Identity and the Book of Ephesians

Five months and six days – that’s how long it has been since I’ve posted.

There’s been a few reasons why I haven’t, but the short version is I just haven’t felt like it. A lot has happened since my last my post.

The mister and I found out we were pregnant at the very end of February/beginning of March (so exciting), the mister continued his epic find-a-job-so-we-know-where-we-are-moving-to journey and eventually landed a job at a great company, we both graduated from grad school (me with a few internship hours to complete and the mister fully), the mister had another leg surgery, we packed up our apartment in Mass (or our parents did so while I was in a week-intensive class and the Mister was recovering from surgery), we moved back to Midland, TX, we closed on our first house, our Uhaul flooded (which turned into a long ordeal), the mister started his job and I started my internship, my sister got diagnosed with breast cancer (very hard news), we finally moved into our house, we found out we’re having a boy (yay!), our air conditioner went out two times, and now we don’t have hot water.
Whew! All this to say, my mind has been on a lot of other things, and focusing while reading the Word and praying throughout the day has been rather difficult leaving me feeling somewhat dry and irritated. That is, until a few days ago when the Mister suggested that we read through a book of the Bible together.

We chose Ephesians.

Although I haven’t gotten into the nitty gritty substance of specific verses, yet, I must say my mind and heart feel so refreshed. After reading the book through twice, here’s my major take away…

Our actions, thoughts and words are influenced by where we place our identity. 

You’re right. This is nothing new, but it’s absolutely a transforming thought – and Paul uses it brilliantly in the book.

In Ephesians 1 through 3, Paul reminds believers in the church of Ephesus (and everywhere) that they were chosen to be His before the foundation of the world (1:4), that they’ve been adopted as his sons and daughters (1:6), that they have been saved by grace through faith (not by works) and through his blood have received forgiveness of sins (1:7 and 2:8-9), that they have been made alive through this salvation (2:5), and that they have been given a supernatural peace and access to an abundant amount of strength through Christ (2:14 and 3:20).

He says much more, but the basic point is this: Believers in the church at Ephesus (and everywhere) no longer have to wonder who they are at the very core of their existence. They are loved, accepted, forgiven, saved and transformed by Christ – by God, the founder, creator and king of the world.

I mean, this is a big deal.

Paul goes on in Ephesians 4 through 6, but here he writes about how their identity should influence their actions – the way they live their lives.

He instructs them to walk in humility, gentleness, patience, love and unity (4:2-3), to focus on building up the body of Christ (4:12), to not use words that tear others down but words that encourage and build others up (4:29), to maintain a heart and life that is free from bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor and slander (4:31), to be kind forgivers (4:32), to walk in love and freedom from impurity (5:2), to work towards exposing areas of slavery (5:11), to honor their wives, husbands, parents, and employers (5:22-6:9), and to stand firm in the faith even when it gets hard (6:10-20).

Again, he writes about much more, but the truth is the same: Our identity influences everything we do. 

I mean, Paul (formerly known as Saul) exemplifies this. He himself was a Pharisee, a man of status, knowledge, power and prestige who killed Christians because they went against everything he was taught and everything he stood for. His identity was found in being a Pharisee, in keeping a bunch of laws, and it influenced what he did. Then, He met Jesus on a road and everything changed (Acts 9). He dropped his position as a pharisee, began making tents, started telling others about Jesus (his death and resurrection) and the inclusion of Gentiles (non Jews) in the church, and how there is nothing they can do to earn salvation (the opposite of what he had been preaching before). He risked his life by traveling all throughout the region doing this, and was eventually arrested several times and killed in Rome for telling others about the freedom available in Christ.

Paul found his identity in Christ, and it radically changed the way he thought about and lived life. 

I guess all of this impacts me so much because sometimes I forget where my identity is found.

Sometimes, I forget and think it’s found in everyone liking me, which leads me to compromise on the things I truly believe in and leads me to be an analytical mess when interacting with others. Other times I forget and think it’s found in having awesome possessions (cute clothes, brand-name stuff, a nice house, an awesome couch, a nice car, and money), which leads me to be overly concerned about self and ultimately leads to emptiness and wasted time. (I’m pretty sure the love of possessions is a subset of people pleasing for me, but whatever.) Other times I think it’s found in being fit, which leads to me think that my body is a trophy instead of something given to me by God to glorify him, and at times I forget and think it’s found in success – in rising to the top of my field and having an awesome practice. I struggle with this one, because I think it’s good to help others and seek to be excellent in your field, but sometimes my heart gets focused on myself in that process and not in glorifying God through it.

The ultimate truth is my identity isn’t found in these things – even if I forget and think it is.

It isn’t found in how smart I am, how much money I have, what people think of me, how successful I become in my job, what kind of clothes I wear, how skinny I am, or the state of American politics (yuck)! It’s not even found in how much of the Bible I know, how well I can preach or teach, how well I can write, or how well I can follow what the Bible tells me to do (it’s definitely not found in that). 

My identity is found in Christ alone. It’s found in the fact that He is and was perfect and His perfection covered my imperfection (what prevented me from being able to abide with a perfect God) at the cross and his resurrection proves that God is powerful over death – both eternally and temporally. Because God has allowed me to have faith in Him, I am a part of His family. I am His daughter, and that means He loves me and He’s accepted me. He’s adopted me. I didn’t do anything to deserve this status and I don’t have to do anything to keep it. This also means that He has given me the Spirit, which influences my life, my thoughts, and the things I do – the Spirit allows me to remember and act on my identity.

Where is your identity placed? How does this identity impact your thoughts, words and actions?

I don’t know were you are in life, but if you’re a Christian, cling to the fact that you are secure in Christ! That you’re loved, adopted, accepted, forgiven, and saved through Him. Allow it to give you freedom and hope. Allow it to transform the way you live life. Allow it to break chains of pride, bitterness, slander, competition, self-hate, obsessive self-concern, depression, and materialism.

Oh, Ephesians. You’re a good one.

The Inevitable Thorn of Waiting

FullSizeRenderThis whole year the Mister and I have been waiting – or it feels that way, at least.

In December of last year, we found out that the Mister needed to have another leg surgery. We weren’t sure whether or not the surgery would work, but we were hopeful. We waited and we waited, and then June happened, the surgery was done, and we are now waiting to see if the surgery actually worked. In August, I had my blood taken and it came back positive for Tuberculosis. In the midst of thinking through the worst case scenario, we waited. We waited on chest X-rays, more test results, and ultimately, for the “all clear” note we got at the end of September. (It was a false alarm.) In October, we found black mold in our apartment, and if you know the story at all, you know we had to wait a month-and-a-half for the whole thing to be resolved. Toward the end of October, we began exploring new job opportunities for the Mister, and we’re still waiting to see what will eventually come from his search. In January, the price of oil continued to plummet, and, like many others in the industry, we are waiting for the storm to pass so that life can get back to normal.

And these are just the things I can tell you about.

If you’ve lived life at all, you know that waiting is just a part of if. It’s the inevitable thorn that pierces our flesh at random times throughout our journeys here on earth. And I have yet to meet someone who totally enjoys it.

A couple of days ago, I read a story about waiting in 1 Samuel – and it stirred my soul.

In this story, the Israelites are at war with their neighboring enemies, and Saul (king of the Israelites) is commanded to go to Gilgal to wait for Samuel (the prophet of God) to come and offer sacrifices and give instruction to Saul on what he and his troops should do (10:8). A couple of battles later, we see Saul leading trembling Israelite solders through Gilgal and he begins to wait for Samuel’s arrival and instruction. At the same time, the Philistines (one of Israel’s enemies) had positioned themselves in a near by town with thirty thousand chariots and six thousand horsemen/troops (13:5) causing the Israelites to scramble for their lives.

After waiting seven days, Saul begins to freak out. He observes his troops, which are becoming more and more frightened, surveys the might of the Philistine army, and ultimately decides to take matters into his own hands. He “forces” himself and offers the sacrifices that Samuel was supposed to offer (13:12) thinking that, by doing so, he would speed up God’s process.

Basically, Saul got tired of waiting.

He saw what was going on around him and panicked. And unfortunately, his need to have control, cost him greatly. Eventually, the kingdom was taken from Saul’s hands and given to someone else.

I like this story because I see myself in it.

I hate feeling uncomfortable. I hate hard emotion, and I hate feeling stressed. And in moments when I am feeling these things, I seek to alleviate all of the tension in whatever way I possibly can. I force myself, and I seek to control my circumstances. The problem is, by doing this, I miss out on what the Lord has for me in the moments of tension. I miss the learning, I miss the growth, and I potentially miss the opportunity to know Him more. Sometimes, just like Saul, I even make things worse.

When I choose not to wait, I take whatever God had intended for me and stick it in a corner so that I can move on to whatever I think is best. The problem is, I don’t know what’s best. I’m not God, and I’m not all-knowing.

There is an awesome poem/story in a Bible study that I’m doing right now called, The Thorn. It goes like this:

“I stood a mendicant of God before His royal throne and begged Him for one priceless gift that I could call my own. I took the gift from out His hand, but as I would depart, I cried, ‘But Lord, this is a thorn! And it has pierced my heart.’ He said, ‘My child, I give good gifts and gave My best to thee.’ I took it home, and though at first the cruel thorn hurt sore, as long years passed I learned at last to love it more and more. I learned He never gives a thorn without this added grace. He takes the thorn to pin aside the veil that hides His face.” – Martha Snell Nichols as cited by Cynthia Heald

As I reflect on my life, I find so much truth here.

That time when I ended the relationship because I knew I was supposed to even though I didn’t want to and had to wait years to actually be able to move on. That time when I desperately wanted to move jobs, but I knew the timing was bad for multiple people, and I had to stick it out. The time when I needed to take a break from dating for the sake of my own heart, even though I didn’t really want to. In all of these moments, I have learned something. In all of these times I grew tremendously. And in all of these times I saw God’s faithfulness – I saw how His plan is so much better than my own.

I’ve also seen the opposite.

I’ve seen the times when I’ve entered into a relationship because I was sick of being single. I’ve seen the times when I’ve wanted an expensive article of clothing and purchased it even though I couldn’t afford it. I’ve seen the times when I opened my mouth to make sure that people heard me because I thought that I needed to control my reputation. And all of these things ended badly. People got hurt, problems were caused, and I regretted it later.

I’m not saying that everything is a simple equation.  I do think God’s grace does meet us in the midst of our need to be in control and the bad decisions that come from it. At the same time, I do believe that we can miss out on things because we choose to rush to the better feeling – to the thing that will make us feel more content, happier, or more loved in the moment. I do think there is more to the waiting than just the pain and hardship it causes. God wants to give good gifts to His children, and sometimes what is gained through waiting is in fact just that – a good and perfect gift. It’s a gift that is actually for our good and not just a temporary bandage that makes life on earth more comfortable. It’s a gift that grows us, matures us, and allows us to know Him more.

We all have random thorns, for waiting is a given in this life. Some of us are waiting to finally be able to purchase a house in a responsible way, some of us are waiting to be able to conceive or adopt, some of us are waiting to get married, and some of us are waiting for our children to make better decisions. I’m waiting on the things mentioned in the first paragraph of this post. All of these things are wonderful, and are all worth waiting for. The question is: How are we waiting? Are we seeking to control things so that we feel better right now or are we relying upon the Lord to give us what we need in the moment so that we can persevere to the end of whatever it is He’s doing?

This journey can be hard. There’s no doubt about that. At times I feel totally out of control and a little bit clueless, but I’m praying that I am able to resist the urge to take short cuts. I’m praying that I remember that waiting is used by the Lord in powerful ways, and that that Lord provides me with true life.

“The greatest danger is that we would become impatient and miss the blessing.”         – Charles Spurgeon

“Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.” – Isaiah 30:18

**Thanks to Cynthia Heald for the awesome resources and insights she provides in thinking through interesting topics like this one. (Her study “Becoming a Woman of Strength” really helped me here.)

How Einstein Helped Me through My Eating Disorder…Kind Of

einstein picture
I did not live when Einstein lived, so I obviously did not take this picture. I got it from a YouTube video called “Albert Einstein Explaining E=mc^2.” (P.S. The video is in his own voice which is pretty cool.)

I was once told an interesting story about Albert Einstein.

Ron, my 71-year-old friend, once told me that Einstein had a laboratory of white walls. As Einstein lived life, both inside and outside of his laboratory, he would think, making note of important thoughts by scribbling them down on the surface of one of his walls. Eventually, as one would expect, his walls were covered with random thoughts, equations and notes. One day, while in his lab, Einstein began examining his walls. Slowly, he began taking equations from one wall and piecing them together with other random notes from other walls until he had a simple theory we like to call the Theory of Relativity.

I like the story, because I think this is how life goes. We all have our white walls. We all try to figure out life. And we all do so by piecing together the things we have experienced with what we know or what we’ve heard from others.

A couple of months ago, a friend of mine asked me how I overcame my eating disorder. Honestly, I think it has been one of the biggest “white-wall experiences” of my life.

Overcoming an eating disorder is by no means a linear, step-by-step process, as rarely anything in this life truly is, but there were several pieces of information that made the whole thing make more sense to me. As time went on, I kept examining my white-walls, and eventually the facts that I had scribbled fit together, giving me strength and wisdom to fight the battle well.

So what were they? Here you go…

One: We all have a “natural healthy weight.” **

In our media-filled world, it is so easy to think that there is only one way we as females are to look (which as we all know, changes by the decade). When I was in middle school, it was Brittany Spears. You know, the skinny but some-what athletic look with a huge emphasis on the abs. Today, it seems to be either the super-thin Taylor Swift body type or the totally toned look of Kayla Itsines with a huge emphasis on the gap between one’s legs.

When I was in the trenches of my eating disorder, I was exhausted. Working out for an hour-and-a-half each day and restricting the food that I was eating kept me malnourished and cranky. It also kept me scared. Each dessert was a potential pound gained and each weekend away from exercising was a potential downfall. The anxiety was crippling and the inner emotional chaos was tiresome.

When I was out of college and I really started studying the idea of “intuitive eating,” I discovered just how influential genetics are to body weight. I also learned that trying to fit my naturally size [fill in the blank] body into a size zero jean was just not supposed to happen. If I wanted to run that course for the rest of my life it would mean non-stop stress and mental consumption. Learning that I had a natural healthy weight that could be maintained in natural and healthy ways was freeing…eventually.

Two: God created our bodies to be able to distinguish between hunger and fullness, and if I eat within hunger and fullness, I will be the size/weight I’m supposed to be. (Meaning, I would achieve my natural healthy weight.) **

This very simple idea was HUGE for me.

When I was in high school, my sister was a guest speaker at a conference on body weight and exercise. The basic premise of her whole talk was eating within hunger and fullness, a practice I had totally abandoned. You see, when you have an eating disorder, you learn to ignore hunger until you don’t even remember what feeling hungry feels like.

After college, when I got serious about my eating/over exercise issues, I clung to this truth. I began paying attention to hunger and fullness. (Which our bodies were designed to indicate through growling.) If I was hungry, I would eat. If I was full, I would stop. And something amazing happened: I gained weight until I stopped gaining a pound. Three-and-a-half years ago my natural healthy weight was reached, and my weight has not fluctuated and my jean size has not changed since.

Today, I try to make healthy decisions (both in the realm of food and exercise), but I ultimately eat everything in moderation. If I want pizza and I haven’t had it in a while, I’ll go for it. I eat one dessert almost every day, and I don’t freak out over bread. I’m telling you – it’s incredibly freeing.

Three: My identity is in Christ, and it’s permanent.

As humans, we walk around with an assortment of identities. Some people place their identity in being a mom, a working professional, a wife, an entrepreneur, a musician, or all of the above. For a long time, I placed my identity in what I looked like and what others thought about me. (I can still struggle with these things from time to time.) However, over the past seven years, I have come to appreciate my identity as a Christian more and more because it means that ultimately, my identity is wrapped up in Christ.

The problem with finding my identity in how I look is it’s fleeting. It’s not going to last forever. For some people, the “perfect” body can and will last until they are in their 60s, but rarely do you ever find a supermodel who is 80. Placing one’s identity in how they look is temporary. Our looks and our bodies (and most everything else in this world) will eventually fail us – it’s a proven fact.

One thing that lasts into eternity, however, is my relationship with God.

Knowing that I’m accepted by the one who’s opinion really matters has motivated me to not build my life on any foundation that is temporary. You see, God accepts me regardless of my performance (Ephesians 2:8-9), there’s nothing I can do to change the way he feels about me (Romans 8:35-39), and I seek to remember this daily.

Four: It was worth it.

Any addiction, or addiction-like behavior, only comes to an end when the addict decides that the addiction is worth giving up. If you’ve heard my story in full, you know that this moment came for me when my niece Macy was born. Instantly, a little girl was in my life, and I knew that she would be watching me. The things I idolized she would potentially idolize. The things I deemed important would probably influence her.

I did not want her to watch me struggling with food and exercise. I did not want her to think that she was defined by how she looked. And it suddenly became worth it. It was worth the extra pounds, it was worth the bigger jeans, it was worth letting go of my “super fit” image.

If I wanted Macy to be defined by anything, I wanted it to be the unwavering, never-ending love of God. A love that’s not dependent upon her performance or failures, but a love that rejoices in her unique personality and imperfections. The last thing I wanted her to do was obsess about her weight or external appearance because she saw that I did.

A lot of times we pass on our vices to the next generation, and sometimes it’s just not worth it.

I’m not saying that my nine-year battle ended in an instant, but the truths above created a formula that eventually, by God’s grace, led me to freedom. I still love working out and eating healthy, and I believe that everyone should do both, but there is a line between healthy and unhealthy and it’s not dictated by a weight, muscle mass, or pant size.

As I continue to run this race, some days are harder than others, but overtime the struggle seems to get easier. For those of you struggling, the first step is the hardest, but freedom is possible. There is hope.

** “Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works” by Evelyn Tribole, M.S., R.D., & Elise Resch, M.S., R.D., F.A.D.A. was a helpful resource in helping me think through noted topics

Experiencing the Season

mantleLast Monday night, I finished my first semester of grad school (well…kind of). Twelve papers and 4,911.5 pages of reading later, I was done. It was a momentous moment, for sure, but for some reason, I struggled to truly exhale and enjoy it.

Since we arrived to Cambridge in August, things have been crazy. I’ve been taking on a larger-than-suggested load at school and the Mister has been going to school full time, while working part time. Finding a weekend of nothing has been hard, as well. From weddings, to friends in town, to social events…it’s all kept us spinning. Last month we hosted our first Thanksgiving meal ever, and this month we both worked hard to do our best on finals and final papers. Besides our Christmas tree that is barely up, getting into the Christmas spirit – or even realizing it’s here – has been difficult. I mean, I have desperately wanted to “feel” the joy and hope of Christmas. I just couldn’t get there for some reason.

Sometimes when your adrenaline gets going it’s hard to make it stop.

I was driving to school this past Tuesday to turn in my final assignments, and it finally happened. I was listening to a Francesca Battistelli song when I noticed my eyes welling up with tears…

“I hear the bells, they’re ringing loud and clear.

You can’t help but love this time of year.

It’s Christmastime, there’s something in the air.

There’s a little bit of heaven everywhere.”

The joy of the season had finally hit me – and there was no going back.

I thought about the joy of going home and spending time with my family. I thought about how fun it is to play with my nieces and nephews. I thought about how thankful I am to be a student and learn, and how blessed I am to be married to an amazing husband who loves the Lord deeply.

More than that, though, I thought about life.

I thought about whom I once was and all that I’ve walked through. I thought about the freedom I’ve found from myself through Jesus Christ. I thought about the faithfulness of the Lord and how he always tends to create something beautiful in the midst of incomprehensible situations. And I thought about how He loves me. I thought about how He uses me for his glory, even though I am a mess in so many areas. I thought about redemption and how sweet it truly is.

I kept singing…

“It’s the smile on a man who has finally found hope.

It’s the tears of a mother whose child has come home.

It’s the joy that we feel and the love that we share.

There’s a little bit of heaven everywhere.”

Christmas means more than presents, Christmas lights, and good food. It is a sign to the world that we no longer have to live in bondage to the struggles that hold us down. It reminds us that Jesus has overcome. Christmas means hope, life and joy, as we bask in the significance of God’s overwhelming love.

Still, I kept singing…

“It’s the grace that we show to a world that needs hope.

It’s giving our lives knowing they’re not our own.

It’s the joy that we feel and the love that we share.

There’s a little bit of heaven everywhere.”

You see, Christmas saved my life.

Christmas represents the day when God became man, so that he could die for the sins of his children. Because of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, I am free from bondage. I can abide with God forever. I no longer have to be defined by worldly success or possessions. I no longer have to strive endlessly for the approval of others (even though I am often tempted to do so). Christmas proves I am accepted and loved by the One who created acceptance and love.

Christmas reminds us that even when this life is hard, we have hope. It reminds us that God took care of that which we could not obtain on our own. He saved us not because our own goodness but because of his love, kindness and purposes.

Christmas means life. It means freedom. It means redemption. It means salvation.

And that, my friends, is something to sing about.

Merry Christmas! May you truly experience the season.

Lyrics by Francesca Battistelli (2012). “Heaven Everywhere.” Christmas. World Entertainment.

“Outdo One Another in Showing Honor”

“Blogging” is the last thing I should be doing right now.

I have a “meeting” at one that I still need to prep for, and I’m doing a presentation tonight that I haven’t finished constructing, yet. The good new is, I woke up abnormally early today, so hopefully I can fit this in. It’ll probably be short.

It has recently dawned on me (and by recently, I mean over the past couple of weeks) that I deeply struggle with comparing myself to others. As many of you know, this isn’t a “new” concept for me (“Five Lessons I Learned…”), for I’ve been aware of the danger in comparison for a long time, now. The problem is, I am becoming more aware of just how prone I am to the action.

Maybe it’s because I grew up playing sports, and you get better by competing with those around you. Maybe it’s because I always felt like the church pushed me to be better at external deeds, while my heart was in bad condition. (We have to be careful about where our focus is.) Maybe it’s because I continually see models on TV and in magazines and think that they possess true beauty.

Or maybe it’s because I don’t fully understand or meditate enough on the fact that God created me, knows me, and loves me completely.

Anyways, this morning I was reading and came across a passage that deeply impacted me:

“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” – Romans 12:9 & 10 (ESV)

Did you get that? “Outdo one another in showing honor.”

What does this even mean?!

All of Romans 12 is sprinkled with the concept of putting others before your self.

Verse three reads, “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment.”

Verses 14 through 17 contribute this: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty…Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.”

It’s fascinating, isn’t it?

God’s call to the church is not one of selfishness. It’s not one of self-promotion or pride. It’s one of humility, care and love.

So where do I go from here?

My thoughts continually lead me in the direction of comparison. For the most part, they always have. The dialogue in my head is easily focused on statements such as, “I wish I has as pretty as her,” or “I wish I could run as fast as him,” or “If only I was as smart as her, then I’d feel okay about myself.” The truth is, however, these thoughts keep me continually focused on myself.

And when I’m focused on myself, I cannot possibly love and care for others the way I’m called to, want to, or should.

So what does it mean to “outdo one another in showing honor?”

I’m no Bible scholar but it seems to me that it cannot be an invitation to some sporting event. If God cares about the condition of our heart, there has to be more to the picture. Perhaps it’s a reminder of where our focus shouldn’t be.

Honoring someone is a selfless act. It’s holding them in high esteem. It’s full of respect. It’s thinking about them before you think about yourself. It’s saying the “kind” thing instead of the thing that probably doesn’t need to be said. It’s choosing to promote them instead of your self.

It’s thinking about your neighbor and seeking to love them well – even if it means sacrifice and a lack of glory for yourself.

In this, there’s no room for comparison, for there’s no room to think about yourself.

What if we all lived free? Free from turning people into rivals and free from making life a game.

What if we lived in the freedom of who we are and used that freedom to genuinely love others?

You can’t love others when you’re focused on yourself.

Retracing Jelly Beans

Life is full of jelly beans.

I know this sounds funny, but if you’ve ever heard any childhood story about a character tracking their path through a forest by dropping the chewy treat behind them as they go, you know what I’m talking about. We didn’t get where we are by accident…little events throughout life led us here.

I call these things jelly beans.

Some of these jelly beans can be painful and they have to be retraced, picked up, examined, and thrown away in order to get back on the right track, but others lead us to the right place – the place we need to be.

This is how trust has played out in my life.

Right now, the mister and I are in a season of planning. We are examining what we want to do after business school, where we want to be, and what we want things to look like in 2.5 years. The problem is I hate planning. I enjoy plotting out my day and looking forward to the week ahead, but I despise planning out the long-term. (This is probably due to the fact that things always change and plans typically evolve into new plans, but regardless of how I feel about it, sometimes, you just have to do it.) For some reason, it tends to bring out the worst in me. I am always fearful of making the wrong decision and therefore try to not make one at all.

This state has led me to examine my jelly beans…

Jelly bean one: Giving In

I’ll go into this story more in future posts, I’m sure, but this jelly bean was dropped the summer before my senior year of high school.

I was drunk at party and was sitting on a balcony overlooking the crowd below me. I examined my life and longed for something more. I knew various bible stories, was baptized at a young age, and even had the desire to follow God, but other things had always seemed more appealing (my social status, my ambitions, my own comfort, etc.). After years of refusing to listen to the Lord, I finally gave in.

I decided to trust Him with my life, and things, though still hard at times, have never been the same since. 

Jelly bean two: The Break-up

This jelly bean was awful.

My sophomore year of college my boyfriend and I broke up. (Something I thought would never happen.) I remember walking down the hallway of my college dorm wondering if I would ever get over it. I was too sad to eat, too confused to think straight, and was utterly disappointed in how the cards had fallen in my life. I remember looking at the doors of all of the other rooms wondering if the people inside were happy. Were they satisfied with life? Or were they, like me, heartbroken? Was I alone?

The Lord led me to two verses that guided me during this time:

“The mind of the sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.” – Romans 8:6


“Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” – Philippians 4:8

 I rehearsed these verses every day for almost a year. As I walked around campus, drove to events, or ate in the dining hall, I repeated them in my mind.   

I had a choice. I could focus my thoughts on things I didn’t know or I could focus on the things I did. I didn’t know all of the answers behind my situation. I didn’t know what the Lord was going to do in the future or what He was in the process of doing in the present. All I knew was the truth – He was good, and He never acted without purpose. 

Each and every day for a year-and-a-half consisted of burdensome pain, and, at times, doubt. “Did I make the right decision? Am I doing the right thing? If I am, why is it so hard?”

In the end, it all boiled down to trust.

 No part of it was easy, but with the help of my sister (who I called at least 3 times a day), the patience of good friends (who allowed me to cry at inappropriate times and talk the issue into the ground), and God’s grace, I healed. The Lord taught me to trust Him – and He walked me through it tear by tear until I showed up on the other side.

That was seven years ago.

There have been other jelly beans along the way, and they have all communicated the same thing: God is aware of what’s happening, He is good, He is able to provide, and I, therefore, should trust him. Through the death of a close family friend, to the hurt of feeling judged because of my past, He has proved faithful and has reassured me that He’s working in the midst of hard or unfortunate circumstances. Wherever He leads me is the best place to be.

So what do these jelly beans have to do with my current situation?

Today, as I type, I’m confused. I don’t know what I want to do, I feel frustrated, and I am tired after a long few days of school. (In fact, this past month has just worn me out.) I don’t want to plan. I don’t want to move to move again. (From Midland to Boston and then from Boston to…) What’s going to happen to my friendships here in Midland? What’s going to happen to my friendships in Boston and Dallas? Am I ever going to have deep community again?

This morning, I opened up the Word and read in Psalm 139 (where I typically go when I’m fed up with myself):

“O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways” (vs.1-3).

Even when I’m confused about who I am, how I feel, or how I fit into some picture, God knows. He knows me. He is aware of my ways – my habits, my thoughts, my hurts, and my activities. I’m never as lost as I think I am.

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast” (vs. 7-10).

Even if I feel alone, I’m not. I never am. He is always with me and his Spirit will guide me – if only I listen.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb…All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (vs. 13&16).

God created me (and you). He formed my body. Piece by piece he put together my personality, the bed of my emotions, and my natural abilities. He knows where I am going and how He is going to use me there. He sees the big picture – even when I can’t see anything.

I’m not sure how my current situation is going to play out, but I know the jelly beans in my past remind me to trust Him.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” – Psalm 139:23&24

I don’t know where you are or what’s going on in your life, but I know you have a trail of jelly beans behind you. Where have they led you? What have they shaped you to believe?

If you’re struggling, keep fighting. God is worth trusting. He promises to give you life, even though it may not always be easy. Rely on Him. Look to Him. Pray…

“Lord, see where I am and help me! Examine the parts of me I cannot see and lead me to repentance. Help me walk with you. Renew my heart so that I’m not focused on the negative in my life but on your grace which is the greatest gift of all. Change me. Make me more like you. Lead me to a place of trust – for I know you are faithful.”