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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I'm in it to END it.

#ENDITMOVEMENT

January 27th – Shine a Light on Slavery.

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S H I N E for the 27 MILLION + who don’t have a voice. We are the Esthers. This is our time such as this. Stand. Shine. We are all stars in the eyes of God – even those who can’t speak for themselves.

http://enditmovement.com/

I’m in it to END it.

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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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Roadside Revelation

Driving back from town on my lunch break today, I decided to take the back way instead of the interstate. Ever have one of those days when you feel like you need as much “fresh air” as humanly possible or you will suffocate. Yeah, it’s one of those days.

So I’m driving along, worship music playing quietly over the radio, trying to drink in as much of the big blue sky, crisp air and sunshine as I can in my brief commute back to the office to ease my mind. As I pass the field of miniature horses and near the church on the left side of the road, my focus shifts to the sign. This week it reads, “We always find time for the things we value most.”

And after I’m done being shallow and applying this statement to everyone else I can think of who clearly have re-prioritizing to do, I realize it’s me who needs the spiritual tune up. In the words of my Southern Sister, Mrs. Beth Moore, “Girlfrien’, you are in a STRONGHOLD.”

The truth of this church sign is washing over me in cycles. What do I find time for? Namely, how much time am I finding in my schedule for God? What about just me and Him – no author in between? How much time am I spending in THE Word? Better yet, if I do find time for God, how much am I truly taking to heart and then putting into action?

Find time. Those two words alone are powerfully convicting. Our faith walk is not a scavenger hunt. There is always time to spend time – real time – with God. The question is not whether we can go out and round up some time. The answer is to be intentional with the time we have.

Thankfully, my missteps are met with conviction from my Heavenly Father and not condemnation I am all too familiar with from Earthly experiences. The lyrics of a song ring tried and true today, “God’s not finished with me yet…”

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Southern Airs

The South is an ambiguous Graceland. A place where the words bless your heart, having slipped slowly off the tongues of many a proper Southern Belle, can take on a myriad of meanings with a slight inflection of tone. A place where cadence is an art form and a raised eye brow assumes the power of God himself on Judgement Day. Home to the front pew dwellers, the good ole boys, and green-thumbed grandmas. A place where most people have entirely too much time on their hands, camouflage is a wardrobe staple, and comfort food will make you slap ya’ momma. Lilly Pulitzer reigns queen and monogrammed merchandise runneth over.

The lovely  eloquently says it this way, “The South is a land where grace and guilt sit shoulder to shoulder, where the past isn’t past, and redemption is ever on offer.”

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Ahh…yes ma’am. Journey just below the Mason-Dixon and you’ll find life lived a little slower and the tea sweeter. But, you see, the problem is a picture only paints 1,000 words. Let’s look a little further, past the perfectly manicured camelias on the front lawn and walk through the red door to white manor house to find dusty Bibles on bed stands. Suddenly the leather bound cover and the gold trimmed pages lose a little luster when we peel back the corner to peer below the surface. We don’t have to go far to tarnish the perceived reality to see what’s real.

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Let me be clear with y’all. These words are neither meant to condemn or judge nor are they a universal assumption.  I was born  in The South and raised Baptist. I love country music and I prefer my comfort foods deep fried and smothered. I own more camouflage (with pink trim) than your average girl raised in the sun. I have a monogrammed purse and I’m proud of it! I’ve blessed more hearts than I can count and at times my Bible has gathered some dust of its own. If you ask me, I’d have to agree with the boys of Florida-Georgia Line…it is all about The South. Yeah, I love the crazy quirks of Southern life.

In the words of Ann Voskamp, I’m preaching Gospel to myself.

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This is a challenge. A wake up call to you and me both, Sister. Y’all we have got to get it together! Let’s stop giving Grace in one breath and rationing guilt in the next. Since when did grace (sans the amazing) become so conditional? I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I want grace that requires me to check the box at the bottom to agree to all its terms and conditions. Do I need to sign in blood, too?

Y’all. Jesus already did that at the cross. Once and for all. 

Can we start living like He did??

I’m so tired of settling for being “the good Bible study girl” I could throw up! What are we doing this for? Why are we wasting our time playing good Christians? We’ve got all the right bumper stickers and perfect church attendance record. We plaster on a big smile and pretend to have it all together. And for what? A gold star?

Girl, please. 

God is not impressed with our novelty awards. He sees straight through our facade to the heart. And the last thing a broken world needs is a bunch of Bible trivia know-it-alls with Southern accents parading around in our UGG boots armed with monogrammed Vera Bradley pocket books. And you can insert whatever name brand makes your heart flutter here, but let’s reign ourselves in for a reality check real quick. Jesus don’t care about the price tags on our stuff because He already paid the ultimate price for us.

Knowing your Bible and knowing Jesus are two totally different things, girlfriend. Can we own that Truth? Can we stop runnin’ our mouths long enough to actually start walkin’ out our faith?

Let’s end with this last graceful thought from Ms. Allison,

It was, of course, the perfect metaphor. We were all plunging into the unknown, the South nothing if not a place of infinite mystery. I had come back, boomeranged yet again, still searching for that elusive missing part, the Southernness—otherness—one finds only in Dixie, a land of stark contradiction, where grace and guilt sit shoulder to shoulder, where the past isn’t past, and redemption is ever on offer.

Redemption is ever on offerand all my Jesus girls said, Amen! The truth is, I’m just as much of a hot southern mess as the next girl and that should make me want to give grace that much more freely. No strings attached. I’m choosing to live that truth this year. How ’bout y’all?

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First White Christmas! 2012

First White Christmas! 2012

Last year, I saw snow for the first time. It was much colder than Hallmark cards quaintly illustrate. But all the more beautiful when you can touch it and feel it powdery and weightless in your hands. As I get ready to travel north for my second White Christmas, I can’t help but reflect on the seasons of God’s Grace that have marked the past year.

Seasons of Life colored with sunsets, blooms, countryside, streams, shorelines, fields, falling leaves, and snowflakes. But life doesn’t always stay inside the lines. Trials and tribulations do not tip toe around our hearts. Death has a way of settling in for the night…reminding us it’s never farther away than our own shadow. Looming. But Life renews our Spirit again each morning as the sun rises with Promise. Then, change comes stomping into our comfort and snatches our security out from under our sure footing.

And yet, somehow, in the midst of the thickening plot, our Father always writes the perfect ending to every season. Like an Ecclesiastes Saga, the mountains and the valleys flow seamlessly together orchestrating a harmonious hymn as the Almighty Conductor just sings over our lives.

From blossoms of Divine opportunity to winters of hardship. Nothing surprises Him. No matter where the road winds.

He is the beginning and the end.  He cradles the very Cosmos in His hands. Still, He loves each of us intimately. His heart hurts from our pain and suffering. He relishes in our relief. He rejoices in our joy! He sits enthroned atop the clouds of the Heavenlies warmed by our hearts of thanksgiving and adoration of His faithfulness.

Seasons of Life come and leave like waves on the shoreline. Ebbing and flowing.  Filled with Hope. Dripping with Grace.

So remember to pause. Ponder the magnificence of His Perfect Penmanship. Gaze as He paints the sunsets with flawless strokes of warm hues and splashes of Light.

Allow yourself to get lost in Awe. Be struck by His wonder.

Perfect Penmanship

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