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. 

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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.