Friday, March 24, 2017

When Life's Just Plain Hard

This week has been a doozy, friends. It's been one of those weeks where tears have been a daily occurrence and heartache has been a theme. Yet my Jesus has been just the sweetest. And why would I expect Him to be otherwise?

As I've read through the book of Isaiah, the Lord has shown me just how fickle the hearts of His people can be. We say one thing and do another. We make promises and break them. We make commitments we can't keep. We are weak indeed.

But God's heart? His ways?











Everything that is good or sweet or lovely that we can think of has come through His hand. And every difficult circumstance or heartbreaking situation? He's in the midst of those, too. I don't know what your week was like friends. But I pray that no matter your situation, you know that God is right there with you, in the midst of it all. He's the rescuer and redeemer, and He keeps His word. He's not like us. He doesn't go back on what He says. That's what has comforted me this week, friends. I pray you've found comfort in His love and in His word, too.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

#weread2017: Chasing Slow

So friends, I love Erin Loechner. I heard her speak at The Influence Conference a couple years back and was so challenged and encouraged by her ability to speak so eloquently and vulnerably at the same time. She spoke in a way that allowed everyone in the room to feel as though they had a seat at the table and a place to process their life in light of reality-not in a comparative sense or with unrealistic expectations, but with grace.

Erin is an accomplished woman in every sense of the word- she's a highly capable mom to two, a former HGTV show host, and a seasoned blogger. And yet in Chasing Slow: Courage to Journey Off the Beaten Path, she paints a picture of an everyday woman who sometimes gets it right and sometimes gets it wrong. She explains how fame and money became idols and allowed bitterness and anger to creep into her marriage. She explains how she struggled in her relationship with God and how she's still just learning to know Him more. She explains how her entrance into motherhood wasn't completely seamless and how that's ok. And she explains how it's ok to not be ok.

There are so many dog-eared pages in this book and so many highlighted and underlined passages that I might as well have just highlighted the whole dang thing. It's that good. She writes about her experiences with honesty and invites you into her story by helping you to own your story. Erin is approachable and witty, fun and classic. Her words are soothing and challenging, and as I read this book, I found myself wanting to self-examine and think through the way I make decisions and the perspectives I hold that influence my thought processes and the way I treat others. Turns out that our thought processes can heavily influence the way we treat our friends and family. So if our thoughts stink, our words and actions probably do, too. It's much easier to lash out against someone else instead of taking the time to work on whatever's bothering you. Erin challenges the reader to think about what's going on inside of you and asks: how can you address it to help you be who God's created you to be?

I used to think the opposite of control is chaos. But it's not. The opposite of control is surrender. 

What might God be asking you to surrender over to Him? Let's live with open hands, friends. It's easier said than done, but it's so worth it.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Everything You Wanted to Know

Ok friends, last week I asked you to come at me with your questions. I've been at this blogging thing for almost seven years now. Some of you have been with me for the whole ride, while others of you are new friends. I'm so grateful for your loyalty and encouraging words. Without further adieu, here's what you wanted to know: 

What got you interested in blogging?

I first began this blog as a little space where I could process my post-grad life and share what was going on in my new home of Chihuahua, Mexico. I graduated from the University of Georgia in May 2010 and started this blog shortly thereafter. It was a place for me to share about what I was learning, enjoying, and struggling with as I made the transition to life after college and as a missionary teacher at Colegio Binimea with New Tribes Mission.

What are a few big changes you've learned from then to now (in writing and blogging)? Do you blog less or more?

While I no longer live outside of the United States, I kept coming back to this blog because I love to write. When I was younger, I devoured books (well, I still do) and wanted to be a writer one day. This is my place to write, process, and encourage other women by helping them know that no matter what, they aren't alone in their struggles. In the beginning, I blogged a lot more; now I think I'm trying to go with quality over quantity. :)

What do you enjoy the most about a vocation in ministry and what do you wish you could see done differently? 

I absolutely love my job at Watkinsville First Baptist. The position I hold is technically called "Executive Administrative Assistant," and it is a mixed bag of administrative responsibilities and ministry opportunities. What I love is the privilege I have of serving a church I love so dearly and getting to be behind the scenes. My favorite part of my job is working with the interns we have that serve in various capacities. This role is something that wasn't "on paper" with my job description, but it is so fun. I get to disciple college girls and hang out with them, and I get paid to do it when I'd do it for free! That's pretty sweet. 

I think it would be wonderful if we came together with other churches in the area more often, because there is strength in numbers and beauty in learning from our neighbor. There are a lot of amazing churches in our area and in surrounding counties, and it would be a beautiful thing for us to unite under the name of Jesus Christ.

What are some of your favorite questions to use when discipling a young woman?

This is such a good question! I usually ask:

What is your relationship with God like right now?
What are you reading?
What are you learning?
How can I pray for you?
What are you struggling with?

Just having someone ask those questions is so encouraging because you know that there is someone in your life who cares about your well-being and wants you to thrive.

Do you have a favorite hymn and if so, which one? 

I think it is a tie between "Great is Thy Faithfulness" and "How Great Thou Art." I love reflecting on how amazing God's faithfulness is and how His ways are higher than mine. It is also incredible to think about how He created this whole world and yet He thinks of us and loves and uses us, His creation to bring glory to Him.

Which family member has had the greatest impact on your testimony?

I think that my mom has had the greatest impact on my testimony, because she is the one who led me to Christ in the first place. She has a deep abiding joy, and it is through her that I have learned what it means to be a woman of God.

What do you wish you could tell your 5-years-ago-self? 

Oh man. So. many. things. Good golly. Don't give your heart away so easily because you're desperate for attention. It's ok to say no sometimes. You don't have to be all things to all people. Be quiet and learn to listen. Know yourself and what you're comfortable with. Learn some dang boundaries. Chill the mess out. Enjoy your season. :)

Friday, March 17, 2017

When You've Had Enough

For too long, I have lived with a scarcity mentality. This mentality has not served me well. It has hurt my emotional health and strained relationships. This mentality has led me into darkness and has allowed me to believe that God is not who He truly says He is. 

But this week, in reading through Isaiah and in various life circumstances where God just straight up showed out, I realized I've had enough. I've had enough of comparing and striving. I've had enough of trying to control every little thing. I've had enough of the negativity. I've had enough of the wishing and hoping and thinking my life would be better if... fill in the blank with your chosen desire or dream that is currently unfulfilled. 

I shared this on Instagram yesterday:

Y'all can I just say something? I've spent way too much time being jealous of, comparing myself to, and resenting other women. It's dumb and stupid and all those other negative words. Because there is no point to it. When we truly come alongside each other and walk with each other on the mountain tops and in the valleys, ain't no stoppin' is. And it's just way more fun that way, amirite? I'm so incredibly grateful for the women God has providentially placed in my life as sisters. Go hug a friend today.

Because you know what, God is really good. And He's more than enough. For all of my junk. For all of my sin. For all of my shame. And He's given me a pretty dang awesome life. So here's to embracing the mess and walking in freedom of who He says He is, because when I take my eyes off of myself for more than five minutes and am still in His presence, I find that His words are true. His presence is near. And His embrace is real. I'm clinging to that these days, because it's all I know to do. 

O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you; I will praise your name, for You have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure...It will be said on that day, "Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation."- Isaiah 25:1,9

God is good at being God. He is in control, and His name is worthy of my praise in spite of my circumstances and my feelings. As my friend Gretchen says, truth trumps feelings. I can lift my song of praise even when I don't feel like it, because when I do, He changes me and I am made new all over again. 

For today's giveaway, would you tell me something you're grateful for in the comments? That's all, friends. My sweet friend Taylor Oakland of Florals and Flourishes made this beautiful print that is so simple yet beautiful, and it's a perfect reminder of truth. Tell me something you're grateful for, and you might just find yourself as the winner! Love you!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

#weread2017: The Lipstick Gospel

So in full disclosure, I did not purchase this book, my friends. A couple years ago, some friends and I attended The Influence Conference, and it was in my swag bag! It's been sitting on the shelf for some time since then, and I finally got around to reading it a couple months ago. I needed a quick read and wanted something different and new, and this delivered.

The Lipstick Gospel: A story about finding God in heartbreak, the Sistine Chapel, and the perfect cappuccino is a beautiful story of how Stephanie May Wilson was found by God and wooed by Him in the most unlikely of circumstances. She writes with candor about how her life was in shambles, but she was trying to hold it all together. When it all fell apart, she was embraced and loved on by friends who knew Jesus and just wanted her to know Him, too.

Stephanie shares all about her college experience and how God used that time to lead her closer to Him and to make Himself real in her life. In all honesty, her college experience was completely different than mine. She was a sorority girl and had romantic involvements, and she studied abroad and had all kinds of adventures. But even though our experiences were different, I could still see myself in her story- she endured heartbreak and uncertainty, just as any twenty-something does.

Every misconception I had about God and Christianity had been blown out of the water. God was thrilling and dangerous and safe all at the same time. He was wild. He would send you to the corners of the world if you said you were willing and would heal your wounds with soothing tenderness. He was everything good about life wrapped up into one. He was French wine and Spanish olives and Italian cappuccinos. He was quiet times in Costa Rica and being baptized in the mountains and best friends and the creakiest bunk beds. He was fireworks and adventure and love that seeped into every corner, spreading farther than the eye can see. And I wanted more of Him.

This book drew me in because Stephanie didn't hold back. She didn't write of past mistakes with shame and regret, but rather with gut-level honesty and gratitude for how God had changed and shaped her as His beloved daughter. I highly recommend it for anyone, whether your story is similar or different. Reading other's stories is a way for us to find connection amongst those who are not like us by understanding the greatest connection we have, which is the body of Christ.

Friday, March 10, 2017

He Is All We Need

This was the first full week of Lent, friends. How are you doing? Are you finding it hard to make the Word of God a priority in your life? Are you seeing how easy it is to place other things above your relationship with God? Sometimes it is shockingly easy to just forget about the very One who gives us each breath we breathe.

This week, in reading through Isaiah for Lent, I was struck with the fact that I often place so many people, things, and values above God Himself. It is so easy to think that my husband, my job, my title, my socioeconomic status, my outward appearance, or my friend group define who I am. But this week, as I read through chapters in Isaiah that talk of rebellious people and warring nations, it was easy to see that so often, we get it so wrong.

Isaiah 9:2-7 is often a passage we read at Christmastime to remind us of the prophecy of Christ's birth foretold. It reads:

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, 
on them light has shone.
You have multiplied the nation;
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you 
as with joy at the harvest,
as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
For the yoke of his burden,
and the staff for his shoulder,
the rod of his oppressor, 
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For every boot of the trampling warrior in battle tumult
and every garment rolled in blood 
will be burned as fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace 
there will be no end, 
on the throne of David, and over his kingdom, 
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. 

In the midst of great sorrow and wickedness and rebellion, God breaks through with a promise. He tells His children of a man who will come and change the world, not through His power and His desire to reign as the ultimate authority, but through love, peace, and grace- authority in its purest and most beautiful form.

In Isaiah 13-17, there is a jarring description of God's judgement on various nations who have completely turned away from Him and are living in utter darkness. It is a strange juxtaposition after reading of the goodness that is to come, is it not?

Right next to the passage in Isaiah 9, I wrote this excerpt from the She Reads Truth Advent plan:

"If the future depends on whether or not I'm on my best behavior, it is bleak indeed. But the prophets foretell of Christ." 

Do you see it my friends? Every single part of the Bible points to our greatest need- Christ. We can do nothing without Him. We read the Bible and see all of these stories about people groups who turned away from Him and participated in horrendous acts, and we may think, "Man, these people were so jacked up!" But we're all jacked up messes without Christ. When we read of the people's rebellion and refusal to turn to the Father, we can be reminded of our rebellious ways- through pride, dishonesty, jealousy, strife, bitterness, and fear. We, too, are a rebellious people.

Thanks be to God for sending His Son to rewrite the narrative and give us our only hope through His Prince of Peace.

{Image via Life Lived Beautifully}

Friends, today's giveaway is a Give Me Jesus journal from Life Lived Beautifully! The Give Me Jesus journal was created by my sweet friend Gretchen to help women dig deeper into the Word of God. I have owned several and am currently using a 40-day version through Lent, and I love it! All you have to do to enter is leave a comment below. Share what God is teaching you, ask a question, or leave encouragement for others to see! Winner will be announced on Monday, so you've got all weekend. :) Have a lovely Friday, friends.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

#weread2017: You Are Free Review

I was first introduced to Rebekah Lyons through her first book, Freefall to Fly. I remember weeping as I read through the pages, because even though I couldn't relate exactly to everything she experienced by overcoming her panic and anxiety, for some reason, her words deeply resonated with me. 

Rebekah's sophomore book, You Are Free: Be Who You Already Are is no different. Each chapter went deeper and deeper and brought truth through the beautiful art of storytelling. She simply tells her story, shares about all that God did in and through her as a result, and then challenges you, the reader, to consider how God could change, mold, and free you, too. This book was like a warm hug, as Rebekah's journey to freedom helped assure me that we are all always in progress. I usually picked up this book in the evenings and would read it after a long day as I soaked in the tub, and it was sometimes my book that I read before bed. As an avid journaler, underliner, and highlighter of all the things, I'll definitely be going back to work through each chapter. With every chapter, Rebekah includes a few questions to consider. These questions beg you to dig deeper and be completely honest with yourself and with God. 

Growing up, I never understood my longing for approval was really an unquenched thirst for Jesus and his unconditional love for me. But Jesus came and rescued me in my thirst. He freed from anxiety, and now he wanted to free me from the spiritual weight of striving...This understanding was another step in my journey to freedom. I'd tried to quench my thirst for the goodness of God by drinking the world's water, but I could never get enough. The world's water only created more drought and famine. 

Instead, I needed learn a holier thirst, the thirst for the presence of God, for revival, for small ministry in the church. I needed more of his goodness, not more of the world's acclaim, and I hoped to carry this goodness to a world thirsting for the same thing. God was already walking with me into the goodness; I just hadn't recognized it yet.

You Are Free invites the reader to taste more of Jesus. As Rebekah shares her journey from striving and perfectionism to knowing and loving Jesus more each day, you'll want a taste of the freedom she's got. I couldn't recommend this book more to anyone who is thirsty for more of Him.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Ask Me Anything

Well, friends, I've been at this blogging thing for almost seven years. It seems strange to say that, but it began as a place where I processed everything I was going through as a recent college grad and kept friends and family abreast of my adventures in Chihuahua, Mexico. Now it's a place where I've shared about everything-the good, the bad, the ugly- of a twenty-something's life. :) It's a place where I feel like I've grown as a writer and a person. And you've been there all along, friends. Thank you for that. 

Today, I'm taking your questions. I want to know what you want to know! This space is where I share my life, and I try to do so honestly. So today, ask me anything. Leave a question in the comments below, and in a few days, I'll post with my answers. 


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