm 139 says “He perceives my thoughts from afar, that He is familiar with all my ways, and before a word is on my tongue, the Lord knows it completely.”

“If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast…

For you created my inmost being.” Psalm 139: 9-13

Trendy Christianity

The Bible has no disclaimer saying “this might offend you, read with caution.” Similarly, this post will have no disclaimer at the end telling you that what you read is “to each his own.”

Let me tell you something, Christian to Christian, believer to believer. Maybe you are not a believer, but you have noticed this trend with your Christian friends. Here it is: WE (Christians) ARE MIRRORING THE WORLD.

What? Let me explain.

In trying to be inclusive and loving to everyone, which in itself is a good thing, we are becoming no different than the world around us, except for the big fat Christian label we place on ourselves. This is dangerous.

With that being said…listen. The church is not for us. It is not a sanctuary for ourselves. The church’s purpose is to glorify the Most High, the Father of the Universe, the Creator of life. Its purpose is to learn about Him, to honor Him through our fellowship, to love in the name of Christ.

Hip music. Concerts. All black. MacBooks. Densely highlighted bibles. Big churches. Blogs. Coffee shops. Enos. Perfect Instagram’s. Bible apps. Cool shoes. Hebrew tattoos. Journals with pages and pages of calligraphy.

If you took all of it away, would you still be in love with Christ?

This has become a new and hazardous comfort zone for so many Christians (and non-Christians). Christianity now has a concrete “look.” We know what to do. We know what songs to sing. We know the cool bloggers and the trendy speakers. We know what to wear.

A couple of days ago, I attended the Passion Conference in Atlanta. A woman who I respect immensely, Beth Moore, came and spoke some powerful words. I was deeply convicted about something God had placed on my heart for months now. She alluded to this…

We, millennial Christians, are sacrificing the truth of the Christian faith for “love’s sake.”

The TRUTH that we are abandoning is this: we are no longer foreigners in this land. We blend in. We make following Christ easy, lukewarm, concrete, hip, and fun.

Let me tell you this. We are called to be foreigners, outsiders, temporary residents.

1 Peter 1:1 calls us EXILES.

1 Peter 1:17 calls us FOREIGNERS.

1 Peter 2:11 calls us SOJOURNERS.

I do not know about you, but I am tired of living “trendy.” I can never keep up. It is exhausting. It is like high school all over again. I want to live by the Holy Spirit, the Holy Book, my convictions, through worship and praise. What an adventure!

What I am NOT saying is this: coffee shop fellowship and intense Christian jam sessions are bad.

What I AM saying is this: when our lives no longer reflect the cross, when our lives are comfortable, when we no longer hurt, when worship becomes something to put on Instagram, when we value ourselves and our image more than Christ, when shortcuts in our Christianity become the norm, when we no longer reflect on our own sin, when we gain a taste for inclusiveness but lose a taste for God, when are motifs are self-righteous… that is when it all becomes blasphemy.

Yes, world, use social media and artwork for the glory of God. Use instruments and fill arenas with people to glorify God. PRAISE GOD FOR THAT. But also let us die to self. Empty ourselves of our own ambitions. Suffer for Jesus. Bear disorder. Become comfortable being uncomfortable. Lose our pride.

Let us Christians become like Christ in His death.

 

You Are Not Alone, You Are His (A Letter to the Newly Single Girl)

To Whom It May Concern,

I have seen you hurt and broken. I have seen you not want to come out of your room. I have seen you unable to throw away his things because you still believe the same loving boy is going to knock on your door with flowers and your favorite candy. I have seen you twiddling your thumbs over the send button hoping that text will bring him back. I have seen you look at his pictures and Snapchats wondering why he seems so much happier without you. I have seen it all.

My soul breaks and my body aches for you, because beautiful girl, I know where you are. I know you feel unlovable and unworthy and unhappy. It is such a fresh wound, even months out. You think you are fine and then you see him with someone else and your heart feels wrecked all over again.

I do not want you to fear the future. I want to look you in the eyes and tell you that one day you will be able to see him and not feel shattered. However, I know that is the last truth you can believe right now.

Here is my heart. I am writing this because I have seen my friends broken and depressed and alone. I speak that heart language. I can relate. I want to offer my two-cents on hope and empathy and truth.

You are not “replaceable.” In fact, you are very much irreplaceable. Every experience, all of the good and the bad, every fight, every laugh, and every memory is unique to you. There is no one in this world who will make him experience the same things that you did. God brings certain people into our life and He takes certain people away. That boy was taken away from you, but you will grow from the experiences you had together if you let God help you. Someone may be better equipped to be with him, but that does not take anything away from you. Him loving someone else does not mean you were unlovable. It means that God loved you enough to give you something better. 

One day, you will get those butterflies again. You will be able to invest in someone again. You will be able to be vulnerable without fear of getting your heart broken. Someone will love you with all of your quirks and flaws and goofiness and mood-swings. This was the hardest thing for me to grasp. After devoting so much of yourself to a relationship that did not work out, why would anyone ever want to do that again? Replace your fear with faith. My promise, you will have the energy and heart to love again.

Re-invent yourself in your singleness. Take a good, long, hard look at what worked and what did not work in your previous relationship. Focus on becoming the person you want to marry. Discipline yourself, ask God to heal your heart, and ask Him to help you grow in this season. Singleness is a time for immense spiritual growth. Do not underestimate what God can do in your season of waiting.

Lastly, there is no time limit on when it is acceptable to “date again.” I have had friends find their person two weeks after a break-up and friends who have taken years off dating. However, I know dating is scary. It can be the ultimate thing that affirms that our past relationship is over. Just make sure you pray that God has fully healed your heart before you do date. Do not “rebound” date when you should be using this time for healing and growing.

 Worth The Read

John 15:16

Ephesians 1:4

Deuteronomy 20:4

Remember that you are lovable. And you will be able to love again one day.

Inner Disposition

Let me fill you in on a little secret of mine.

Before I truly embraced my relationship with Christ, I would watch Christians. I would watch what they said, what they did, and how they treated others. To be honest, I was not that impressed. I did not have the best experiences with Christians. Often times, I felt judged, looked down upon, and excluded by them. They did not have much credibility in my mind. They called themselves Christians, but the only things that set them apart were their judgmental and close minded attitudes. I knew I never wanted to be that person. This completely turned me off of Christianity, religion, and Jesus.

When I started walking with the Lord, I knew I never wanted to be like that. But lately, I’ve been realizing how difficult that can be. It is difficult to love everyone. It is difficult to be inclusive. And sometimes I really suck at being a Christian. It really hurts to admit that. Sometimes I do things and realize that my integrity with people might have been tested. I am scared that others might look down on me. I fear that I am not set-apart. I get anxious that I might be the Christian that I used to dislike. It is a huge insecurity of mine.

I DON’T know how to be the perfect Christian.

But I DO know that I should pray these things daily

1. To love others well.

2. For my credibility to not be shaken.

3. To be set-apart.

This morning, I fell into that insecurity again. But God blessed me with some wise friends because they offered me the encouragement I needed. They reminded me that following Jesus is tough sometimes. Christians are held to a higher standard and sometimes we fall. It makes us human. That is what the cross is for.

In the wise words of my friend Alia… “When Christians fall, we don’t fall into an empty abyss to be lost and gone forever. We fall into a net that God placed there before hand because he knew we would fall. It’s kind of like a trampoline. We fall only to get right back up again.”

Here is some simple truth…

Psalm 103:12, MSG

“As high as heaven is over the earth,
    so strong is his love to those who fear him.
And as far as sunrise is from sunset,
    he has separated us from our sins.”

2 Corinthians 7:10, MSG

“But those who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets, end up on a deathbed of regrets.”

2 Corinthians 4:16, MSG

So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.”

Remember that God is radically renewing us and eternally changing our inner disposition. Don’t be discouraged when insecurities get the best of us.

 

 

Extra Large Goodwill Sweatshirts and Hand-Written Letters

Thanksgiving is officially upon us and it is one of my most treasured times of the year. It’s a time where tradition runs prevalent in my family. We always travel to a familiar home with the funnest of dysfunctional family’s and eat lots of food while playing with dogs and babies.

During this season, I have learned how to cultivate gratitude. Some days it is really easy to be thankful and other times it is a lot harder. I am learning how to count my blessings, from the big things to the really small things, and it has been the most rewarding practice.

About a month ago, a particular speaker at an event I attended, Bryan Bulmer, spoke on this. Particularly, he encouraged us to read, listen, or write something positive as soon as we wake up in the morning. I started to begin my days with telling at least one person how thankful I was for them. Whether a text, email, or (my personal favorite) a hand-written letter, a detailed description of what that person means to you goes a long way… for them and for you.

I encourage you to do the same. I have seen the effect it has had in my attitudes and relationships. Whether it be starting a gratitude journal or just letting those around you know how much they mean to you, it is so important to be thankful on a daily basis.

If you are unsure of what to be thankful for, I have compiled a list of some off-the-wall things to be grateful for. Make your own; it could definitely be your next Thanksgiving around-the-table dinner conversation.

25 Off -The-Wall Gratitude’s

dog slobbers in the mouth

hallmark holiday movies

flickering flame of a candle

changing color of the leaves

extra large Goodwill sweatshirts

aroma of fresh coffee

pretty-packaged gifts

hugs from distant relatives

handwritten letters

old quilts

hot bubble baths

sweet potato casserole

fuzzy socks

pens that write really well

oven timers

boys who come to the door when they pick my sister up for a date

handcrafted wreaths

hair appointments

picture frames

smells that bring back old memories that you can’t quite put your finger on

downtown’s

inside jokes

automatically connecting to wifi

good-smelling boys

clothes straight out of the dryer

 

xoxo and happiest of Thanksgivings!

 

 

Stay Rad

Accepting grace used to be a foreign concept to me. I did not know how to embrace this wonderful gift. I so often felt trapped by my sin, like I had four walls constantly surrounding me that defined me. Spacious living and boundless freedom were never supposed to be in the cards for me… or so I thought.

One night, I sat on my living room floor with my good friend Carli. She had recently discovered what freedom was. She knew what it was like to be in complete darkness, see the light in the far distance, and run for it with everything she had. She had joy and dance and laughter tattooed upon her life and all I knew was that I wanted what she had.

As we were sitting there, my eyes swelled up with tears. All I said to her in that moment was “I want your freedom.”

I was

burdened

heavy

lifeless

dull… because of my sin.

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

Writing this, Paul knew that is was possible for Christ followers to be “burdened again.” He knew that obstacles in life could recurrently bound us to slavery.

 

Slowly but surely I had to learn how to…

Reveal my sins.

  Accept his Grace

             Deny picking it back up.

That’s pretty… RAD… right?

As a permanent reminder of this radiant gift Christ has given me, and to always remember to accept His grace especially in the present, I tattooed a sound wave (that two of my best friends spoke) of the word “freedom.”

So here is to freedom, tattoo’s, and staying RAD.

Vulnerability Hangover

Once upon a time… or two times… or maybe 250 million times… I told someone something that I immediately regretted. I have walked away from certain conversations feeling naked and exposed. I have woken up some mornings with flooded anxiety about something I shared with someone the previous night.

This is what I like to call a vulnerability hangover- a.k.a. shame.

So what’s in a shame?

Shame is the ultimate fear of disconnection from people. It is the result of rejection or fear of others not accepting us. Shame is the voice in our head saying “if you share this, others are not going to accept you” or “because you told them this, they are going to see you differently.”

I am unworthy of love.

I am not pretty enough to accomplish that.

I am not successful enough to do this.

I am not good enough to talk to them.

So, I am here to tell you this- having a vulnerability hangover actually has… NOTHING…to do with vulnerability at all. This said “hangover” is a result of shame, which can lead to some other really ugly things.

depression, anxiety, substance abuse, eating disorders

Recognize the brutal lies the devil tells you and start believing that what makes you vulnerable makes you BEAUTIFUL! Rest assured that the darkest thought you could have, the lowest point you can feel, and the furthest place you could run… His grace will always meet us there.

  1. Remind yourself that you are worthy of love and acceptance.
  2. Surrender to your vulnerability.
  3. Have the courage to be imperfect.
  4. Your life is your art.
  5. Vulnerability is most definitely NOT a weakness.

But God doesn’t call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn’t come through.” ~Francis Chan, Crazy Love

Stay encouraged!

xoxo

Turn Your Mess Into Your Message

There is something so neat about people sharing their stories with you. It is a way to connect, laugh, and cry with each other on such a deeper level. They can be inspiring. They can be heartbreaking. They can send chills down your spine.  But as much as I love listening to them, thinking about sharing mine terrifies me.

I was asked by my small group leader to share my testimony. WHAT. My insides were screaming “no” but I politely responded with a “sure.” My anxiety levels were through the roof.

How do I even share my testimony?

What will people think of me?

Is my story “too much?”

With a troubled and confused heart, I prayed and asked God to show me what to share and how to share it.

Ironically, Passion City Church had sent me a free trial of their new devotional called “Simple Pursuit: A Heart After Jesus.” Two days after I said that prayer, the title of the devotional that day was “Your Honest Testimony.”

How cool is God.

Through this, I was taught a couple of things

  1. I am not sharing my testimony to reveal all of my deepest darkest secrets.
  2. My testimony is not “too much.”
  3. Testimonies are for giving real examples of what being brought from death to life really means.
  4. They show how radical a life change in Christ can be.
  5. Our story is not meant to lie dormant.
  6. Reveal how he breathes life into us e v e r y d a y and how His grace is, was, and always will be enough.

Testimonies are stories of hope and redemption. It is so important to be honest- do not worry about covering ANYTHING up. Speak boldly and be enthusiastically proud of your rebirth in Christ.

He has chosen us for our weaknesses, not our strengths. This magnifies our need for Him. Our stories are meant to be told.

“But Paul and Barnabas didn’t back down. Standing their ground they said, “It was required that God’s Word be spoken first of all to you, the Jews. But seeing that you want no part of it—you’ve made it quite clear that you have no taste or inclination for eternal life—the door is open to all the outsiders. And we’re on our way through it, following orders, doing what God commanded when he said, “I’ve set you up as light to all nations. You’ll proclaim salvation to the four winds and seven seas!” When the non-Jewish outsiders heard this, they could hardly believe their good fortune. All who were marked out for real life put their trust in God—they honored God’s Word by receiving that life. And this Message of salvation spread like wildfire all through the region.” Acts 13:46-48

I encourage you to share your testimony with someone. Ask Christ to give you the courage to share your story of being brought from death to life. If it encourages just ONE person, you are furthering the kingdom of God and that is wondrous.