Thursday, October 19, 2017

#write31days: Our Greedy Hearts

Have you ever bought something new and then seen what your neighbor has and been instantly dissatisfied and ready for an upgrade? Maybe you wish for more and better and can’t deal with the thought of not being current or on trend. Maybe the opinions of others are the driving forces behind the purchases you make. Maybe you’ve even been unwise with the money God has given you to steward because you’re afraid of being “behind.”

Friends, this is called greed. You could also call it materialism. It’s easy for us to adopt an American mindset of “more is better.” I mean, I’ve been saying for years that I want to have a capsule wardrobe, but the fear of “not having enough” has held me back. Who decides how much is enough? Who decides how much is too much? How do we live without allowing our possessions to own us?

Jesus said in Matthew 6:25-34:

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, about what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what will you put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your Heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seem first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

When we find ourselves consumed with the desire for more material things, we are completely missing the point of our lives here on earth. We weren’t put on this earth to accumulate as much as we could and then get to the other side. We were made to lay down our lives for others. We were made to enjoy life and enjoy God. You know the saying- “No one’s ever seen a UHaul behind a hearse.” So let’s focus on the mission before us and hold our stuff with open hands, knowing that it’s not eternal, but the kingdom of God is.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

#write31days: Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better

Anything you can do,
I can do better
I can do anything
Better than you.
No, you can't. 
Yes, I can. No, you can't.
Yes, I can. No, you can't.
Yes, I can,
Yes, I can!

The lyrics above are from the musical Annie Get Your Gun. Admittedly, I haven’t seen this show. But I’ve heard the song, and you probably have too. Today we’re going to talk about comparing accomplishments and talents.

How many times have you thought to yourself:

I wish I were as smart as her.
She’s so talented and has it all together. I’m a mess.
Wow, her life is perfect!
If only I had the same personality as her, I’d be so much better at _______.

It is so incredibly tempting to look to the right or left and allow ourselves to be bogged down in insecurity. But when we consider others as better than ourselves and allow everyone else’s talents to overshadow ours, we miss out on opportunities God has given us to shine and to grow. When I’m so laser focused on all that I cannot do, how can I serve Him with a humble heart?

God does not ask us to be anyone other than who He has created us to be. He does not expect us to be able to do it all. So why do we expect that of ourselves? Why do we think that we should be able keep every plate spinning and satisfy every one? We place expectations, requirements, and burdens upon ourselves that were just never meant to be ours to carry. 

Paul says in Romans 12:4-8, “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.”

Each of us has a different gift that can be used to encourage others and to build the kingdom of God. Let’s not waste our time by wishing for what has not been given to us. Let’s work together and use what we’ve got to strengthen others and watch God do something incredible with all of His people united in His name. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

#write31days: Why I’m Grateful for Infertility

Friends, today I write to you from Dallas, TX. Yes, you read that correctly. I’m in Dallas, TX for national training to begin a women’s ministry in Athens. But let me back up, because the title of this blog post is “Why I’m Grateful for Infertility,” after all.

Here’s the thing, whether we choose to accept it or not- God’s ways are higher than ours. His thoughts are not our thoughts, because He knows everything and sees the entire picture. We see a teeny tiny blip and yet we still think we should be able to boss Him around and ask Him to acquiesce to our plans and our ways. But friends, we all know that’s just not the way it works.

A few weeks ago I wrote about our struggle with a season of infertility. Since then dozens of people have contacted me to say “me too.” And while it’s comforting to know I’m definitely not alone in this, it also hurts my heart to know that others know this pain and longing.

I digress. Friends, God is the author of all that is good. He is our provider, our source, and our shepherd. Every single thing He gives us or withholds for a season is not without purpose. It is in the classroom of infertility that I have learned greater empathy and deep sorrow, but I have also been able to say without a doubt that my God is still good. He still loves me.

Because if I’d gotten pregnant on my timeline, I wouldn’t be in Dallas right now. I wouldn’t have met an incredible woman who introduced me to a ministry that is needed in Athens. I wouldn’t have been able to enter into the suffering and heartache of others who are trying to conceive. I wouldn’t know Him the way I do now.

So even though I never would have written the story this way, I can say thank you. For all of it. Because friends, when we compare our season or story or accomplishments to someone else’s, we’re not giving God the glory He deserves for what He’s done in our lives. We’re so distracted with the longing for what we don’t yet have that we cannot live with purpose in the plan He’s already laid out for us. May it not be so! Let’s say thank you in the thick of it and champion each other to live in our story and run our own race.

Monday, October 16, 2017

#write31days: What Is Comparison?

Last week we talked about how to have a grateful heart Today we are going to make sure we know what comparison is so that we know how to kick it to the curb.
The thing about comparison is that it can be very sneaky. I used to think of it only in the sense of coveting another’s belongings or gifts, but that is only one of its forms. Comparison can also come in the form of vanity and pride. Do you celebrate another’s failures or secretly wish that she doesn’t get what she wants? That’s comparison, too. I’d never thought of it that way until I read Comparison Trap by Sandra Stanley. In this timely book, she helps you uncover secret thought patterns that are unknowingly killing your friendships and relationships with those you love. 
This week, we will take a look at how to kick these ugly thoughts out. We will begin to identify our unhealthy thought processes and look at just how icky this sin can be. It may not be fun or pretty, but the work will be worth it. I hope you’ll do what you need to do to find freedom from this trap!

Saturday, October 14, 2017

#write31days: How to Love Your Life Pt. 2

Each Saturday I will bring you a little challenge that will help you on your road to contentment. I may sound like a broken record, but there is nothing that will change your heart and mind like the word of God. Hebrews tells us that it is sharper than any two-edged sword and can change our very lives. Today’s challenge is simply this- choose a verse from Scripture that will help you remember that God is your everything. Then memorize it!
For those of you who think you can’t memorize anything, that’s a lie. You can memorize things for school and new song lyrics at the drop of a hat. Memorizing Scripture takes work, but it is worth it. So maybe take a look at yesterday’s post and choose a verse that will help you remember where your true contentment lies. 
And if you need help memorizing, try the following:
Say the verse ten times. 
Write the verse over and over. 
Put the verse on a notecard that can go on your mirror or dashboard.
Make the verse your phone background. 
Doodle or illustrate the verse. 
What verse will you memorize today?

Friday, October 13, 2017

#write31days: Truth to Hold Onto, Pt. 2

This week has been all about gratitude. Can I be honest and just say that everything I'm sharing with you is for my heart, too? I am by no means a master of these practices and attitudes of the heart. Everything that I write here is what the Lord is teaching me and challenging me with in my every day life in the present. So please know that this is all from a "me, too" perspective. :)

Today we are going to take a look at verses that call us to give thanks. The Scriptures for today are all from the NIV. :)

Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. - 1 Chronicles 16:8

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his loves endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. - Psalm 100:4-5

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our "God is a consuming fire." - Hebrews 12:28

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. - 1 Corinthians 15:57

Thursday, October 12, 2017

#write31days: Cultivating Gratitude

The flowers above are from my garden. During the spring, I set out to start a garden and was very ambitious. I love flowers and was so excited about the possibility of eating my own produce! So I followed a plan from my favorite master gardener, the one and only Lara Casey. Rory dug the beds for me in our backyard, and I got to work, planting several types of herbs, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, zucchini, and zinnias. Lots of zinnias. Well, friends, I got three big zucchini from my garden and had tears of joy in my eyes when I pulled my first harvest. But the tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers? Nada. Zip. Goose egg. Nothing. Right now, my basil is going strong, and I was able to get a good amount of cilantro during the summer as well. But the zinnias got super tall and were kind of taking over everything, and in an effort to "prune," I think I killed the majority of them. :( 

When I first sowed the seeds, I was faithful to go out and water every morning when I took Bailey out. But as the summer went on, I found that some of my plants weren't doing well because I was over-watering. Oops. So in the midst of travel, lots of crazy rain storms, and a lack of discipline, I kind of let the garden go. In other words, I gave up. But you know what? I've walked out there and pulled up the dead roots. I've cut back some more flowers. And the crazy thing is that there are still things blooming. It's beyond anything I've really done and can't have much to do with any of my lackadaisical efforts. 

Isn't gratitude the same way? Maybe for a whole week you do great with sowing seeds of gratitude- you make lists of the things you're thankful for and your heart is full of songs of praise. But then maybe your heart gets distracted. You get tired and weary. And suddenly gratitude, the thing you need to practice the most, just doesn't come as easily. Or you just plain don't want to do it. 

I've been there, friends. Actually, I'm there right now. I'm tired. Weary. But I know my God is good. And I know that the best thing for me is Him. And I want to know Him in all things. I want to be made more like Him. So I take ten looks to Christ and I put on the praise music and I cultivate the gratitude so that my heart is lighter and I can rest in Him. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

#write31days: Play With Fire Book Review

Each Wednesday during this series on contentment, I will share with you a book that has encouraged me. Today's book is not a new release, but it is one I've wanted to share with you for a while now! Bianca Juarez Olthoff is an author I love for oh so many reasons. I first discovered her through her blog several years ago, and then I heard her speak during the IF: Gathering simulcast. She is incredible, y'all. I kind of feel like she's my spirit animal because she is just so full of sass but she loves. the. Word.

Bianca's first book, Play With Fire: Discovering Fierce Faith, Unquenchable Passion, and a Life-Giving God did not disappoint. I found myself laughing, crying, and underlining up a storm. In this spiritual memoir, Bianca explains how she went from fear to faith. She describes a journey of self-loathing, self-pity, and a severe lack of confidence and places herself in the midst of a story of redemption that only God could dream up. In doing so, she explains how a life guided by the Holy Spirit of God is the best life anyone could have.

Growing up in the Baptist church, we did not always talk about the Spirit of God. It seems as though the last few years are when I've really begun to know Him more. One of my favorite verses in Romans says, "For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God." This verse has served as a great comfort to me in times of sorrow. But the Holy Spirit is not just our comforter, He is our advocate, our helper, and our guide.

Bianca writes,

In our moments of pain and confusion, silence and isolation, we must hold on to the promises of God's Word. 
What is empty can be filled.
What is broken can be mended.
What is divided can be multiplied.
What is dead can live again. 
Jesus Christ is the living proof.
Just as God was faithful to resurrect the Messiah, His Son Jesus Christ, God is faithful to keep His promises to us too. The power that raised Jesus from the grave is alive in us today (Rom. 8:11). And the Spirit is not just promised to perfect people, or pretty people, or polished people, but for all who call on the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:21).

Can I get an amen? Friend, if you need encouragement to walk through whatever you're facing with confidence in Christ, run don't walk to get this book. You will not regret it.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

#write31days: Giving Thanks Precedes the Miracle

It is easy to think about giving thanks in November when we are "supposed to," but how do we consciously give thanks when we just don't feel like it? We often feel much more comfortable throwing a pity party and thinking about all the reasons why we shouldn't give thanks. We like to think about all that we do not have and justify our frustrations. But there is a better way.

Ann Voskamp writes in her best seller, One Thousand Gifts:

“Eucharisteo means 'to give thanks,' and give is a verb, something that we do. God calls me to do thanks. to give the thanks away. That thanks-giving might literally become thanks-living. That our lives become the very blessings we have received. I am blessed. I can bless. Imagine! I could let Him make me the gift! I could be the joy!”

The root word of eucharisteo is eucharist. The eucharist is the Christian sacrament of communion. So each time we take communion and remember what Christ did for us through His body and blood being torn and shed for us on the cross, we give thanks. We remember. And when we remember what He has done, how can we continue to dwell on all that we do not yet have yet feel entitled to? How can we continue to think about our lack when He is the all-sufficient one? Ann also writes: “Eucharisteo—thanksgiving—always precedes the miracle.” 

Isn't that the truth, friends? When we stop navel-gazing and stop thinking about ourselves and allow thanksgiving, or thanks-living to become our focus and way of life? We experience a miracle. Maybe it isn't the way we want it to look. It may not be the exact answer to prayer that we have been hoping for, but the miracle happens in our hearts. It happens when we can open our eyes to see all that God is doing in and around us. It happens when we are able to minister to others because we allow ourselves to enter into their pain with them. It happens when the focus of our prayer moves from what we want to Who we want. Are you in need of a miracle? Stop and give thanks. Live with an attitude of praise. And watch Him work in ways you didn't think were possible.

Monday, October 9, 2017

#write31days: Why Are We Not Truly Grateful?

Yesterday we took a look at what gratitude is and examined our hearts. I don't know about y'all, but I have some really dark stuff lurking in my heart. It honestly scares me sometimes to think about it. But that's another blog post for another day. When we take an honest look at ourselves, we may find a heart of ingratitude and entitlement. We may feel like we are less than because we are so busy looking at Suzy Q's life that we cannot appreciate our own. We may be greedy or materialistic. Whatever your struggle is, at some level, we all have a sense of ungratefulness lurking behind the shadows of our hearts. But what do we do with it? 

In thinking about this struggle, this Bible story came to mind. You may know it as the story of the ten lepers: 

On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” - Luke 17:11-19 (ESV)

Here is the bottom line from this story- most of us are just like the nine lepers who went along with their lives and forgot about Jesus. We are a fickle, frail, and forgetful people. We say we want to know God more, but we really just want Him to give us what we want. We say we want to live lives that are completely dedicated to Him, but we want the healing more than we want the Healer. The nine lepers who went on without a second thought are quite similar to us- we are a forgetful people. 

Why are we not truly grateful? Why do we so easily forget what God has done for us or who He truly is? I believe it is because we are distracted. The enemy of our souls wants so badly for us to be distracted- it is a much easier tool than getting us to commit the "big sins," so he uses it often. We are distracted by so many other things that seem shinier and better and more fun than just the simple gift of the presence of our almighty God. 

In the passage above, it says that the nine lepers were cleansed. But did you catch that the one who came back to give praise and thanks thanks was made well? I remember hearing one time that the nine lepers who were cleansed received physical healing, but the one who came back to acknowledge and thank Jesus was made well spiritually. And isn't that what we all want? To be restored to our Father when we know we've messed up? To walk with Him without anything between us and to know His peace and joy always?

Today, let's be like the one who came back to Jesus. Let's run to Him, thanking Him for what He has already done so that we may be made well and whole. 

Sunday, October 8, 2017

#write31days: What is Gratitude?

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. - 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

This past week, we took a look at what contentment is and what it isn’t. This week, we are going to dig deep into gratitude. You’ve probably heard it said that “gratitude changes everything.” But why? Why should it matter if we’re grateful or not? Well, friends, when we decide to be grateful, our circumstances may not change, but our hearts will. And isn’t that what matters the most? That our hearts would be pure and teachable? That we would be able to see the world as God does?

Webster defines gratitude as “the state of being grateful” or “a feeling of apppreciation.” When we allow ourselves to be grateful, we release negative feelings of entitlement, resentment, and jealousy. When we approach our lives with gratitude, we see the world as a place of abundance instead of a place of scarcity and lack. So today, let’s just take a moment to examine our hearts. Are you grateful? Or do you find yourself constantly in a state of want? Today, let’s decide to choose gratitude, and in turn, choose joy.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

#write31days: How to Love Your Life, Pt. 1

It's the weekend, friends! Can I get an amen?! I hope you are doing something fun today. Since it's Saturday and the weather is gorgeous, I'll make this post short. Yesterday I shared with you several verses that help me when I'm in a rut of discontentment. Today I want to share with you a little contentment life hack. When you want to love your life and are struggling with how to be content, gratitude is where it starts.

You've heard it said that "Comparison is the thief of joy," and "Gratitude changes everything." Well, friends, people say those things because they are true. When we are constantly preoccupied with looking at everyone else's life, we cannot enjoy ours. But when we sit down and take inventory of what God has done for, in, and through us? Well that's a game changer.

My challenge to you is this: when you're tempted to sit in your mess of discontentment and defend your frustrations about why you should be allowed to continue your pity party, make a list of 10 things you're grateful for. You can run through it mentally or make it a part of morning/evening routine. But just try it and see what it does for your soul. I'll even go first.

Today, I am grateful for:

1. a long-awaited visit from my parents
2. chilly fall mornings
3. the Word of God
4. my sweet Bailey Bear!
5. my incredible husband
6. pumpkin spice mania
7. my Sunday night women's Bible study group
8. Lularoe butter leggings (life-changing)
9. my new TOMS boots
10. grace upon grace and new mercies every morning

I already feel better! Now you try. :)

Friday, October 6, 2017

#write31days: Truth to Hold On To

Yesterday, we took a look at the sources of discontentment in our lives. It is so important that we take a good hard look at what may be fueling our discontentment. There are so many sources of ugly that will just suck the life out of you. We want to receive life-giving words so that we in turn can give them away! The only way to do that is by immersing ourselves in the Word of God. His truth is what will never fade away. Social media numbers and the silly movies and television shows we "love" will fade away, but the truth of God's word will stand forever. Today, I want to share with you some verses that I cling to when I'm tempted to fall into a rut of jealousy and discontentment. I pray they encourage you, too. Please share any favorites you may have!

*all Scripture is from the English Standard Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. - Philippians 4:8

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. - 1 Thessalonians 4:18

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. - Romans 12:9

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. - Romans 12:12

For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory; no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. - Psalm 84:11 

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock. - Isaiah 26:3-4

O taste and see that the Lord is good, blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. - Psalm 34:8

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content... And my God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4: 12,19

That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original. - Galatians 5:26 (The Message)

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God. - Psalm 42:5

Thursday, October 5, 2017

#write31days: Sources of Discontentment

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. - Hebrews 12:1-2

So we've defined what contentment is and what it isn't. Now we are going to take a look at where our discontentment can come from. When you think about discontentment, what do you think about? Do you think about a heart of ingratitude? Do you think about how easy it is for you to get jealous of others? Do you think about times when you've been harsh or critical?

Discontentment can come from so many places, and for some of us, we may identify with all of these triggers:

Social Media

This source of discontentment is one that many of us are aware of.  Did you know that studies have shown that many people feel disillusioned and sad about the lives they are living after scrolling through Facebook? Wow. It is easy for us to scroll through the highlights of others' lives and compare their story to ours. It is incredibly easy for us to believe that they are portraying everything, but we know that isn't true? So why do we believe that what we see is the truth? Why do we think that everyone's got it better than us and we are behind? When we allow what we see on social media to dictate our moods, thoughts, and feelings, we've got a problem. Maybe there are some people that you need to "unfollow" during this season in order to guard your heart. I know I've done it! Let's take a good hard look at how we are using social media. Is it to connect with others? Is it a tool for our business? My hope is that above all, my social media pages are just another place where I can point others to Jesus.


Our forms of entertainment are similar to  social media, but they are all comprised of people we don't know in real life! When I was younger, I lost myself in books and television shows, imagining myself in the stories. There's absolutely nothing wrong with a good book, and we all know that an evening of binge watching every now and again won't kill you. But the problem comes when we decide to place ourselves in these perfectly crafted stories and think that our real lives somehow come up short. Let's be sure that we use entertainment as a fun escape and addition to our lives instead of a means of fantasizing and wishing and hoping for anything but the life God has given us.

Friends, let's examine our hearts and examine our lives. If we want to be the world-changers God had made us to be, we won't get anywhere by looking to the right or left and allowing others' stories (real or imagined) to dictate our happiness. Let's stop playing games and start looking to Jesus.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

#write31days: Fiercehearted Book Review

Friends, I hope you have been enjoying this series. It has definitely been challenging me. I don't want you to think that just because I am writing about this topic, I've got it all figured out. That could not be farther from the truth! I am wrestling with all of this junk right now. And by right now I mean every single day. You are not alone in your struggles, friends. Each Wednesday I will be sharing a book with you that has been a comfort and encouragement to me.

Do you ever read a book that is just so perfectly timed for where you're at? That's what Fiercehearted by Holley Gerth was for me. I have read a couple of her other books and been so encouraged by her kind tone and warmth. But friends, this book was unlike any of her others. There was a depth to this book that was unlike her others because it was just. so. vulnerable. In Fiercehearted, Holley graciously shares about the ups and downs she's working through as a woman who's trying to love Jesus with her life.

Friends, life is hard. But God? He's always good. Always always always. And in Fiercehearted: Live Fully, Love Bravely, Holley beautifully and gently reminds us of who God is. She points us back to His promises and helps us to know that we are not alone. She talks about the taboo topics we'd much rather avoid and prefer to sweep under the rug. And what's wonderful about it is that her heart attitude is one of humility. Her words do not reflect that of one who believes she's arrived, but rather one who is in the trenches and fighting for her life with the rest of us.

God used her words to help me to know that it was okay to share with you our struggle with infertility. I truly believe that when we are silent, the enemy keeps on winning. It's only in raising our voices and saying the hard things that we shed some light in the darkness. Holley writes:

Perhaps if this battle were mine alone I might just let the bully keep on shoutin'. But I don't believe this battle is only about me. It's about all my sisters. It's about all my daughters. It's about every woman in the world. Because every time one of us wins, we all do. We silence the roar of darkness a little more. We make it a bit hard for that bully to try something on one of us again...We will all have seasons when it seems easier just to take it. But that isn't our destiny. We are tree-swingers and baby-rockers and mountain-movers. We are girls. We are women. We are daughters of Eve in a fallen world. This means we will never stop being under attack. But it also means we will never- Dear Jesus, may we never- stop fighting back. 

What about you, friend? Do you need a little courage and boldness in your life? Are you tired of living small? If so, Fiercehearted is for you. :)

Currently: October

I don't know about y'all, but I LOVE this time of year. I know that pumpkin spice has taken over the world in recent years, but that's not the extent of my love for fall. My love for fall is much more substantial and runs way deeper than an obsession with a Starbucks drink. In fall, the sunrises and sunsets are breathtaking. The changing colors of the leaves are gorgeous. The air is crisp, the sweaters are soft, and the scents are cozy. October was the birth month of my sweet Nanny, and it is also the month that Rory and I met. It's just a good month, friends. Am I right? Here's what's going on around these parts:

Styling: I am super excited because I just ordered a new pair of boots from TOMS. I love TOMS, not only because of what they stand for and what they do, but because their shoes are so dang comfy. My sweet hubs let me splurge and I can't wait for these boots to get here!
Saving: We just paid off our car that we bought earlier this year, so we are going to be putting a lot more money in savings, and I could not be more pumped about it. Yay #adulthood and #budgeting!
Searching: Our bucket list has "cabin at Christmas" on it, and we are currently searching for a great Airbnb in Asheville for a mini-getaway in December.
Picking: Hmmm...this prompt is a strange one. I'm not sure what I'm picking these days. I guess you could say that I'm picking the last little bit of my zinnias from my garden. I've also been picking a ton of basil and using it in my cooking!
Making: I am making my grocery lists online these days. There is a Kroger near us that has something called Clicklist where you can make your order and then go pick it up. Life. changed.

What are you up to currently?

Linking up with Anne and Dana today!


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

#write31days: Lies We Believe About Contentment

Friend, have you ever found yourself in a waiting season? Chances are your answer to that simple question is a resounding yes. Maybe you're there right now. If so, I know how you feel. We're all waiting on something. Maybe it's physical healing from an ailment. Maybe it's the restoration of relationship. Maybe it's a new job or the desire for a spouse. We can all find something that we are hoping and wishing for, can't we?

This summer, I remember talking with my ladies' Bible study group about contentment. Several of us shared that we felt that contentment was a fleeting state. Many of us felt as though contentment was an unattainable state of mind- there will always be something we're reaching for. Today I want us to unpack the lies we believe about contentment.

1. Contentment is for everyone but me. 

My sweet friend Jennie wisely stated this: "The enemy wants us to be so distracted by that one thing that God isn't doing that we are unable to see all the other ways He is moving in our lives." If the enemy of our souls wants anything, it is for us to live in a constant state of unbelief. He does not want us to believe that God is who He says He is or that He will do what He said He will do. He does not want us to know that He will be true to His word. So when we fixate on that one thing (well, let's be honest, those things) that God is not doing for us in our timeline and in our way, discouragement, doubt, and disbelief enter in. We cannot rest in Who God is if we are constantly comparing our lives to the lives of those around us. Contentment can be for us, but we have to make the choice. No one else will make that choice for us. 

2. Contentment is fleeting.

If our contentment is based on the circumstances of our life, then yes, it is fleeting. If my contentment is based on how many followers I have on Instagram or how much money is in my bank account, then yes, it is fleeting. But contentment that rests on Christ? It's not going anywhere. Yes, we are human. We fall and falter and we mess up in the biggest of ways. But when my deep abiding joy rests in the person of Jesus Christ, who never changes? When I rest in my Almighty Father, who never changes or casts a shifting shadow? My contentment cannot be shaken. I may have days that seem dark. I may have moments of doubt and distrust. But when I know the unwavering sheltering presence of my Father, I will know contentment that has no bounds.

3. Contentment is unattainable. 

I believe that the enemy of our souls would have us believe that contentment is for those who are "more spiritual" than us. Maybe they are "professional Christians" and know more Bible verses than us. Maybe they have lives that seem perfect from the outside. But friends, contentment is attainable, and it is within reach. When we take our eyes off of our circumstances, our problems, or trials, and our pain and look to heaven, we find that the Father has been waiting for us all along. He longs to fellowship with us and know us in every moment of every season.

Today, let's cry out to our Father and ask Him what He has to say about contentment. See you tomorrow, friends. :)

Monday, October 2, 2017

#write31days: on contentment

"But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content." - 1 Timothy 6:6-8

Ok friends. Let's have an honest conversation about contentment. What is it? Is it really attainable within our world today? If so, how do we get it? It's definition, according to Google, is "a state of happiness and satisfaction." How do we get to this seemingly elusive state? How do we know when we've reached it?

Now that I've bombarded you with enough questions, let's look at some answers. When I think of contentment, I think about a feeling of being settled. I think about not constantly wanting and grasping and striving for more. When you think about contentment, what comes to mind? Maybe you think of a time when you won't be wishing for the next season. Maybe you think of a time when you'll be satisfied with what is instead of wishing for what was or what is yet to come. 

In the verses above, Paul is writing to Timothy and instructing him by sharing with him all that he knows about how to live a godly life. He says, "But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content." Whoa. I don't know about you, but that thought kind of hits me in the gut. Because I've got food and clothing up the wazoo, and I wouldn't call myself content. At least not in an everyday abiding kind of way. The fact is that if you live in the United States of America, you're privileged. Most of the world lives on less than $1 a day. The majority of our population has great opportunity and privilege. 

Yet we find ourselves wanting more. We find ourselves desiring the best of the best of everything. We want to keep up with people who probably aren't paying that much attention to us. We want what we can't afford to impress people we don't even like. We measure ourselves according to life stages and accomplishments and followers on social media and all kinds of things that just. don't. matter. 

Today, let's decide that we won't allow the desire for more to rule and reign. Let's ask God for a spirit of Christlikeness that abides in the simple provisions of every day. 

Tomorrow we will take a look at the lies we believe about contentment. Thank you for following along, and let's encourage one another to believe that what we have is more than enough. 

Sunday, October 1, 2017

#write31days: Loving Your Life

My friends, I am so so so excited for what is in store this month! The Write 31 Days challenge is pretty well-known in the blogging world. This challenge is to write every day for 31 days on the same topic. Whoa. The last time I attempted to do this, I only made it halfway through. It was 2014, and I met Rory during that month, so writing just wasn't much of a priority anymore. #oops My topic for that year was "31 Days to Becoming a Proverbs 31 Woman." Well friends, two years later I finally finished the series and turned it into my first ebook and later made it into a paperback! That series became my first devotional: Proverbs 31: A Life of Truth and Grace. Somebody somewhere that is not my mother is still buying that book, which amazes me. I digress.

In the last several years, with the rise of social media as part of our daily lives, the sin of comparison has so stealthily crept in to many of our hearts. It can show up in so many ways and steals our joy during moments that should be celebratory and sweet. And what's crazy about it is that it can sneak its way into the hearts of the old and young, rich and poor. It does not discriminate. 

I don't know about y'all, but I am tired of allowing comparison to steal my joy. I am tired of allowing what I see on social media to dictate my perception of what is normal. I am tired of the fake. Anybody else? This month we are going to walk through what it looks to love the life you've been given. I am so excited to share with y'all what is on my heart and to learn with you. Let's do this!

Monday, September 25, 2017

when your womb is empty

So I've been going back and forth about whether or not I wanted to share this part of our lives on the blog, but the Lord gave me a prompting and a burden to do so. I'm not super excited about it, but I also want to encourage others and want them to know that they are not alone. I've definitely believed the lie that I am alone in this struggle, and I don't want anyone else to feel that way. There are about a million and one ways this post could look, and I don't really know where it's going to go. So I'm just going to do what all writers do and write what I know. I'm also of the conviction that people need to talk about "taboo" things more. We're all humans just trying to make it to the next day. Just saying. 

All my life I have wanted to be a mom. When my little sister was born, I was obsessed with her. Who knows, I may have called her "my baby;" you know how kids are. I was so so happy to have a little bundle of joy as a new addition to our family and thought it was just about the best thing ever. Growing up I didn't have a lot "normal" teenage jobs- I never worked in retail or in food service. I mostly babysat and worked at preschools. Caring for kids was just natural to me, which led me to teaching elementary school for six years.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. - Ecclesiastes 3:11

Even in my season of singleness, I always felt like I would be a mom someday. I figured if I didn't get married I would adopt or start a children's home or go live abroad and work in an orphanage or something of the like. So when I did finally meet Rory, obviously I started thinking about kids. Duh. I  was made to be a mom. I know it and feel it in my bones. As the older sibling, I've got the bossy thing down. In middle school, my peers called me "Mommy Jessi." Looking back that was probably an insult, but I didn't care. I saw nothing but positivity in that- they thought I could take care of others! Funny how your middle school (or adult) mind can twist things, isn't it? But seriously, friends. I can think of nothing I want more than raising little disciples of Jesus Christ to be fierce world changers for the Gospel. 

I digress. When Rory and I had been dating for a little while, I remember him asking me if my parents cared that he was white. Obviously they didn't, but I returned the question. He said, "No, my parents don't care. My mom really wants mixed grandkids." And there you have it, folks. At this point I had not even met his mother. The man was serious though. There was another time where we were arguing about different sports and I mentioned how much I wanted to play soccer when I was younger. Soccer is his least favorite sport, so he said, "Our kids are not playing soccer." Friends we had not talked about marriage at this point, and he quickly said, "I just talked about our kids. That was weird. Sorry." TRY AND GUESS IF I MINDED. Heart was swooning, peeps. 

Fast forward to the beginning of marriage when I was on the cray birth control and kind of hated life. We knew we didn't want to have kids right away, and even though we didn't want to wait for too long, it felt like a leap of faith to finally just stop taking the pill after a year after we realized the havoc it was wreaking on oh, everything. There are so many scare tactics surrounding sex and pregnancy and birth control and the like. I mean, we literally thought I could like spontaneously get pregnant if I wasn't on the pill. Oh the good old days. 

During our first year of marriage, I literally would beg Rory for a baby and ask him if we could start trying. We had agreed to wait two years, but we would go back and forth on whether that meant we had to wait two years to start trying or if we could have a baby by the time we had been married for two years. After all of my crazy health stuff with the fibroids, we got the ok from the doctor and decided to start trying in December of 2016. 

At this point I was feeling pretty empowered with all of my knowledge of basal body temping (just Google it) and figured it didn't take rocket science to procreate and thought it wouldn't take us too long. But it didn't happen. And then it didn't happen the next month. Or the month after that. Or the month after that.  Now for y'all who are good at math, you know that it has been less than a year. It's "only" (huge air quotes here) been ten months. Most doctors say to give it a year. When you hear that you may think, "Oh a year isn't too bad! A year can fly by!" Which is true. Except for when you're in a season of infertility. I cannot tell you the myriad ways I have imagined in my head that we would announce our pregnancy to friends and family or the holidays that I thought would be so much brighter because of such fun news. Sadly, we haven't had the opportunity to share that news.

I say "season of infertility" intentionally, because I am not claiming or walking in the identity of an "infertile" woman but am instead believing in the power and promises of an almighty God to heal. I believe that all women have the ability to give life and that my body was created to do so, so I am choosing to believe that God will bring us our own biological child(ren) in due time. Hannah's story in 1 Samuel has been a cornerstone for me during this time, because she never gave up. She persistently asked for the desires of her heart and unashamedly begged her God to fight for and remember her, and He did. I will not give up. I will not be shaken, and I will not back down. That's the kind of faith I want to have. That's the kind of God I want to serve and know and love.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick,

    but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.- Proverbs 13:12

The other day, I was driving to work and singing along to Kari Jobe's newest album (go listen to it right now) and these words left my lips: The only thing I want in life is to be known for loving Christ. And then I started weeping. Because you know what? I want that. I really do. But most days I'd really rather have a baby in my belly or in my arms already. 

I used to take my health and my presumed ability to procreate for granted. It seemed pretty easy for most people around me to make babies, so I figured it would be the same for me. That hasn't been the case so far. And you know what? It sucks. It really, really sucks. (Sorry Mom, I know you hate that word.) Part of me feels like I can't even write this post because it hasn't been a year and we have no "official diagnosis" of infertility and there are people who have waited or are waiting so much longer than we have. My heart genuinely hurts with those friends. 

But this is what I know. There is no pain like that of an empty womb. Nothing. It is the deepest and most raw pain I have ever felt. This summer I found myself sitting on the floor of our living room shaking and crying my eyes out and saying to my husband, "Nothing will make this pain go away. No matter how hard I try to busy myself with other things and enjoy other things about my life, this pain still lingers. It hurts and it won't go away and I don't know what to do. I know I have a great life. I love you. I love our house. I love our friends. But I don't have a baby and I don't know when we will have a baby and it hurts so bad."

With each passing month, I have had to lay down and surrender various hopes and dreams. Like the thought that it would be pretty likely that I would be a mom by age 30. Or the hope that next Mother's Day I would hold a baby in my arms. Or that this Christmas we would be a family of three. And the most frustrating part is that each month brings with it the icky yucky awful painful periods that I can't really do much about right now since we are trying to conceive. It seems like a sick cosmic joke. 

I can't control the outcome here. I cannot perform my way to pregnancy or earn a baby. And sometimes that just about does me in. Because friends, I am really good with earning and performance measures. I have cried out to God- why them and not me? What have I done? What have I not done? Whatever You need me to do, just tell me! And you know what's He's said to me? Abide. 

Ummm. Kind of don't want to do that, Lord. Seems a little loosey goosey and mystical.  Just give me a checklist. Give me a program to follow. I am like, so good at following directions. Just give me a clear-cut list please and thank you. 

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.- John 15:5

Much to my chagrin, God doesn't operate this way. His ways are higher, greater, and better. He is the gentle whisper to my soul in the night when I cannot sleep. He is in the lyrics of the hymns sung in the wee hours of the morning when the pain won't subside. He is in the embrace of my husband's arms when I think I cannot take one more step. He is in the words spoken at just the right time. He is in the card in the mail from a friend who knows how to comfort. He is in the date night where I give thanks that it is still just the two of us for a little while longer. 

For a while I didn't talk to many people about this struggle. It was embarrassing, and I was ashamed. I felt like something was wrong with me and with my body- or with Rory and his body. I didn't want to be a downer when I was constantly surrounded by pregnant women and babies. I've questioned why some people got to have babies "on accident" or why people who didn't even want to have kids got to have them. And to that the Lord said, "That's not for you to decide." Point taken.

Three things are never satisfied;

    four never say, “Enough”:
Sheol, the barren womb,

    the land never satisfied with water,

    and the fire that never says, “Enough.”

- Proverbs 30:16

After ten months of trying to make a baby, this is where I find myself- with a barren womb that is not satisfied. But here's the thing. For the first few months of this darkness, I allowed this desire to completely consume me. It touched everything- my marriage, my friendships, my attitude, my thought life- no stone was left unturned. Baby showers just about did me in and seeing the Facebook news feed riddled with pregnancy announcements felt like a personal affront. Some of these things are still painful, and I have to will myself to be happy for others. That's the primary reason I'm not on Instagram right now. The mindless scrolling was producing way too much bitterness and jealousy in this fragile heart of mine. The struggle was is real, and I say that in the least flippant way possible.

When all I can think about is what I don't yet have, I'm not walking in the truth. Because the truth says that I am not lacking. The truth says that the lines have fallen for me in pleasant places. The truth says that God has not forgotten me. In fact, He has engraved me on the palm of His hands. The enemy of our souls is crafty, friends. It is so so so easy to focus on what "everyone else" has. But when I do that I'm not walking in gratitude and I'm allowing my desires to become demands. And when that happens, I've made God more like my Santa Claus. When I'm focused on my pain and frustrations, I can't love others well because all I can do is look at me, me, me. And the enemy knows that. The beautiful thing about this season, especially the most recent months, is that God has made it overwhelmingly clear that He loves me and that He is continuing to work in my life. In. so. many. ways. 

Here's what I've learned since and am trying my darnedest to walk in- my story is not her story. Her happiness does not have to threaten mine. I can rejoice with others. I can walk alongside friends who are in different seasons and who are experiencing what my heart literally hurts to have. But I cannot do it alone. I have to fight for this joy and this happiness in a way I never have before. It is a conscious choice to celebrate others, but that doesn't make it any less genuine. I have to remember that the world does not revolve around me and my pain- no matter how real and raw it is. I have to remember that my God is for me even when I don't want to get out of bed in the morning because the pregnancy test was negative again. I have to remember that God is sovereign and that He loves me and that His plans for me are always only good. I have to remember that He didn't make me sick or cause my illness and that He's not punishing me. I have to remember. I have to remember. And it is in the remembering that my praise comes forth and my soul is lifted. It is in the remembering that my hope soars and my perspective shifts, because He's in the waiting.

So I buy the gifts and I say congratulations and I go to the showers because that's what a good friend does. And all the while, I hold on to hope. I say thank you to Jesus for the millionth time as I recall His kindness to me and how much He's done for me. I fall more in love with my husband every single day as I covet  admire his strength and unwavering faith. And I pray like I never have before and say sorry a lot and surrender and just ask God for a deeper love for Him and a heart that looks like His. Because if there's anything I've learned in the last ten months, it's that Jesus is all that matters, and He is all I have. So I lift my voice and give a sacrifice of praise and laugh at the days to come as I hope in His unfailing love. And I say with confidence and conviction, it is well with my soul. 

P.S. To those of you who already know this story and who have held my hand, cried with me, prayed for me, encouraged me, comforted me- thank you. You mean more to me than you know. 
P.P.S. If you've made it to the end of this post, thanks for reading along. Please please please don't send any advice or suggestions my way- I don't have the mental or emotional capacity to receive that right now. Instead I ask that you pray for us- for physical healing for me and for the Lord to give us the deepest desire of our hearts.
P.P.P.S. If you are my friend and you are pregnant, I love you (and please don't think otherwise!). I just probably don't want to talk about babies all the time. :)

Sources of Encouragement

God's Plan for Pregnancy (Literally the best book about all things pregnancy- before, during, and after- and one I wish I had a year ago. I recommend it to everyone no matter what their situation.)
Sarah's Laughter Infertility podcast
The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey podcast (episodes #158, #155, #132)
Mom Struggling Well podcast (episode #105)
The Shauna Niequist podcast (episode #2)
The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp
True Identity by Jennifer Brommett
Fiercehearted by Holley Gerth
Gracelaced by Ruth Chou Simons
Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist
Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist
Uninvited by Lysa Terkeurst
God is Able by Priscilla Shirer
The Lucky Few by Heather Avis
The Armor of God Bible study by Priscilla Shirer
Covenant Bible study by Kay Arthur
And entirely too many worship songs to count that have held me and lifted my heart.



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