Doors in the Desert


You know the desert. That lull in your life when you feel like absolutely nothing is happening and you are lacking passion. You are hungry and thirsty for some sign of life-or a sign of hope-but even with the countless prayers you and many others have prayed, you are stuck. It feels like the twilight zone where you are going through the day-to-day schedule but you don’t really feel like you’re living. Where is the well with the living water? Where is the bread of life? I have searched for the food of hope in His book of promises but even when I read the words out loud that ‘He has a plan’ I still feel the heat of the desert sun wilting me. I know Jesus is both the water and the bread and I know He is here in the desert with me. But what I want to know is where is the door out of this desert.

I have never prayed so hard and constantly like I have for a new job. I have prayed for ten months for a new job. I have eagerly asked people I hardly know to pray for me to find a way out. I sent out countless applications that lead to nowhere. And along the way I heard of friend after friend who had landed a new job. And I’m like “What the heck, God? What about me? What about my prayer?” Thank God for Jesus and his forgiveness for my attitude. Thank you, Jesus for sitting with me here in the desert under the hot sun and kindly nodding and saying, “I understand” to all of my complaining. Thank you, Jesus for loving me and adoring me even when I’m mean to you.

So out of nowhere like a mirage, I spotted something that looked like a door. I heard through the grapevine that there was a job opening near my house.

“Is this the door?”

I finally found some glimmer of hope. But I was afraid of opening that door because I didn’t know what was on the other side. Someone told me that they heard a sermon that God puts us in the desert to make us stronger and bring us closer to Him. And I believe that. I believe that with all of my heart and my testimony was created in the desert. BUT I also believe that when opportunities come up in our lives that could possibly, maybe in some strange way be the answer to the prayer we’ve memorized-we should open that door. Our perception of what the answer to our prayers look like most of the time do not look like God’s answer. This door I saw was not what I had pictured but it was a door nonetheless. So, I decided to take a leap of faith and quit my job- one of the biggest leaps of faith I’ve ever taken in my life. I have only rested my hand on the doorknob but I already feel so much peace about what is on the other side.

So, I challenge you to open that funny looking door that could lead you out of the desert even if the knob is rusted and the hinges are squeaky. God answers our prayers in the strangest but most beautiful ways-and if He puts a door in front of you-don’t be afraid to open it.

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Plant the Seed

It’s finally seed planting time! I told myself this is the year I will experiment and see if I got the same green thumb as my Mama. I was inspired by my $1 grow kit from Target when green actually started coming out of the mini pot on my window sill. I thought to myself “I can do this, I can grow something from seed!” What a powerful thought to suddenly realize you can nourish something from a small seed into a beautiful flower.

My favorite flower has always been sunflowers. I bought two kinds of sunflower seeds; Evening Sun and Mammoth. I planted a handful of Evening Sun sunflowers in the front yard and on the side of the house I planted the Mammoth sunflowers along with Poppys, Zinnias, Larkspur, Bachelor Buttons, and a Wildflower mix. I had so many extra Mammoth sunflower seeds so I decided to push one single seed in with the Evening Sun sunflower seeds. I was so excited about this secret little seed because I didn’t tell Sam I planted it there and I couldn’t wait to see his face when this twelve foot flower shoots up above the other six foot flowers in the front yard. I was giddy about this little seed and started wondering where else I could plant a secret seed to surprise Sam with. As I was walking around our house with a handful of seeds I started to realize how similar Christianity is to planting seeds. I should be excitedly searching for wandering hearts to plant the seed of the gospel in the same way I look for spots of light around the house for sunflower seeds. What pure and simple beauty we would see if as Christians we were urgently seeking out broken hearts with just a big enough crack in it for us to plant a seed.

Last year I did a lame attempt at planting some Zinnia seeds by sprinkling them over some dry soil and watering them once. Once. I had forgotten about those poor seeds. And there are hearts that I’ve forgotten about too. The girl I sat down and prayed with about her family problems, haven’t talked to her since. The guy that said I was the first Christian he met that actually made him curious about God and church, I haven’t reached out to him in years. I failed. I planted a seed and forgot to water them. Maybe I got lucky and someone stepped in to be the rain for those people but I can’t bet on that. We can’t leave those Jesus seeds and hope that someone will come along and be the rain because droughts happen here in the south way too often.

God even gives us directions on how to spread the gospel on the back of these seed packets. Sometimes you have to ask the hard questions and give the hard truth and push that seed an inch deep into their heart. Other times the gospel just needs to be planted a quarter inch deep for those people who know God but don’t know their sin. And my favorite-the broadcasting of seeds! Sprinkling them into hearts so lightly but sure to spark a light. Whether it’s praying with someone, commenting on God’s art, or even sharing your new favorite worship song with someone-broadcasting seeds are the most simple and fun way to see the Spirit move.

Stick some seeds in your pocket, write those words on your heart, and start the search. Where can you plant the seed? Nourish that seed. Be the rain, be the light, and give them the word of life that feeds the hungriest of souls.

Play the Background

“In the background, in the back of the line, is often times the most desirable place to be because you can see the beauty of things that the people in the front of the line will miss”

I’ve been worried that I haven’t been serving God as much as I should lately. Haven’t we all been afraid of this in our walk with Christ? Thinking through the things we’re doing right and the things we’re doing wrong. All the chances we’ve taken and not taken to glorify God and every time we choose to miss an opportunity to glorify and serve God we’re secretly afraid He is shaking His head at us. I’ve had those thoughts a hundred too many times. It makes me question if I really am an “all-in” Christian like I want to be. 

These thoughts of being fully committed to God have been running around my head like a wolf hunting for it’s prey. And I tell myself these thoughts could mean one of two things-either the devil is trying to attack or God is giving me these thoughts to show me something new. I love God with all my heart and I know the countless things He has saved me from, but I’ve been feeling inadequate and like I’m not doing enough for Him. I am still learning the art of balance between a full time job and home life. When you work forty hours a week and add in an extra hour and a half every day for your commute it feels pretty difficult to actually have a life. Can I get an Amen? And it feels pretty difficult to put your faith into action and be the hands and feet of Jesus. I hear about people serving at church, in different countries, in the streets of Atlanta, and even in our local communities and I think to myself “I wish I had time to do that.” Don’t get me wrong, I do make time to do those things but if I said yes to every opportunity to serve then I would be lacking in the way I serve at home. For example-As a wife I believe doing the laundry and the dishes are ways I serve my little family. And I believe making time to exercise is also a way for me to serve God by taking care of the body He gave me. So I make time for those things as well. But I still don’t feel like I’m doing enough. I’ve asked Him to remind me who I am. Remind me of the woman you designed me to be. Help me to know if I’m all in or if I’m only living half-way for you. Help me to not beat myself up for not going to Wednesday night church because that is the only time during the week that I can have my solitude. Jesus please speak to my heart. What if we really aren’t head over heels for Jesus and the life we thought reflected Christ only reflects half of his heart and the other half is reflecting the world?

The song “Background” by Lecrae came to my mind when I started thinking about how right now in my life God seems to want me to step back and let Him take the lead. The song talks about instead of us trying take control of our lives and be in the limelight, to step back and let God run the show. I don’t have to be front and center at every service opportunity to show my devotion to God. I think He wants to remind me that my vow to Him can take action in different ways. “Action” can be taken by simply adoring God and glorifying Him in your thoughts and prayers. Action can be taken by simply sitting at His feet.

“Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.””

‭‭-Luke‬ ‭10:38-42‬ ‭

I know Jesus walks us into different seasons in our lives so that we can experience Him in different ways. And for me right now, and probably a lot of us who are struggling with the balance of time, Jesus wants us to remember to slow down and just sit at His feet like Mary. We can play the Background and be the ones who take action behind the scenes. God needs the people who sit and pray just as much as He needs the people who go and serve. So for the times when you can’t be the one who can say yes to an opportunity to pour into others, sit at the feet of Jesus and let Him pour into you. You can be “all-in” by simply stepping back and preparing your heart for God to reveal His glory to you in the background.

Sacred Marriage


Let me preface this by saying that I know I’ve only been married for about two years. I’m still a youngin’. A lot of people would probably say we’re still in the “honeymoon” phase and haven’t really experienced the rough patches of marriage. And honestly, I think your honeymoon can last forever if you make the effort, some days being more exciting than others. We’ve both walked through our own valleys and learned how to help the other carry their cross. I’ve learned more of his flaws and he’s learned more of mine. I’ve also fallen in love with new parts of him that have changed over the past couple years. You probably won’t believe me but when I look at him like Jesus looks at us I fall in love with him more because of his flaws. I see how much of a fighter he is when he is at his lowest and I crave his joy when he is inspired by something small. When he sins my heart breaks right along with his and I remind him not to let the devil win. When I break down he makes me look him in the eyes and pour my heart out instead of keeping it to myself. I’ve practiced quick forgiveness and slow anger with him but even when I fail and take out my anger on him he forgives me soon after with those sweet eyes that love me despite my ugly parts. I feel like I have been able to put “living like Jesus” into action more in my marriage than ever before in my life. I am no expert of love but I am a follower of the creator of love Himself. Marriage has helped me to see and understand Jesus more clearly and has helped me to feel and accept a love that both breaks and grows my heart. I break when Sam breaks and my heart grows when I see him thrive. I love it all-the breaking and the blooming of my heart for my husband.

We are not perfect, but we have a perfect God who teaches us how to love each other. And how did Jesus love?

He paid attention to even the smallest of actions (Luke 8:45), He chose to stand beside a sinner caught in the act and defend her instead of throwing stones (John 8:7), He felt pain with the people he loved around him (John 11:35), He showed devotion and served his friends (John 13:5), He had beautiful plans even for the most ordinary of people (Ruth), He craved a deep relationship with his people that was alluring, rich and intimate (Hosea 2:14-20), He was obedient even when it hurt (Luke 22:42, John 3:16), He never leaves us (Matthew 28:20), last but not least; nothing could ever make Him stop loving us (Romans 8:38-39).

That is the kind of love that Sam and I need and want in our marriage and we fight for it every day. The way Sam loves me has helped me to feel the overwhelming love of God more in these past two years than ever in my life and I can’t wait to see how much it will grow in the years to come. Jesus showed us an unstoppable and undying love that is unconditional and selfless. When we take every story and life-changing moment when Jesus showed us the most perfect example of love and show that same love to our spouse, marriage will make you thrive and abide like never before.

If the love you’re trying to imitate towards each other is the same love that defeated the grave, your marriage will be the most beautiful and breathtaking gift that stands firm on holy ground.

Letting go of Envy

Somehow envy creeps into our lives when we least expect it. Whether it be envy towards the girl on the cover of Shape magazine or one of our closest friends, envy finds its way into our lives. Envy is something I’m familiar with but until recently it has never been something that I would say I “struggle” with. Sure, I’ve compared myself to my gorgeous older sister plenty of times and have taken off my cover up and jumped in the pool at lightning speed so I could to avoid showing my love handles for more seconds than necessary-but just within the past year envy has become the ugly voice that drags me down. And I know it’s different this time because instead of just comparing my physical appearance to other people, I’ve started to compare my entire life to others who seem to be more successful, wealthy, stress-free, etc. And I hate this feeling because I know with all of my heart how blessed I am with the life God has given me. But how do I believe it and then live like I believe it? How do we look at ourselves in the mirror and say “How the heck did I score a life this freaking awesome?” and really, truly believe it and live like it?

Theodore Roosevelt said that “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Jesus is the giver of joy. If we find ourselves envying worldly things of people around us-then that shows where our heart has wandered. If we crave the lives of people who are living for the world, then we’ve gotten off the path and let our minds drift from God. And true life is found only when you abide with God.

Here’s the moment that we can be reminded of when we were set free from the thief of joy-

When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished”

-John 19:30

Let me remind you (and myself) what was finished that day.

“The race” to be good enough, the need to climb “the ladder”, having to look a certain way to be seen as beautiful, the need to do something grand to be seen as valuable, the need to have it all together, the pain of hopelessness, loneliness, guilt, the feeling that you constantly have to try to be better than that one person, the need to lose yourself to be accepted in the world.

All of that was finished a long time ago. When Love Himself took it all away for us. Removing the ugly parts of us so that we can be washed white as snow. And He did that for the world, for all of us. For the brother, sister, friend, stranger, celebrity that you envy. Christ has the same love for all of us so you don’t have to envy anyone. Because the greatest gift of life is the love of Christ and it’s free. You don’t have to be “good enough” to get that gift.

So, when envy strikes and we find ourselves dreaming of a different life that seems easier than our own, we are reminded that the most beautiful and perfect gift has already been given to us and everything else smalls in comparison. We have nothing to envy knowing that the King of the world finished it for us and we can abide with Him and be free.

Resurrection


Yeah I know, Easter is still a handful of months away. And the resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the most defining moments we have to ponder on as Christians. Easter is awesome and one of my favorite holidays. But right now I’m talking about our resurrection. When we decide to follow Jesus and devote our life to Him-we have to give up our lives.

“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” -Matthew 10:39

It’s easier said than done to let go of people, habits, sins and even passions in order to live our lives for God. It’s a million little deaths we have to die to get closer to Christ so that we can experience Him fully. Are you afraid to die those little deaths? I’m afraid. We all are. The idea of dying to live for someone else is weird and crazy sounding. But we forget the critical and beautiful ending. When we die to the things keeping us from Christ-we rise. WE RISE! We are resurrected, restored, revived. The Living Water gives life to our dead bones and broken hearts. People are afraid to let go of their sin because they are afraid they won’t be able to live the life they want.  We have this idea in our heads that letting go of our life in sin will lead to a life of rules, boredom and judgement. We think living for Jesus won’t be “as fun”. But here is the truth. You’re either living for yourself or for Jesus. Living for yourself does not lead to the rising. I’ve tried it. Living for myself has never brought me full satisfaction like the satisfaction Jesus graces us with. I think we all know deep down that living in sin won’t get us anywhere. Temporary and fleeting things fill our lives because we are terrified of dying to the life that gives us what we want when we want it. But I promise you, when you fall on your knees before Jesus. And fall in love with Him. And let go. You. Will. Rise. You will become the person you never thought you could be because Jesus is a miracle worker. He wants you and adores you-flaws and all. Because we have to have brokenness in order to have true and extraordinary freedom. Choosing Jesus leads to a freedom that is unconditional and endless. Don’t you want it? I want it too. I want to rise. The Kingdom is at hand and there is no time to waste. Don’t be afraid-be free. Letting go and leaving behind your life in sin does not mean you will lose yourself-it means you will become the person you were created to be.

Advent

Lights are everywhere. Stretching over rooftops and wrapped around street lights. You can see Christmas trees through the windows dazzling with lights that look like stars. If I had to name off my top five favorite things about Christmas-the lights would make the list. Something about them makes me so joyful and peaceful.  The shorter days become more bearable because when it gets dark outside we can see twinkling stars closer to the ground. A little bit closer to heaven. Growing up in a Methodist church my family has always celebrated Advent during Christmas time. Well let me rephrase that. I halfheartedley paid attention to the advent readings in church and me and my siblings fought over who could light and blow out the advent candles at the dinner table. I never really studied and dug deep into the meaning of advent on my own. I recently started a couple of Advent studies in my handy-dandy Bible app. One of them being “Wating Here For You: An Advent Journey of Hope” by Louie Giglio. If you want to get to know the good and meaningful message of Advent I really recommend this study.

Advent means: Coming, expectation, arrival, dawn, awaiting hope. Everyone is waiting on something. Whether it be an answered prayer, a sign from God, a new job, a promotion, the end of one season and the beginning of another-just something to hope for. The meaning of Advent comforts me in knowing that I am not alone in this feeling of constantly waiting. In this Christmas season I have been seeking for that feeling of hope and reassurance for myself-my advent within the advent.

The waiting for Christ to come today is just as glorious and magnificent as the first time the word was spread throughout Bethlehem that the savior of the world had been born. “A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.” Finally. We are in the second round of waiting. In the moments when we are too tired to keep going, Christ intervenes and brings light in our darkness. And the Holy Spirit fills our towns with the Christmas Spirit. Knowing the the lights throughout the streets bring us hope that the Star Breather of Heaven will bring heaven down to us. To collide with the purpose we have here on earth in addition to the longing of our hearts for something greater and more beautiful than our eyes could find on this side of Heaven. May the lights remind us that Hope came to us, the light of the world came into the world to give us hope. In our own seasons of advent, God is present. He is not of the world but in the world in the form of things that bring light to our eyes and hope to our hearts.