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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I Need to Take 5…or a Destination Trip to an Exotic Island Bungalow

The joys of moving back home with your parents after living independently for five years can evoke feelings that are actually quite the opposite of joy at times. Some days living at home is my saving grace yet others it is the last straw of my sanity that snaps like a brittle twig leaving my nerves frayed and frazzled without hope of mending. The very source of the seemingly irreparable state of my mental distress. A swirling torrent of disillusionment.

Okay. Cue the world’s smallest violin. Maybe I’m being a tad bit dramatic and melancholy. But don’t call the #FirstWorldProblems police just yet. Let me explain.

As an independent soul with introverted tendencies, I cherish my quiet time all to myself, but that is rarely acknowledged as necessary by former empty nesters relapsing into a state smothering intrusiveness. This is usually preferred to be labeled as affection or quality time. I tend to gravitate more towards sensory overload or slow asphyxiation.

All hyperboles aside, I don’t vent to be spiteful at all. Of course, I absolutely cherish this season of my life, which has led me back home for an indefinite period. No, maybe I’m not slap-happy every single second. I have brief lapses of sanity when I secretly fantasize about a weekend away left to my own devices. But I know I will look back and cling to these memories for dear life. It is an opportunity I do not take lightly or for granted. I dearly love and adore and respect and admire my parents. They have raised me up in the Word and I am who I am today because of their guidance and wisdom and lavish love. And I am so beyond words grateful to be blessed with such amazing parents. Not many can say that for one reason or another and I’m humbled by the honor.

Malicious intent is certainly not the motivation for this post tonight. Simply an immediate need to feel a keyboard beneath my fingers and vigorously express raw emotions in the wake of an unforeseen wave of invasiveness. I still don’t think I’ve fully adjusted to having to answer to someone other than myself. Sometimes I just want to come home from work and eat cake for dinner and take a night nap and not have to feed the horses…or the dogs or the cat. Moving from the conveniences of city life to rural country have also required some getting used to.

Normally, if I found myself panting from the suffocation of forced interaction with someone other than the little voice inside my head I would just hop across the street to Starbucks or Panera for some “me time” with a coffee and my laptop. Or peruse through Publix aimlessly with an empty stomach. (Word to the wise, not always the best choice.)

However, that’s not exactly possible when the only place within 60 miles of my house with WIFI is called The Red Onion Grill joined to a 24/7 truck stop. I’ll let you paint that picture of tranquility. You get my point. So my only hope for silent solitude is my bedroom, but that’s never guaranteed unless take my laptop to the bath tub with me. And that still doesn’t stop my mom from breaking and entering.

Well, as the saying goes..her ears must have been burning. Mom just walked in my room. I have to put on my technical support hat now.

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Just a few snapshots from Christmas and New Year’s…

Neligh, Nebraska Sunset. Riding dirt roads with my love :)

Neligh, Nebraska Sunset. Riding dirt roads with my love :)

sruff2

Scruff

Neligh2 N3 Neligh

Tom the Turkey. Forever my #TurkeyCrushTuesday

Tom the Turkey. Forever my #TurkeyCrushTuesday

I couldn’t have imagined a better way to end 2013. There’s nothing that warms my soul more than spending all my time with the ones I love without a care in the world. And time to rest in His Presence. Cherishing and remembering every moment. Moments you wish would never end. Moments you wish you could rewind and play over and over again. Moments wrapped up head to toe in camo and the arms of the one you love most at the top of a tree stand. Moments opening presents and new memories. Moments riding down back country dirt roads with a little twang on the radio and a hand to hold. Hymns of the Christ-Child linger in my heart long after the Christmas Eve service. I gaze upwards at the stars on a crisp Advent Night and wonder what Mary pondered and tucked away in her heart.

Yeah…2013…it may have had its highs and lows, but He whispers to my heart that this year will be crowned with His goodness and overflow with the plenty of His promises. I breathe in Grace and breathe out my fears.

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven." ~Ecclesiastes 3:1

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.” ~Ecclesiastes 3:1

Ring-Ring! It’s 2014!

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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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My Jesse Tree

So, I am currently reading through Ann Voskamp’s The Greatest Gift and she is truly “Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas” page.by.page. I’m head over heels for Jesus all over again in such a beautiful way.

PS I’m pretty proud of my pinecone tree topper :)

My Jesse Tree

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All in good time.

New Years Eve. Big city. Bright lights. Contagious energy.  I had the dress, the shoes, the coat. Hand in hand with the guy I love strolling the city sidewalks. All the elements a girl could ever want for a perfect NYE were there (with a cherry on top.) I was beaming on the outside, but secretly my mind was heavy.  With stars in my eyes, I tried to suppress my churning thoughts of the future and what exactly this new year was going to ring in…or out.

Press rewind.  The past year had proved interesting to say the least. 2012 delivered the full spectrum of all life had to offer right to my doorstep.  Rush delivery.  No signature needed. Ready or not. No return policy. Of course, some I welcomed with open arms. Love, namely, swept me off my feet like a breath of fresh, spring air.  True to my southern ties, I was beginning to think, at the withering age of 22, I might as well assume the Lord had called me to a life of singleness and I had better locate some literature on the subject so I would have something to read while I died alone and my ovaries collected dust.

All jokes aside, the start of 2012 had felt rather promising. I had met the love of my life.  The stresses of college graduation coupled with the inherent “first big girl” job search had seemingly paid off. And just in time to sign a lease on an affordable first apartment with my best friend.   The guy. The degree. The “career” job. The new digs. And a best friend to share it with!

Everything seemed to be working out perfect.

But my lofty ambitions for my shiny first job, AKA fast track to a lucrative career in marketing and everything I ever (thought) I wanted, would soon lose its luster.  It had been hardly six months and I was desperate to escape the toxic, cut throat environment I was entangled in.  Stress was taking its toll, physically, mentally, spiritually. I felt stuck. It was soul sapping. I was completely drained in every way.

I never imagined a job could have such a debilitating effect on my life.

Thankfully, God has blessed me with some truly incredible people I’m lucky enough to call my support group.  I would have been totally lost without the loving, unwavering support of the relationships in my life.

After tireless months of job searching and beating my head against the wall to no avail, there was finally a light at the end of the tunnel.  My one way ticket out of that pit wasn’t what I imagined, but I didn’t care.  At that point, I felt like a fish out of water.

I was gasping for air.

I gladly accepted an office assistant position that had opened up at the local law firm where my roommate worked. It wasn’t a glamorous job, but it paid the bills and I was beyond grateful to be delivered from the ninth level of HELL I was drowning in everyday.

During the eight months I worked at the law office, I was afforded time to do some soul searching while I scoured southern Florida for yet another “career” job in the marketing industry. Months of networking, applications, and interviews with no cigar can trump anyone’s confidence and sense of self-worth. Was I even looking in the right places? Did I even really want to be in marketing and advertising? Should I be considering other career options? Maybe I should get my Master’s or go back to school for something totally different. What did I want to do? Where did I want to live? Had business school been the right choice?

Y’all. The quarter-life crisis is real. 

(Somebody’s got an Amen!)

All these questions had been racing through my mind for weeks now, keeping me awake at night, so it was hard to silence the dull roar of thoughts about the future as I tried to savor the last hours of my visit with my boyfriend and make the most of our NYE together. We live on opposite coastlines right now – I’m in Florida, he’s in Oregon – so every second we get to see each other not on a computer screen is precious.  The last place I wanted my thoughts was in the future when I simply longed to be in the moment with him.

By the time my plane landed back in Florida my mind was set on exploring a new career path. And so the roller coaster ride began. I traveled all the way back to an old high school ambition to study dermatology.  Before I made the decision to continue my volleyball career at a business school, I had somehow spun the career wheel and landed in the medical field. Over the next six months or so I delved deep into the career possibilities in skin care ranging from Esthetician to Dermatologist to business owner. I researched and visited schools, spent countless hours gathering information from blogs and websites, compiled a list of industry professionals I planned to contact in hopes gaining their advice and knowledge. I found myself spending my afternoons and evenings glued to my computer screen or sitting indian style in front of the self help shelf at Books A Million.

I should mention for the first few months the only soul who knew anything about my elaborate career change scheme was my roommate and best friend. I dreaded the thought of having to explain myself and my plans to everyone else in my life and it was just easier to keep it a big secret. Eventually I opened the can of worms against ever fiber of my being straining to keep putting it off. Shortly after the unveiling, though, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was a shock that reverberated in my mind for the weeks following and altered my perspective of the future. At the time I was heavily considering staying in the South Florida area and enrolling in the Esthiology program at Aveda Institute. I decided to put that plan on hold to move home to be with my mom and possibly enroll at the school’s Tallahassee location when things calmed down.

Fast forward to today and all I can say is…wow. God is truly in our midst. I may have taken myself on a few detours, but He never lets me stray too far without bringing me back to where I need to be – to where He needs me to be. God uses our deepest trials to lead and direct us to a greater purpose. And it often takes coming to the end of ourselves to really seek Him with all our hearts and everything we have. He can transform any of our circumstances into something beautiful and good no matter how hopeless or desolate they may seem in the moment. I believe this with all my heart now because I’ve experienced it so deeply and purely in my own life.

I feel like I’m finally leaving the valley and have my eyes set on the mountain. God has given me a season of rest and restoration in my time at home with my family. He provided an escape from the toxicity of where I found myself and gave me time to heal and prepare for what’s ahead. Today, my mom is cancer free and in full remission from her sickness. Praise you, Lord! When I finally gave my search for work over to God and stopped trying to fix everything in my own power by trusting in Him, I find myself with not one amazing job, but two! I have the privilege of coaching the JV volleyball team at my old high school and in just two weeks I will be employed full time. I have since settled back in to my old church home. Please know there are so many more blessings in my life (just in the present moment I am typing!) I could continue listing and listing! But by far the richest reward, I have had time – free of distractions and stress – to spend in God’s word and nurture my relationship with Him. I’ve learned a lot about who I am in Him and I have so much to be grateful for, but mostly I’ve learned how desperately I need my Lord.

Apart from Him I have nothing, but with Him I can do anything. And it will happen in His perfect timing. No sooner. No later.

That truth is so beautiful it takes my breath away.

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