teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name... psalm 86:11

Friday, October 28, 2011

our stories...

At any given moment in my purse you can find: my phone, at least 5 bobby-pins, a bandaid, a tube of lip gloss, my wallet, a tub of gum, an envelope of coupons & Groupons & such, and a book I keep just in case I get stuck bored somewhere. For the past couple months that book has been Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist. I probably should have finished reading it a long time ago, but I made myself go slow with it… trying to postpone the inevitable. Well, last night, I finally finished it.

One of the last chapters of the book was Shauna’s manifesto of how important our stories are… how important it is to share them… how they are a piece of the bigger story that God is telling the world. She writes:

“We dilute the beauty of the gospel story when we divorce it from our lives, our worlds, the words and images that God is writing right now on our souls. If you are a person of faith, it is your responsibility to tell God’s story, in every way you can, every form, every medium, every moment. Tell the stories of love and redemption and forgiveness every time you experience them. Tell the stories of reconciliation and surprise and new life everywhere you find them.”

I never feel like I have stories to tell… I tend to be more of a listener than a talker. I’ve been challenged in that this past year, though, and I feel like this excerpt describes perfectly what I’ve been learning. I didn’t see the power of my own story at first… I was too lost in heartache and frustration and fear to see beyond my emotions to the story God was telling others through me. But slowly, I started listening to their comments and responses to what God was doing in me and M’s life and I saw a theme emerge. It was a theme of life from death, beauty from ashes, good coming from loss. In observing our journey, our friends gleaned hope. Walking through each step with us, their faith in God’s goodness and provision was renewed. It was nothing we said… nothing we did… it was simply the beauty of the gospel displayed in real life, together learning the relevance of Jesus.

We’re still in the middle of this story… there’s been no conclusion, no resolution. The sense of transition and unsettledness has become our norm. And that’s ok. We’re learning a lot from it. At the end of our lives, it will be just one of many stories where we’ll be able to see… to share… the power of hope, of new life, of redemption. Our prayer has always been for God to use us in some way to share His gospel with the world… I’m learning that it happens a lot through simply sharing life and our stories.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

when God speaks...

I have a pretty insatiable addiction to a little website we like to call Pinterest… heard of it?! Oh, you’re addicted too?! Glad I’m in good company… Seriously, it’s like the perfect storm of all my favorite things- it’s a pretty amazing little world. Yet I can’t help but think that when Paul said, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things…”, he didn’t mean play on Pinterest for hours on end! If only…

One of my boards on Pinterest is specifically for quotes that inspire, encourage, remind… I have a lot of them… quotes are another of my guilty pleasures! This is one of my recent finds:

Two thoughts came to my mind with this one-
1. The power of our words we speak to each other.
2. The power of God’s Word over us.

I already posted a blog on the power of what we speak into each other’s lives… that our words can either bring life or death… so I’ll just let you read that one if you want rather than be redundant in my posts. I will say this, though, as a girl whose primary love language is words of affirmation- speak kindness and encouragement whenever you can to those around you. It takes very little effort but it could have an infinite scope of bringing light and life to a broken world.

So onto my second thought, the power of God’s Word over us… here’s what I love about this- God has an uncanny knack for giving us the perfect word… the perfect bit of encouragement or promise or even challenge… at the perfect time to fill the exact spot where our heart is lacking. Who better to provide nourishment for our soul than the creator of it, who knows our heart so intimately and can discern its needs better than even we can? It doesn’t have to be some new profound thought or a deep theological discourse… it’s usually just a little nugget, a simple truth, that He whispers gently to you to remind you He’s there… fully present where you are… and that He’s walking with you on this journey. This is a facet of God’s grace that I’m truly thankful for- that He speaks truth into our lives for wherever we are at.

May we have ears to hear today… and a heart open to the sweet words Jesus wants to fill it with…

Friday, October 21, 2011

disturb us, Lord...

I found this old prayer about a year ago and I remember it really struck a chord in me. It was one of the most honest and daring prayers I’d ever heard. At the time I was in a season of desperately clinging to what was comfortable and what was known… but my heart ached to be in a place where I could echo these words too. In true life fashion, I had forgotten about this prayer until last night when I randomly stumbled upon the paper I had written it down on. Reading it from the perspective of where I’m at now versus back then gives me hope… I find that now I’m finally ready to share in this plea for the Lord to disturb my little bubble and shatter my comforts in exchange for the adventure of following Jesus with reckless abandon. Thought I’d share it on here in hopes that it might resonate with others too…
Disturb us, Lord,
When we are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord,
When with the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst for the waters of life,
Having fallen in love with life
We have ceased to dream of eternity,
And in our efforts to build a new earth
We have allowed our vision of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord,
To dare more boldly,
To venture on wilder seas.
Where storm will show Your mastery,
Where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars.
We ask You to push back the horizons of our hopes,
And to push us in the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.
This we ask in the name of our
Captain, who is Jesus Christ.

~Sir Francis Drake (1577)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

reflections on september...

I tend to be anxiety prone… it’s ridiculous really… this moment of panic, of feeling like the time is ticking and I still have some big task to complete before that last grain of sand falls to the bottom of the hour glass. It’s completely unfounded and ridiculous, I realize… but it’s how my mind has always worked. There are two moments that get me the most- the first one is New Year’s Eve. As everyone is counting down 10-9-8… I inevitably have a momentary heart attack from feeling like I forgot something and it’s soon going to be too late. The other is my birthday, where I always feel like there was something else I should have accomplished before I add another candle to my cake, but I can never quite put my finger on it. Like I said… ridiculous.

This year, I made a tangible list I could cross off as I go… and I wanted to start the year off with something other than anxiety… hence, the September Challenge. They say that it takes 21 days to form a habit- so after 30 days, I was really hoping I would have conquered this whole “give thanks in all circumstances” thing. Now that I’m on the other side, I wouldn’t say that I’m a pro at being grateful or anything… but I did learn a few things along the way. It’s nothing profound, just lessons that take root a little deeper when you’ve experienced them firsthand…

  • sometimes the things we SHOULD be most grateful for are the things we take for granted because they’re always there and we just get used to their presence
  • every good and perfect gift is from God… not from coincidence or from good luck… but from our gracious Creator who knows what we need and when we need it
  • writing every day what you’re thankful for can be addicting… and contagious… and severely alters your prayer life
  • being thankful for a crockpot is no less holy than being thankful for a good sermon…

Some days I had to really stop and reflect on the day to wrestle up three things I could write in my journal… but other days, there were too many to count. Our perspective of blessing is an ebb and flow, a constant give and take. The overall message reiterated to my heart, though, was that whether in plenty or in want, there is always… and I do mean always… something to be thankful for. God’s extravagant love and his crazy abundant grace should alone be enough to fill our hearts for a lifetime of gratefulness.

Perspective is a choice no one else can make for us… gratitude isn’t an automatic response- we’re more prone to react with jealousy, comparison, selfishness… but like one of my favorite quotes says: “The grass isn’t always greener on the other side, it’s greener where you water it.” May we learn to “water” our lot in life and cultivate a perspective of appreciation. May we get to a place of saying, “My cup runneth over”… because if we stop and think about it, we really do have more than we could ever need.

Monday, October 17, 2011


Yesterday at church we started a new series- the premise of which is to sift through the truth and the untruth in common Christian clichés… I’m kind of excited… Here’s why- I hate, loath, despise, *insert every other synonym here* the pat answers that we throw around in the raw and honest moments of life. While intended to bring encouragement and hope, these “one size fits all” statements usually end up being salt in the wounds of our confusion, pain, doubt, and struggle. They’re unsuccessful pep talks that only tell half the story.

Cliché #1… that God has a perfect plan for your life… ironically mentioned by yours truly in my last post. [Confession time- while hating said clichés, I find myself using them on a rare occasion. Forgive me.] Now some may be thinking, “What’s wrong with this statement? Isn’t that biblical?” But here’s the danger with this cliché- we get so stuck in thinking that God has a specific blueprint for our lives that we can become frozen by fear, over-analyzing every single little decision because we’re desperate not to step outside of His will and His purpose for us. Life becomes a cautious tightrope walk along the one thin path that we think God has set for us. How could living in this kind of incessant fear be the abundant life that Jesus spoke of?

Ok, enough rambling… what I really wanted to share was an analogy that was used in yesterday’s sermon because I thought it was a great picture of the gift of life and freedom that God has given us. Imagine with me, if you will, that our life is a painting…

If we fall victim to clichés such as the one above, it’s as though God has simply handed us a “paint by number” picture where the shapes have already been drawn and the colors already dictated. It’s just a matter of us going through the motions of carrying out what’s already been determined.

...instead, what if it’s more like…

God’s given us a big, blank canvas. He puts in our hands paints and brushes- the elements of life outside of our control- and says, “Paint me a picture. The edges of the canvas are the boundaries I’ve set for you, but you have the freedom and pleasure to create that which is beautiful and that which shows the world my love on the space in between. What are you passionate about? Paint it… What brings you joy? Paint it… What do you dream of? Paint it…”

This is God’s heart for his followers… He redeems our life so we can be a display of the beauty, the love, and the freedom that comes from being His child. What an honor that he would allow us to have a voice and play a part in what is created on the canvas of our lives.

May we paint a picture that shows others the heart God has for us and inspires
 them to want to paint too…

Saturday, October 15, 2011

still waiting...

Me and M were talking with a friend last night about the similar place of life, work, and ministry we’re all at… feeling a restlessness and discontentment with where God has us currently… trying to make the most of it while at the same time wishing desperately to be moved on to the next thing. I know it’s probably a pretty relatable season for others out there- me and M have been trying to awkwardly find our way through it for a year now… some days better than others. Last night we were talking about the frustration that comes with this season- the process of putting yourself out there, letting hopes build, only to have doors closed, all while trying to foster a sense of trust and faith that the Lord DOES indeed still have a plan and purpose for you.

Then I opened my Bible this morning to the perfect Psalm that encompassed everything from last night’s conversation. I love the honesty and emotion in the Psalms… they inspire me to have the same raw conversations with God… he already knows the good, the bad, and the ugly so why try to hide it with flowery language and carefully worded prayers? This morning I seriously found myself thinking, “Psalm 13, get out of my head!”…

It starts with questions and statements like:
  • How much longer God?
  • Did you forget about me?
  • Are you going to let me suffer from these mind games, or are you going to do something?
  • Am I going to be unhappy forever?
  • How come everyone else is being blessed and “succeeding” but me?
  • I need answers!
  • I need some direction and guidance!
Sound familiar at all? Have you been there? So after all this rambling and venting, we come across a small but mighty word that changes the current of the conversation… the word “but”. In David’s honest questioning of God, he pauses and makes a statement that seems to contradict everything he’s just spewed out and it starts with that 3 letter transition. He says, “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me.” And that’s it. That’s the end of it.

Here’s what I love… even in David’s discontentment with his current circumstances, he realizes that God is still good, He still loves David, and He is still in control… and that’s enough for him. This world and what it has to offer is not the end all be all- it’s not what defines us- and our circumstances aren’t the gauge of God’s involvement in our lives. The Hebrew word for “trust” David used is “batah”… it literally means to attach oneself to something firm and solid. There’s a sense of safety and security, but also a confident expectation because of the object your “batah” is connected to. Here’s the thing, people are going to fail you and life is always going to be changing, but the one thing we can stop and rest in is that God is unchanging and He is faithful. His timing isn’t always the same as ours and His plans don’t always match ours which causes tension in us, but we can have hope and have courage because He is the only thing worthy of trusting in.

May we learn what it truly means to “batah” in the Lord… and may it be enough for us when we’re waiting on His plans and purposes for our lives…