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

Yesterday at 3:06pm I turned 28.

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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” 

 

My Take on the Movie “Noah” (Without Revealing too Much)

The mister and I went and saw the movie “Noah” this weekend – and to be honest with you, I was kind of nervous.

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Picture from imdb.com.

Just like anyone else who has ever anxiously awaited the release of a movie about a historical figure they have researched and studied (ex: “Ray,” “Walk the Line,” or “The Aviator”), I was interested to see how the movie “Noah” portrayed the actual story and person in the Bible. Was it going to completely destroy the message of the story, or was it going to portray what the true story does – hard-to-swallow justice, grace, and hope?

I was pleasantly surprised.

Just to be clear from the get-go (and state the obvious), the movie “Noah” and its biblical story do not match exactly. In areas where the biblical account is both loose and firm, Darren Aronofsky (the director) took quite a bit of creative liberty. Although, I personally found some of these things hard to watch (because they were in complete opposition to the actual story), my encouragement to everyone is the same: Read the actual account (link to actual account) and then see the movie, but remember…it’s just a movie. I am fairly certain the director is not a historian and was not set on portraying the story as it actually happened in the first place. (Exhale…it’s going to be okay.)

At the same time, I wouldn’t use the movie to formulate a comprehensive opinion about God – you should probably check out the biblical account first. (And explore the other biblical texts surrounding it.)

Alright…now to my point:

Although there has been much controversy surrounding the film, I think there are several truths that exist within it. And because I know you’re dying to know my opinion (just kidding), I’ll share them with you:

“Noah” is faithful in reminding me that we were all created.

Throughout the movie, a constant theme is creation. The creation story is told and retold several times, and special effects are even used to show how creation may have happened. God is referred to as “the Creator” and it is clear that all He created was created for a purpose. It’s a compelling truth.

None of us were an accident. Out of nothing, God created something. He created the animals, the trees, and you and me. How it happened is secondary (for I think it could have happened in a variety of ways), but it’s obvious that it happened. Out of nothing, came something, so where did things come from? (Even with the Big Bang Theory, the matter had to exist beforehand. Even if we evolved, we had to evolve from something.)

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” – Genesis 1:1-2

“For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him.” – Colossians 1:16

“Noah” displays the fact that we are all broken.

The “men” in “Noah” are scary people. They are a society of people bent on pleasing themselves, even if it hurts others. Because of this and a few other elements, the movie is quite dark.

Sometimes the world we live in is, too.

Murder, injustice and manipulation surround us. Just watch the news or read the paper, and you’ll see it clearly. We are prone to want what we want for our own benefit. Perfection within the human race does not exist, for even in the midst of our good deeds, we can hold selfish motives. Noah wasn’t perfect. I’m not perfect. And neither are you.

“For all have sinned (a archery term meaning we’ve “missed the mark”) and fall short of the glory of God.” – Romans 6:23

We need to be saved from our mess.

“Noah” illustrates the hard-to-face fact that the wages of sin is truly death.

This is a common theme throughout the movie (obviously).

God created us. He didn’t have to, but he did. And just like a painter, he didn’t create us without a purpose. He created us to be something beautiful – a race full of love, joy and peace. He created us to enjoy him and his creation forever.

He told Adam and Eve to continue the human race – to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). At the same time, however, he gave them a choice. They could choose to live the way God intended them to live (in peace, love and harmony) or they could go their own way (a way that made them feel powerful and in control).

He gave them a tree and told them not to eat off of it…but they did.

They chose to cut their own path, make their own rules, and pursue a life of “happiness” apart from God – and we still seek to do this today. We put all of our hope in things that don’t last forever (our bodies, our wardrobe, our friends, our jobs, etc.) and we use these things to feel better about ourselves. We think these things, over a relationship with God, will satisfy.

We get so distracted by making ourselves god that we ignore the fact that a real God truly exists.

God is clear on what we earn for doing this.

“For the wages of sin is death…” – Romans 6:23

There’s hope, though.

At the same time, “Noah” presents the truth that God is a God of grace, redemption, and second chances.

Although the wages of sin is death (just like the wages of mowing somebody’s lawn might be $75), there is hope.

“But the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 6:23

 

“If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” – Romans 10:9

 

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” – Ephesians 2:8&9

When no one else could save us, God sent Jesus to die for our sins. All of our sins were cast on him and he paid the ransom for our lives. He calls us to seek him, to know him, and to follow him.

He’s a God of second chances. If you see the movie or read the book, you’ll hear this anthem ring.

“Noah” reminds us of the power of trusting in God.

In the movie, Noah was continually in danger. This is something the biblical account doesn’t tell us, but I’m guessing it’s true. (Think about it…if a flood comes and only one person has a boat, what’s going to happen?) Noah continually risked his own life to stand up for himself, his family, and the calling of God. He trusted that God would accomplish his purposes if only he was obedient. No risk, no danger, no outcome was too great. He trusted God and kept walking.

When I reflect on my own life, I have to wonder if I’m doing the same thing. Am I standing up for what I believe in and trusting that God will accomplish his purposes in my life, or am I fearful of the ways in which others will perceive me? Am I distracted by fear, or am I joyfully walking through this life knowing that even in death, I will have life?

“Where O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” – 1 Corinthians 15:55

Trusting in God comes with assurance in this life and the next. I can rest confidently in Him.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28

 

“I’m convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, nether the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:38 & 39

May we not miss out on the opportunity that comes our way.

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.

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The mister and me outside after the blizzard in Boston
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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.)

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

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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.)

The Hope for Our Chaos

The countdown is almost over. Christmas is almost here.

I love this time of year; the Christmas lights, the trees, the music, the cold (or somewhat cold) weather, and the spirit that fills people. It’s truly magical.

Whether or not you believe in the person and work of Jesus, Christmas is a celebration of Him. He was the baby who was born in a cave (or a manger), the one the wise men came to see, and the one who died on a cross 33 years or so later. Whether or not you believe in Jesus, and whether or not you believe that what He claimed/s is true, it’s obvious that He caused a stir in this world – and that things, since Him, have never been the same.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about Jesus.

You see, sometimes I hear the story of Jesus’ birth and forget the magnitude of what that birth meant for me. I read the Christmas story and I sing the carols, but I fail to reflect on the fact that Jesus was a real person who came to this earth to die on a cross. I forget to remember that because of his birth, I have hope in the midst of chaos and a salvation that can never be taken away from me.

If I’m being honest with you, this year has had its rough patches. The changes associated with marriage (new locations, new churches, the changing of communities, etc.), the loss of loved ones, and the various battles with deep-seeded idols have left me feeling low at times. In areas where I used to feel strong, I have felt weak, and in areas where I once felt peace, I’ve felt unsettlement. There hasn’t been an area of my life that hasn’t been jostled by the Holy Spirit, it seems.

As I’ve been thinking through all of this stuff, I have thought about Jesus.

On a cold night over 2,000 years ago, God sent his only Son into a world torn by violence, madness, and prejudice to redeem it. He knew his son was going to die on the cross and he knew the world would reject him, but He sent him anyways.

You see, Jesus’ birth is not some distant event; it is something very relevant to us today. It is not some general idea; it is something extremely intimate. On that night, Jesus not only stepped into the confusion and chaos of the world at large, but He also stepped into the chaos and confusion of our hearts – and in that, we can find hope.

Our insecurity, our pride, our lack of forgiveness, our self-concern, our materialism, our bitterness, our unhealthy way of coping with life, our addiction, our worry, our doubt, our temporary fix, our overindulgence, our self-worship, our inability to serve others, our broken heart, our loss, our co-dependency, our need to control everything, and all of our other issues – Jesus stepped into. And I believe He longs to put it all in its proper place.

Isaiah 7:14 reads as follows:

“The Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”

Immanuel means, “God with us.” (See Matthew 1:23.) This is a big deal.

God didn’t see our chaos and run. He saw our chaos and stayed in it. He didn’t flee – and, perhaps, because of this, we can know that our “junk” isn’t too much for Him.

God is with us.

When I feel confused, lonely, worn out, and unsure of what to do, I must remember this. I must remember that there’s nothing too big for Him. He saw the chaos, and He came. He sees the chaos, and He’s still here. I can trust Him.

I don’t know what you’re going through. You may be having the year of your life, or you may be down in the trenches of a battle, but one thing is certain:

God is with us. He is not dead – He hasn’t vanished.

He is the maker of the stars and the healer of our hearts. There is hope.

Wherever you are, and whatever you’re doing this Christmas, may the joy and hope of Christ fill your heart and mind.

“We do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us and eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” – 2 Corinthians 4:16-17

Merry Christmas!

What I learned from “Ella Enchanted”

We ellaenchanted1315_l (2)all have our vices – our pits, sticky spots, or hang-ups. You know, those places that you keep falling into even though you try as hard as you can to get out of them?

For some, it’s addiction to alcohol or even exercise. For others it’s perfectionism. It can even be a variety of things mixed together.

Personally, I have many.

Several months ago, my husband and I hit a patch of conflict over how we were going to handle holidays once we moved back to Texas. With each statement shared and each opinion aired, I could feel my internal temperature rising. Seven minutes into the discussion, I felt defeated and unheard. I picked up a shirt, threw it across the room, slammed the door, and said a few things I shouldn’t have.

My anger had gotten the best of me.

I wish I could say that this was the only time I have ever thrown a tantrum in our relationship, but I’d be lying.

Here’s another story.

I have a friend who knows a friend in Boston, and I went to dinner with that friend. Now, “that friend” is super cute. She has a petite frame, a beautiful smile, and can easily pull off any pair of skinny jeans she tries on. As dinner progressed, I noticed that my mind kept shifting off of the conversation and into a mode of comparison. Thoughts like, “I wish I had hair like her,” or “How does she stay so fit?” began to take over.

We wrapped up dinner, and I felt annoyed by the fact that our time had been robbed by my dumb thoughts.

Again, I wish I could say that this was the first – and the last – time I have ever lost time to the negativity of comparison, but…I’d be lying.

My hang-ups are annoying, and if you’re being honest, I think you would say yours are, too!

Last week, I was watching “Ella Enchanted” with my sister-in-law (my husband’s little sister), and I was struck by a deep truth within it.

Ella, played by Anne Hathaway, is a cute little teenager/young adult living in a mystical land called Frell.  At birth, Ella is given the gift of obedience by a fairy and has to follow the commands, both good and bad, that anyone gives her for the rest of her life.

One day, Ella, falls in love with a prince named Char.

Now, Char’s uncle is the king of the land – and he is anything but nice. Driven by greed, Edgar tries to trap Ella into killing Char, the heir to the throne, so that he can be king forever.

On the night of Char’s coronation ball, King Edgar commands Ella to drive a dagger through Char’s heart as Char is proposing to her at midnight. Ella, trapped by the spell, is in a dilemma. Ella knows, at midnight, the spell with kick in, her body will take over, and she will be forced to obey, but in obeying she will kill the love of her life, and the rightful heir to the throne.

THEN something amazing happens…(watch the clip:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l24yOwR9saU)

Ella hears her late mother’s words and remembers that “what’s inside of her is stronger than any spell.”

She throws down the dagger, and rejoices in her freedom.

We are the same way, aren’t’ we?

We live our lives wrestling with things we hate.

I hate the fact that I don’t handle my anger correctly sometimes, and I hate the fact that I am quick to compare myself to others instead of thinking positively.

Sometimes, our bad habits become who we are – or so they say.

Ella figured out a truth that is worth repeating: What’s inside of us is stronger than any spell.

 “For we know that our old self was crucified with [Christ] so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been freed from sin” (Romans 6:6&7).

In other words, we are free from the spell of sin. Christ’s death and resurrection has rendered sin as powerless in the life of the believer.

If you believe in Christ – his death on the cross and his resurrection from the dead – you no longer have to be a slave to sin. You no longer have to do the things that you hate doing. You no longer have to play with your sticky spots or hang-ups.

Ella figured it out – and in the midst of her discovery, she fell to the ground and proclaimed a wonderful reality…

“I’m free. I can’t believe it! I’m free!”

Friends, we are free! May we never forget it.

I go out Walking

This past Saturday, I took a walk.  

Now, when I say “walk,” I don’t mean just a breeze around the block. No – this walk was much more than that.  

All throughout my young adult life, walks have played a part in my spiritual growth. A few years ago, I had a hard conversation with a friend at Starbucks. I left feeling sad and confused about what the Lord was doing in my life. I drove to the nature preserve down the road and went walking. When my job after college wasn’t all that I thought it was going to be, I walked. As I struggled with singleness, I did the same. For an hour or more, I would walk. I would sing. I would pray. I would listen.

Life over the past few months has been interesting.

In the middle of August, my husband and I picked up our Bostonian life and moved to Midland, Texas. I started school, my husband went to work for the family business, and life officially changed. Although many things about the change were wonderful, I had a hard time (and still can have a hard time) adjusting to everything.

You see, I have a problem.

I want to control my life. I want my marriage to look a certain way, and if it doesn’t, I get upset. I want my day-to-day circumstances to operate in a particular fashion, and if they don’t, I try to change them. I see the sin in my life, and despise it. What do I do? You got it! I try to fix it.

Now, before I get too far, I must state the following:

I think seeing negative things in your life and seeking to improve them is a good thing. The harm rests in how you do it. For me, the process consists of self-dependence. I analyze what conversations I need to have, what I need to do, and how I am going to do it. I white-knuckle it. If the issue is anger, I try to stop snapping and instead try to pray through conflict. If it’s discontentment, I strive to be more thankful.

The problem is it doesn’t work.

It’s exhausting, and it’s why I went on a walk.

In Deuteronomy 11, Moses is giving the Israelites instructions for living.

“Observe, therefore all the commands I am giving you today, so that you may have the strength to go in and take over the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, and so that you may live long in the land that the Lord swore to your forefathers to give to them and their descendants, a land flowing with milk and honey…The land you are crossing over the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven…[The Lord] will send rain on your land in season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and oil. [The Lord] will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied” (verses 8, 9, 11, 14, and 15).

 

The Lord, through Moses, told the Israelites how to live. He promised them that if they lived in accordance to his laws, He would take care of them. They only needed to depend on Him to do it. If they were to fight, He would tell them when and where to go, and would eventually deliver their enemies into their hands. If they needed food, He would supply it. They needed only to trust and obey Him. He would take care of the rest.  

As I walked, I reflected on this.

There are things in my life (and things in my heart) that I want to change. There are things that I know are damaging to myself, as well as others, that I wish would just disappear. Even though, at times, I feel like it’s impossible, I know that the Lord is the solution.

“For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin” (Romans 6:6).

 

Sin has been rendered powerless in my life because of Christ’s death on the cross. I don’t have to mastered by sin.  

I also know that God provides (as seen in Deuteronomy).  

I don’t believe the Lord promises me nice possessions or circumstances that don’t cause pain, but I do believe He is the supplier of joy and peace (Romans 15:13), and He is the giver of life (John 14:6).

Just like He encouraged the Israelites to trust Him and rely on Him for provision, He asks the same of us. Obedience leads to joy and peace, and if we are in need, He is there.

As I walked, I prayed that I would depend on Him and not on myself. I prayed that He would humble me so that, in life and conflict, I didn’t always have to be the winner. I prayed that He would allow me to trust Him with the circumstances in life and train me to respond rightly to them. I praised Him for His goodness, and I rested in His peace.

What’s going to happen during my lifetime is still a mystery, but I do know that, in the end, life will be full. Heaven is going to be amazing, and it’s promised to those who believe. However, as I walk on this earth, I have to remember that I’m not God. I can’t control everything, and even when things I don’t like are happening, I have to let go.

The Lord is the only one with the power to change hearts and the ability to completely control situations. I’m praying that I trust Him.

I don’t know what’s going on in your life, but I do know that He knows where you are, and He listens to your cries. Go on a walk. Let Him know what’s going on. He’s faithful.  

The Real Truth in our Move to Texas

The mister and I on our flight to Dallas, Texas.

Yesterday, the mister and I left Boston.

The whole process of finding movers, packing everything up, and turning in the keys to our little apartment was quite the roller coaster ride for me. It’s difficult saying goodbye to a place you’ve learned to enjoy and a group of people you’d rather not live without. It was especially hard leaving the place I first lived in with the mister.

Six Thirty-Seven Tremont Street was a true gem.

Within its tiny walls, the mister and I grew. We learned what it was like to sleep in the same bed comfortably. (I got several mid-night elbows to the face until we figured out how to navigate our sleeping positions.) We learned how to argue like a married couple, and how to work through conflict in an encouraging way (we are still not perfect, here). In our apartment, we asked each other questions and tried to figure out how to spend our time in a way that’s fruitful, enjoyable, and life-giving. We watched some awesome movies, and a couple of not-so-great TV shows. (ABC’s “Nashville” does not fall into this category.) It was because of our apartment, and our apartment only, that we met Fadi, the owner of the pizza shop next door. Fadi is super cool – and he became our friend instantly.

Although, our little apartment in the big city was not built for tall people (I frequently hit the chandeliers while stretching, folding blankets, or just moving around in weird ways), it felt like home. It was awesome, and I hoped to be there for a little while longer. I cried when we left.

Yesterday, as I was reading on the flight to Dallas, I came across this verse, and it encouraged me.

“Rise up, Balak, and listen! Hear me, son of Zippor. God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through?” (Numbers 23:18-19)

It’s an odd one, I know, but it holds a lot of truth.

You see, God never changes. In a world that is constantly reconsidering its position, God is certain. He is faithful, even when we don’t believe. There is nothing that can alter who he is. He is just, He is love, and He is full of grace. He is slow to anger, and quick to offer us mercy.

He is constant and unwavering. We, on the other hand, are not.

I never thought I would ever live in Boston. In fact, I wanted to settle in Dallas with my family, my church, and my friends. I never thought I would uproot my life, quit my job, sell my car, change my last name, and live in a city that requires public transportation. I, also, never thought I would learn to love it and then, in a matter of a month, have to leave it.

You see, the mister and I were supposed to stay in Boston for three years. That was the plan – and, I would say, we both thought it was certain.

Isn’t that how life goes?

We all make plans. We all set out to ‘conquer the world’ in our unique way. Some of us plan on going to school so that we can add value to the lives of others. Some plan on finding that special someone and settling down. Others of us plan on getting pregnant and starting a family.

The truth is, however, that it may or may not work out.

We end up in a tough situation and can’t go to school. We think we are going to marry a certain person, and then we don’t. We keep trying to have kids, but, for some reason, we can’t.

Things change. Our plans don’t succeed.

Psalm 25:3 reads, “No one whose hope is [in the Lord] will ever be put to shame.”

The world can change, and we can change with it. We can plan to go one way, but then end up going in the opposite direction. Nothing is certain outside of the character and being of God. We can invest all of our time and money into the stock market, and, as we all know, it can crash. We can try our hardest to be the most well-liked person on the face of the planet, but we may commit some party foul and fail at it.

Nothing in this world is sure except for the Lord. He is worthy of our trust and our hope. He is worthy of holding all of the eggs we would naturally place in some other basket. He doesn’t fail. He doesn’t change.

Where are you placing your hope? What happens when your plans fail you? Think about it.

Even though moving back to Texas was a change that the mister and I chose, it’s still a testament to the fact that we don’t know what life holds for us.

On Monday, the mister and I will head to Midland, Texas where he will work and I will begin my studies. The plan is to stay there until the Fall of 2014, and then head back to Boston for 2 years for grad school.

That’s the plan, but I’ll keep you posted.

Marathon Monday


By now, the whole world knows. It’s been a little crazy up here in Boston.
 
From Monday’s bombing to Friday’s “manhunt,” things have definitely been…um…intense. I first sat down to write this post the day after the bombing and have a hard time finishing it.
 
The truth is, there are so many things a person can takeaway from the events that have happened in Boston (and in West, Texas and all over the world). Part of me wants to examine my life and the things in it that I count as utterly important that I probably wouldn’t, if I truly understood how short life on earth really was and is.  The other part of me wants to write about my sorrow surrounding the position of “Suspect #2” (how he’s a 19 year old that potentially had a full life ahead of him, but he chose a path that leads to destruction and, now, is an Enemy of the State). I’d write about how my heart longs for him to come to know the Lord and how I believe even he, the criminal, can be saved by the grace of God. (I will, most likely, still write about these things in future posts.)
 
Today, though, I want to finish the post I started on Tuesday, April 16th.
 
This post may feel kind of grim because it’s about the first thing that comes to a person’s mind after a tragedy. The world would maybe call it the second darkest thing after the heinous crimes of the individuals that caused the crime itself. My point, however, is not to scare people, but to share the hope and the certainty that is in Christ.
 
What you’ll read is how the event happened in my life, and what I first gathered from it. (Exhale…)
 
So, in an attempt to make this post as short as possible, here we go…
 
Tuesday, April 16th, 2013
 
As the news channels display the pictures, and government officials try to explain to the world what is going on, I’ve been thinking…
 
Last week, all of the setup began. The medical tent was placed a short distance from the finish line, bleachers were set up, and the city seemed to be getting busier by the second. It was going to be my first Boston Marathon experience (as a spectator, of course), and I was excited.
 
I walked to work an hour early Monday morning.
 
You see, “Marathon Monday” tends to put the city in a buzz. People line up everywhere, roads are blocked off, and several of the T stations are put to rest. Let’s just say, this makes getting around a little more difficult than normal. I didn’t mind, too much.
 
Monday morning, things were quiet.
 
A few spectators were gearing up outside of my office, as I walked to the eatery next door. I bought a coffee, went upstairs, and began reading a book. I had about an hour, and I figured I might as well relax a little bit before the day’s festivities began. As I ate, I heard people talking about the race. Excitement, mixed with nervous anticipation, seemed to be everywhere.
 
Around 8:20am, I walked next door, went up the elevator, and sat down at my desk – about 100 yards away from the finish line.
 
The office was busy.
 
We had been given a challenge a few weeks ago. If we met our goals, the second half of Monday would be a Patriot’s Day celebration. We would get out of the office and experience some of the activity outside by the finish line. We hadn’t met the goals, yet – and everyone was frantically trying to do so.
 
As noon hit, the first runner was making their way across the finish line.
 
Wanting to see some of the action, I left for my lunch break and ventured down to the edge of the street. Due to the mass amount of people, I couldn’t get to the finish line. I peaked around and over people, tried to squeeze through, but eventually decided that I’d just have to wait until later to see everything clearly.
 
I grabbed some pretzels from CVS, and I walked back to work. Several of us ate by the window of our office so that we could see “the zombies” pass by (runners who had finished the race who were a little stiff legged).
 
By the time 2:00pm hit, everyone in the office was back in “go” mode. Phone calls were being made, deals were being discussed, and leads were being sourced. I had just finished texting my mom about their trip to Boston (they were due to fly in the next day) and refocused my attention on the work in front of me.
 
Minutes later (at 2:50pm) a loud noise shook our building – and everything in my office stopped.
 
All of us looked up from our computers, stood up, and ran to the window that overlooked the “recovery area” of the finish line. Within two seconds the scene shifted from looks of victory to horror. It seemed like only 5 seconds passed when another loud boom echoed throughout Boston.
 
People started running.
 
Athletes who had just finished running over 26 miles, and could barely walk, began sprinting down the street below us. People in nearby buildings began running outside away from the finish line area. Medical personnel and cops began running against the wave of people toward the scene.
 
Not quite sure what had happened, I looked up and saw the John Hancock Tower (the tallest building in Boston and the place where my husband works). Everything seemed to fine. I exhaled in relief.
 
The office was in a complete frenzy. Some people thought a gunman was on the loose. A few thought the finish line (a very large metal beam) had fallen. Others thought bombs were the cause. Intentional or not, we didn’t know. All we knew was that something terrible was happening. We couldn’t see what had happened, but we were right by it.
 
A few seconds later, a “tweet” and a picture came across my colleague’s screen. The finish line of the Boston Marathon had been bombed…twice.
 
I began to imagine what we couldn’t see. I looked at the emergency vehicles stacking up down the street. “How could something like this happen? What if my husband was down there? What if he had left his office to watch his friend cross the finish line? What is going on? Where is he?” 
 
I ran to my desk. My husband had called. I picked up my phone and dialed his number…no answer. I tried again, but this time, my phone wasn’t working. I picked up the landline and finally got through to his work voicemail:
 
“Hey. I saw that you called. I think a bomb went off. I’m okay. I see your building. It looks fine, so I’m thinking you’re okay, too. I love you.” (Or something like that.) I set the phone down, and my heart began racing. What we didn’t know and the fear of what could happen next was chilling.
 
The next few seconds were a blur, but the next thing I knew, my husband was in my office. He, after being alarmed by his secretary that a bomb had gone off, told those he could to evacuate and then ran down 42 flights of stairs, unsure of what he would see when he got out of the building. Would my office building be in flames? He couldn’t get a hold of me. Was his building next? He called his parents and asked them to pray.
 
Once outside, he ran across the street, past a few cops who were trying to stop him, and into my building.
 
Ten minutes after the first bomb had gone off, we were together and maybe even safe.
 
As everyone in the office debated whether or not we should stay or leave, we watched people outside of the window. Streets were being shut down, volunteers were turning over tables and throwing them out of the way so that medical vehicles could get through, people with stretchers were running toward the medical tent, and camera men were running with cameras toward the scene.
 
The sirens in our building sounded. We grabbed our bags, ran out of our office, down the stairs, and out the back door of the building into the alley. As police officers begged for people to clear the area (they didn’t know if another bomb was going to go off), Caleb and I prayed. We walked home (very quickly) calling family and friends. We were okay.
 
I know this is a lot of detail, and, if you’re like me, you’re probably not interested in the stories anymore. At this point, I kind of just want answers. However, I tell these things so that I can make my point clear:
 
Death happens.
 
I know this is a terribly awful statement for a lot of people to read after watching the horrific events on Monday, but I think it’s one of the most important things a person can think about. The answer can even shape the rest of your life.
 
You see, I believe that life lasts forever.
 
The Bible speaks of two different eternities – eternal life, or heaven, and eternal death, also known as hell (See Matthew 25:46). The Bible also says that God wants EVERYONE to know him and have eternal life (2 Peter 3:9). He even provides us with a solution so that we don’t have to experience eternal death.
 
You see, God created man – he created you and me. He created man to do good things and live life with a pure heart, not causing pain or hurt or chaos to anyone or anything. It was a beautiful creation. He gave us Eden a perfect and beautiful place. He wanted good for us. (And He still does.) God told Adam and Eve that they could eat anything in the garden, except for the fruit of one tree – “The tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” He wanted them to choose to love and obey Him, not be forced into it. They chose a different path.
 
Adam and Eve ate the apple and, by doing so, chose to go against the provision that the Lord had for them…perfection.  Sin entered (See Romans 5:12).
 
We, just like Adam and Eve, are not perfect and make mistakes that cause harm, hurt, chaos and confusion to others. (“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23) Sin, in its original language, is an archery term that means “missing the mark” – and the Bible says the “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).
 
But there’s hope.
 
The Bible also says that “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). It reads, “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). He paid the price for our sin. He died, and His death ransomed us. His death declared us righteous (or in right standing) before God. It’s a gift. We didn’t, and don’t, have to earn it (Ephesians 2:8).
 
Today, I live by this truth: “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).
 
He is life. Eternal life. (John 3:16)
 
I guess what I’m trying to say, is there is an answer. “The afterlife” doesn’t have to be a scary, uncertain, mythological thing. You can know.  You don’t have to wonder. You can walk through life knowing that even if death happens, it’s not over. There’s no fear in death. What a relief!
 
When the bombings happened, everything stopped. What people were doing didn’t matter. What everyone had planned didn’t either. All that mattered was life – what it was and how to save it.  
 
My prayer is that events like this would make us stop and think. May those who know the Lord rest in the fact that in Him and Him only is eternal life and you have nothing to fear. May those who feel uncertain, search for the truth. Don’t let anxiety or awkwardness stop you. Search for the answer. There is one.  
 
What you think about it could shape the rest of your life. 

Depending…but not on myself.

There’s one message that I’ve been hearing loud and clear lately: “Depend on Me.”

When I say I’ve heard this, I don’t mean in some loud, audible voice, but rather, I mean, in a constant, every-time-you-read-you’re-going-to-get-to-this-point type of way. You know what I’m talking about? Every deeply focused conversation, every time I see the brokenness in my own life and in the lives around me, and every time I pick up the Bible, I am gently reminded of the same thing…

We are desperate people who can only make it through life with a sincere dependence upon the Lord. (And by ‘make it through life’ I don’t mean merely survive – for all of us can do that to a certain extent. I mean live a life that points others toward a God of grace, love, and eternal life. I mean to live life in a way that outlives you – that has an eternal impact that reaches beyond yourself. That’s what I mean…)

Life has been moving pretty fast for the past several months (which is probably the reason why I haven’t updated my blog in a while). I got married (on December 29th), went on a SWEET honeymoon to Puerto Rico, moved to Boston, and began living in 600 square foot apartment with Mr. Weatherl, my husband. Between the wedding festivities and living with a man for the first time in my life, things have been…well…a little all over the place.

(I have to confess that the funniest moment post-honeymoon has been trying to explain to my husband what a duvet cover is. Hint to all future wives: Just tell him it’s a pillowcase for a comforter.)

Anyways…

Last Thursday, I felt defeated. Marriage felt hard. Being a woman felt hard. Past struggles started to creep back up, and all I wanted to do was…I don’t know…watch a movie or something. Since it was the beginning of the day, I had the notion that I should do something more productive with my time and work to redirect my thoughts on something beyond myself and the way I was feeling.

I opened the Bible and was encouraged by what I read.

“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked…but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither – whatever they do prospers” (Psalm 1:1-3).

Refreshing.

I want to live this way. I want to live a life that is strong, one that is fruitful (brings nourishment to others), and one that draws people toward the Lord, but, if I’m being honest with you (as I am being), this isn’t the way I’ve been living lately.

Marriage has made this clear to me.

I can be passive aggressive at times. I can use my tongue to say destructive things rather than constructive things. I lack gratitude for the things the Lord has blessed me with – and the things He has withheld from me. I often times turn to coping mechanisms to deal with frustration and anger instead of Jesus and his ability to help me.

I end up lost and feeling like I’m stuck in an endless cycle of bad decisions and bad attitudes – and I don’t know how to get it to stop.

The magic word is dependence.

Psalm 1 doesn’t tell me how to fix myself, but instead encourages me to focus on Jesus. Psalm 1 doesn’t ‘dog’ on me and tell me I’m not doing good enough, it just reminds me to think about how the Lord is enough.  Psalm 1 tells me that there’s blessing in walking with the Lord. By walking with the Lord, even if hard things happen and everything in life seems to be going in the opposite direction than I had planned, there’s a deep down assurance that He’s in control and, ultimately, I am going to experience life to the maximum capacity in Heaven. While I’m here on earth, though, the goal is to delight in Him (and if I don’t, I should pray that I do).

Rejoice in who He is, what He’s done, and what He’s doing.

Meditate on Him, think about Him, and don’t just compartmentalize Him to one part of your day.

Let Him own your day…every day.

Don’t make of a list of dos and don’ts – just depend on Him, and He’ll grow me.

You see, my life was once marked by chaos and distance from God, which meant that my destiny was not looking great, but because of Jesus, and His ability to call my heart to His, my life has been flipped around and set in a different direction.

My relationship with God started with dependence. It started with the surrendering of myself and the way I had been doing things for a new way of life – a new way of thinking. It started by seeing the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross and believing that it was the ultimate and most perfect sacrifice that could be made for mankind, and placing my trust in it. Salvation didn’t come to me through self-dependence or my own ability to be good enough – it came through believing He was enough.

Today, as I’m navigating through life, dependence is still the goal.

When I feel lonely because I miss my Dallas friends and just want to be upset about it, I must depend on Him to comfort me. When I feel confused about the direction to take job wise, I must depend and trust in His ability to lead me. When I don’t know how to handle marital conflict or how to be an encouraging wife, I must depend on Him to humble me and open my eyes to all of the wonderful things happening around me.

Dependence. It’s always been dependence.

Oh, how quickly I forget.

It Never Runs Out on Me

Right now, there are about 10 other things I should be doing. From wedding shower thank you cards to laundry, the list is in desperate need of attention…but I’m sitting here, computer in lap, typing out my thoughts.

I haven’t written in a while – and tonight is the night.

Since the last time I wrote, I got engaged, started planning a wedding, and moved out of an apartment I loved and shared with one of the coolest people ever. Things have felt pretty crazy, and all of the transition has come with a lot of different emotions. It’s been a lonely season and one that has shown me just how desperately I need the Lord to sustain and comfort me. Through responding badly to random frustrations or pride in thinking that I know the best way to handle things, I have definitely had my fair share of humbling moments. On top of this, I feel pretty apathetic in my walk with the Lord. My vision seems clouded, and I don’t have the drive I used to have to really know and follow Him.

 It’s discouraging – and I hate talking (or typing) about it.

If I’m being honest, part of me wants to pretend. I want to put on an act that convinces you that I’m on fire for the Lord and am passionate about following Him, but, right now, I don’t feel that way, and I don’t think it’s worth lying to you. Why?

Two reasons:

1. Being real is beautiful.

Several years back, I was walking around the Texas Tech campus listening to a Podcast from Watermark Community Church. On the podcast, several people stood up and told the congregation about how the Lord had rescued them from chaos and pain to deliver them into a life lived in reliance upon Him. I was deeply moved.

Each person that spoke took responsibility for their actions, explained the path their decisions took them down, and even confessed the underlying condition of their heart. It was a dramatic moment for me. As I walked to my class in tears, I remember thanking the Lord for his grace and the way he used the honesty of others to remind me of it.

When we act like we have it all together, we miss out on opportunities to show others just how big the love of our God is.

Today, as I sit here with a heart that feels lazy, entitled, and okay with being lukewarm, I know that the Lord wants more of me. He desires all of me. Even in my selfishness and desire for control, He sees me as someone worth pursuing. He loves me as I am and loves me enough to mold me into a person who looks to Him alone for life.

Even if your pride (I’m included in this “your”) and arrogance stops you (again, I’m included here) from being honest with others, the Lord always knows where you are. The challenge is getting over yourself and the image you try to keep and letting others in on the messy parts of your life.  We all have them.

I truly believe the Lord uses honesty.

2.  The lessons learned in the not-so-fun seasons are worth sharing with others.

Again, this season hasn’t been easy. I’ve felt my flesh bite at me and I’ve wanted, more times than not, to give in. At times, the emotion in my heart has felt so overwhelming that I have not been able to step outside of it. I’ve responded poorly…almost every time.

A couple of weeks ago, I came across this verse, and it hit me in the face:

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on a rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against the house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who build his house on the sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash” (Matthew 7: 24-27).

I want to be someone who has a firm foundation. I want to be assured that when a storm comes, my life will be secure and I will be unwavering.

The trial comes in my response to the storms.

 

When I feel overwhelmed by loneliness or when I feel aggravated when things aren’t going the way I want them to, I have to remember that I made a commitment to follow Christ. My emotions are not bad, for even God is an emotional God, but it’s how I respond that matters in the end. Do I let the storms in my life create a storm in my heart that leads me to destruct my self and others? Or do I break and crumble in every situation I don’t like and can’t control?

The Word challenges me to put into practice that which I’ve heard and read in its pages. Those pages tell me to trust the Lord and not worry about tomorrow (Matthew 6:34). They tell me to be patient and joyful in the midst of hardship (Romans 5:3-5), and to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). They tell me that the Lord loves us and because of this love He has compassion on us (Lamentations 3:22), and that the Lord is worth relying on (2 Timothy 2:13).

I must step back, breath out, pray, and put into practice the things the Lord entrusts to me. He’s certain and can be trusted. To be firm in my faith, I must let Him be my certainty and the rock on which I build my life.

Several months ago, I went through a pretty big trial in my life. I remember, on several occasions, lying in bed unable to sleep when all of a sudden I would start humming, and then singing, this song – and it brought a little comfort to my heavy heart.

“Higher than the mountains that I face,

Stronger than the power of the grave,

Constant through the trial and the change,

One thing remains.

One thing remains.

Your love never fails,

It never gives up,

It never runs out on me.

Your love never fails,

It never gives up,

It never runs out on me.”

-“One Thing Remains.” Jesus Culture.

Exhale and let that soak in…

I don’t know where you are, but just in case you are, or ever have been, where I am today, I wanted to offer you a bit of encouragement.

The Lord loves us. He sees us – mistakes, failures, accomplishments, and all – and stands with open arms asking us to give him our lives. He didn’t save us when we were perfect; in fact, he told us that he came to heal the sick.

What a loving God He is! He chose me when I could do nothing for Him. I ran and He chased me.

Whatever you’re going through, know that He’s faithful. In your pride and satisfaction with living life the way you want, he doesn’t change. In your sorrow, he’s still the same.

His love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on…

Take comfort.