just one thing at a time.

Well, friends. Whether or not it feels happy, it is, in fact, a new year.

I’m not entirely sure what happened toward the end of 2022. I don’t know if it was the culmination of a few years that led to an over-all feeling of exhaustion, or if too much simply happened all at once. But I was ready for 2023 to sneak in very gently and without much fanfare. Maybe you always feel this way. It is abnormal for me. I LOVE New Year’s Eve. I love a whole week of holiday celebrating and I love the idea of everyone in the world celebrating something new collectively.

The more I talk with people and process through my own thoughts, the more it seems everyone is just so tired. There isn’t much motivation to tackle a new year with new goals and fresh vision. We’re kind of just trying to figure out how to recover and manage what we have now.

Wow, this sounds pretty gloomy, huh? It isn’t meant to be. It’s meant to be a reminder that you aren’t the only one, and that it’s okay to take things very slowly.

The best stuff doesn’t happen all at once anyway.

A few days ago I found myself seriously overwhelmed with my growing list of things to do and my lacking energy to tackle any of it. I found myself repeating out loud, “Just one thing at a time.”

I can’t do it all, and I certainly can’t do it all at once. I can’t start a new workout program, declutter and organize the kids’ room, the closet, and my own bedroom all at once. I can’t get serious about meal planning and blogging and reading and being the best wife and mom. I can’t succeed at everything I’ve put on my plate or that’s been asked of me if I do it all at the same time. And neither can you.

This is what happens when we turn our eyes from Jesus and rely on ourselves. Whether we recognize it, whether we name it as this or not, this kind of anxiety and striving comes from reliance on our flesh. Now, hang on. Don’t hear things that I’m not saying. Life can get overwhelming. Sometimes the things that happen to us are painful and unjust. Those things do not mean that you aren’t relying on Jesus.

What I’m saying is that it’s what we do with what happens to us. It’s the anxiety, the overwhelm, the feelings of failure – all the things that don’t come from God.

Anytime I find myself in this place, there is one chapter in scripture that gives me the answers I’m looking for. It’s found in John 15:1-5.

I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and prunes the branches that do bear fruit so that they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.

I mean.

It’s all pretty clear. If we’re working to be successful in any way outside of Jesus, we’re just not going to make it.

The important thing to note in this section of John 15 is that both the good and the bad get cut off. LOL. This made me laugh out loud just now.

The stagnate stuff that is literally just dead weight? It gets cut off.

The good stuff that’s succeeding? Doing great? It gets cut off.

Sure, the Bible uses the word “prune.” Sounds a little nicer, but in reality, it’s exactly the same.

The good and the bad. The fruitful and the dead. They experience the same exact kind of pain.

This is wild to me because the branches don’t know the difference. All they know is that they’re getting cut. The pain feels the same. The cutting back looks similar. Both are meant for growth.

But in the moment, they equally feel pain.

This is the reality of knowing and trusting the Gardener. The only requirement here for growth and production and life is staying close. Those buzzword, churchy Christianese words that still mean as much as their original intent.

Remain.

Abide.

We can’t dictate what happens to us in life. But we can decide our location and our proximity to the Father. We can decide where we look, where we stay, and Whom we decide to trust through the pain.

I don’t know about you, but I just don’t want to start off this year distrusting the only One who is truly for me.

Just one thing at a time.

Let’s make one choice. The only one that will actually change your life. The only one that is a lifetime commitment, not a fickle resolution to give up on when it gets hard.

Let our one thing be Jesus.

Choosing to stay. Deciding to remain, and remain close. To hide away in Him. Forgetting about what else you see and who else sees you.

Forget everything else you think you’re supposed to be doing to get it right. Just Jesus.

Don’t neglect everything else you know – like worship, gathering together, praying, fasting – all the good stuff. But without one thing, it’s all meaningless.

Just one thing at at a time.

Just One.

Just Jesus.

grief: the stuff they don’t tell you

Today marks five years that my stepdad went home to be with Jesus.

You know what’s strange about someone passing on a holiday like Thanksgiving? The date was the twenty-third but it was the Thanksgiving holiday. This year, today is the twenty-third, but tomorrow is Thanksgiving. It almost feels like two days of an anniversary. That kind of sucks, by the way. One day feels like it should be enough, right?

Losing an important person in your life is weird. I guess it’s like any other major life event: like getting married or having a baby. There are no words adequate enough to describe what it feels like. But unlike getting married or having a baby, this is the yucky kind of inadequate description. There are psychological terms and many suggestions for how to cope. But there is no way to put actual words to the feeling. They don’t tell you that you’ll feel some kind of intangible ache or hole.

What I’ve learned in five years now about grief that has been the most surprising and the most unnerving is its unpredictability. No anniversary feels the same. Today almost always feels different than yesterday. There is no way to plan, prepare or foresee when the wave will come. This is what makes grief so dang difficult. You can do everything right and still get knocked down.

The uncertainty of how or when it will hit you is part of what leads to the anxiety or heaviness. There’s no way to control it, so it feels so out of grasp.

But what I have also learned in the past five years is the good news that they don’t tell you, either. It’s simple and may not feel like much.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted.

Psalm 34:18

Brokenhearted. That has to be the most accurate language that could be used to describe grief. It matters to me that the Bible chooses to word this truth in this particular way. We can tend to gloss over it because it sounds nice and makes sense.

We have to take this into account. The truth is that the Lord is always close. He loves us and His Spirit lives in us. But there is something different about the presence of God when our heart is broken. Why? Because it was never intended to be that way. God is love. He is good and kind and merciful and protective. It would go against His nature to not rush in when His kids are broken.

And if you’re reading this and thinking, “God does not feel close to me in my brokenness…“, I want to ask you a question really gently. Have you let Him be close? Are you looking for Him or even aware of Him at all?

God is always looking to draw us closer to Himself through His Spirit. Our feelings lie to us when they convince us He is not there. When we’re down deep in the dark, it almost always feels like we are there alone. I promise you, you are not alone.

This is it. This is what I’ve come to tell you in case no one else has.

Grief and hope can coexist.

In the darkness of loss, pain is all you can see. The goodness of God feels like a joke and certainly not a reality. But as grief comes in unpredictable waves, hope is one hundred percent predictable. Why? Our God is the God of hope [Romans 15:13]. Hope is expectation and trust in what will come or what else could be, and God has already told us the end of the story.

What is the end of the story? It’s this:

“God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them. They will be His people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Revelation 21:3-4

This is our inheritance and our future. The dark will not last long.

I can hold onto hope without dismissing my reality.

So this week, I have held grief pretty close. I have sat and watched videos of Pop and remembered just how much I have missed his laugh.

I have felt really sad that he hasn’t been there to watch my kids grow up and become such incredible and hilarious little people. I have pictured how proud he would be of me and Tyler and all that we have done and become in his absence. I have allowed myself to be really bummed out that this is still my family’s reality. There is just nothing good about cancer, y’all.

I hold all of that in my hands, and in my heart I hold the truth that the Lord has been close in my brokenness. He has been near, and He has made me more whole as I have trusted Him to truly be God.

I have friends today who just lost their mom last week. I have friends who are experiencing their first holiday without their loved one. And others who have been walking this road a very long time and know that the absence of their loved ones is always felt.

If you find yourself grieving in any way this week, I pray today that you would accept the grace given to you by God. Grace to be human. Grace to fall apart without shame. Grace to question and doubt and maybe even hide for a time.

And I pray that this same grace would draw you near to the God of hope. To accept this grace that pulls you up and shines light on all the places that were dark.

It is by grace you have been saved. It is by grace that you will make it through. Second after second and year after year.

May you dare to hope.

Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is His faithfulness, His mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in Him!”

Lamentations 3:20-22

When God’s “good” feels pretty bad

It’s officially fall, y’all. You will never be able to convince me that there is a better season than the months we are in right now. I could never move somewhere like Florida or Hawaii where the heat never gives way in and cooler winds blow in. Daily, I am blown away by the colors of the trees. As I drive down the road, my sentences to friends on the phone are interrupted by my awe of the brilliance and variety of the leaves in front of me. There is a strip of trees near my house, and every single tree is a vibrant, different color than the one next to it. I love it. This photo below is the tree I see when I walk outside my front door.

I love layers and fall flavors and how the sun transforms in the evening. Could I make an entire blog post about this? Yes, I could. But I won’t do that to you. I’m here to remind you of something more important than my favorite season.

These beautiful trees that transform into actual art before our eyes?

Their leaves are DYING.

In my entire lifetime, I will never stop being amazed at this dichotomy.

When the leaves look the most alive; the most glamorous, they are on their way to their end. After serving their purpose for their particular season, they fall to the ground and eventually get swept up into the garbage or decay until the snow comes to freeze them over.

I’ve learned that maybe there are themes that God has given each of us to carry throughout our life to display different pieces of His character. I can’t seem to get away from this same concept over and over. Hey, I even wrote a book about it last year. His Kingdom is backwards.

God’s Word tells us that He works for our good:

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.” Romans 8:28

But we have to be real. So much of what we are facing does not look good. It doesn’t feel good.

Seasons of waiting without any direction.
Feeling forgotten.
Cancer.
For friends of mine right now, cancer – again.
Pain, sickness, addiction, miscarriage, loneliness –

Real life stuff. None of that feels good at all.

In fact, it feels really bad. And we wonder how God can promise good for us when life just isn’t good.

Pause.

Who says what is good?

Who defines what goodness looks like?

In Exodus 33, Moses asks to see God’s glory. And God responds with this in verse 19: “I will make all my goodness pass before you…

His presence is His goodness.
He is goodness.
He is good.

I have been following a worship leader on Instagram as his wife has suffered with cancer. She went to be with Jesus this week. Through their entire journey, they have called God good and faithful. The day after she passed, he posted a video through tears, reminding me what I learned five years ago that pushed me to write a book.

Our biggest fear – death – is the truest life. Real healing, real joy, the purest forms of anything good we’re looking for will never be made full as long as we’re on this earth.

God’s ways are higher and His thoughts are greater.
God has never and never will delight in our suffering. But what He sees as good is far beyond our shallow, earthly definition.

We may never had said the words out loud, but we’ve defined good as success, comfort, stability, and beauty.
What if we let the Author of the word define it for us?

Do you know the first thing that God called “good” in the Bible?

His creation.

The water, the land, the animals, and the man that he made in His image.

Us.

Is our definition of good lined up with the Creator’s?

What does this all mean?

It doesn’t mean that we ignore what’s hard. It doesn’t mean that we push through and pretend we aren’t in pain.

But let’s take a lesson from the autumn trees; maybe all that we see isn’t all that there is.

Maybe what seems the most beautiful and lovely may be fleeting and only last for a season.

The only truly thing that is good is your God Himself. So ask Him “why?“, and spare no expense when it comes to your honesty with Him. It’s the only way real relationship is built.

But don’t let your “why’s” and your “bad” trick you into believing the lie that He isn’t good.

Just like those brilliant leaves won’t last, neither will your present suffering.

Don’t lose sight of the Good – your God.

“For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them all and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

the tug of war of waiting on God

photo by @theian20

It’s summertime, friends. My kids have one more week of school.

Hopefully, this means some trips. Which means time in the car. Which, in my car, means whining.

My beautiful daughter really is a pro. It’s astounding. No matter where we are going, she asks how many minutes. Anything more than ten minutes is astronomical to her, and it’s all equal. Thirty minutes? Might as well be seven hours.

It’s just a whole lot of waiting.

Let’s be honest, though. We aren’t much better at waiting as grown ups, are we?

I think I am convinced.

I am convinced that waiting is what makes us the most confused, weary and frustrated.

Grief hurts. But so much of the pain comes from wondering when it will ever end.

Rejection stings. With no end in sight, though, we feel hopeless.

Waiting asks the question: “When?”

When will the pain stop? When will someone finally notice? When will I actually be loved for who I am?

Waiting does more than fray our patience. Depending on our perspective, it can pull us away from God when we bring Him our hopes and our hurts, and wonder when He may answer. It feels very complicated, but is truthfully simple. We have two choices in how we wait, no matter what the circumstances are.

We either trust God or we don’t.

I’m sorry to be so blunt. Just about everything boils down to this truth.

Whether or not we trust changes the journey forward. If we wait in distrust, questioning God’s character and trustworthiness, it does nothing but slow our growth and stunt our maturity. Our attitude does not change who God is. Have you noticed? In the brief, fleeting moments when we finally feel like we’ve arrived somewhere; when we’ve received the answer, we don’t need God so much. We aren’t desperate for His voice or His presence. And just like my sweet Olivia Grace, pitching a fit in the waiting can’t physically altar the time.

How we wait changes everything.

But the truth is that we aren’t the only ones waiting when we call on God. Think about it. God is exerting great and perfect patience when He doesn’t give us what we want immediately after we ask. This is the common example, but it always works. Kids want candy and ice cream for breakfast. (I mean, don’t we all?) I am a firm believer that there are moments when we should all throw off the routine and indulge on infrequent occasions. But while straight sugar may feel fun in the moment, over time, it will take a toll on our bodies. It doesn’t actually serve us.

The things that God has planned for us in the in-between are unparalleled. There isn’t language deep enough to hold the magnitude of His vision for us in the in-between. The process is His favorite part. The talking, the vulnerability, the molding.

I’m currently in a season that I don’t know what to label besides a waiting period. It’s a little in-between. I am unsure of exactly what’s next. While I wait, I play tug of war with my patience in God’s perfect timing and plan. Like whatever is for me next is on the other side of the center line and I’m being pulled back and forth from surrender and trust. Through the years, I have learned that playing tug-of-war this way only hurts me. It also hurts Him.

God is not focused on giving us what we think we want and when. If He were, He would not be truly good. If He were, He would be fickle and a little untrustworthy.

No, our God is Sovereign.
Perfect and kind.
He is King and He is Dad.

We’ve all been tempted to run ahead of Him. We’ve picked up the tug-of-war rope, so heavy in our hands. The thing about tug-of-war is that we’re often tricked into thinking that we’re winning; that the odds are in our favor. It looks like our flag is going to cross that center line, and then suddenly it’s jerked out of our hands.

And if you thought that God was on the other side of the rope, you’re wrong. He isn’t holding the rope at all. He’s next to you, always.

He’s offering another way.
It isn’t easy, but it is good.
It may not be absent of pain, but it it is full of glory.

The prize isn’t waiting at the end, when you receive your answer.
The prize isn’t the end goal.

The prize is standing next to you.
It’s Jesus.

anxiety that surpasses understanding

I feel like kids get a bad rap. Young children are known for asking “why?” It’s real, though. There is an episode of my daughter’s favorite show, “Bluey”, where the main character asks her parents “why?” over and over. Her parents follow the trail, and give her an answer for each “why?” and it is never-ending. My daughter thinks this is how all of our conversations should be, and she thinks it’s hilarious. I do not. I have to remind her often that Bluey is a cartoon and our life is real life and I am not as patient as Bluey’s mom is!

To be fair to kids, though, the truth is that we never stop asking why. Whether we actually use the word out loud or (more often than not) roll it around repeatedly in our heads, we want to understand. We think that if we can get to the bottom of why something is happening, maybe we’ll feel better about it.

If you are new here, I was made aware that I had been struggling with anxiety four years ago. It had been there for much longer, I just wasn’t able to put a name to it. And I ran from it. Because I didn’t like who it turned me into. Who I became. How it twisted my view of Jesus. So instead of facing it, I turned and ran. And we all know how that goes.

With the healing hand of Jesus and the gift of a wonderful therapist, I have been healed from anxiety. It is a story too long for a blog post. Until that point, though, I had become complacent and content; kind of always believing that anxiety would just be a forever part of my life. I enjoyed connecting with others, still being in process. Oh, I’m still in process. But Jesus made it clear to me that He was ready to close that chapter for me. And I have chosen to believe Him.

Jesus is so unpredictable when it comes to healing. We never know how or when. We believe that because of His blood, our freedom and our healing was purchased once and for all. But we continue to walk through such turmoil here on earth. Some of it we bring upon ourselves, if we’re honest. Some if it has nothing to do with us. It’s just life.

There are so many verses in the Bible about anxiety. Releasing fear. Trusting God.

There’s one in particular that seems a little more well-known. It’s the verse that plagued me, actually. I prayed it. I believed it. And I didn’t understand why I was still so anxious. I’m sure you’ve heard it.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, 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.” Philippians 4:6-7

We pray for this and we talk about it a lot. Peace that transcends human understanding.

You know what we don’t talk about?

Anxiety also goes beyond our understanding.

We know that anxiety is not of God. Fear is not from Him.

The reason why anxiety is so infuriating is that for most of us, it doesn’t make sense. Sure, we can probably track the origin of our attacks back to a moment or a fear. But the racing thoughts, the shaky hands, the ridiculous irritability or seeming lack of breath – it somehow goes beyond rational thought. If we could make sense of it, maybe it wouldn’t be happening.

Anxiety is the enemy’s counterfeit to God’s peace.

Anxiety is beyond rationality.
It traps us with no concrete reasons.
Anxiety screams: SOMETHING IS WRONG! When in reality, nothing may be wrong at all.

In a similar way, Peace can’t be explained away. It doesn’t solve all of our problems, but it brings us to the Person of Jesus who is our Savior and Redeemer.

The crippling feeling of anxiety also can’t be explained. Sure, psychologists have given it language and symptoms to track. But when you are in that moment of panic or that unrelenting out-of-control feeling, explanations don’t mean anything to settle our hearts.

Satan is the father of lies. He births them. He crafts them. When you boil it all down, what makes you anxious?

God created me to be very empathetic. I feel others’ emotions. Their pain, their happiness… I’ve been gifted with some discernment and insights to things that aren’t always obvious. These are gifts that my God crafted for me as He knitted me together.

And for every gift in my personality from God, the enemy of the world finds a way to create a counterfeit. He imitates the best parts of me and twists them for darkness. He says, “Oh, you have empathy for others? Take on their burdens until it drowns you. Find a way to fix everything around you so that everyone turns to you as their savior instead of Jesus. Hide out in shame because of the weight that’s on you that no one will ever know about. Oh, you feel like you can’t breathe? Good. You can’t worship without breath.”

It is not an accident that both peace and anxiety go beyond rationality or human understanding. They both settle deep within; in our hearts and our bodies, beyond logic. There is one difference.

One is of God. One is not.

One benefits you. The other does not.

Although they are both very real, only one leads to Truth.

What may be very real in your life isn’t necessarily the Truth. Truth is a Person, not an intangible idea.

Listen. If I read this blog even a year ago, it would make me angry. I was working hard on accepting anxiety as a part of what I was working through and processing through very real and practical ways to manage it. And it was so necessary. I let Jesus into that process, and found more freedom than I had known in my life.

So if you are struggling with anxiety in any way and you have not yet allowed a professional to help walk you through ways to find freedom, now is your time. Don’t wait any longer. Don’t wait until you feel too far and you don’t have a choice anymore. Seek help now.

But whether you have received help or not, there is more with Jesus. Have you succumbed to the idea that you will simply walk through life experiencing anxiety that transcends understanding? It is the exact cheap imitation of true Peace. The Peace that exceeds our understanding. It may not make sense, but it’s true.

The truth is that a blog post does not solve your heartache, your panic attacks, your unsettled spirit.

Believe it or not, God is not afraid of your “why?”. He is patient, and willing to listen to every question, no matter how many times you’ve asked. However, He doesn’t always answer our why questions, does he? How many times have we asked God “why?” without ever really getting an answer? But I can tell you what He will answer every single time.

“How?”

We may need to give up our desire to understand to truly find the freedom we’re looking for. Our God is our Guide, our Counselor, and our Father. He waits on the edge of His seat to lead you into paths of His righteousness. If you ask, He will not withhold ways to find freedom.

And He will always, always point you to a Who.

He is the answer. We aren’t saved by our understanding. We are saved by a Person.

“You draw near to those who call out to you,
listening closely, especially when their hearts are true.
Every godly one receives even more than they ask for.
For you hear what their hearts really long for,
and you bring them your saving strength.”
Psalm 145:18-19 TPT

the internet isn’t real life [what you may need to know for Mother’s Day]

I have the silliest confession.

I have to delete Tik Tok very often because I have zero self control. Those people knew what they were doing when they wanted to grab you and keep you.

Okay, but that’s not even the confession.

There was this trend going around for a little while with this particular sound. It was literally a few beautiful little chords on a piano and Ben Rector singing these words, “I don’t know who needs to hear this but, the internet isn’t real life.” Go look it up. It’s a seriously beautiful melody. The best part, though, is that the backdrop to this song was thousands of videos of women showing a perfectly put-together part of their house. But right at the end, the shot would pan to reality. Piles of laundry, toys, dirty dishes, real life.

Oh, wait. The confession. Guys. I first began this blog by telling you go find this song and listen to it. I searched for this song EVERYWHERE. Do you know what? I finally learned it wasn’t even a song. It was a Tik Tok sound of Ben Rector at his piano singing one line. It should be a song. It’s beautiful. I was so disappointed. I need it to be a full song.

Truthfully, though, I watched these videos for a very long time. I sat and I let the auto populated algorithm scroll me through video after video of (mostly) women showing the behind the scenes of what we see on social media. And I cried. I kind of shocked myself, to be honest. I know very full well that the internet isn’t real life. I know in my thinking brain that no one’s life is perfect. And yet, somehow, seeing it in front of me set to a beautiful melody, I was reminded that I didn’t believe it all the time.

I know the Truth. I know that there is no perfect mother. There is no perfect wife or daughter or friend. I know that all of us can put on a really beautiful face for the world to see. And somehow, I still needed a reminder.

So here I am, reminding you that the internet isn’t real life. And my guess is that your head tells you, “Yes. I know this.” But tell the truth. Have you felt left out, less than, not good enough, or any other negative emotion after staring at someone else’s life on a screen?

Mother’s Day is this weekend. And every single year, the weight of what these kind of days hold seems to get a little heavier.

Whether you are a daughter, a niece, a grandmother, or a mother yourself, more often than not, there is hurt or disappointment associated.

Much of that hurt probably wasn’t your fault. Maybe you feel a void in your life from the women who haven’t been there for you the way you had hoped. But I know the truth about how I have felt, and how so many others around me have felt.

Days like Mother’s Day are supposed to feel celebratory, and they often bring about feelings of insufficiency.

So many of our days as mothers are full of comparison and inadequacy.

We need to fight against this. We really do. I’ve said it before, comparison isn’t just the thief of joy; it steals everything from us.

Comparison steals our confidence.

It holds hostage our contentment. It butts heads with gratitude. It traps our focus.

It covers up the truth of God’s goodness and faithfulness to us, and shoves in our face that He’s been better to someone else.

Comparison lies.

This is bigger than the internet. We use social media as our enemy, and it’s really not. But it is a tool that the enemy is using.

So what do we do?

We begin with self-awareness. Sure, I may “know” the internet isn’t real life. I may cognitively understand that everyone’s life isn’t more put together than mine. But in the deep parts of my heart and my thoughts, what do I believe?
What do I believe about God?

What do I believe about what He believes about me?

If your answer is, “I don’t think I know”, then I’ll tell you.

The photo above is in my kitchen. A day where I looked around and realized my house was such a disaster, I was so overwhelmed. I took a picture, because we all need to see some reality. Do me a favor, though. Scroll back up. Do you see the light spilling through the windows? Don’t miss the beauty in all of the mess.

God is the source of all of our life; all of our light.

This weekend, instead of focusing on all that you may lack, fix your eyes to all that is yours in heaven.

Grab hold of one of these truths today:

You are a co-heir with Christ. Everything that is His is also yours. [Galatians 4:6-7]

You have absolutely everything you need to live the life God has called you to. God holds nothing back from you. [2 Peter 1:3]

You were not created to be self-sufficient. Your weakness is purposeful. [2 Corinthians 12:9]

You are not loved for what you do. You are loved for who you are. [Romans 8:35]

You cannot earn God’s love for you. [Ephesians 2:8-9]

“Yet I still belong to you; you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
I desire you more than anything on earth.
My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak,
but God remains the strength of my heart;
He is mine forever.”
Psalm 73:25-26

the obscure Easter story: before the cross

A tree in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed before the crucifixion. iStock photo, courtesy of tkachuk.

Do you ever get so behind on something you were excited about?

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I have a slight obsession with anything that author Alicia Britt Chole puts out. Every single word that is posted on her page is worth sharing, reflecting, and internalizing. Several people have joined me on her 40 day Lent journey, 40 Days of Decrease. This is my second year reading through it, and I could not wait.

Enter springtime after two years of COVID. We have had sickness in our house for three weeks straight. Both of my kids were finally back in school a few days ago. Anyway, there are 40 days in Lent. Easter is less than a week away. I am absolutely stuck on day 28. I’ll let you do the math, because I’m certainly not going to.

Let me tell you what, though. Every once in a while I find a topic that reinforces to me why I felt passionate enough to write a book on how God’s ways are so backwards. And day 28 did that here for me.

We get pretty caught up in Easter, don’t we? Eggs and chocolate and springtime and baskets. I have nothing against those. But if we put ourselves in the context of the history, and not just the idea of an event, we see the truth of Jesus’ character. We see ridiculous acts of obedience that look so upside down to us. We see the darkness that truly led up to the darkest moment.

Here is Chole’s synopsis of one small, but crucial moment in the dark garden:

“John’s account of what happened after Judas’ kiss is stunning. Jesus asked the crowd who they were looking for and they replied, “Jesus of Nazareth.” When Jesus responded, “I am He,” John documents that “they drew back and fell to the ground” (John 18:6). When they recovered, Jesus repeated the question and they replied with the same answer (though perhaps with a bit more hesitancy in their voices). This time, the One whose “I am He” had leveled a mob used His voice to shield His suddenly awake disciples: “if you are looking for me, then let these men go” (John 18:8).

Peter had no intentions of being “let go” at all, let alone without a fight. Drawing a sword, he whacked off the high priest’s servant’s ear. Then Jesus healed Malachus (the man who had come to arrest Him) and rebuked Peter (the man who had risked defending Him).”

We tend to compartmentalize the pieces of Jesus, don’t we? And maybe we even dehumanize Him a little bit – like He wasn’t fully man being completely torn apart without cause.

Here’s my takeaway today: Jesus was obedient every step of the way. Not just the direction of the cross, not just the end result. He was committed to obedience in every unfair scenario that led Him to His purpose. Throughout His whole life He was obedient, but from the last supper, through His arrest and unlawful trial and everything horrendous that followed – He submitted fully to the will of His Father.

I’ve been wondering lately if we have this kind of consistent obedience. I mean, I can answer for myself and the answer is for sure not. In my heart, I feel committed to obedience and following where God wants me to go. But in my mind and my actions, am I obedient every step of the way?

In becoming the person we believe God has created us to be, do we hold grudges against those who have offended us?

As we’re headed to what we think is our destiny, do we step on other people to get there, unconcerned with what happens to them as long as we move forward?

Are we focused on creating the best outward version of ourselves, unaware of our integrity and character that God is longing to develop?

Jesus was one hundred percent committed to the process of His destiny, even if it looked like He helped His enemies and turned away from His closest friends.

Now, none of us are Jesus. Our destiny is not going to be redeeming the whole of mankind. But God promises that He does have futures for us that will bring Him glory.

Are we committed to the process that it takes to get there? God is not concerned with our end result. If He were, He wouldn’t have taught on or allowed us to wait. If He was focused solely on what we did for Him, we would surely get wherever we were going much faster. True integrity and obedience grow on our way to where we think we’re going.

So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold – though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world” (1 Peter 1:6-7).

Are you feeling frustrated or impatient today? Do you see your promise in front of you, and you feel stuck in quicksand, maybe taking one step forward and what feels like ten steps back?

Don’t forget: the cross was the epitome of God’s backwards kingdom. The worst moment in history doubles as our best case scenario: salvation. And yet, Jesus lived out over thirty years in momentary obedience for the sake of God’s glory and our eternal freedom.

As we lead into Resurrection Sunday, take time to reflect on on the kind of process Jesus endured for those around Him and for you. Ask God to search your heart and reveal to you where you may be attempting to skip His process and miss out on what He has for you right here and now.

it’s okay to look back – just figure out why

Have you ever found yourself feeling a little stuck?

Somehow, you aren’t moving forward or backward. There’s no momentum, no shift, no progress. In this place, we have a choice to decide where our vision goes, don’t we?

But I would venture to guess that most of us believe that we only have two choices when we get here: we either look forward or backward, right? Wrong.

Let me tell you where this thought process started.

I hate traffic, y’all. I know everyone hates traffic. This isn’t unique. But more than simply traffic, I hate meaningless traffic. A few weeks ago, I was on my way home from one of our church campuses which is about thirty-five minutes away. I had been driving like, eight minutes, and took the turn onto the highway which brings me to a little bridge over a dam. And right away, the cars in front of me are stopped. What is worse than being stuck in traffic on a bridge? Not a lot. I was irritated, but honestly, was hoping that there wasn’t a bad accident. I don’t know how long I sat there. It wasn’t terrible, but it was long enough. And once the momentum begins to move forward enough, I see it. THE ACCIDENT WAS ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE BRIDGE. I can’t. I can’t deal. Fifty cars were slowed down because of our human need to see what was happening on the other side that didn’t even affect us. There’s a special term for this. It’s called rubbernecking. Why, you ask? I don’t know.

I looked up the definition for rubbernecking and it was even worse than I thought. Different dictionaries literally use the words “stupid” and “foolish” to describe it. In fact, the Cambridge Dictionary’s definition is this: “the activity of looking at something in a stupid way.” Stop it. Rubbernecking does more damage than just slow down your commute; it actually causes more accidents.

The Bible speaks to this, and it’s for our benefit.

“Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.

Do not turn to the right or to the left; keep your foot from evil.” [Proverbs 4:25-27]

I’ve been in a strange place lately. As a full-time mom, no one talks about how to adjust when your kids are in school full time. I remember when I was working, I completely judged these moms. What could they possibly do all day!? They have eight hours to just do whatever they want. I know better now. I am not bored with my time in any way. As I began to process that I was in a new chapter in my life, I subconsciously began to evaluate my performance over the past seven years. Without even realizing the narrative I was creating, I began to feel things like guilt and regret. Did I spend enough time being present? Did I make the most of that time?

It didn’t help that last week, all of my TikTok and Instagram feeds were literally inundated with an audio that begins with, “You have little kids for four years. That’s it. Once that time is done, you never get it back.” I didn’t even listen to whatever the rest of the sound said. Because my kids were past that time now, and it was aiding to my guilt.

I shared these things with my therapist, who put words to my questions. She helped me see that I was evaluating myself as if I were my own boss, and she asked me, “Has this been helpful for you?”

I took time to pause as I always do, and replied, “Well… no, I guess not.”

We began to talk about how guilt and shame simply aren’t a part of God’s process.

We are doing this kind of thing all the time, aren’t we?

We are looking backward, full of regret and shame for how we acted, what we did, why we made the choices we made. We are looking side to side, getting so distracted that it’s slowing us down and causing us to be stuck instead of present.

Did you happen to catch the little words that were printed on the picture for this post? They’re printed on the side mirror of your car, too. “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.” In other words, in the rearview, everything looks a little bigger. Our mistakes feel bigger. Our missed opportunities feel weightier. The lost time seems so massive. Hindsight doesn’t always have perfect vision. At times, it’s blown out of proportion.

We don’t gain anything in this space.

But there is one reason to look back, and only one.

It is to remember God’s faithfulness.

“With my whole heart, with my whole life, and with my inmost being, I bow in wonder and love before you, the holy God! Yahweh, you are my soul’s celebration. How could I ever forget the miracles of kindness you’ve done for me?” [Psalm 103:1-2 TPT]

“Once again I’ll go over what God has done, lay out on the table the ancient wonders; I’ll ponder all the things you’ve accomplished, and give a long, loving look at your acts.” [Psalm 77:11-12 MSG]

Where have you been looking?

Are you so focused on what’s happening around you; what others have and you don’t? It will absolutely pause you from moving forward.

Are you living in the regret of your past? Allow God into that space today. What does He want to say about it? How did you see Him move during those times to bring you where you are now?

Fortunately for us, God is in it all. He’s in our past, He’s in the here and now, and He’s in the glorious future. We can’t escape Him no matter where our eyes are focused; but we can allow Him to escape our notice.

Fix your eyes on Jesus – whether behind or in front of you.

The best way to end this post today is with a section of Psalm 139, and (shocker) I’ll be sharing it from The Passion Translation. Fix your eyes on Him, and let this truth plant you wherever you find yourself on the road.

You perceive every moment of my heart and soul,

and you understand my every thought before it even enters my mind.

You are so intimately aware of me, Lord.

You read my heart like an open book and know all the words I’m about to speak even before I start a sentence!

You know every step before my journey even begins.

You’ve gone into my future to prepare the way, and in kindness you follow behind me to spare me from the harm of my past.

nothing to gain, everything to lose

Wow, January is weird. Anyone else?

The craziness of the holidays is over. Here in Maryland, January is cold and quiet. And currently, it’s REALLY cold. Our life is slower than normal in this month. Less commitments, emptier schedules. I guess this is why January is such a good time to re-evaluate and reflect.

Are you feeling a little weird, too? A little, like, where am I at? Where am I supposed to be? What’s next?

There is something to be said for the busier seasons for me. I’m a little more focused. Maybe a little more tired, too. But I’m working toward a goal, or intentionally pouring into others, and often working toward something that God has said.

Back in September, I attended a conference at The Belonging Co in Nashville. Without any exaggeration, it was life changing for me. Not just because of the environment or the worship or what I experienced, but because of the very specific encounter I had with God. You’ll most likely read about it in a blog soon. I came into the conference praying for very specific things. I was expecting confirmation. One way or the other was fine with me. Any answer, really. Have you ever been there? You’re believing in God for something big. You need an answer. Yes or no. Take that job or stay put. A clear yes or no if this relationship is “the one.”

It was kind of like that. And instead of answers that I thought I wanted, Jesus gave me what I really needed.

Presence.

Not simply His presence with me, but teaching me to truly be present with Him. He gave me to words to focus on:

Adoration and Consecration.

Eesh. They sound big and a little churchy, right?

Any time I find myself frustrated or stuck in prayer, the Lord brings me back to these two words.

What does it mean to adore God?

I have two young kids. They now 8 and 6, so they are not completely dependent on me like they were when they were toddlers. But that doesn’t mean they don’t need things from me. Most days, I tell my husband Tyler that I’m going to start a tally of how many times I hear the word “Mom”. It’s a lot. Like, within five minutes it’s a lot. Because they have a question. Or want a snack. Or a drink. Or the other one is bugging them. It is constant. 

And I answer their questions (most of the time) because I love them. I know they need food and water and they have so many questions about the world and it’s my role to provide most of these things for them. 

But in the very rare moments, they come to me for one thing. A hug. The little note you saw that simply said, “I love you.” Without needing anything at all.

And God is saying, this is what I am longing for from you. 

Listen to me.

God is holy, worthy, righteous, and good. How often do we enter into His holy presence and barrage Him with what we need? We skip right past who He is and what He deserves. When was the last time that you met with God simply to love Him? We are dying so much for approval, affirmation and direction, that we often forget that God isn’t just after what’s good for us: He’s after us. A relationship. We have nothing to gain here. No one that we have to strive to be. We can’t even get it right or wrong. We don’t need anything from Him. We know that we already have it all, and we pour out our love back to Him. This is more than merely being still. This is more than us casting our burdens down at His feet.

This is loving Him back. Adoring Him. the Bible says it this way, “…Love the Lord God with all your heart, all your passion, all your energy and your every thought.” [Luke 10:27 TPT) I think maybe too often, we’re loving Him maybe just in one of these areas. In our mind, yeah, we love Him. But with our passion? Our heart? Our energy?

When we come to God simply to love and adore Him, we have nothing to gain. Just to love Him. Yes, His love for us is so much greater. And He will absolutely pour His love out because it is who He is. But if we truly approach Him with an accurate perspective, we don’t even need anything from Him. 

Because really, He’s already given us everything.

Adoration. Nothing to gain.

Maybe you’ve felt a little stuck. A little unsure of where to move next. A little frustrated that God seems so quiet or far away.

If you have the time now, take a moment to try this. You can speak out loud or write it down. Whatever it looks like, practice coming to Jesus with nothing to gain, prove, or earn. Tell Him what you love about Him. Thank Him. Adore Him.

I can wait.

There is more to this, though. God is wrapped up in so much. He loves us deeply, and at the same time, He is holy. He is righteous and just and He is love. You cannot separate any of these attributes. Since that is the case, we’ve been called to consecration. This simply means dedicating yourself to God, recognizing that we’ve been made in His image. Pushing aside anything that does not line up with who He is and who He’s called you to be. Deciding to believe that what God says about you is true: you are set apart, holy and righteous because of Jesus.

When we consecrate ourselves, we are setting aside anything that shouldn’t be brought into the presence of God. Selfish ambition, bitterness, shame, fear, pride. If these sins are not laid down, we are carrying them in with us and the truth is, we can’t love God wholly or fully if these things are blocking our way.

Consecration. Everything to lose.

This kind of space with Jesus can get a little uncomfy. 

We don’t know what this is supposed to actually look like. To truly live in freedom and love God so purely. It is a practice that must be cultivated. Maybe a little too often, we can hide behind worship music or our devotional books or jobs or callings. And we avoid time with just us and Jesus, absolutely nothing in the way.

Consecration is complete surrender. Viewed through the lens of God’s all-encompassing love, the truth is that everything that we would lose means nothing in God’s kingdom anyway. If He is for us, we already have all that we need. We have every spiritual blessing without having to do anything at all.

What kind of love is this? It’s the only true Love.

Love that only asks for what you are able to give, and that which you let go of will only benefit you. Love that loves you more than you could ever return.

He is more worthy of our returned love.

Today, maybe tomorrow and the next day, too. Let’s choose to set aside everything that does not align with His holiness, goodness and love, and love Him back: even just a fraction of how much He loves us.

We have come to an intimate experience with God’s love, and we trust in the love He has for us. God is love! Those who are living in love are living in God, and God lives through them.”

1 John 4:16 TPT

new year, so what?

photo by Aditya Vyas

Hey, friends.

It’s been a little bit. What a wild time. I had this moment today, as I was stalking an old friend’s photos. I saw a large group picture of her and a bunch of friends in France. And like a ton of bricks, I was reminded how difficult everything has been for two years now. It feels like a few steps forward, and then falling off of a cliff kind of backward when it comes to normalcy.

I wanted to tell you Happy New Year – but I’ve determined I kind of hate the phrase. Don’t get me wrong, I really do love the new year. I always have, and I probably always will. But it’s shifting each year, almost feeling like it shouldn’t be celebrated as a holiday because of the pressure we’ve placed on its significance.

Have you felt it a little bit? Most of us wait until the beginning of the year to start something new. Eating healthy, exercising, organizing, pursuing that dream. But there is absolutely nothing magical about the last number changing when we write the date. It is another passage of time, just like this minute to the next. This new year has come with absolutely no fanfare in my life. Due to quarantine and holidays, my kids were home for three straight weeks. It was hard. So many cancellations, so much flexibility for all of us. The new year doesn’t feel very new at all, in fact. I feel like I’m walking into it already spent all of my energy. Forget starting anything new.

How are we supposed to do it all? We’re supposed to take care of our bodies and our minds. Get enough sleep, meal prep, exercise. We are supposed to be organized so that we’re more efficient. We should limit our screen time and assess our goals and dreams but also be really present for our kids. We need to manage their diets and their screen time and and their emotions and their grades. We need to be present at work, give it our full attention but not too much attention that we bring it home. We need to be intentional with our husbands, intentional with our friends, clean our houses and our dishes and…

That all sounded a lot more depressing than I meant it. It is true, though.

I guess what we all need to release a little bit of is our expectations for ourselves.

Somehow, we’ve believed the lie that somehow we do not have enough of anything. We spend more than we need, we strive for affection, we spin to succeed.

In a word, it’s grace. It’s His grace that carries us, that gets us through. It’s His grace that gives us permission to mess it up. To limp into a new year, wondering if we’ll have what it takes this year. It’s His grace that gives us space to wonder even a little bit if He truly has enough for what we need.

Every year I ask God to direct me toward a word for the year. In the beginning of the year, I normally spend a lot of time focusing on it. Delving into scripture related to the word, really praying through it. As the year continues, I find it acting as an anchor when I find myself drifting. Reminding me what I committed to, and what God promised to walk with me through.

This doesn’t make me more spiritual than you. If you do not choose a word for the year, or if you want God to give you one, and it feels like He is silent, all of that is okay. Don’t let comparison get in the way here. Feel free to share mine.

This year, my word is contentment.

He’s been whispering it to me for a few months now. I find myself declaring it over my life, not begging God for it. He promises that in Him, I have everything I need.

When I am content, jealousy, envy and competition dissolve. I don’t need what they have. I don’t need to be noticed. The fruit of contentment is humility.

When I am content, my spending, my eating, my consumption in general isn’t out of control. Jesus satisfies my every need and I’m not reaching for anything else to fill me. The fruit of contentment is self-control.

When I am content, fears have no entry point. If I trust that my God is enough, what do I have to fear? The fruit of contentment is peace.

In contentment, I face the day with confidence and joy.

I trust that God supplies everything I need.

I don’t seek outside of what I already have to satisfy me – I seek Him only.

I don’t waste time wishing for more – buying more – unnecessarily filling up empty space.

I don’t seek approval from anyone –

I already have His.

Over and over, in my head and out loud, I am repeating: “I am content.”

So if you’re feeling a little distant, maybe a little unsteady, let Jesus be your anchor. Forget for the whole year, maybe just for right now. Right now, right here. In this breath. And then in the next one.

What does Jesus have that you need?

I mean, He has it all. He is it all. But you may need something specific to grasp.

He is:

our Rock

our Anchor

our Stronghold

our Refuge

our Defense

our Door

our Strength

It’s His grace that is poured out that gives us confidence to trust that He is enough.

If you’ve found yourself shuffling into 2022 believing the lie of “not enough,” take a minute today to switch your thoughts on all that He is.

Take a quick pause. And whether or not you choose contentment for a word of the year, let’s pray for it now together.

A Prayer for Contentment:

Jesus, in You I am content.

You satisfy my every need.

You are my portion and all my righteousness.

I live today out of an assured belovedness

I am Yours, and You are mine.

Every good and perfect thing comes from You.

I lack nothing.

You are my Shepherd, my Safety, my Provider, my Affirmation;

You save me from myself.

Rescue me from the lie of “more”

More money, more recognition, more coffee, more food, more success – more of me.

Redeem me from myself and hide me in You.

I worship You alone.

I trust in You alone.

I rest in You alone.

Who do I have in heaven but you?

And I desire nothing on earth but You.

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, my portion forever. (Psalm 73:25-26)