When Chaos Meets Grace

running late

It started out as a great morning until it was time to get dressed. Suddenly everything in my closet was unappealing. I put on outfit after outfit and felt uncomfortable in all of them. This need to make a decision left me racing against the clock. Why can’t I wear sweatpants to work? I feel great in sweatpants. Literally outfits that I wore two weeks ago, outfits I picked out and received as Christmas gifts, left me feeling self-conscious. I don’t look good in anything! I muttered to myself as I threw another dress across my bed. Everything I thought I might like to wear couldn’t be found. I rummaged through the laundry baskets of clean clothes that I had yet to put away. Why did I not put these clothes up? New rule: don’t go to bed until all of the clothes are put away. Also, I hate laundry. My room looked like a tornado blew through it. And that clock reminds me that even though my hair is flat, I won’t have time to curl it.

Have you had one of those mornings? I know I’m not the only one.

And when I finally resolved to put on something and leave it on, I dashed out the door, determined that the rest of the day would be better.

Well, it was better until I got to work and realized I forgot the one thing I couldn’t forget at the house. I had printed off these papers and put them in a cute little folder and placed them in a very specific spot so I would not forget them when I left.

Of course I forgot them.

How could I forget them? I’m the responsible one! I have to run home and grab them. Could I make it there and back before the 8:45am meeting? I had to try.

I sped away, driving down Barker Cypress like a freakin’ NASCAR driver. All the while trying to breathe and convince myself that it’s not that big of a deal. Yet, I couldn’t help but give myself a mental beating. I should be the confident one, the organized one, the timely one, the responsible one. The mishaps and mistakes of the morning weighed down on me as I thanked the Lord for another green light.

In that moment God gave me an image that I can’t get out of my head. He spoke to me so clearly in that moment of panic and chaos. The image? Scales.

These scale balanced between Responsible and Irresponsible. Organized and DisorganizedPerfect and Imperfect.

I realized I work so hard to make sure the scale is tipping in favor of all of these expectations I have for myself. Any time I mess up, or fail to meet my own expectations, I feel as if a weight is taken off the pan labeled “Responsible” and put on the condemning side called “Irresponsible”. Unfortunately it didn’t stop there. All of these smaller scales turned in to one large scale labeled “Worthy” and “Unworthy”.

God showed me that I created this weighted system equating anything less than perfect as unworthiness.

I know God’s Truth, I know this is not of Him.

As I turned the corner to my house, 2 Corinthians 12:9 flooded my heart and mind, “My grace is sufficient for you”. God clearly and tenderly spoke to me: If I, a powerful, holy, and perfect God, show you grace in your imperfections, then you must also show grace to yourself.

By becoming my own judge, I’m denying God the ability to shower me with His grace. By trying to be perfect on my own, I am denying the righteousness of Jesus and limiting the power of the cross.

So I gave all of that to God–my crazy morning, my failures, my unrealistic expectations, my desire to be perfect. I received His grace with open arms. I committed to leaving the scales behind. And it turned out to be a really great day! (Not to mention the cardio workout I got from running around like a crazy person.)

If you find yourself in frantic mode today, remember that God’s grace goes further than we can even imagine! He longs to cover you and me with His acceptance, even in our not so admirable moments. We have to slow down enough to see it. We have to make our inner judge shut up long enough to see that God doesn’t look on us with judgmental eyes, moving weights around to determine our worth. Simply because He created us, saved us, and redeemed us, He finds us worthy of His love.

 

In the spirit of transparency, how does God speak to you in your chaotic moments?

 

The Problem with Fear

The problem with fear is that it keeps us from hearing, believing, and walking in the Truth. It is the enemy’s greatest tool. Fear overwhelms us and confuses us. It creates a murky fog that blurs our vision and understanding of God.

I am often crippled by fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of what might happen. I play the “what-if” game in my head way too often. This causes me to believe that all of these “what-ifs” might actually be true, or might become true at some point. So I start living in what is false instead of confidently walking in what is True.

Fear can come in many different forms.

We fear bugs, darkness, or zombies. (Any Walking Dead fans out there?)

We fear physical pain, disease, or death.

We fear emotional pain, betrayal, or rejection.

We fear embarrassment.

We fear failure.

We fear hatred.

We fear lies.

We fear vulnerability.

We fear new cities and making new friends.

We fear forgiveness and second chances.

For several months now, the song No Longer Slaves by Bethel Music has captivated me every time I listen to it. I just have this moment with the Lord. It’s a time of confessing my tendency to live in fear, and then it culminates in this sort of battle cry that I am no longer a slave to fear!

I’ve been wanting to write about this song for so long I just feel like I never have the right words, never know just what to say. Also because the song certainly speaks for itself and God can speak His powerful words of freedom and redemption to you without me.

But today it has a new meaning. Most of the time I think about fear in regards to the external or emotional fears that I have–fears of not measuring up or getting sick or losing a loved one. But today I’m overcome with the realization that we often fear the Truth.

We fear hearing the Truth.

We fear telling the Truth.

We don’t want to hear it. Especially if one of the emotional or physical things we fear happens in real life. The Truth is not always easy to hear. The Truth may contradict everything our hearts and minds are screaming at us.

When we’re panicked, Truth says, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

When we have failed, Truth says, “We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37)

When we want to seek revenge or walk away from a relationship, Truth says, “Forgive one another just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32)

When we’re ready to give up and don’t understand what’s going on, Truth says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5)

There is also a moment when we are the ones who must speak the Truth to a hurting friend. Fear kicks in. They won’t like what I’m about to say, we think to ourselves. Or compassion and empathy is in overdrive as we begin to understand why our friend thinks and feels a certain way, a way that contradicts Scripture. Instinct says to pat their shoulder, affirm, encourage. That’s the easy choice. But that’s not always the right choice.

When we’re tempted to condemn or dismiss, instead we must “speak the truth in love.” (Ephesians 4:15)

When we don’t want to boldly proclaim God’s Truth, instead we must “not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord.” (2 Timothy 1:8)

Each of these situations points back to one thing: knowledge of the Truth. You can’t receive the Truth if you don’t know it and believe it. And you certainly can’t speak the Truth if you don’t know it and believe it. That’s where it has to start. We have to start reading God’s Word, soaking it up, not trying to find pieces of Scripture that support what we want it to say. We have to know it. We have to believe it. We have to let it penetrate our hearts and transform our minds.

Because there are going to be more and more opportunities for each of us to face this particular fear. We will reach a time in our lives where we need to hear the Truth and we need to be receptive to it. We will also find ourselves in a place that requires us to boldly speak Truth to someone. We must be prepared to give a defense for the hope that we have in Christ (1 Peter 3:15).

Whatever fear threatens to enslave you, discover His Truth.

Claim this powerful song and God’s Truth today. You are no longer a slave to your fear. God has rescued you from every fear that entangles you so that you can confidently walk in–and proclaim–His Perfect Truth.

Check out No Longer Slaves by: Bethel Music

 

 

15 Things I Learned While Eating Whole30

I really tried to list 30 things I learned while eating Whole30, you know, because of the redundancy of the number 30…but that’s completely unnecessary. So here are 15 spiritual, and not-so-spiritual things, that I learned.

  1. My sweet tooth is worse than I realized.

Every day (literally every day) I smiled at Drew and said, “You know what sounds good?” He would shake his head and say, “an apple?” or “carrots?” No way! Ice cream. The answer was always ice cream.

  1. When you eat food that your body actually uses, you get hungry faster.

I had to eat more food at every meal and eat “snacks” throughout the day or life was coming to an end. I didn’t realize how so much of the food I usually eat just sits in my stomach making me feel full and sluggish for a long time. Probably not a good thing.

  1. Almond Butter saved me.

No joke. Did you know you can melt almond butter and pour it over egg & banana “pancakes” like syrup? Delish!

  1. I don’t have to put sugar in my coffee. (I’m a real adult now!)

I’m just going to take a bow while you take a moment to applaud me.

  1. My determination is stronger than I thought it was.

But seriously. I even made DOZENS of chocolate chip cookies and didn’t even lick the cookie dough off my fingers! I did not even lick my fingers, y’all. Major accomplishment.

  1. Carrots and apples are not the enemy.

I actually became okay with fruits and veggies being my go-to snacks and desserts.

  1. Sometimes carrots and apples are the enemy.

But sometimes I just wanted a stinkin’ cookie.

  1. I’m very vocal about how difficult and annoying things are, but that doesn’t mean I’m giving up.

This goes for lots of things. Like if I’m working out and being deprived of oxygen, I’ll tell you this is awful. But will I keep squating? Yes. Yes, I will. When I’m doing a stupid food challenge/diet/cleanse and being deprived of the foods I love, I will tell you this is awful. But will I keep saying no to sugar and bread? You betcha.

  1. Planning and meal prep relieves unneeded stress throughout the week.

This really was a great discipline I will keep up!

  1. Hangry” is not a good reason to be rude to my husband.

Talk about conviction. Towards the end of week 2, I realized I had to figure out how to control my emotions. (I know you can’t believe it took Whole30 for me to catch the hint!) I had to learn to be careful with my words and not lash out about the missing yoga pants that should have been in the drawer but were not. I needed to eat an apple and not speak to anyone for a second. Then maybe the yoga pants could be found in a tender moment filled with love and good feelings. Maybe.

  1. Drew is very patient and gracious.

I mean, I knew this about the man, but he has way more patience than I do! That became extremely evident as “hangry” took over for a little while. Thanks, hubby, for being so wonderful. I’m sorry I bit your head off that one time. I tried to put it back gently. 🙂

  1. I want what I can’t have.

Spaghetti squash has sort of become a staple in the (almost) 2 years of our marriage. I think the whole idea of it fascinates me. But when I made spaghetti squash while eating Whole30, I was frustrated that I wasn’t making real pasta. When was the last time I made real pasta? Who knows! But the fact that I couldn’t make real pasta made me want it so badly. This actually turned into the lesson I taught in our student worship service. Maybe I’ll write more about it soon.

  1. The Food Network inspired me to enjoy the kitchen.

Were we stupid for watching the Food Network in all of its butter and sugar glory? Probably. But it definitely inspired and challenged me to enjoy cooking and look forward to spending quality time in the kitchen instead of dreading it.

  1. I really did have more energy by cutting out sugars and carbs.

I was skeptical about this one when I started. I thought I would have instant energy, but I didn’t. My body definitely had to adjust to its deprivation of energy “quick fixes”. However, the last two weeks have been great. I fall asleep fast, sleep extremely well, wake up rested and enjoy sustained energy levels that, overall, make me feel awesome!

  1. God can speak to you and teach you through even the most mundane tasks.

I learned so much about my relationship with God and myself during the past 30 days. Lessons on patience, self-control, idolatry, desire, grace. All of that from a food cleanse?! Who knew? But as I became more aware about what I was (and wasn’t) putting into my body, I became more aware of other things too. God used the past 30 days in a pretty profound way.

Whether or not you have any desire to eat Whole30, I encourage you to enter each situation focusing on the Lord and what He might have to teach you. God is ready to show you something today…are you going to look for it?

P.S. If you don’t hear from me tomorrow, you may need to come rescue me from cookie dough and pizza.

P.P.S. Intrigued by the feature image? You can find the recipe for the amazing red sauce HERE. (We ate this over spaghetti squash multiple times! A huge win for our family!)

Floppy Hats and Jetties

I went to the beach recently with Drew and his family. It was the most refreshing weekend I’ve had in a long time. A lot of talking, eating, reading, swinging, sunning, more eating, and a little bit of fishing.

Also, during this weekend I bought a floppy hat!

Side Note: I’m always pretty delayed when it comes to jumping on a fashion bandwagon. If I’m unsure about it, I think it might just go away and I will still be cool and in style. But usually I just miss it—or I’m extremely tardy. (This was the case for skinny jeans, flannel, floppy hats, and currently the half-up bun.)

So there was that. And then there was a jetty, where I sat sweetly on a rock, soaking up the sun, chatting with my husband while he fished…. Until I got bored.

“Alright. Teach me how to fish.”

He baited a hook, showed me how to cast, and I attempted. And this “sport” that looked so easy, was painfully not. (I’m sorry if I offend you with the quotes here….it just seems necessary…especially because what I was doing was the furthest thing from sport).

After a few feeble attempts at casting out into the water and not onto my toes, I decided I needed more force. So I really put my arm into it. The line broke and the bait–still attached to the hook–went flying.

Oops. Clearly fishing is not for me!

I set the rod and reel down immediately.

Then I realized that failing this time didn’t mean I had to stop forever.

So I picked that rod and reel back up and Drew taught me how to fix it. How to string the line back through the rod and attach another hook.

All this time, I had quiet tears streaming down my face. (Praise the Lord for floppy hats, right?!)

I cried because, well, that’s just what I do with most emotions. But mostly because I realized something significant about myself:

I am deeply afraid of failing.

This fear is so paralyzing that I quit doing things—or never start—if failure threatens to seep into the picture.

As I stood there trying to get the stupid line through the hook, I kept thinking about how instinctual it was for me to put the rod down when I glimpsed a moment of failure. If we weren’t isolated on that jetty, I probably would have walked away and never gone fishing again. It was such a stilly thing to cry about, I know that. But as those tears slid down my cheek, masked by that glorious floppy hat, I thought about all the other times I failed and walked away instead of trying again—instead of learning, and growing, and changing.

In that moment, God showed me a picture of His love in the way Drew responded. Drew was gracious and gentle, patiently teaching me how to make things right, and once again, how to cast.

As I kept trying, thinking of the all the other times I didn’t, God whispered this verse in my heart:

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.     -1 John 4:18

Do I really believe that?

Do you?

God loves in such a perfect way that you and I don’t have to fear anything. Even failure. When we do fail? God demonstrates His perfect love through His patience, His gentleness, His grace, His teaching, and in His invitation to try again.

What God Taught Me Through a Student

So this morning in Bible study, a sweet student asked me how she could partner with me in praying for our girls ministry.

I smiled at her question. Honestly, the thought never crossed my mind. It never occurred to me that the girls in this ministry should also be praying for our girls’ ministry.

But why shouldn’t they? “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20)

I have been thinking about how to pray for these girls a lot recently. Asking God what they need to learn and how I can better teach them. I’ve been crafting this image in my mind of the type of girl that I would like to see graduate from our ministry.

She should love.

She should be gracious.

She should be kind.

She should be patient and forgiving.

She should be confident.

She should hate drama.

She should turn away from gossip.

She should date the right guy.

She should obey her parents.

She should be an encouraging friend.

But I realized that I couldn’t teach that and make it stick. I can’t give her a list of who she should strive to be. I can’t give her a list of things to do to guarantee she becomes any of these things.

But you know who will not only teach her, but equip her to be these all these things and more?

And so my prayer is that each girl in this student ministry loves God…more than anything else. That she desires to study His Word. That He transforms her heart and she longs to honor Him with her life.

Girls, this is what I’m praying for you. Join me in praying this for the girl who sits beside you in small group.

Moms, this is what I’m praying for your daughter. Join me in praying this for her and for her friends.

Pray this for me too.

Fixing a Wishy-Washy Walk

I read this great line from My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers a few weeks ago. The line was, “there must be unflinching faithfulness to the Word of God…”

Unflinching faithfulness.

Unflinching faithfulness. Wow. What an incredible description of a true follower of Christ. No matter what the world tries to deceive us with, or whatever truth it attempts to water down, we are to remain unflinchingly faithful. Nothing will so much as sway us, or cause us to flinch, because we are faithful to God’s Word.

Is there unflinching faithfulness to God in my life? In yours?

This sat pretty heavy with me. Then guess what happened? I woke up the next day sick. I didn’t go into work, took a nap on the couch, drank some hot tea, and felt like total crap. Guess what I didn’t do? Spend time with God, pouring over His Word.

I couldn’t concentrate: my head felt stuffy, my eyes were watering, and my throat thought it was swallowing large, pointy rocks all day. I just couldn’t bring myself to grab my Bible and journal. Does that sound like unflinching faithfulness to you?

Me either.

We have high goals when it comes to our spiritual life. Those goals are actually things we really want.

We want to be closer to God.

We want to love others like He loves us.

We want to memorize Scripture.

We want to worship Him with complete abandon.

We want to have unflinching faithfulness.

But sadly, I don’t think we want it bad enough.

If that were really something we cared to see happen in our walk with God, we would do something about it. It breaks my heart that our relationship with God is filled with all of these noble desires and yet we don’t have the guts or the dedication to actually do it.

If you truly want to be an Olympic swimmer, you do whatever it takes to get there. Swim every day. Eat right. Listen to your coach. You train, you compete, you don’t stop. You can tell the difference between someone who actually desires to become an Olympic swimmer, and someone who just says so because it sounds good.

I don’t want my walk with God to be a bunch of promises to the Lord that I have no intention of carrying out.

But you want to know the cool part about our relationship with God?

It’s not about a list of accomplishments.

It’s not even about a list of spiritual disciplines.

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.” (Matthew 22:36-28)

God wants us to LOVE Him with all of our heart, soul, and mind.

When we do that, everything else will fall into place.

It will be a natural thing to memorize Scripture because we love God with our mind and His Word flows through it.

We will naturally feel “closer” to God because we have drawn our hearts to focus on Him above everything else.

We will be filled with unflinching faithfulness to God’s Word, not because we have determined to do so, but because our whole life is concentrated on our love and adoration of our Creator and our Savior.

We make it too complicated.

God simply asks you to come to Him and to love Him more than anything else.

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” –James 4:8.

He’s waiting. How will you respond?

Join me in committing to read God’s Word every day this month! Let’s take the first step in shaping our life to have “unflinching faithfulness to the Word of God”.

A Million Little Reasons…

Typically, I can give myself a million little reasons NOT to do something. I am cautious. The kind of cautious that often stifles spontaneity. And so most decisions are made by very careful calculations. That is, until I studied abroad in Europe during college. Hear this: I was still careful. I do not have a single regret about my European adventures, except that they came to a close earlier than I would have liked.

But while studying, living, and exploring in Europe, I gave myself a million little reasons to do something. Paraglide off the Swiss Alps? Why not?! Put off schoolwork to walk through a quaint city in The Netherlands? The only logical choice. Stay up too late talking and learning something new about someone or something? No hesitations. Buy a plane ticket to Italy and figure out a schedule when you get there? Obviously, that’s the only way to really travel. Hostels, strange food, new people, different cities, unshared languages, and none of it seemed to bother me.

My mom even commented after I came home that I was different; more relaxed, less stressed. Because I lived every day anticipating an adventure. My to do list didn’t own me. There were a million reasons to explore, to rest, to enjoy, and to grow.

But unfortunately, that didn’t last very long.

Now I find myself weighing options about how to spend my time and constantly coming up with a million reasons why I shouldn’t take a day off. Why I shouldn’t read a fictional book for pleasure. There are a million reasons to not eat lunch with my coworkers because of how long my to-do is. A million reasons to stay home and go to bed early because I’m busy and tired. My schedule rules my life and that to-do list is unrelenting.

The same is also true when it comes to my relationship with God and the things He asks of me. There are always a million little reasons to put my Bible down—or not even pick it up. A million distractions and tasks or more seconds to sleep. But if there are a million little reasons to say, “no” to God…then there are a million BIG reasons to say, “yes!” And that answer needs to be louder and more consistent in my life. And so here you can find short, challenging, and encouraging thoughts to help you grow in your relationship with Jesus. Maybe this will be a place you come to rest mentally, or re-fuel emotionally. My prayer is that God will open my heart to be honest and speak only His Truth. Honestly, there are a million little reasons why I don’t want to do this… but God won’t let it go. So I’m not going to let it go.

Don’t let those little reasons keep you from hearing and responding to God today…

even if there are a million!