Year Five: Being Carried

On December 29th, the Mister and I celebrated five years of marriage.


For some reason, our five-year anniversary felt more momentous than previous ones.

As I’ve been thinking about it, I’ve decided it’s not because we are any more married than we were years one through four, or because we did something outrageously special to celebrate.

Not at all.

I think the occasion felt more special because over this year – really over the past few months – I’ve gotten a clearer picture of what marriage is and how its rich complexity truly does point back to the gospel.

It’s something I had been told by many before, but I think I had just boiled the truth down to the never-ending-unconditional-love-and-commitment thing in marriage, which is definitely a part of it, but this year I saw a new piece of the whole thing play out.

Obviously, a lot has happened over these past five years…

Year one, my husband was working 90-hours a week, we lived in Boston, I started working at a tech recruiting company that led to 12-hour days, we were “too busy” to be really connected to a local body of believers, we weren’t seeing each other (except for maybe a couple of hours in-between the hours of 2am and 7am), and, because schedules were unpredictable and we were rarely home at the same time, we ate out most every meal. Things were chaotic, and our marriage began to mirror that fact.

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Eight months into marriage, we experienced the Boston Marathon Bombings and eventually moved to Midland, TX where we lived in my in-laws’ garage apartment. The Mister started a new job and I started grad school, and we had to figure out what to do with the mass amounts of time we had to spend with each other – something we had never possessed before. And it was far more challenging than we imagined it would be. We had less distractions, and therefore, our idols, personal struggles, and relational hardships seemed magnified.

Years two and three were filled with a move back to Massachusetts, grad school for both of us, an epic black mold situation which meant living in countless hotels and air B&Bs, an oil bust that changed our plans, my first internship in counseling, daily two hour commutes for me during the week, unforeseen medical issues, financial strain, and just generally A LOT of transitions, busyness, adjustments and circumstantial trials. (I wrote about it here.)

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Year four consisted of getting pregnant, both of us graduating from grad school, more unforeseen health issues, moving back to Midland, buying our first house, my sister getting diagnosed with breast cancer, our U-Haul flooding, learning what it meant to pay off grad school debt, having a sweet sweet baby boy, and finding a church we loved. Many of these things were GREAT, and we felt extremely blessed, but in the midst of getting settled, we began to understand what getting settled really meant – it meant a slower pace, more free time, and less to think about – things I have a hard time handling well. 

Out of all of the years, this past year (year 5) felt circumstantially the easiest. We had a few minor house problems and we had a family-wide stomach bug, which was awful, but, honestly, it wasn’t a rough year at all…circumstantially. On a personal, inward reality, level however, it was a roller coaster. This past year, I found myself deeply struggling with God’s character – with questions surrounding who God was and is – and those questions resulted in some backsliding in my faith. (You can read more fully about my struggle here.) I became somewhat apathetic in my walk with Christ, and began to feel hopeless in God’s ability to help me. Self-reliance became my main coping mechanism – which manifested itself negatively in my marriage.

But, I ended up on the other side of it. I made it through. 

And a huge reason I did was because of my husband. In a way, he carried me through this past year. He was the one putting in all of the effort. He was the one pursuing me even though I was in the middle of a really ugly season. He was the one reminding me of truth when I couldn’t wrap my head around things, and he was the one who would patiently let me process and cry while trying to figure out where on earth I was. He was the one who pushed me to be honest with others, to pray, to seek God, and to continue to read my Bible even though it felt hard.

Obviously, all of his efforts were motivated and propelled by God himself, so the Lord truly deserves all of the glory, but still. This year, my husband carried me through.

And as we celebrated our anniversary Friday night, this is what we talked about.

There have been multiple times in our marriage when the personal trials faced felt too heavy for only one of us to carry alone, and, by God’s grace, in those times, God gave the other one the strength to help the one struggling. He gave the other the strength to support…to carry the one who needed to be carried.

As the recap above shows, we have experienced a lot in five years. We’ve walked through a lot of incredible highs and some pretty significant lows. And, in so doing, we’ve both carried the other at times, but this year, after a season of being so selflessly carried by my husband, I find myself incredibly thankful – not only for my husband and marriage, but for Christ and the way He has carried me through this life.

I can’t carry myself. No matter how “good” I try to be, it won’t be good enough because the standard is perfection, and perfect I am not. But Jesus, being fully man and fully God, was able to live a perfect life – he was able to be “good” enough because he was the only man who was ever truly and purely good in nature – and when He died He willingly died for the sins/imperfections of humanity. He took humanity’s sins upon himself and bled, offering himself up as the perfect sacrifice needed to redeem mankind from their sin and the death their sin would eventually lead to. And then he rose from the dead three days later to point to the fact that because He has power over the grave, He is the giver of life – and He longs to resurrect the lives of those who trust in Him.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 6:23

In the midst of bad decisions and a lot of straying in high school, He carried me safely back to himself. Before I even knew what was going on, He picked me up and relentlessly pursued me. As He carried me, He encouraged me and reminded me of truth, and He put people in my life who would do the same. He carried me to himself and into a relationship with Him where He continued to carry me – and support me – every day.

Because of Jesus’ death, my imperfect self has been redeemed, and, because of his resurrection, I have been given a new life – a life still marked by struggle, but a life of purpose when things seem purposeless, of joy in the midst of deep trial, of hope when all seems lost, and love even when I don’t feel lovely or when I don’t “feel” like loving others.

God carried me to the point of experiencing God’s grace years ago, and He carried me this past year – and He allowed my husband to partner with Him in that so that I might see the beauty of God’s grace play out in my own marriage. 

I’m not sure where you are in your life. You may be married, dating, single, or in-between any of those categories, but if you’re feeling alone or weary, may you find rest on the shoulders of Jesus.

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30

What Kacey Musgraves (and a Few Other Things) Taught me about Motherhood

What Kacey Musgraves (and a Few Other Things) Taught me about Motherhood

On November 15th, our little guy turned one…



All pictures taken by Kaylea Gaines

As many of you know, I was quite nervous about being a mom. In many ways, I didn’t feel equipped to be in charge of a little life, and I felt pretty unprepared. (You can read all about it here.) I was scared I wasn’t going to be nurturing enough, that I wasn’t going to know what to do, and that I would somehow break the valuable gift of life that had been given to the Mister and me.

Well, I’m over a year in, and I’m happy to report that we made it through just fine! There were definitely some months and some things that felt harder than others, but I can’t express enough how big of a blessing this last year has been. I am truly grateful for the gift of being a mom.

Now that our little guy’s festivities and Thanksgiving are over, I’ve been reflecting a lot upon what it means to be a mom and what I have learned since being one.

So, here you go! Here are five of the top things I have learned since being a mom. And, just so you know, some of them are sentimental and some of them are not.

[ONE: It’s actually hard to not post pictures of your kids every two seconds.]

Major confession here: I used to judge others regarding the amount of pictures they posted of their kids. I mean, I thought their kids were cute, but did I really need to see eighty pictures of them a day?

Please forgive me because I now know that it is HARD (like really hard) not to.

I mean staring at the cutest thing you have ever seen in your life and watching that thing do incredible things like sleep and slobber for twenty minutes straight is unbearably precious at times – and the things that seem like nothing to other people are special and significant things to you, so you just have to share them with the world.

It’s just the way it is.

And the upside is you’ll have a pretty good account of what your kid’s future spouse or our future president was like at every month of his or her life. So, soak it in. Appreciate the luxury.

[TWO: The “Mom’s Club” is a vocal and complex club, but it can be beautiful.]

This one has probably been one of the most comical, most frustrating, and most mind-boggling lessons I have had to learn as a new mom. And it, too, has been a major area in which the Lord has worked on my judgmental heart.

In case you didn’t know it, there are a lot of personalities and passions in the Mom’s Club.

I mean, you have the anti-vaxers, the pro-vaxers, the oily moms, the chemical-free moms (they might smell like vinegar), the chemical-happy moms (they might smell like clorox), the rigid schedule followers, those who don’t even know what a schedule is, the moms who think other moms shouldn’t work, the moms who think the moms that don’t work should, the a-dirty-home-is-a-fun-home moms, the clean-home-is-next-to-Godliness-home mom, the cry-it-outs, the never-let-them-cry-it-outs, the smockers (which typically also appreciate monogramming), the moms who let their kids wear pjs all day, the all-organic moms, and the all-processed moms. You also have the never-leave-my-kid-overnight moms, the happily-leave-my-kid-overnight moms, the it’s-a-sin-to-not-breastfeed moms, the moms who use formula, the pro-media moms, and the anti-media moms.

And everything in-between.

At first, I was startled by all of the options…all of the “you shoulds or shouldn’ts.” I mean, some of these things obviously don’t matter, right? But in this club, they do – even if the obvious importance to the person is only found in a small eye roll or a passive aggressive comment when you do, or mention someone who does, something differently. Every mom has landed where they have landed for a reason – because that’s how they believe it should be done – and therefore emotions and opinions run high.

So, enter Kacey Musgraves.

In her song “Biscuits” she sings a little diddy (edited because I can’t personally promote everything she’s going for here), and it’s helped me a great bit in this area:

“So ho​e your own row, yeah, and raise your own babies
[Soak your own oak] and grow your own daisies
Mend your own fences and own your own crazy
Mind your own biscuits and life will be gravy.”

Obviously, as a Christian, I believe in community, so I’m not saying I learned to isolate myself from others for the sake of doing what I want to do. Not at all! What I’m saying is I learned that some things – some opinions – just really don’t matter and that there’s room under the cross to do things differently. In application, this means that it is my job to parent my kid to the best of my ability and to pray for the Lord’s help in that, and to stay focused on those things (as hard as this is sometimes). I fall into and in-between many of the categories listed above and that’s okay, but if my opinions get in the way of me loving someone else, or if they lead me to roll my eyes and judge others, then I’m missing the point of the mom’s club – and I’m helping to turn it into something ugly. I’m turning it into something it was never intended to be. The mom’s club has the potential to be a beautiful and mutually uplifting community…and I have an important role to play in that.

[THREE: Friends don’t let friends parent alone.] 

This one is pretty self-explanatory, but it’s true.

From questions…

“What if my kid always has his days and nights confused?…We are going crazy. How am I supposed to do this sleep schedule thing? I’m still feeling so anxious about things…Did you ever feel this way? Will you pray for me? The woman at BSF is telling me that I need to put shoes on my son, but he takes them off when I put them on and now I feel bad about myself..Help?”

To situations…

“Let me come over and hold him while you get stuff done. Can I just come over and hang out with you while you stare at your baby? Can I clean your kitchen? Would Dillon like to borrow this truck since he doesn’t have one? I know our kids aren’t close in age, which will make a play date hard, but want to come over anyways? Want to get lunch? Can I watch Dillon while you study for your exam?”

I saw my friends be sacrificial in ways that have spurred me on and challenged me to be more sacrificial in the way I love and serve others in the future – especially the worn-out-sleep-deprived-utterly-confused first-time mom.

So, if that’s you. Hit me up.

[FOUR: Balance is important – but hard to achieve.] 

Before our son was born, the Mister and I plotted out a grand list of tangible ways we could prioritize our marriage and still maintain a relationship with each other in the midst of being parents. This list included working out together, having a date night every other week, and taking a trip – just us two alone or with friends – every three months. The plan was good, we both felt confident that we could keep it going, and when our son was born I began pumping so that we could make the plan happen.


I soon realized that emotionally and practically it was a different ball game.

My son was cute, I loved him, I felt extremely attached to him, and I wanted him to feel attached to me. Nursing was harder than expected, and it took a lot of pumping to get what was needed for trips away….and then there’s the mental component.

“What if something happened while we were gone? What if we die? How risky does this trip feel? What about our will? Who should we have parent him if something were to happen to us? Okay…we can go on this date, but we have to be home at this exact time because he’s going to get hungry. Every time I leave I feel like he gets sick. He’s still not sleeping through the night, which feels burdensome for others…should we still go to Vegas? A dinner date sounds good, but maybe I’d rather sleep.”

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I wasn’t expecting to half-way dread trips away (this feeling only lasted until I was actually on the trip, of course). I wasn’t expecting to cry when I left my son. And I definitely wasn’t expecting to bail on one of the trips I was looking forward to the most – which I did.

I think I expected my values – the idea that it was important for me and the Mister to have a life with each other that didn’t revolve solely around our son – to kick in without a hiccup, but I soon realized that prioritizing one very important thing over another very important thing takes sacrifice and, therefore, it isn’t easy.


But it’s so worth it. Marriage is a gift, but it’s a gift that takes time, effort, vulnerability, sacrifice, nourishing, and a lot of other things. And it needs to be nurtured…even in the midst of parenthood…as hard as that feels sometimes.

Balance isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. After this year, I can definitely say that.

[FIVE: You should work hard to cherish every moment, but don’t beat yourself up when you don’t.] 

Being a parent is hard. Every baby is different and everyone handles life’s stressors in different ways, but being a parent has its hard seasons regardless. It’s just part of the deal…or so I hear. At the same time, being a parent is also a tremendous blessing that not every single person gets to experience. And, this year, I’ve learned that being a mom means balancing these two realities all of the time.

And I think this is why the most common advice you will receive as a new mom is, “Cherish it. It goes by quickly.”

Honestly, as I reflect upon this past year, I feel as though I have worked hard to cherish it. In fact, I would say, I have cherished it most moments, but there are days when it just feels difficult. Now don’t get me wrong, these days aren’t difficult because I have a bad kid – my kid is actually super easy (praise the Lord). The days are just difficult because they are…and the deep-rooted, specific reasons are probably different for every mom. But I think what makes these days especially hard is the fact that you know that you “should be” cherishing them.  

For me, it typically goes like this.

I didn’t sleep well the night before, then the dishwasher breaks and I have a stack of dishes in the sink (which, for whatever reason, always makes me feel irritable), and I have to do the dishes but I can’t because I need to play with my son who can’t play by himself and then one thing leads to another, and I have a bad attitude and wish I was doing something else….

THEN it happens…

I’m scrolling through Instagram, and I see a post from a member of the Mom’s Club telling me to “cherish every moment”. And I think, “Crap.” Then I think, “I know. I know that it goes by quickly, and that it’s a gift, and I HATE that I’m not cherishing this moment right now. Thanks for the reminder…GRRRR.” And I immediately feel bad about myself and my attitude.

So, let me tell you this: It’s real life, and NO ONE in real life cherishes every moment….even the mom on Instagram who tells you to do so.

So, this year I’ve learned to have grace for myself. I should definitely try…like really try…to cherish every moment and I should pray when things get ugly in my heart, when I start to feel discontent and bored, but, because I’m human and because I’m imperfect, I won’t be able to do it all of the time. I just won’t. And, in those moments, God is still there and I can rejoice in the fact that his mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:23). In fact, He is able to give me mercy to get through the next minute, if I just rely upon Him…if I just let Him.  

So, I guess you could say I’ve reached these conclusions: post pictures of your babies, rejoice in differences (regardless of what people smell like or what people eat), find some new mom to love on, fight for balance, and give yourself grace.

Cheers to learning together.

Those Dang Hills. Three Year Reflection.

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Photo creds to my awesome mom.

On December 29th, the Mister and I celebrated 3 years of marriage.

I have always found it helpful to imagine life as though it were the never-ending training grounds for a marathon. I know this sounds weird, but just hang with me for a bit. As I run through life, there are easier moments, those moments on flat and smooth ground, and then there are moments that are dreadfully difficult, when it takes all that I have and all that I don’t have to persevere. I like to call those moments “the hills,” and my theory is that I grow when I run them. Although my life is easier and more enjoyable when I’m running the flat land, I know it’s the hills that make me a stronger “athlete.”

I think you get my point.

When I got married, I thought marriage was going to be easy. Obviously, I figured the Mister and I would fight and get in disagreements, but overall, I thought it was going to be this magical land of never-ending movie nights, flowers, fun trips, and exciting dates. When I envisioned married life, I never really thought about the big decisions, the struggle for work/life balance, or the bills. Others had told me to set realistic expectations, and I thought I understood, but I really didn’t “get it” until I got into it. Overall, I thought marriage was going to be flat land. I thought it was going to be a light jog with an easy breeze in my face.

Over the past few years, the Mister and I have faced a lot of hills.

When we first got married, I had to sorrowfully learn that marriage was not all about me. It was not about how well I was being pursued, or how I felt, or what I wanted to do. That was a hard hill to run up, and I’m pretty sure I got upset more than a few times. Eight months into marriage, I learned that the unexpected can happen, and sometimes doing the right and healthy thing means giving up worldly wealth and “success.” That hill was interesting, and perhaps one of the most trying for us as a couple. Moving across the country three times in two years was also challenging, and I lost my breath multiple times in the process.

We have even had a lot of hills this past year. We’ve had unexpected surgeries, a tuberculosis scare (false alarm), an epic black mold battle, multiple situations which have caused us to re-evaluate plans we thought were certain, and health issues which have made us press pause on some things we hoped to be able to do.

I’m not sure anyone anywhere enjoys “the hills” of life, but I have to tell you, this year I’ve been extremely grateful for them.

This year I have seen the fruits of past hills and have seen the beauty in the present ones. I have seen how our communication has improved; how we both have grown in humility and in our readiness to seek and offer forgiveness. I have seen our appreciation for one another expand encompassing the parts of each other we used to find annoying, and I’ve seen us grow in our support of each other as we have had to make difficult decisions. Although we have both had our not-so-pretty moments, I have seen us let go of control knowing that we are not responsible for who the other person is. All we can do is love each other – care, support, encourage, serve, pray for, and delight in each other – and work on ourselves along the way. Most of all, we have both grown in our recognition that we cannot run through life, and live the way we want to, on our own. We have both come to realize that in order to have the marriage we want, we need help. We can’t do it on our own. We need community, we need each other, and, most of all, we need the Lord. Only He can change our stubborn hearts. And He continually offers us grace.

I’ve been running hills my entire life. I’m pretty sure we all have.

The funny thing is, as much as I hate the hills, each hill leads to another hill. As soon as I get over one hill, I can expect to experience another hill over the horizon. In fact, the way I face the hill in front of me helps to determine the hills I will face in the future.

There have been times in my past when I’ve wanted to take the easier route. I’ve wanted to take the side road instead of the hill. I’ve wanted to take the flat lands.

For example, in college, I was tempted to enter into a relationship with someone that was not right for me. My desire to be in a relationship was strong, for I craved the comfort that came along with having a boyfriend, and I liked the guy a lot, which made the decision even harder. However, instead of taking the easy route, I took the hill. I talked to my friends about it, and by God’s grace chose to remain single. (Believe me when I say, there were plenty of times I took the easier route…plenty of times…but I figured I needed to supply you with an example of the opposite.)

The hills typically suck.

Running the hills this year has not been any more fun than running the hills I faced in the past, but this year, more than any other year of our marriage, I have been thankful for the opportunity to run them with my husband. Our marriage looks differently than it did year one. We have had a few things taken away from us, and we have had to give up many of our hobbies because of health issues, but in the midst of it all, we have been able to bank on God’s love for us and His purpose in our lives. We’ve been able to rely on our mutual desire to serve God and grow in Him. We’ve been able to rejoice in our imperfections, for it has reminded us of our never-ending dependence upon our Creator. By God’s grace we have learned to love each other more and have grown in the way we express it.

I guess what I’m saying is this: The hills are awful, but I have come to believe that they are worth it.

It is worth the sweat. It is worth the tears. And it is worth the struggle. Lace up your tennis shoes, stay hydrated, and don’t give up.

I’m not sure what hills the Mister and I will have to face in the future, but I know that our marriage is stronger today because of the hills we have faced in the past. Although I wish we did not have to face some of the hills we faced, I am thankful.

“I lift my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” – Psalm 121:1

Gratitude: Childhood Homes and God’s Faithfulness

Gratitude: Childhood Homes and God’s Faithfulness
Me in front of my childhood home. Please excuse my tired face – a late night T-Swift concert and an early morning flight back to Boston don’t mix well!

For the past seven days, I’ve been trying to write this dang post.

So many thoughts have been swirling around in my mind, and I swear I’ve written multiple paragraphs just to erase them. I’ve gotten frustrated, I’ve gotten sad, and I’ve gotten super sentimental, but I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t find my words and none of my thoughts seemed to fit together. (If you’re asking yourself why I put so much thought and energy into something I don’t get paid for, just don’t. I agree with you…and I don’t know why.)

A few days ago, I was driving home from school, and a song came over the radio. It was a song I had sang multiple times before, but for some reason, the words nearly moved me to tears. I turned up the radio, closed my eyes (don’t worry, at this point I was parked in the driveway), and sang at the top of my lungs.

“Christ alone; Cornerstone. Weak made strong, in the Savior’s love. Through the storm, He is Lord; Lord of all.”

Oh…it is so true.

A few weeks ago, I said goodbye to my childhood home. Before walking out of its doors for the last time, I sat in “my” closet and reflected on my life. I thought about the day we moved in, and my first night in “my” bedroom. I remember waking up confused as to where I was, but then suddenly distracted by the need to find animal shapes within the texturing of the walls.

I was seven.

I thought about “my” neighbors. The ones we shared a fence with constantly saw my little-kid face peeking over in hopes of a conversation. The other neighbors, the ones on the right, basically adopted me as their own. They taught me how to drive in snow, helped me wrap Christmas presents, and allowed me to hang out at their place whenever I got bored. They spent holidays with us, and we did so with them.

I thought about my family. How I used to sleep in a sleeping bag on my big sister’s floor at night just so that I could be near her (or because I was scared or something). I idolized her when I was little. I thought about all of the backyard games I played with my dad, and all of the times I made cinnamon rolls in the kitchen with my grandma. I thought about shopping trips and concerts with my mom, and of course…I thought about all of the times I got in trouble and was forced to do manual labor. (I mean, I’m basically the reason why the house is still standing. Your welcome, dad!)

I thought about my friends. I thought about my life-long friend K-pomp and how we liked to play a little game called “NUR” in the hallways of the house. (My parents still don’t know what the game consists of, nor will they ever.) Whether it was building high school floats in the garage, planning high school pranks, staying up all night long for sleepovers, or organizing various clubs, the house seemed to stand for openness and friendship. In fact, sometimes it felt like a hotel. My sister’s friends were always living with us.

Lastly, I thought about my life.

In “my” closet there was a stack of journals dating back from middle school and continuing on through my post-college life. I flipped through them and found all sorts of interesting things such as song lyrics, fictional writings, poems, and, most importantly, pages and pages of contemplations regarding theology and the various circumstances I had walked through. It was fascinating.

There were times in my life when I doubted my ability to ever be “ok” again. There were times of extreme heartbreak, overwhelming confusion, inner chaos, and mind-blowing loss. There were also times of pure joy, utmost excitement, and abundant peace.

But through it all, God was faithful.

During the times of forgetting who I was in high school, He was there. During the bad breakup, He was there. During the loss, He was there. And He knew where I was, too. He knew I was confused and insecure. He knew I was sad, and He knew I was doubting. He knew I wanted anything but what it was that I was going through.

But, He didn’t take me out of those situations immediately.

Instead, He let me wrestle, He let me cry, He let mourn, and He let question Him. He let me come to him with nothing but my confusion and brokenness to offer.

And I’m thankful for it. For in Him, I found a God who is loving, forgiving, life-giving, and faithful. And without the hard moments, I’m not sure I would have ever known God or myself the way that I do today.

He is faithful. He has been working since the beginning of my life to bring me closer to Him – to allow me to fall deeper in love with who He is. Sometimes it has sucked. It has meant awkward conversations of confessing faults and asking for forgiveness. It has meant ending relationships that have been gut-wrenchingly hard to end. It has meant telling myself the truth and being honest with others when all I wanted to do was run and hide. It’s meant giving up some things that I thought I really wanted – and some things that I thought I needed.

But good gosh…I’m SO thankful.

Although I wish I didn’t have to learn some of the things I learned the way that I learned them – I still learned. And, today, I’m filled with gratitude over the fact that God loves me enough to teach me things.
For, a God who loves us is a God who loves us enough to not give us everything we think we need or everything we desperately want. A God who truly loves us is a God who gives us what’s best for us even if we get mad and go down fighting. I mean, if He didn’t love us, He simply wouldn’t care. He’d let us do whatever we want regardless of the consequences to ourselves or others. He wouldn’t work on our character or the innermost parts of our being. He’d let us become whoever we want to become, even if it wasn’t our best.

Life seems to be this ever-changing, always revolving, memory making thing. Some days it feels easy and smooth, where as other days it can feel like the Texas Giant. (If you’ve ever ridden it before, you know what I’m talking about…it’s brutal.) We can’t know all of the answers to why things happen the way they do, and sometimes things simply don’t make sense to us. Through it all, however, we can hold onto the fact that God knows. He knows where we are, and He knows what He’s doing.

He’s faithful. And He loves us.

Today, I’m 29.

My life is far from figured out, and I’m sure it will always have its hard moments. I might continue to struggle with things that I’ve struggled with for years, and I’m sure there will be times of confusion, but may this serve as a reminder to myself that God is faithful. He knows what’s up. He’s for me, and He loves me. He gives strength to the weak, life to the dead, and peace in the midst of the storm.

“And leaving the crowd, they took Him with them in the boat…And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But He was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke Him and said to Him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ And He awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was great calm…And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?’” – Mark 4:35-41

What I learned from Alcoholics Anonymous and DJ Tanner

The mister and I arrived to Massachusetts a couple of weeks ago. After traveling across the country two times amounting up to over 80 hours in the car and living out of three houses, two apartments, and six hotel rooms in a 2-month time span, we were more than ready to be back home where we could do laundry regularly and sleep in our own bed. (Being able to find the bathroom in the in the dark is wonderful, too…it makes life easier, especially on my overly bruised legs which are sick of being hit by random things in the middle of the night.)

Since we have been here, I have been reflecting on this past year.

I remember one year ago when we first moved into our little place in Cambridge. I remember feeling so optimistic but also a bit nervous about what the year ahead would hold. I was excited to be back in Massachusetts, and prayed over our time here. I prayed that the Lord would grow the mister and I as individuals and that our marriage would be strengthened. I prayed that the Lord would use me, and that I would be willing to follow Him regardless of whether or not it seemed easy. I wondered about what our days would look like and who we would become friends with. I thought about being a student again and wondered what that would like like as a married woman. Last time I did the school thing, I was a single young adult.

Most of all, however, I wondered what people would think of me. Would they like me? Would I be accepted? I hoped so. I mean, I deeply hoped so. And this bothered me…continually…

Last year humbled me. I saw social anxiety and old insecurities resurface in ways that were both alarming and internally exhausting. Idols had taken a hold of my heart, and I was paralyzed by self-concern. At the same time, I wrestled with why I was struggling and tried everything I could to jump off of the people-pleasing, approval-needing, train I was on. I battled and I fought, but for some reason, I just couldn’t break free.

Today, as I sit here in the same place I sat one year ago, I can honestly say I am in a better place. Although I think my people-pleasing, perfectionistic, and approval-wanting desires might always be something I have to wrestle with, today I care less about what others think of me than I did a year ago. I am not struggling with anxiety, and I feel at peace about the year ahead. My thoughts do not continually go back to some image I am trying to maintain, and my heart feels more free.

So what happened?

As I reflect on the past year, I can vividly recall three events that the Lord used to dramatically reshape my thinking and reorient my heart. They were not things I sought out for change, but they were things the Lord knew I was going to come across – and I am thankful that He put them in my path.

CO711 – This random set of numbers and letters is the description number for the group process class I took this past school year. As part of the class, we had to split up into small groups and practice doing group therapy. The only premise was that we had to be the clients, and we had to be real with each other. (In case you don’t know, I’m studying to become a counselor…that’s why I take weird classes like this.) Anyways, in the group everyone opened up about their lives and the things they were struggling with, which means I opened up, too. Toward the end of the group, one of the group members encouraged me with something – and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.

During our last session, one group member turned to me and said, “Lindsey, my hope for you and for me is that we would make God our glory instead of ourselves.” I was baffled. What did he mean? What does it mean to make God your glory? I spent the summer reflecting on the statement, and after many attempts to wrap my head around the meaning, I came across Psalm 62:7:

“On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.”

Making God my glory means making Him my security, my hope, and my strength. It means placing my identity in Him – as someone loved and cherished – and finding my purpose in Him and who He created me to be. It is the opposite of self-exaltation and fame for fame’s sake. It means banking on Him instead of myself. It means focusing on Him and his grace instead of my own achievements. It means laying down my own efforts to gain recognition and, instead, trusting Him when he says I do not have to earn self-worth. It means abandoning a life focused on self for a life focused on Him.

Although I knew that finding my identity in Christ was huge, this summer I engaged with the idea in a new way. I began to dream about what it might look like. I began to hope for it.

Alcoholics Anonymous – For my addictions class, I had to attend an AA meeting, and it was mind blowingly powerful. In a world that preaches self-reliance, AA seems to stand out. As I sat in the circle and listened to people vulnerably confess their inability to heal themselves, I was reminded of my own tendency to white-knuckle my way through life. I thought about my own disabilities – my inability to hold my tongue at times, my inability to calm down in certain moments when I get angry, and my inability to stop thinking about myself too much. I reflected upon my own powerlessness and my desperate need of the Lord. I left the meeting feeling encouraged but also challenged to seek God instead of myself (and my own idea of what goodness looks like). I felt motivated to stop chasing the world and what it wants of me and began praying that Lord would help me fix my mind and heart on Him.  As the leader of the group blatantly said in his testimony, “[You] have to stop worrying about what everyone else is doing and focus on [your] relationship with God.”

It was a stunning experience.

Full House Documentary –  A couple of nights before the mister and I left for Boston we were watching a Full House documentary with my mom. I listened as the narrator covered each character one-by-one and explained what the different stars are known for and what they had become. When they got to Candace Cameron-Bure (DJ Tanner), they made one statement that caused me to reflect upon my own life. Some narrator who was wearing big glasses looked at the camera and said, “Candace is probably equally known for her faith as much as she is her career.” As we drove back to Massachusetts, I could not get the narrator’s words out of my mind. Although I can’t say that I know all of Candace’s stances on theology, and I’m sure we don’t agree on everything, I appreciate her. I appreciate the fact that she stands out in the midst of an industry that praises moral relativism and fame. I admire her boldness and honesty in the midst of people who disagree with her. I mean, it takes a lot of strength to stand up for what you believe in when what you believe is not popular. It’s a lot easier to sway for the sake of acceptance.

Candace reminds me that it is possible. It is possible to delight more in God’s never-ending love and less in the world’s temporary praise. And for someone who can struggle with seeking acceptance over God’s glory, this is both refreshing and challenging.

Last year was a whirlwind, but I’m thankful for it. Last year proved to me that I am so incapable of being the person I want to be alone. I desperately need the Lord’s help. I need his refinement, his gentle (and sometimes not so gentle) reminders, and his comfort. I need his help. I need his assistance if I ever hope to fix my thoughts on Him and the things that really matter in this life.

When I look back on where I was a year ago, I am thankful. I am thankful for a God who is powerful enough to change minds and hearts and for a God who is worthy of our praise. I am also thankful that He uses the weirdest things to shape us.

Cheers to another school year!

“Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice! Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!” – Psalm 105:3-4

The Beauty of Psalm 5

Psalm 5 is absolutely beautiful.

The Psalm provides a stunning picture of David’s vulnerability and need for God. The Psalm is a prayer – and throughout it, David reminds himself of truth and praises God for his steadfast love (v.7), His ability to provide refuge (11), and for the blessing God brings to those who trust in Him (v. 12).

My favorite part of the Psalm, however, comes in verse 8. Here, David cries out to the Lord for help:

“Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me” (ESV).

This prayer resonates with my heart.

My enemies may not be physical people, but I have some enemies.

Comfort tempts me to stick to my own schedule, my own plan, instead of submitting to God. My idol of acceptance lures me to alter who I am or what I think so that others will accept me more. Anger tries to convince me that relief is found in release, instead of remembrance of truth and words of love. Lies and negative self-talk seek to make me feel bad about myself – to disorient and distract me from the truth of who I really am in Christ. Security tries to convince me that money matters more than surrender, and discontentment aims to fill my mind with pessimism. Anxiety plays with me so that I seek refuge in myself, and my own clinched fists, instead of trusting God. Fear tempts me to stop moving so that I am stuck in places that are old, stale and dry. Loss begs me to despair.

You see, my enemies may not be people, but I have enemies. And sometimes they are fierce.

I’m thankful for David – for his truth, his boldness, and his confidence in God. You see, I think David got it.

“But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house.” – Psalm 5:7 (ESV)

David didn’t do anything to deserve God’s love. It wasn’t based on the good he had done, the skills he had been gifted with, or the successes he would have in the future. In fact, David did a lot of really bad things. He committed adultery, he murdered an innocent man, he lied, and, at times, he was gripped by passivity to the point of being an absent father and king.

Yet, David was covered by the grace of God. He rejoiced in the love of God and that love gave him the security he needed to cry out – to pray for rescue.

How easily I forget.

As Christians, we are not alone in fighting our enemies. We have a God who loves us, and because of that, we can boldly approach Him.

“Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me.” – Psalm 5:8 (ESV)

Cry out, remember, and trust. He can help. Exhale.

You Knew this Day Long before You Made Me out of Dirt – Life at 28

Yesterday at 3:06pm I turned 28.

photo 1
Photo creds to the talented Grace Weatherl

To be honest with you, the age feels weird.

TEN years ago I was 18.

Ten years ago, I had just started growing in my walk with the Lord. Ten years ago, I wanted to conquer the music business world through expert marketing skills and change the way Country musicians were promoted. Ten years ago, I never wore the same outfit twice (or tried not to). Ten years ago, I listened to Ashlee Simpson. Ten years ago, I continually argued with my parents about how messy my room was…

Amazing how a little time and divine intervention change things.

Anyways, over the past week, I’ve been trying to figure out what my big “take-away” was from this past year. Sunday I couldn’t even focus on the sermon because I was trying to figure it out, and all day Tuesday, I thought about it without any success. I just couldn’t seem to land on ONE “thing” – one lesson or experience – that shaped the entire year.

You see, this year has been one of the most challenging years of my life.

From our move to Midland and the dynamics of changing friendships, to a growing marriage and plotting out our future plans, it’s been somewhat of a high-speed helicopter ride. All I could do was look out the front window and wonder what was going to happen next.
Although the lessons were many and the growth was great, I couldn’t think of one “thing” that really marked the year.

Then bedtime came.

Wednesday night, the mister and I were lying in bed seeking to watch one of my favorite TV shows on my computer when the Internet failed. Totally bummed, I started flipping through my iTunes catalog, when I stopped at a song called “Table for Two” by Caedmon’s Call.

It’s almost as if I had totally forgotten it had ever existed.

I pressed play, and the mister and I listened to it.

The song had served as a refuge for me in my post-college, young-adult life. On the good days, I listened to something with the banjo in it, but on the rough ones, it was always “Table for Two.” I can remember listening to its words after a hard day at work, a break up, or in the middle of feeling utterly lost in my life. I sang its words out loud on days of confusion and loneliness, and wrestled with God on what He was going to do with my future. I used the song as a reminder that I could trust God, and that He knew what He was doing – even though sometimes I had a hard time believing it.

As the mister and I listened to the song, my heart rejoiced.

The future I so deeply worried about, I was now in.

I have a husband that loves the Lord with such strength and integrity that it inspires me daily. He loves me with an underserved faithfulness, even when I’m hard to deal with. He longs to see me grow and use the talents the Lord has given me – and he even sacrifices to make it happen. Even though it’s not always easy, and we are far from perfect, we make a good team and I can’t imagine life without him in it. On top of that, I have wonderful friends and a great family on both sides. I have a roof over my head and food to eat. My body functions, and my mind works.

I exhaled. I had found my “thing.”

As I continued to thank the Lord, I remembered that his faithfulness has nothing to do with me. Even if I was still single and in a job I wasn’t crazy about, He would still be faithful. That’s just who He is. He knows what we all need and where we are all going, and if we only trust Him, he will lead us the right way. He promises life and goodness to those who put their faith in him, but not a life marked by expensive possessions or favorable circumstances, but a life that’s rich in things that last forever. He is faithful to grow us and is mighty in the way he loves us.

Although I am grateful for the ways in which God has moved in my life and am comforted by the things he has supplied, my hope cannot be placed in them. He is the only thing that’s certain. The King of the world loves me. He is faithful – and he can be trusted.

“Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.” – Psalm 9:10

That, my friends, is amazing.

“This day’s been crazy, but everything’s happened on schedule,
From the rain and the cold, to the drink that I spilt on my shirt.
‘Cause you knew ho you’d save me before I fell dead in the garden,
And you knew this day long before you made me out of dirt.
And you know the plans that you have for me.
And you can’t plan the end and not plan the means.
And so I suppose I just need some peace,
To get me to sleep.” – Caedmons Call, “Table for Two” 


Five Lessons I Learned from One Year of Marriage (That I Should have Learned a LONG Time Ago)

One month ago today, the mister and I celebrated our one-year anniversary.

December 29th, 2012 (Geoff Duncan Photography)

As one can expect, living with someone of the opposite sex for the first time can be quite an experience, and as I’ve been doing some reflecting, I’ve been amazed at all of the things I have learned. To be honest, picking what to write about is quite hard, for I feel as though there are many options.

For example, I could tell you about how the things you simply don’t care about (the ‘fluffiness’ of your pancakes) might really matter to someone else (like, your spouse), how the movies you think are absolutely amazing (“March of the Penguins”) may not be of any interest to other people (like…your spouse), or how coming up with other ways to describe household items (like a duvet cover or a Crock-Pot liner) may be needed to help someone else (yep…your spouse) know what you’re talking about.

The list could go on and on.

However, if I had to narrow everything down, I would say there are five main lessons I’ve learned in my first year of marriage. The funny thing is, I think these lessons apply to life outside of marriage, too. In fact, I wish I had put them into practice more as a single person.

If you don’t mind, I’d like to share them with you.

Here are the 5 biggest things I have learned in one year of marriage that I should have learned (or practiced more) while I was single:

1. You can only be responsible for you.

Now before you start thinking that I’ve gone off on some “Mrs. Independent-only-think-about-yourself train,” let me reassure you that I haven’t. What I’m talking about here is the concept that in conflict, and in life, we can’t control or change anyone except for our self.  Or, in other words, only God can change hearts, and we’re missing the point if we’re focused on what He needs to do in another person’s heart and not on what He needs to do in our own.

In conflict, this plays out when you die to yourself, own your own faults, ask for forgiveness, and do your best to reconcile things, even if the other person is unapologetic or uninterested in the examination of their own behavior. It’s looking inside of yourself and praying for clarity on the places in your heart that are in desperate need of God’s touch – and admitting them. (See Matthew 7:3.)

In action, it’s not doing what you feel like you can do because the other person did something that you feel justifies your response. It’s choosing to not seek revenge or have a hard heart. It’s choosing to use gentle words to explain your case, even if the other person is not. It’s responding rightly, even when it’s hard. (And for me, it’s always hard.)

It’s saying, “Neither one of us did things perfect here, but I’m going to focus on what I did incorrectly, how I caused pain, and ask God to work in me.”

It’s choosing to not waste time pointing fingers at someone else when an opportunity for self-reflection, humility and growth is staring you right in the face.

2. Your hope, identity and satisfaction can only be found in one place.

This one is really difficult for me.

After two big moves (one to Boston and one to Midland) I’ve had to rely on my husband socially more than I ever thought I would have to. In Dallas, where my life was pretty well settled, I had a community of friends, a church I was active in, and a schedule that was full of events. Moving to Boston changed everything, and I looked to my husband to fill in the gaps.  Even the ones he was never meant to fill.

The Lord, through it all, has sweetly reminded me that only He truly satisfies – and his satisfaction is deeply fulfilling.

My husband cannot fill me up. No matter how awesome he is (and he is AWESOME), he will crush my expectations and leave me disappointed – and I will do the same to him. Life isn’t easy and marriage is hard. I cannot put the burden of my satisfaction on his shoulders. He was not created to carry such a heavy load. And no one else is either.

Your job, your family, your boyfriend, your friends, your diet…none of them can truly bring lasting satisfaction. Temporary pleasure? Sure, but it won’t last.

In John 4, we find a story about a woman.

Not only is the woman a Samaritan, which means she’s a social outcast, but she’s also quite promiscuous. Her need for affection or security has drawn her into the arms of five men, none of which are her husband. One day she goes to a well to draw water and she meets Jesus. They talk.

As the woman reaches down to fill her bucket with water, Jesus says to her:

“Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” – John 4:13 & 14

The satisfaction and fullness that is found in Jesus is beyond comparison. He brings eternal peace and joy. He’s the solution. When all else fails – and when everything is going well – he can be trusted. He quenches our deepest thirsts so that we don’t have to run to temporary things to feel complete. He satisfies.

3. Words are powerful.

Unfortunately, I’ve learned this one the hard way.

Ephesians 4:29 reads like this:  “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

When emotions are roaring and when conflict hits the fan, these are hard words to live by. Sometimes, instead of speaking the truth with gentleness and in love, I choose to say whatever I think of in whatever manner feels best – and sometimes it hurts others.

Proverbs 17:27&28 reads, “The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered. Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.”

Words are powerful. Calm down, take a breath, and use caution.

4. There is danger in comparison, so watch what you feed yourself.

In every woman’s bible study, this truth is touched on; however, I’ve come to realize that I need to be reminded of it often.

We are officially living in a technology driven world. All around us are status updates, Instagram pictures, and Tweets about how great someone else’s life is. If we’re not careful, we can lose sight of the things the Lord has blessed us with.

I remember the year I graduated from college…

I was on Facebook one night looking at all of my friends who were traveling the world sharing the Gospel with the lost or helping orphans in some foreign country. I remember thinking I was a pathetic individual wasting time in corporate America when there was a life that really meant something out there waiting for me. Instead of thanking the Lord for the place He had me and surrendering to Him to lead me wherever He would choose, I became discontent. I wanted to be anywhere besides where I was.

If I’m not careful, the same thing can happen today.

I see a friend who goes on a romantic date and I start wondering why my husband and I never go on cool dates. I see new moms with their precious new babies and wish I had one. I see pictures of fancy vacations and immediately start wishing I was on a beach somewhere…

I think we’ve all been there.

Lately, I’ve been challenged by this verse found in Philippians 4:8:

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent and praiseworthy – think about such things.”

Although I have a wonderful husband, a roof over my head, and a God who loves me, it’s easy for me to get distracted. When I start comparing my life to the lives of those around me, negativity slowly creeps in. Instead of trusting the Lord with my circumstances and walking with Him through them, I start wishing he had me somewhere else.

Don’t get me wrong; social media can be used for great things. At the same time, however, it can be a rather dangerous thing. Comparison is a thief. Choose gratitude.

5. Understanding is the goal.

The Mister and I are very different. He likes numbers, while I like words. He likes thoughts, while I like feelings. He likes to fly, but I like road trips. He wears shoes outside…and sometimes I don’t.

We are VERY different.

Over the past year, I have come to appreciate our differences, for in them is our biggest strength as a couple. They make us a good team. It seems as though his passions and strengths balance out my disdains and weaknesses – and vice versa. Through our differences, we are able to stay balanced and well rounded. At the same time, however, I’ve learned that our differences push us toward conflict and, if not monitored, our conflict can turn into a war.

In pre-marital counseling, we learned that the goal in conflict is not to win but to gain understanding. I think this truth, though hard, is worth remembering.

Most of the time the issue worth talking about isn’t the issue that’s being talked about. For example, it’s not the fact that you HATE talking about finances, it’s the fact that he probably feels disrespected when you won’t. Sometimes it’s not the issues on the surface that are the issues but something a little deeper.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peach of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body, you were called to peace. And be thankful” (Colossians 3:12-15).

I am no expert in this marriage thing (obviously), but I am grateful for the Word of God and the fact that it is reliable. I’m thankful for the paths He takes us down and the things He shows us along the way. He truly is a guide to the lost and a breath of fresh air to the lifeless.

December 29th, 2013 (Photo creds to Doug Klembara)

The road goes on forever, and the party never ends! (Line taken from Robert Earl Keen although, in this context, it probably doesn’t mean what he intended it to mean originally…) Cheers!

A Few Thoughts on 2013 and the Year Ahead

It’s hard to believe that it is officially 2014. Few things fly as quickly as time.

This past year was quite a whirlwind for me.

The year started while we were on our honeymoon in Puerto Rico, and it has taken us from a tiny brownstone in Boston to a garage apartment, of sorts, in Midland, TX. I got a new job, quit the new job, and started school, while my husband left the company he was working for to help his father run the family business. We’ve made 3 visits to the ER, almost died kayaking at night through a tree-covered canal (or, at least I thought we were going to die), and have experienced a bombing, a blizzard, and a region-wide, government-ordered lockdown.

The mister and me outside after the blizzard in Boston
First Red Sox game after the Boston Marathon Bombing (and the game where I lost my phone)

It’s been one heck of a year.

I lost my cell phone 3 times (once on the T, once at Fenway, and once at the pool). I learned how to assemble furniture, take the public transportation system in Boston, and how to hook up cable TV and Internet. I learned what a “Zip Car” is and that I should eat before getting into a taxi so that I don’t get sick. Together, the mister and I bought a car and gave away a couch. We went to Jamaica and Mexico, and celebrated a wedding in New York City. My Dallas roommate got engaged, and one of my best friends of over 20 years got married. We watched over 28 episodes of both “How I Met Your Mother” and “Nashville,” and we learned how to make a quiche. We laughed really hard, and I cried a few times. (I tend to express emotion a little more than my husband.)

The mister and me in front of the first car we purchased together
The mister and me in Central Park

Again, it’s been one heck of a year – and it’s been a humbling one for me. I think humility comes with growth, most of the time.

Yesterday morning, as I reflected on 2013, I came across a verse that encouraged me deeply.

“So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” – Ephesians 5:15-21

This verse seems to sum up the struggles I’ve had over this past year. At the same time, it gives me guidance on how to live my life to the fullest in the year to come.

1. “So be careful how you live…Make the most of every opportunity…Don’t act thoughtlessly…”

Over the past year, there have been many times when I’ve only thought about myself, and my own needs, instead of the needs of others.  At moments, I became so narrowly focused that I forgot how to love others well. This verse reminds me of a greater way of living. I’m capable of throwing my life away by living it for myself. I must remember to think. I’ve been given a purpose – and I’m praying I live by it.

2. “Don’t be drunk with wine…Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

This verse isn’t saying that alcohol is wrong, but it is saying that abusing the things the Lord has given us is. For me, this verse not only serves as a warning against a life of drunkenness, but also a warning against living a life that continually chooses the ways of this world over the ways of the Lord. In other words, continually choosing destructive paths over the way of life. Over this past year, I have made a few of those choices. I have chosen to give way to my anger instead of expressing myself in truth and love. I have lusted after things I want and have chosen pleasure over lasting peace. I’m reminded that life isn’t found in fleeting things. “There is [truly] a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 16:25). The Lord created me, and He knows the path that leads to life. I am reminded to stop choosing things he wouldn’t want for me to choose and instead, trust Him with my life and all of the decisions it contains.

3. “Singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks for everything to God…”

All of the changes experienced over this past year have left me feeling discouraged, at times. Leaving old friends, making new ones, and then leaving them has taken its toll, and I’ve struggled with loneliness and isolation.  This verse reminds me that instead of walking around with my head hung down, I ought to worship God and thank him for the wonderful things (both material and not) in my life. My heart should be focused on worship – not on myself. If my head is hung low, I cannot see all that God is doing around me. I’m encouraged to live a life of worship and to be thankful.

4. “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

Obviously, this one plays out the most in my marriage. (See note on what submission is, and what it isn’t, below.) This verse reminds me that instead of insisting on my own way of doing things (which I’m guilty of), I ought to allow my husband to lead out in our marriage. I ought to listen to him and respect him, instead of only hearing what I want to hear. Allowing my husband to lead us through this life is a way of honoring and worshiping God. What a sweet reminder!

While I spent a lot of last year wishing I were in Dallas, hoping that we could find a church like Watermark (the church I attended in Dallas), or wishing my Dallas friends lived in Midland or Boston, I failed to remember that life is short.

Psalm 90:12 reads, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

None of us know how long we will walk this earth. We don’t know when our time will be up. The truth is, it could be tomorrow – or even today. My prayer for 2014 is that the Lord teaches me to number my days, and that I remember the truths I was reminded of in Ephesians 5:15-21.

He has given me a purpose. He knows the way to life. Worship. Be thankful. Remember that life is short. Love well and live free.

“Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all of our days.” – Psalm 90:14

Happy New Year! May you live life well in 2014.

Midland, TX sunset

*** I know the word “submission” has a really bad reputation, so I want to reassure you that it is not some weird, twisted, or dehumanizing thing. Submission is not a silent obedience to whatever your husband wants you to do. In the Bible, the husband is given the task of loving his wife like Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25), which means that a husband is to love his wife by caring for her needs, walking in humility, encouraging her, and laying down his own life to the point of death. (Christ loved us so much that he died a gruesome and horrible death on the cross.) This makes submission not a thing of suppression or abuse but a thing of safety and trust. The goal is that the husband loves the wife so well that she is able to trust him and his leadership of the family…more on this in another post soon.)

Something We Can All Be Thankful For

Each November, I watch friends and family complete the “’I’m thankful for _______’ Thanksgiving Challenge” on Facebook. Although I think the idea is genius, and truly believe that gratitude can change even the grimmest pessimist’s heart, this year, I’ve struggled with it.

You see, this year has been hard for a lot of people.

Just in my immediate circle, I’ve had one friend lose a 10 year+ battle with cancer, leaving behind a husband and her kids, while another friend got diagnosed with the disease. I’ve had friends find out they can’t have kids, while one of my other friends lost the baby she was carrying at full-term. Family members have passed, neighbors have lost jobs, and natural disasters have ripped the possessions away from entire communities.

It’s been a rough one – and writing about the “good” things in my life has felt insensitive at times.

Obviously, I know that we should never shy away from being thankful for the things we have, but making a public declaration of them while so many people are suffering…

I think you get my point.

The other day, however, I came across something we can all be thankful for – regardless of economic position, health, size of family, or location – and I want to share it with you.

In case you don’t know, the worship of God used to operate on a code of sacrifices. Now, for the sake of being less wordy than I could be, let me just explain it like this:

God is perfect. He created man and woman in a perfect place and asked them to follow Him, but they chose to sin. (In other words, they chose something they knew would lead them away from God.) Therefore, all of their children were born sinful, and their children after them. Sin (the inability to be perfect) was bred into the family tree of humanity – and no one was/is free of it. Now, fast-forward through multiple Patriarchs (founding fathers of sorts) and you land on the Israelites, a nation of people God set aside to represent him on earth. The Israelites, who were just led out of slavery in Egypt by God’s power through Moses, are wandering in the desert when God gives commands to Moses. The commands lined out the path to a full life and the way to have a relationship with God.

Now, because perfection cannot dwell with imperfection, God (perfection) created a way for man (imperfection) to have a relationship with him. He created the sacrificial system. Sacrifices were listed. Goats, sheep, and other animals were to be killed in order to atone for the sin of the people. Only blood would work – and only the blood of a perfect animal.

Ok…this brings me back to my point.

I was reading the other day, when I came across this verse, and it made me thankful:

“The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who were ceremonially unclean (too dirty to come before the Lord) sanctif[ied] them so that they [were] outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” – Hebrews 9:13&14

If you’re like me, you’ve felt the weightiness of sin.

You’ve said something you shouldn’t have said, done something you shouldn’t have done, and gone somewhere you didn’t need to be. You’ve hurt people, lied to people, and have pushed others aside. You’ve discounted life to follow your own desires and have felt the emptiness that follows.

Sin stinks – and it’s not a friend to any of us.

There was a time in my life when I tried to fix my issues with sin. I tried to force my sin into a box so that it didn’t affect anyone and didn’t cause harm like it had in the past. However, the stuffing didn’t work.

Hearts can never be changed by external things.

You see, the verse above mentions that the Old Testament rituals that the Israelites performed didn’t save them. The rituals didn’t cleanse their insides because, as the text says, “it is impossible for the blood of bulls to take away sins” (10:4). By faith that God was who he said he was, the Israelites performed sacrifices, but it didn’t do the trick.

Externally, through the sacrifices, the Israelites were made clean, but only through faith in God (which eventually led to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross) were they made, internally clean.

Through Christ’s perfect sacrifice (he was without sin), I am made clean. His death covered all of my imperfections making me internally clean before God. Even though I still sin, it doesn’t have to define me because when God sees me, he sees the blood of his Son – the only truly perfect sacrifice.

I can have fellowship with God because His blood covers me. A blood sacrifice has always been his standard.

“By one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” – Hebrews 10:14

Christ died for me – and he died for you, too. Christ’s death on the cross was enough…forever. No matter how many good things you do, without Christ, you are only cleaning up the outside.

I don’t know where you are or what you believe, but there is a God, He’s faithful, He loves you, and He wants you to know Him. I know Him – and because of that I’m forgiven and bound for Heaven.

In Him, there’s hope that never fades. It isn’t dependent upon anything this world has to offer. Rich, poor, with, or without, it’s available.

I’m thankful for the grace of God and his work on the cross. I’m thankful that he didn’t leave me to die in my sin, but by his compassion and grace (unmerited favor), He saved me.

I’m thankful – and that’s for sure.

“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your heart.” – Hebrews 3:15