Monday, August 18, 2014

So Much More.

"Jesus did many other things as well.  If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written."
John 21:25

DANG.  We really do only have a small glimpse into the power and life of our sweet Jesus.  The things that He did and the people He encountered in His ministry on earth must go so far beyond what we know from the Bible, which is absolutely nuts considering what He was able to accomplish in those few years.  And He alone is our ultimate example, right? I wholeheartedly believe that we should and could be doing so much more to impact the world that we live in... if only we believed that we are are who He says we are and therefore lived with so much more boldness and confidence in His power.  Jesus' ministry lasted three years.  Three years!  That is nothing... and yet when you compare what He was able to do in that time, it seems like everything.  He did ALL that was required of Him, all that God wanted Him to do, all that needed to happen for Him to be the perfect example to us.  There is so much more that the Lord wants to do for us and in us and through us than the "little" that we are comfortable with and settle for.  The things Jesus did - the miracles and the healings and the redeeming - those things are absolutely accessible to us today.  Right now!  Do you believe it?  If not, what is holding you back?  Unbelief.

"Unbelief needs to be removed from our minds, to where what we see doesn't dominate what we know in our hearts... This involves a pressing in, a consecration. Your time in prayer will lead to deeper intimacy, which will lead to seeing things the way God sees things."

We must, with everything in us, fight against doubt and excuses and simply believe that God really and fully IS who He says He is, and thus that we are who He says we are.  We've got the same Spirit in us (2 Corinthians 4:13-14) longing for us to press in to Him that we might experience just a glimpse of the abundantly more (John 10:10) than we are settling for.

You ready?  I know I am.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Freedom Bestows Freedom.

"Our lives are meant to proclaim that Jesus has broken our spiritual chains, and in this proclamation, we join Jesus in seeking justice for the oppressed."

To seek justice means to exert life-giving power to help and protect others, and that all begins with our seeking God. He wants to set prisoners free (Psalm 146:7), and He is in the business of using us - broken and messy as we may be - to do that. But sometimes we are too hard on ourselves, or we allow lies to infiltrate our hearts, to the point that these things can disguise themselves as truth or reality when they are really only hindering us from living out the beyond-what-we-could-imagine He has for us. 

Lately I have seen too many - including myself - succumb to these kinds of thoughts and lies, allowing our attitudes and actions to suffer, not truly believing: 1. That God is who He says He is, and 2. That we are who He says we are... forgiven, redeemed, made new, His. 

In this I pray that we would allow His grace to wash over every area of our lives - our weaknesses, our strengths, our insecurities, our imperfections, etc. - and BELIEVE Him for it. Believe that His grace is big enough for us and our mess. Believe that, while we were still sinners, He willingly died for us (Romans 5:8).  Believe that we are FREE, and free indeed (John 8:36), and that we have been set free so that we can be part of God's work of setting others free (Galatians 5:1). Freedom bestowing freedom, y'all. 

I pray that we would be about this business of justice, for His Kingdom and His glory. 


Friday, August 1, 2014

The Power of Story.

I have always loved stories.  Regardless of shape or size, be it a novel, blog post, or magazine article, I love to dive in head first.  Even when I was little, this was my reality.  From the the classic Nancy Drew books passed down by my mom, to my favorites from high school english like The Great Gatsby or The Grapes of Wrath, to the Harry Potter series that captivated my attention when they burst onto the scene (and they still do, #HPforlife), stories have always intrigued my mind and my heart.

As I have gotten older, I have found within me an even greater appreciation for people's stories, falling in love with the ways that they articulate the experiences that have shaped their lives: the ups and downs and everywhere-in-betweens.  I often find myself on the edge of my seat in anticipation, ready to celebrate each victory and cry with each struggle as we walk through the retelling of their life's journey.  And there is something even more impactful and soul-stirring when you can see God all over a person's story, ya know what I mean?  His grace and His providence poured out over our lives like ink on paper is a beautiful reminder that we are not alone in this life. Our stories, our testimonies, they hold a lot of power, y'all.

Within the last week, I have shared my story in two totally different environments.  The first was with a girl I had just met as we sat over coffee, sharing our hearts for women and worth and freedom.  Naturally, but unplanned, an opportunity opened up and she asked more about my story.  I briefly shared bits and pieces, intending to hit on the most crucial faith experiences of my life thus far, which honestly turned into more of a ramble, and I ended up not even remembering quite what I said to that sweet girl.  In spite of that - and my hot mess self - I believe the Lord used that moment to encourage us both right where we were at.

Then just a few days ago, I shared my testimony with my sweet Bible study group of 12+ women from different churches, jobs, and hometowns who intentionally come together to do life - and drink wine - each week.  As I prepared to share with them, I opened up my journal (because I process best through writing) and I created a timeline, highlighting what I believed to be the most pivotal points in my story so far.  I studied it and ultimately prayed that the Lord would give me the words to speak.  That night, I shared my story, only to miss most of the points that I had planned to share and, again, had a hard time remembering much of what I had said.  Truth be told, I actually walked away feeling like I had somehow failed at sharing my testimony... that what I said wasn't powerful enough, or exciting enough, or whatever enough.  But, HELLO, I had prayed for the Lord to give me the words, so - again - I believe that He moved in that moment.

But before this little revelation of, "He gave me the words," I had the gut-sinking feeling that my testimony just isn't exciting anymore.  Nothing as of late has felt significant enough to warrant being a part of the story of my life... but that simply is not true.  Our lives (and ultimately becoming more like Jesus) are a lifelong process, and our relationship with the the Lord is not some sort of destination; it is a steady, lifelong walk with Him.  It means that our stories will most certainly have highs and lows, which include those in-between moments that may just look like an open road with nothing really special to look at.  But if is is time spent with the Lord, regardless of the scenery, then it is not wasted or insignificant.  It is all valuable, purposeful, and has the potential to be full of excitement.

I am learning that a key to my story, and likely yours, too, is this: stay teachable and always be willing to say yes.  Saying yes opens up the door for God to do amazing things, bring us to new places, and even to share our stories with those He brings into our path.  Regardless of what we may think about our personal stories at any given time, they hold a lot of power... enough power to draw others in, pull at their heart strings, and hopefully lead them closer to the Lord.  No moment wasted, no experience in vain.  Your story holds a lot of power.  Share it.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Be You, Bravely.

I have no fancy or eloquent way to begin this post.  Just this raw, unedited thought: I have been feeling ugly lately.  Unworthy.  Less than.  Utterly imperfect.  And these feelings have affected me more than ever before.  Normally I am able to move past them, knowing they are lies trying to tear me down, but this week that just hasn't been the case. And honestly, it really comes as no surprise that all of this has hit me so hard just a few days after watching this video.

I am all too familiar with the fact that we as women struggle with body image and self-worth.  I have grown up dealing with these feelings of insecurity since I was around ten, and now, almost fifteen years later, I am still dealing with them head on. Between the number on the scale and dreaded swimsuit shopping and zits that pop up outta nowhere and going to the gym and the stupid concept of thigh gap and everything in between, it's hard to not let the lies get to us.  I wish I could tell you that it gets easier with age, but it doesn't (or at least hasn't yet).  With age does come wisdom, however, and thus the ability to better distinguish a truth from a lie.  These lies - that we are ugly, overweight, unwanted, not enough, worthless, untalented, hopeless - they are just that: lies.  They are things that we hear, read, and even begin to believe, but they are not the truth.

The truth is that you and I, we are beautiful, just as we are.  Our flaws, our imperfections, the things that we wish we could change… all beautiful.  Even if we don't always love them, they are what make you you and me me.  Perfect in our imperfection, y'all, and fearfully and wonderfully made.

Psalm 139:14
"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."  

Psalm 139:13-16 (MSG)
"Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother's womb.  I thank you, High God - you're breathtaking!  Body and soul, I am marvelously made!  I worship in adoration - what a creation!  You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something.  Like an open book, you watched me grow… all the stages of my life were spread out before you.  The days of my life prepared before I'd even lived one day."

Replacing the lies we hear with the truth can be so much more powerful than we often believe (and even more so when those truths are coming straight from the Word of God).  We often become what we believe we are, so let's get after it together!  Rebuke the lies and tell them to get behind us.  They don't belong in our heads, and most certainly not in our hearts, so let's ditch them on the side of the road and keep moving forward in truth.

And when we are feeling beautiful and good about ourselves, we do not need to be ashamed of it.  If you or I want to document that moment by taking a selfie, we shouldn't feel guilty about it.  You heard me: #longlivetheselfie.  You are beautiful (and that will remain true regardless of how many "likes" you get, by the way) and may we not forget that real, true, lasting beauty isn't external anyway; it radiates from within.  Love yourself, flaws and all, and then you'll best be able to love others around you.  And that's what this life is really all about anyway, isn't it?  Loving others well.

So get it girl.  Rebuke the lies.  Take that selfie.  Love with abandon.  And be you, bravely.

- - -

And while you're at it, be sure to check out this sweet friend's soon to be non-profit designed to help young people see, and ultimately believe, the truth amongst the lies: Unveiled Campaign.

 Then, snap a picture and use the hashtag #unveilyourselfie (mine can be found on Instagram).