Steady

Count it all joy my brothers when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing…. Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. – James 1:2-4 & 12

I want to be steady. I so admire the people in my life that are steady in the midst of trial. There are many around us who are walking impossible roads, dealing with pain and uncertainty that simply breaks my heart. Yet, they are still filled with joy, filled with love, and a devotion to God that I strive for. There are others whom you would never know are facing a trial because of their consistency, confidence, and selflessness. Who are those people in your life, the ones you would describe as “steady”?

Webster tells us that to be steadfast is to be “resolutely or dutifully firm and unwavering”. If someone or something is steady we are saying they are “firmly fixed, supported, or balanced; not shaking or moving”. Don’t you want to be described in that way?

Balanced and poised instead of frantic.

Confident instead of fearful and uncertain.

Unwavering.

Resolute.

Supported.

Steady.

It’s easy to be that person when things are falling into place, when your schedule is never interrupted, when your house is happy. But this verse tells us that the goal is to remain “resolutely firm and unwavering” throughout a trial. I decided a while ago that I was going to stop praying for patience because instead of just instantly becoming a patient person, I would have countless opportunities to display patience. And I usually missed the mark. Unfortunately, the same thing is true in this case.

In order for you and I to learn how to be steady in the midst of crazy, the trial is inevitable. And apparently, it’s necessary.

Our trials will come in many different forms and fashions. Our faith will be tested in a way that God sees fit, as an opportunity to draw us closer to Him and even draw others closer to Him. But guess what God doesn’t do? He doesn’t look at your trial and roll His heavenly eyes when you struggle because someone else’s trial is SIGNIFANTLY harder than yours. He doesn’t look at me and say, “Geez, Callie, I threw you a bone here, why is this so hard for you?” (Can we take a second to PRAISE HIM for being way more gracious to you and I than we are to ourselves?)

God knows exactly what trial, what test, you and I need in order to produce steadfastness. He wants us to be steady. But here’s the deal—He doesn’t want you to learn how to be confident in yourself. He doesn’t want you to be resolute in your own understanding. Or to be unwavering simply because you’ve learned how to stand tall and strong on your own. It is a testing of our faith that produces steadfastness. We are learning how to rely fully on our Lord so that we are steady in, and through, Him and Him alone.

I cannot get this passage in James out of my head. Nearly every situation I’ve faced in the last few weeks points back to this: to counting the mishaps that occur, the frustrations that arise, the misunderstandings, the weariness, and the uncertainties as JOY because they are my trials right now. Each trial, every test, just happens to be an opportunity to lean into my Savior and learn to remain steady.

What is your trial? What test are you facing today?

It is your opportunity to stay balanced on God’s Word when you’re world feels chaotic.

It is your opportunity to be confident that the God who called you to this uncertain moment will not leave you alone.

It is your opportunity to stand firm when giving up, or giving in, would be easier.

It is your opportunity to be resolute that God will give you victory in this battle.

But how? How do we remain steadfast in the midst of trials? Sometimes it just feels nearly impossible, doesn’t it? God simply asks that we face the test in front of us. We get out of bed every day, we keep walking, we keep praying. We keep looking up and leaning into our Savior. We persevere until one day, the test is over and we realized how much stronger we are, how much more we look like Jesus.

Let’s be steady today. God, teach us to rely on you as you establish steadfastness in our life so that when steadfastness has its full effect, we may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

 

Freebie: the song that inspired me to turn to James in the first place. Enjoy!  

Your Story Isn’t Finished Yet

a letter to anyone who feels like giving up

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Dear Friend,

Have you ever been watching a fantastic movie that has completely sucked you in? It’s funny and charming, intriguing and suspenseful. And suddenly it stops. Netflix goes haywire and just as the movie’s thickening plot starts to unravel your computer screen turns black. What was going to happen next? We were just getting to the good part! The movie wasn’t over yet. It ended before we could discover whether or not everyone lives happily ever after.

That’s what it would be like if you walked away during this season of your life. You would miss out on your happily ever after, on the good part. And we would miss out on discovering it with you.

That’s what we do as friends. We help one another; we wait with one another; we walk with one another as we discover whatever is around this corner.

But we’ll never know if you decide to stop walking.

Please don’t decide to stop walking.

We need you to discover your gift, to write your story, to sing your song, to paint your picture, to live your life.

We know it’s not easy. In fact, it’s extremely confusing. It’s annoyingly difficult, this challenge ahead of you. If we could walk it for you, we would. But we can’t. You have to lead the way. Still, we’re here with you; cheering you on, urging you forward, praying you see. Praying you see your Creator, the Author of your story. Praying you trust that He knows what’s next and it’s so good He can hardly wait for you to get there! Praying you rely on His strength and His truth to help you take the next step when you want so badly to give up and turn around.

Please don’t turn around.

This is not the end of your journey. You story isn’t finished yet. Don’t deprive us of your gift. Don’t deny the Author of your life the opportunity to show you what comes next. The stories with the toughest start always have the best endings! So if writing that story or singing that song or painting that picture—if auditioning, studying, leaving, or returning—if living your life is so painfully hard, get ready! Because the best is yet to come! Your story isn’t finished yet.

Don’t you want to see what happens next?

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” – Hebrews 12:1-3

What do you do with your dreams?

We all have dreams. Something we long to do, see, accomplish, or become. Maybe it’s more of an aspiration; maybe it’s a full-fledged longing. Yet often those dreams seem too far out of reach. We deem them impossible before we ever set out a plan to accomplish them. Or, tired of trying and failing, we become irritated and discouraged by the plateau we can never escape. So what do we do? We set our dreams on a shelf.

What dream have you placed on a shelf? Did you set it up there yesterday? Or has been collecting dust over years of neglect?

If you’re recalling that dream right now, no matter how distant it is, I would say it still very much matters to you. It’s nearly impossible to let go of our dreams, or maybe our dreams don’t let go of us. Whatever the case, it’s time to take it off the shelf, make a plan, and get to work.

And that’s the sucky part.

On Saturday I determined to refinish the coffee table I bought a year ago on a virtual garage sale with the intention of refinishing. A year ago. I’ve looked at that coffee table 1,000 times in the last 365+ days and came up with excuse after excuse about how I didn’t have the time, energy, patience, or materials to refinish that table. Until Saturday. I realized that everyone else on Instagram seems to refinish furniture on Saturday and it was about time I do too.

It’s a beautiful, breezy, Saturday, birds chirping, our new puppy lazily catching both rays of sunshine and taunting mosquito hawks. I put on my mask, get out the sander, and go to town! Only sanding is the worst. I realize after sanding the top of the table that there’s a lot more of the table to sand. 4 sides! And 4 legs with 4 sides apiece! I question whether or not it’s worth it. There are so many other things I could do that don’t cause my hand to go numb and saw dust threatening to choke out everyone in the neighborhood.

sanded table
So this is my table. Top sanded…look how much I have left do to do! (Maybe I’m a baby. It felt like a whole lot more in the moment!)

I think about how easily Chip and Joanna Gaines remodel an entire house in one hour and it’s going to take me at least three to finish sanding this stupid thing. How in the world does Clint Harper make GIANT tables for her and still be her friend? I resolve that I’m never refinishing another piece of furniture again.

Because accomplishing something is hard. It takes work. It takes time. Refinishing a table requires hard work and so does accomplishing that dream of yours. In a world where people get famous by accident and it seems their wildest dreams come true with one post, it’s easy to get discouraged. But if that discouragement leads us to put our dream away, we will never know what could happen with it! Our longing will never be satisfied if we don’t put in the work required. We have to commit to the discipline, the dedication, and the stuff that will never be applauded or recognized. We just have to.

So I keep sanding and sanding and sanding. Trying to console the puppy that hates loud noises and sits by the back door looking at me with those sad puppy-dog eyes, begging me to let him inside. But we don’t know each other that well yet, and what I do know of this sweet pup is that he can’t be trusted in the house unsupervised. So he and I must both endure the awful process of sanding.

And guess what? Eventually, it’s done. The sanding is over. The hard work has been put in; the finished product can be visualized. This is the fun part. No more lame sanding. Now I can relax a little and enjoy the simplicity of painting. I grab the primer and settle into a rhythm. I have grand plans of painting this table an antique white and distressing the edges. But you can’t do all of that right away. Once the primer goes on, you have to wait. Once that dries you can paint, but then you have to wait before you can sand it or add another coat. Waiting is almost worse than sanding.

primed table
This is my primed table. Also, I thought I might have killed the dog because he ate some of the primer :/ and look what it’s called?! (It’s okay. He’s fine now!)

When we get a glimpse of what could be, when we see our dreams begin to take shape, or we come up with a plan that helps us reach our goals, there’s still a process that must take place. We often have to wait. This time of waiting does not mean we throw in the towel. Waiting doesn’t mean that our dreams won’t become our reality. It just means not now.

I believe waiting can mean one of two things:

  1. It’s not time yet for this dream to come to fruition.
  2. Your dream for you & God’s dream for you are not the same.

If option 2 is the case, then you need more time for God to shift your heart so that your dream and His dream are the same.

If option 1 is the case, that’s okay! Keep pressing on.

Regardless, we respond in the same way. We keep working hard; we keep waiting, trusting that God will lead us, believing that the dreams He’s placed in our hearts have purpose. So your take your dream off the shelf. Let’s see what happens!

What dream have you ignored? What are you challenged to do with your dreams?

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.