Jesus.

I seriously hope that no one ever looks at me or my life and thinks – she is so religious. That honestly makes me nauseous. I just hope the way I choose to live just reflects the love of my Savior  Jesus.

I like to think of religion as product packaging. (Disclaimer: I’m a marketing nerd.) It’s a man made label that we use to give identity to how we relate to, worship, serve God. I don’t think there’s necessarily anything inherently wrong with that, but religion is not what it’s all about. Jesus did not come to establish religion. He came to save us from our sins out of selfless, perfect love and make it possible for us to have a real, intimate relationship with God. It’s about relationship not formalities or routine or a schedule. It’s about being real and vulnerable and naked before God. It’s about intimately knowing Him and loving Him and letting Him do the same.

This might seem trite, but I see empty religious shells everywhere I look and it’s perplexing to me. How did we get it so wrong? I don’t ever want my relationship with Christ to be chalked up to religion or look like a task list instead of abandoned, surrendered love. I’m only human. I’m sinful. I need a Savior.

I guess I am trying to live in a way that says, Thank you Jesus for saving me – I love you. We don’t have to jump through any hoops for Jesus. His grace is a free gift. We just have to accept His invitation to a relationship filled with the love and peace we were all created to long for. It’s found in Jesus and nowhere else, in nothing else, in no one else. Just Jesus. There is nothing methodical about love, especially when it comes to Jesus. Trust me you’ll never get bored with it or be betrayed by it. His love is brilliant and creative and perfect. His love never fails. Ever.

It’s just that simple and just that perfect to love and be loved by Jesus. And that’s a good thing because most days I’m kind of a hot mess in need of someone who loves me no matter how ugly I’m acting or thinking or talking. He just takes me as I am.

Breathing deep right now. Then I think – Jesus is closer to me than my own breath in this moment and forever. He will never leave me or forget me or forsake me. I can never do anything, or not do anything, that will make Him love me any more or any less. He just loves me. Period. Now and forever. Since before I was born. And nothing, not even the power of the pit of hell, can snatch me from His hand.

That’s some Good News y’all.

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Reflect & Rewind

WHOA. What happened to February 2014? I feel like someone just ripped out a whole month from my calendar and threw it out the car window!

As days quickly slip into months past in this brand new year, I’m realizing my need to live intentionally as I set time aside to slow…and be still in His presence. To feel the breeze against my face and Acknowledge. Lysa TerKeurst has challenged me to the core to BE a NOTICER of life and the simple beauty of of God’s hand all around me. Emily Freeman has given me Seven Little Ways to be present, to show up with what I have right now, and make beautiful art out of the everyday.  Natalie Grant and Charlotte Gambill have Dared me to Be all that God created and intended me to be by stepping out in faith not in sight into the future He wrote for me. Ann Voskamp poetically invited me to believe that this is my time such as this to shine as the star in the sky, amongst the galaxies, my Creator formed me to be.

Powerful Words. Absolute Truth.

Right now as I write the honeyed scent of fresh flowers is lingering in my office. I drift into reflection. February has been extra sweet to my senses this time around and swept me clean off my feet from Coast to Coast in a blur of blessings. For Valentine’s Day I made a surprise visit to see my boyfriend in Portland, Oregon. Our entire relationship has been long distance, mostly from one coast to the other, and this was our first Valentine’s Day together, so it was a much needed and extra special trip.

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The next weekend I traveled south to Tampa, Florida for my very first Dare to Be event with my sister-in-law. Wow…what a gift. Not only was I blessed by the conference and left completely wonderstruck by Natalie’s notes, but I had the opportunity to be a part of it in a small way as a Revolutionary. I walked away with a grateful heart, a stirred soul and completely leveled by God’s grace. I can honestly say I have not been so moved by worship since I responded to an alter call at youth camp when I was 18 and gave my life and heart to Christ forever.

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Tears of joy. Streaming.

I say all that to say this: I have been praying for God to reveal Himself to me in new ways this year and two months in I feel absolutely infused by His presence. I am left in awe of how He moves. And what totally blows me away is that these are just mere glimpses of His glory. Can you even fathom Heaven?

God is so good and my heart is so thankful.

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Anything, not Everything

A seemingly small trick I learned recently from Lysa TerKeurst has shed some new light on an old favorite script, Philippians 4:13. It’s called 10 fingers and it goes like this: I. Can. Do. All. Things. Through. Christ. Who. Strengthens. Me.  (Don’t forget to count with your fingers!)

It’s a little like counting to 10 when you feel like you’re about to overreact about something silly in the heat of the moment. When I feel suddenly overwhelmed with stress, worry, doubt, fear…I simply count to 10 and remind myself of how awesome my God is!

It’s an amazing sense of peace that comes when you take a moment to remember how big God is and that literally ANYHTING is possible with Him. It’s also humbling to recognize that outside Him nothing of value is possible.

But I’ve come to realize that just because God can accomplish anything, things we cant even imagine, in and through us by His strength, that doesn’t mean I need to go out and attempt to conquer EVERYTHING I can get my hands on. Just because God can make something happen doesn’t mean He will. That thing, goal, dream, task might not be for us. If I’ve learned anything in 24 years it’s this: if it’s not in God’s will for my life it ain’t gonna happen.

So I’m trying to learn to live in the moment God has for me right now and stop constantly striving towards the future. I don’t want to miss the present! I know God has me right where I am for a reason, a purpose. It might not be what I envisioned, but I certainly don’t know best. God does! He designed me and He wrote my story. He knows how it ends and all the stops in between. And He pulled me out of eternity and placed here for such a time as this. I may not know what my future holds or even what tomorrow holds, but I know Who holds me. Sometimes I just need to remind myself, God’s got this. I don’t need to have it all figured out because He already knows what’s ahead and the reasons for what’s behind.

I am challenging myself to keep my eyes open and my heart ready. To be obedient to what God is placing on my heart right now. To take the next little step of faith. To stay in his Word and let the light of his Truth guide me towards the destiny He has for me.

This year I want to read more than I’ve ever read. I want to DO something. I want to take steps of faith. I want to trust God. I want to decrease and I want Him increase. I want to give him the things I’ve been holding onto so tightly. I want to let go in full surrender. I want to be obedient where I am. I want to give more and worry less.

I want to let God do His thing and stop trying to force my thing.

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“[Waiting] is a kind of work that happens only in the secret place of abiding in the presence of Christ even in the midst of broken dreams and tired circumstance.” ~Emily P. Freeman

Joy & Peace in the midst of a season of waiting. Everyone is longing, searching for peace. But only when we find ourselves resting in His Presence will we find this Peace we seek. Peace in the brokenness. Peace in the tiredness. Peace in the striving, the running, the reaching, the dying.

Peace in a life riddled with trials and tribulations that sap our souls dry. Peace that comes rushing in like cool water and soaks up through the cracks of our wasteland – the desert in our hearts.

Philippians 4:4-7 “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

Rejoice: praise, secure, joy, settled.

Joy, not a feeling.

“Happiness is based on circumstances, while joy is based on God’s love and faithfulness. Happiness is rooted in positive emotions, while joy is something more. It’s a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23), something that God divinely gives us through the power of his Holy Spirit. Joy is like a medicine when our hearts are sick and the pain seems unbearable.” ~Christine Caine 

 Joy, that slips through the cracks of our soul to make us whole again.

Joy, that pours into our hearts with the fullness of Him.

Hope, Peace, Joy, Love. A candle for each, not one without the other – all together. Life by the Spirit. Advent.

So light your candle and place it in the sill. Wait. Expect. The Lord is near; Christmas is dawning. Our Prince of Peace is close. Nearer still than the very breath you inhale.

Wait…watch…breathe in His presence – “Sacred shaping happens in the waiting.” ~Emily P. Freeman

“[Waiting] is a…

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Dream Board & Beyond

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I made my first dream board this past January in the beginning stages of what I have come to fondly regard as my quarter-life crisis. And I can confidently say that I am a HUGE fan of this inspirational tool. True to form, I have to admit I went a little bit overboard, but I can’t help it! I have a strange obsession with the aesthetics of magazine clippings, pensive quotes, and artfully crafted copy that resonate with me and my life. I admire the beauty of the truths that words can speak to the heart because my past has made me mindful of the inverse.  Words can be a destructive force against the spirit, too. The Bible gently reminds us of the raw power of the words we choose to use many times over, but my favorite version of this truth is found in Proverbs 18:21, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”

Power of death and life. 

Wow. It never fails to amaze and humble me that the Bible can use one sentence, one verse, to profoundly impact our perspective. Are my words a gift of life to others in my day or a kiss of death? Do I succumb to my emotions in the heat of my trivial frustrations or do I exemplify self-discipline and choose my words more wisely? Am I willing to pause to ask God for His grace and wisdom before I react on impulse?

Am I a slave to my emotions or do I live in the freedom of God’s promises?

As I look across my room at my dream board perched atop my bookshelf, a particular quote jumps out at me: “Being uniquely you is truly your one obligation on the planet.”

Ladies, we are the Queens of Comparison. The Debbie Doubters. It would seem sometimes we are the cheerleaders of our fears. Why? Why do we willingly submit ourselves to such torture? Because somewhere along the way lies from others, or even ourselves, made their way into our hearts and set up camp. I can’t. I’m not smart enough. I’m not talented enough. I’m not tall enough. I don’t measure up. I’m only mediocre. I’m not like her.

STOP!

Here is all you need to know. 1) You are enough because God says you are and God is never wrong. 2) You don’t have to be like anyone else because God made you exactly the way you are for a specific purpose only you can fulfill. No one else can fulfill your God-given destiny, so why on earth would you want to live out someone else’s when yours is designed by God exactly, perfectly, precisely just for you and no one else!

Words can really affect us, can’t they? I think sometimes we discount the impact of what we allow to come out of our mouths and how we enable the words of others to have authority in our lives. Words are powerful and profound. To quote Holley Gerth, “Sticks and stones could break her bones, but it’s words that have broken her heart.

If you haven’t already, put Holley Gerth on your reading list. I read two of her books, You’re Already Amazing and its complement You’re Made for a God-Sized Dream, this summer when I moved home to be with my mom through her breast cancer treatment and it was like she was reaching through the pages to hold my hand and walk through the steps of faith I needed to be taking. Her books were absolutely instrumental in helping get to the place I am at today in my faith and in my life. And this praise is completely unsolicited BTW. Her words will move you in all the right directions.

It is easy to stumbled and become ensnared in the traps of the lies, doubts, and fears in our lives. So, why not establish some safe guards? After all, God tells us, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” I keep a list of truths in two places in my room, my closet and my bathroom, of who God says I am in Christ. I also have Joyce Meyer’s version of this list on my phone’s home screen. And I keep my dream board, which is covered in inspirational quotes, words, and images, where I can see it ever single day! I love to make “scripture keepers” with index card rings and I try to keep it with me in my purse wherever I go. I have two mason jars on my bookshelf, one for “Blessings” and one for “Prayers”, and I write little notes and drop them in the jar from time to time. Equip yourself with the Truth! Write them on your heart, on your bathroom mirror, on your wallets, on your desk, on your phones. Little notes of joy and truth and love, noteworthy, veering you off the self-destructive path that leads to nowhere.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, 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.”

Being uniquely you is truly your one obligation on the planet. Isn’t it true? Each of us called to run our race, the one marked out for us by our Creator. He plucked us out of eternity for our time such as this. Packs our bag with free will and a Divine Instruction Book and sends us on our way to a broken world to shine His light. To love – ourselves included.

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