Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Tuesday Ten: On Fear and Peace

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So the draft of this blog post has been sitting idle since the end of March. Life got a little crazy, but this post stuck in the back of my mind as one that begged to be written. The enemy has been quite active in my life as of late by sowing lots of lies. Dumb lies, but powerful nevertheless. Some days I can physically feel the battle between my  heart and mind as I beg the Lord to remind me of His truths in the midst of the battlefield. Here are some of my favorite verses that I am learning to claim that speak against fear and for peace.

  1. The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. - John 10:10
  2. The Lord your God is with you, the mighty warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in His love He will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing. - Zephaniah 3:17
  3. But now thus says the Lord, He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you. - Isaiah 43:1-3a, 4
  4. I have said these things to you, that you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. - John 16:33
  5. He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, "My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust." - Psalm 91:1-2
  6. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. -Proverbs 3:4-5
  7. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the One who died-more than that who was raised- who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. - Romans 8:31-39
  8. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. - 1 John 4:18
  9. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. "The Lord is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in Him." - Lamentations 3:21-24
  10. You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because He trusts in You. - Isaiah 26:3

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Influence Conference Recap

Last week, I had the immense privilege and joy of attending the Influence Conference in Indianapolis. The Influence Network is an online community of women all over the world who want to make the name of Jesus great right where they are- as teachers, bloggers, moms, students, and small business owners. The Influence Conference is a gathering of women with one goal in mind- to see God glorified in their lives, their families, and their communities. Last year, my friend Rachel and I traveled to a writers’ day in North Carolina hosted by the lovely Emily Freeman. This day proved so wonderfully fruitful for both of us and was such an encouragement to both of our passions. We both lamented the fact that we did not have the time or money to be able to attend the Influence Conference, swearing that we would go next year. Lo and behold, shortly after we returned to Athens, the tickets for this year’s conference went on sale, and with trepidation, we clicked buy! Little did we know that this would also be the last national gathering. We were so glad we jumped at the chance to attend this year. So much has happened for both Rachel and I in this last year. At this time last year, she was engaged and finishing up her college education. I had just begun my job at Downtown Academy and had not yet my husband. My, how quickly times change.

I now want a yurt/fort/tent in my house. Anyone else channeling The Holiday here?!

I went into Influence asking God for big things. My heart needed to hear from Him, and I desperately wanted a fresh word. Let me tell you, He delivered. (Why do I feel surprised when He does what He says He will do?!) On Sunday afternoon, I came home and talked to Rory nonstop, sharing details about the speakers and all that God had done in my heart and mind.

It is very easy for me to read others’ blogs and have an idealistic picture of them in my mind. The internet can be so kind, yet so cruel. When I read others’ blogs, it is so easy to think that they have somehow “arrived” and that they have it all together. That they’ve reached a new level of walking with the Lord that I might get to “one day.” But friends, this way of thinking just feeds comparison and competition, which both are not of the Lord. I say that only to express my genuine delight at discovering the humanity of those chosen to speak over us this past week. The women who taught did so with love, grace, and poise. They were kind and approachable, and I respect them more now after having heard and met them in the flesh.

New name? Nothing a little Sharpie and Washi tape won't fix.

The first keynote speaker, Hayley Morgan spoke on Friday morning, reminding us of the dangers of a divided heart. She began with explaining how we choose to believe that we truly can do all the things when we “multitask” back and forth between this job and the next. When we run to our phones, the television, or computer for comfort and numb our minds, we’re not treating the root problem, but rather the symptoms of a divided heart. A spiritually divided heart is easily swayed, concerned for its own well-being, and malnourished. A spiritually undivided heart is stayed on Christ and rests in Him, believing that He alone can truly sustain. This message was so powerful to me- I want to be able to do everything on my own strength. But as I grow with Him, it becomes abundantly clear to me that I can do next to nothing of worth if it is not of Him.

With my sweet friends Whitney and Gretchen from Life Lived Beautifully


Lately I have been learning about the power our emotions have over us- to sway us and make us doubt the promises of God. Erin Loechner and Ruth Chou Simons both taught breakout sessions that reminded me of the importance of staying my mind on God’s truths. Erin spoke of the importance of knowing oneself and recognizing the need to admit weakness, while Ruth spoke of the importance of knowing God and resting in the promises of His word. During both sessions, tears welled up in my eyes as I realized, once again, the power of my thoughts and the perspective I have towards situations over which I have no control.

Erin’s session was entitled “Lean Back: Encouragement for the Weary, the Tired, the Women in the Trenches.” I attended the session because quite honestly, I see myself as a woman in the trenches- recognizing the myriad needs of myself within and also of the people around me. And friends, it is tiring to attempt to do things on your own apart from Christ. One of the things that Erin said that deeply resonated me was that trenches are not bad. In fact, they are the safest place to be in a war. They are the place of protection. This perspective was such a comfort as I realized that in the midst of uncomfortable storms, I am exactly where God wants me to be-under the protection of His mighty hand.

Ruth’s session was entitled “Armed with Truth: The Urgency of Preaching to Yourself.” Honestly, I just want to copy and paste all five pages of my notes from this session. It was that good, y’all. Sometimes I want to try to complicate things and make my relationship with Christ a pretty little formula that is easy for me to follow. I want twelve happy hops to heaven. But as my husband so gently has pointed out to me, the point of life is not to feel better and self-assuage, but rather to know God. I’ve tried all kinds of things to make me “feel” better, but none is like the Lord our God. My favorite nugget from Ruth’s session:

The most effective thing we can do is to preach to ourselves in the midst of the most mundane corners of our lives- that we might proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the earth. We can’t do the latter without the former.

The sunset on our drive home from Indy was breathtaking. Our Creator is amazing. 


On Friday night, Influence Network co-founders Hayley Morgan and Jess Connolly revealed to us the cover and trailer video for their upcoming book, Wild and Free and shared their hearts behind the book. Wild and Free: A Hope-Filled Anthem for the Woman Who Feels She is Both Too Much and Never Enough releases in May 2016. Y’all, I cannot wait for this book. We received the first two chapters on Friday night, and I am so ready to dig in. Here’s the nitty gritty:

Wild: Walking in who God created us to be
Free: resting in what Jesus has already done for us

This sounds like a surefire way to joy to me.

Friends, I cannot adequately express in words just how beautifully perfect the timing of this conference was for me. I left feeling quite raw after laying down many fears, worries, strongholds, and pretenses at the cross, and yet I am hopeful and expectant for the Lord to do mighty things. He is so very good. All the time.

Monday, September 14, 2015

teaching with grace

Well my friends, it is September. I don't know how it got here, but it did and it is here. Whattt??? Speaking of time flying, this is my sixth year teaching. It does not seem real or plausible that I could have five years of teaching under my belt, but alas, the numbers do not lie. Simple math, friends, simple math.

When I graduated from the University of Georgia on May 8, 2010, I had not a clue what the next five years would hold for me. I had no idea the myriad ways my heart would be tugged and pierced for the lives of so many students I would encounter. At twenty-two years old, I was excited to be embarking on a new adventure, ready to take on the world in spite of immense fear that was always lurking in the corner, waiting to devour me whole.

I remember feeling so very inadequate my first few days, weeks, and months of teaching. Truth is, I still feel that way. No one can ever truly prepare you for the immense responsibility you feel when you realize the privilege God has given you in caring for and contributing to the character of young souls day in and day out. It is actually quite terrifying when you realize the gravity of the responsibility placed upon you. When I think about the powerful influence teachers had in my life, I realize that the things I say and do are having an impact that will reach far into these little ones' psyches and identities. Through my educational career, I was blessed with some incredible teachers. Heck, I'm even friends with some of them on Facebook today. So many of my teachers contributed to the teacher that I am today by inspiring me to love on and attempt to make a difference in the lives of my babies each day.

Teaching is not just for those who want to make a difference, though. The profession is demanding, and the calling is unmistakable. They say that to teach is to touch a life. Well, friends, we can touch others' lives in negative and positive ways. The impact of our words, be it as a teacher, friend, or parent, is far-reaching and is something for which we will be held accountable (ouch).

James 3:1-2 states: Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.

Here's the thing: everyone is a teacher to someone. Whether you are a college girl that has high school girls looking up to her, dreaming of the day they'll be in your shoes, or you are the business woman on the top with wisdom to offer to the rookies, we're all teaching someone. Someone is always watching us, whether we like it or not. And with that realization, we can choose a better way to live-with a whole lot of grace-because we all needed help to get to where we're at now. 

Teaching requires grace every minute of the day, just like we need grace every minute of the day. It requires an understanding that these little ones that we have been chosen to shepherd are just that-little. They are human beings with thoughts, feelings, hopes, and dreams. They have sin issues just like us adults, and they have unmet needs, too. Oftentimes, they come to school with a whole book bag's  worth full of problems and frustrations from home situations over which we have no control that then influence their day for better or worse. As educators, we can choose get frustrated when things don't go our way, or we can cry out for more grace, determined to heap it upon them because we know we need it desperately ourselves. 

I know that when I take a minute to ask the Lord to show me the big picture, He reveals to me that school, albeit a big part of these kids lives, is still only a fraction of the pie. They have families, sports teams, and churches. Their lives are complicated and full, just like ours. And when I pause to remember that, He fills me with the grace needed to not only "get through" each day, but to enjoy it and see glimpses of His face in the most mundane of moments. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Currently: September

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It's September, which means it is a new month full of new beginnings, opportunities, and possibilities. That's the way I try to see things, anyways. Those thoughts may not always translate to my attitude in reality, but I want to live with a moment to moment appreciation of His grace, whichi is oh so plentiful.

So here's what's happening these days:

Reading: Last week, I finished reading For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards by the beloved Jen Hatmaker. This book had me laughing on one page, crying on the next, underlining, and amen-ing. A lot. Highly recommend this one, friends. 
Making: It has been so nice to actually cook instead of eat out all the time, although the convenience of takeout cannot be rivaled. We have been making either fish or chicken sandwiches just about every week, and I make these amazingly scrumptious oven fries to go with them. Dee-light-ful.
Pinning: The school year is fully underway, and I have been pinning lots of random things to help keep teaching fresh. 
Anticipating: THE INFLUENCE CONFERENCE. OMG y'all, I am so very excited about this conference. It has been a while since I have gone to a women's retreat/conference, and this will be my first national women's conference. My friend Rachel and I bought the tickets last year and it is hard to believe that it is oh so soon!
Loving: Friday Night Lights. Y'all. This show is so. good. I binge watched the first two seasons last summer and then had to take an emotional hiatus. I was too connected; the characters are just so lovable! Rory has seen all five seasons, so he is rewatching them with me. Right now we are in the middle of season 3 (I think?) and things are just cuh-razy. So. many. tears. Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose. 

Linking up with Jenna and Anne.


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