N O. 7
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M A R IS S A E L I Z A B E T H
AS H L E Y G A RCI A
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S H A N N O N S CR I V E N S
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M AU R A L E D E R E R
THE BEAUTIFUL BALANCE OF CALM EXISTENCE AND UNBRIDLED PAS S I O N. I T ' S W E AV I N G THE TRANQUIL AND THE WILD.
IT'S A C C E P TA N C E AND GRACE AND C O N T E N T M E N T. A PRECIOUS GIFT FROM OUR GRACIOUS GOD.
A TA P E S T RY O F MANY MOMENTS WOVEN TOGETHER THROUGH OPPORTUNITIES OF PEACE, LOVE, E M P AT H Y, A N D U N D E R S TA N D I N G .
HARMONY B E A U T I F U L LY STRENGTHENS T H E M E LO DY OF LIFE.
IT IS A CONDUIT OF PEACE, A CHANNEL FOR CHANGE, A UNIFIER OF THE M I N D A N D H E A RT.
issue theme photography Chelase Francis product feature Interlaced Goods
ALL THROUGH THE GRACE GIVEN TO US I N J E S U S C H R I S T.
Dearest friends, welcome to the seventh issue of Thryve Magazine. It seems like every time I sit down to write another note to you, I am utterly amazed at the fact that we are here once again. I am simply enthralled by the goodness of the Lord, who continues to prove over and over again that He is faithful to no end. I write this note to you with my eyes half on the screen and another at the newest addition to my arms: my newborn son, the sweetest little buddy a mom could ask for. And on my other side, with paint now smearing into her sleeves, my lively, 4 year old daughter is learning how to mix the colors of the rainbow. I can't help but feel inspired as I look at her. As she blends and splashes the paint against the paper, I feel a sense of hope that all the various pieces of my life, both externally and internally, will come into harmony. Oh what beauty becomes of her unlikely choices! It has been especially busy these last few months and this issue seems quite fitting for my life at the moment. Life has become a bit harder for me lately. Have you ever been in that place before? Where you thought you could handle all the “things,” but it just isn’t going very well? Well, if that’s you, I so feel you. There is not enough room on this page to get into all the nittygritty details, but I have a feeling that many of you can relate to feeling this same way. These women you are about to meet have opened their lives to us with such honesty and courage. They do not hold anything back from you and I know that you will be inspired by what God has done in them, as I have. We hope, as you scroll through this issue, that you’ll consider Christ in a new and fresh way. That you would be challenged to grow in the areas you need it most. Thank you, as always, for reading Thryve Magazine, for being a part of this community and for continuing to support this labor of love. Rachael Homcy, Editor in Chief
thryve i ssue no. 7 c ontents
Changing My Portion
When You Pass Through the Waters
Jars of Hope
Out in the Deep
Waves of Grace
What Are You Afraid Of?
Our Ultimate Rest
In the Tension
The Lies We Believe
Things I Wish I Knew at 32
Ask, Seek, Knock
Used Up, All for Good
Confessions of a Shopaholic
The Poison of Poised
Holding All the Elephants
5 Ways to Walk with a Friend
through a Miscarriage 110
To the Overburdened Woman:
The Deep End of Trust
You Can Find Rest
Moving Beyond Monotony
Seek Him First
changing my portion words
CO U R T N E Y K I R K L A N D
K I YA H CR I T T E N D O N
I AM AN OVER-ACHIEVER.
There. I said it. The first step to recovery is admitting that you have a problem, right? As far back as I can remember, I have had this “need to achieve.” I cannot really pinpoint when this need began, maybe because it has always been there. As a military spouse, I struggled during the early stages of our marriage with a need to find my place within our family dynamic. We said "I do" and then quickly found out that I was pregnant with our son. Within a two-week window, I was a new wife, soon-to-be-new mama and had to say goodbye to my husband for the first time. My husband had his place as the spiritual leader of our home and was providing a steady and solid income for our family. I had left college to get married and had no real “skills” to enter the work force. I walked into marriage completely unsure of who I was and what role I was supposed to play within our new life. As my husband found success and received praise from his coworkers and the upper chain of command, I found myself covered in spit up, longing for a hot shower and running off very large cups of coffee. My husband would come home from work after spending eight to ten hours on a boat in the scorching hot Florida sun and I longed to give him a smiling wife, a happy baby and a hot meal. The problem was, inside I felt dead. More than the “baby blues” or even postpartum depression, I felt a complete sense of lack. Here I was, a high school honor student who had been voted “Most Likely to Succeed” by her classmates and I had done nothing more than make a complete mess of my life. I had earned scholarship after scholarship to pay for my college, but my drive and desire to find fulfillment in the bars and the boys led to me living back in my parents’ house a mere year after moving out, and working a job for which I had no passion. I had hoped that getting married would fix all of my problems. Then, when we found out that we were having a baby I was certain that I would feel needed, wanted and appreciated because someone so tiny would have to need his mother, right? Wrong. I loved my son and adored my days with him, but eight hours into a day with a colicky baby who refused to nurse, suffered from every kind of stomach issue there was, and didn’t sleep left me feeling spent. I felt useless. The feelings of uselessness led me to feel like I was not of any value or importance to my family. I felt bitter and resentful. I was overwhelmed. I was over-burdened by the need to do it all. I had completely lost focus on who I was and where I had once been going. I was under the impression that being voted “Most Likely to Succeed” meant that I had to have a whole lot of money in the bank (which we didn’t), drive a big fancy car (which we didn’t), and own a large house (which we didn’t) that was always clean so that our families could come stay when they wanted to see their grandson. I looked around at my life and I felt like a failure. 13
TOO OFTEN THIS WORLD TELLS US THAT WE NEED TO BE A CERTAIN WAY; possess all the latest Apple devices and over-priced
handbags, make a certain amount of money, or have a certain job or title to be considered successful. I was convinced that I had totally missed the mark because I had no job, no degree, and a baby who wouldn’t stop crying. I had heard people talk about parenting and motherhood and how easy it would all be. The perfect mother would always, always love her children--even in the midst of midnight feedings. The perfect mother would keep a tidy house and make Pinterest-worthy crafts to keep her children entertained. The perfect mother would be back to pre-baby weight and cook only organic meals every night of the week for her family. But all of those things that the perfect mother was supposed to do I was failing at. I was missing the mark. Some months after our son was born, we found ourselves in a good church home for the first time since we had made the transition into military family-dom. They had a nursery where we could drop our son off so that we could enjoy Sunday school and the worship service. There were events going on all the time which opened the doors to new friendships with people who just “got” where we were and what we were dealing with. More than anything, it opened my eyes to just how much I had been missing: community; friendship; that feeling of belonging that you experience when you’re around other women in the same life situation. On one of our first Sunday morning services at our new church, the pastor landed in Luke 10:38-42, preaching a sermon on the story of Mary and Martha. I have to say, I have always known that I was much more “Martha” than I was Mary, but this Sunday in particular, the story moved me in ways that it never had before. I WAS WAGING A WAR WITHIN MY OWN HEART FOR THINGS THAT THE LORD HAD NEVER CALLED ME TO. I was striving for something that I was never meant to strive after. I was never called
to do and be everything. I was never meant to have it all together. Here I was, day in and day out doing just what Martha had done.
I was so distracted with the many things that needed doing (laundry, meals, cleaning, mothering, etc.) that I was missing the most valuable and crucial part of my life: REST. And not just the physical rest that every new mom is low on, but the spiritual rest that is found at the feet of Jesus. Mary knew this. She knew that busying herself would take her away from the thing that mattered most that day. Martha, on the other hand, was most likely doing what many of us would have been doing if Jesus showed up at our houses. Can you envision us as modern day Marthas running around with our hair thrown into a bun, picking up the toys for the 17 millionth time? Doing our best to wipe that mysterious sticky substance off of the kitchen counter and throwing the dirty dishes in the sink into the dishwasher so they are at least out of site for the great and mighty Lord of Lords. I mean, it isn’t like He will see them, right? I know myself well enough to know that I would be in an utter panic. I get anxiety when people come over, even when I have time to prepare for them, so if Jesus just “stopped by” I cannot fathom the chaos that would ensue in my heart. Not only was she busying herself with all the things that did not even matter at this point, she was frustrated with her sister because she was not helping. That was the part in the sermon when I had to hang my head in shame. Don’t we all walk around with the feeling that we have done more than other people? Don’t we walk around feeling that way about our husbands? I know that I do. It does not matter how much he may have done at work or how long his day might have been, if the wrong mood strikes me, you would think that he had never worked a day in his life. Regardless of how many hours he may have worked, how many phone calls he may have made, or what time he got up to leave the house; if he comes home and does not give me the “break” that I feel that I am entitled to after a day at home with children, then my anger and bitterness rages. I’m not a biblical expert or a theologian, but I would guess that Mary probably did her fair share of chores around the house. I would imagine that she and her sister both pulled their weight. But on that day, in that very moment, Mary chose the greater portion and Martha didn’t like it. THE ENEMY IS REALLY GOOD AT USING THAT TACTIC TO DERAIL US FROM WHAT MATTERS MOST.
It is easy for us to get distracted by everything on our to-do lists. When we overwhelm ourselves with opportunities and commitments, we are left feeling stretched thin and over-burdened by our schedules. We know that we need rest. We know that we cannot continue to do everything for all the people in our lives all the time. Yet we continue to do it anyway. We continue to say yes. We continue to cram our calendars full of activities and obligations and events that don’t excite us and fail to bring us joy; all the while pushing to the backburner THE ONE NECESSITY, THE ONE PERSON WHO COULD GIVE US THAT SENSE OF JOY AND HOPE THAT WE ARE LOOKING FOR.
I left the church service that day with my head a little bit higher. It was a moment in which it felt like God was clearly saying to me, “Courtney, you are anxious and worried and stressed out about all the things that you think you need to be doing. I never asked you to do all of those things, and though you may not always feel like it, your husband didn’t either. While you’re running yourself ragged trying to do it all, you are missing out on the opportunity to engage with the only one who can bring you any sense of rest at all. Me.” All the rest of this world-our works, our services, our good deeds-are going to fade into eternity; the one thing that will remain will be the Kingdom of God. Mary made sure that she had her good portion; that she focused on the one thing that was necessary. Her focus was on Jesus and his teaching, and I’m betting that when He finished, there was not an ounce of her that felt burdened or over-whelmed. When I stopped demanding that the world find a way to magically make my happy and make me feel worthy, I was able to settle in and find solace in the One who gives peace. When I started finding my worth in Christ, my entire outlook on parenting and motherhood changed. My demeanor toward my husband changed. Rather than seeing all the things that were wrong in my life-the lack of sleep, the dirty house, the unending laundry, the colicky baby-I could see that it was good. He was good. And He still is. The days are never promised to be easy, but Jesus promises life abundantly (John 10:10). IT’S ONLY A MATTER OF CHOOSING WHICH PORTION WE WANT TO CLING TO. Let’s challenge ourselves to seek the
Mary moments in our day to day. Focusing our energy on changing our portion from overwhelmed and tired to filling ourselves with the portion that leaves us full and content: JESUS.
FROM ONE PRINCESS TO ANOTHER
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words L I N D S E Y B RO E R E
T H E
D E E P
20 TAYLO R S H E U E R M A N, T M I N S P I R E D P H OTO GR A P H Y
O U T
Addie stood next to me looking out across the ocean, her little hand shaking loose from mine so she could run ahead and dip her toes in the ice cold water. After a few minutes, she came darting back… “Mom, why do we only see waves in the part of the ocean that is close to the sand? How come there aren’t any waves way out there?” She asked me with the kind of crinkled nose she gets when she is rolling something over in her five year-old mind. “Well,” I said, “all the water you see way out there has something called a current running just underneath it. The current pushes and pulls the water around. But near the shore—where we are standing— the water isn’t very deep, so it gets really agitated by all that pushing and pulling. When water gets agitated, it makes waves. It looks quiet and calm way out there even though it is still being pushed and pulled because the water is so deep. It's hard to make deep water unsettled. Make sense?” She stared out for a little longer… “Yeah,” she said, stooping down low to pick up a handful of sea foam from the last wave left behind. “Do you think it is probably why the waves try to hang onto the sand—because they are angry and they don’t want to keep getting pushed around?”
“Maybe…maybe the water likes the comfort of the shore,” I smiled back at her. We walked back inside our beach home feeling very proud of ourselves for figuring out that big, wide ocean. When I went out for a walk the next morning, the Lord began to speak to me about my conversa-tion with Addie. I kind of expected that He would. IT HAD BEEN STIRRING IN MY HEART ALL NIGHT—LIKE THERE WAS A DIAMOND SOMEWHERE IN THAT CONVERSATION.
I dug my bare feet into the sand. The sun was just beginning to peak over the horizon. “Who do you say that I am?…” He
C O M E
whispered to my heart. Honestly, the question threw me off. I was more expecting a “come to Me all who are thirsty and drink.” Forgetting the part of my conversation with Addie that included the pushing and pulling of a current, I really was just thinking about that big body of water out there and the vast-ness of our God.
A N D
But I answered the question He laid before me. I recounted His faithfulness and I told of the awestruck wonder He often leaves me with—the way He loves me and leads me. And I enjoyed the way His presence wrapped around me there on the sand. When I got back inside, I flipped open my Bible to the
D R I N K
passage where He asks the same thing of His disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15). I kept reading only to find that just after Peter’s divinely imparted answer, and Jesus’ subsequent detailing of Peter’s identity found only in Himself, Jesus discloses to them intimate details of His coming suffering. And if that wasn’t enough, He invites them all to be partakers: “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.” - Matthew 16:24 There I found my invitation to “come and drink.” Oddly enough, the knee-jerk reaction of my heart kind of looked like the waves grasping for the safety of the sand. “Follow Me…to a hill…with a cross.”
Can I be honest with you? Suffering has always been something I have shrunk away from. For years, it has been something I thought I could opt out of. That may sound strange coming from a mom who moved her four children to Iraq, but it’s always been a part of my journey with Jesus that I really wanted to avoid. I’ve recently realized, though, that my willingness to suffer is a lit-mus test for how much my heart trusts His nature—how fixed my eyes are on His goodness. Suffering, like everything else in the Kingdom of God, is first and foremost a posture of the heart, not an action forced upon, or through, the flesh. Watchman Nee writes in “The Character of God’s Workman” that what counts to the Lord is not whether we suffer, but whether we have the mind to suffer (see 1 Peter 4:1). Nee writes, “When you are in a most favorable situation, do you still possess the mind to suffer? The Lord may not arrange to have us endure hardship every day, but all who work the work of God must not lack the mind to endure such a thing each day. Suffering may not be a daily experience, yet having a mind to suffer must be present daily.” I believe King David understood this. I love that he so boldly comes before the Lord in Psalm 26 and asks Him to test his heart, to search the depths and “prove it.” This testing of the genuineness and integrity of David’s love was a process that he must have known would cause pain. Just like proofing a metal to find impurities—I am certain that when the Lord proves our heart, it is no easy task. Standing before Him exposed until every impure thought, action and motivation is dealt with and removed seems so vulnerable….and lonely. But David ASKED for it! How could he do such a thing? Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; test my heart and my mind. For Your loving-kindness is before my eyes, and I have walked in Your truth [faithfully]. - Psalm 26:2 David knew the Lord! David knew of His steadfast love–a love that allowed David to walk faithfully with God. David trusted the Lord, not his own ability or circumstance. He kept the nature and the character of God ever before his eyes. He abided in it. He walked in it. He found the truth of worship in it. He testifies in Psalm 16:8, “I have placed the Lord CONTINUALLY BEFORE ME. Because He is at my right side, I will not be shaken.” David had the answer to “Who do you say that I am?” The answer is that God is always and forever good. David knew his shelter was in the shadow of the Rainmaker, no matter the storm. AS FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST, WE ALL STAND ON THE SHORE WITH AN OPEN INVITATION TO COME AND DRINK. For
some of us, our thirst is quenched by standing on the safety of the shore, scooping up handfuls of sea foam— light, airy remnants that testify to the power of the deep, but totally lack any form of such power themselves. His voice is always calling us to come deeper. He is calling us to come out to the depths of Himself where we can’t touch, where we don’t know where the current of His Spirit may lead us, and even more frightening, where we can’t passively observe the depths from a distance and safely summarize the infinite power of something we ourselves are not even swimming in. GOING DEEPER REQUIRES SUFFERING.
Those who would follow Him are called to daily fight the fleshly urge to swim to the shore for safety. Daily. It’s a life that bears the mark of the cross. When prone to pick up offense, react selfishly, lash out in anger— we instead choose the path of His cross, the path that pulls us closer to His side, just like David. Yes, His side—the side that suffered the Centurion’s spear, the place that is most vulnerable—the place of union. Having the mind to suffer with JOY and burning LOVE requires the Spirit-inspired response, “You are good!” It requires us to know and trust His nature, His goodness, His power and au-thority. Otherwise, the waves will overtake us and send us rushing toward the shore, reaching for the shallow waters where we can stand on our own strength. Suffering the weight of the cross daily produces a rhythm in our soul that, when pushed and pulled, isn’t driven to inward self-preservation. It produces a rhythm that presses inward to Him. I think we all want the “peace, be still” moments where He hushes the stormy seas. But the dis-ciples didn’t encounter the stormy seas in the harbor…they were out in the deep! Trust and faith in who He is anchors us, it becomes our peace. And those things do not get refined by standing on the shores.
OUR ULTIMATE REST words
LYD I A TO L L
J A Z M I N A N TO I N E T T E
There are days I see a lot of failure. There are days I see unchecked boxes and blank pages, raised eyebrows and tough texts. Days when I carry failure on my back like dead weight. Days I am weary. Exhausted. There are days I see nothing but closed Bibles and closed doors, disappointment and doubt. Days I feel that every word spoken, every action taken, and every thought processed is soaked in failure. No matter how hard I try or push or prod, all I can find is failure. And I cannot find grace. I cannot find rest.
Unfortunately, the days I described look like a lot of my days. Many of my days have been wasted, focused on myself and what I could accomplish or what I didn’t accomplish. Me. Me. Me. The devil would rather I fixated on myself instead of Christ. In fact, the devil would also be pleased to tattoo the word “FAIL” on my forehead, and, if I am honest—sometimes I feel like he might as well have already done so. I am often desperate to find rest. I am often desperate to find grace. But I usually hesitate on really calling out His name through the fog of my failure. Thankfully, we serve a King who does not wait for us to reach out to Him, but instead tenderly woos us as He draws us ever nearer to His side. He reaches in and gets His holy hands dirty in the mess of our lives. One of the many days in which I was struggling for rest and for grace, I opened up the Scripture to the book of Isaiah and prayed He might speak to me and calm my restless heart. And He spoke tenderly to me through the words of Isaiah 40:1-2: “Comfort, comfort, my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and cry to her that her warfare has ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” Now, this passage had merely sounded pretty to me and I would often briefly skim through it. It wasn’t until that day when its weight hit me like a ton of bricks. It wasn’t until I realized these verses are promises to the children of God, promises we can claim.
I then heard it; I heard the cry from the Cross of Calvary telling me to rest, that He finished it all. He was done with my failure. He became failure for me. My failure had been paid for. I heard the voice of my sweet Jesus telling me to take comfort, comfort. I heard Him cry, in the desperate tone that only a man hanging limp on a tree could utter, that the war was over. The was is over. Death is dead. He had conquered death for me. I heard him cry that my iniquity—all my past, present, and future sin—was pardoned. When a child hears the sound of its Daddy’s voice telling her it is all going to be okay, there is nothing left to do but rest. Failure does not have a grip on my heart. Only grace remains, grace because Jesus failed so we did not have to. THERE IS REST. However, rest doesn’t necessarily always look how we would want it to, at least on this side of eternity. There is still laundry to do, children to hold, dishes to wash, errands to run, rooms to clean, and meals to make. Whether you are a mom, lawyer, student, teacher, trainer, or nanny, I understand that physical rest can, at times, seem unattainable. There is most definitely a time and place for physical rest. But I want us to focus on the spiritual rest for our souls that Christ offers. Spiritual rest makes our hearts breathe easy and our minds stop spinning. Spiritual rest allows us the grace to slow our performance meter down enough until we become eye level with the Cross. Friends, spiritual rest in JESUS CHRIST PROVIDES A PEACE FOREIGN TO THIS WORLD. And this kind of rest is ours in Jesus Christ.
In Ephesians 3, Paul writes to the church at Ephesus as he prays, “that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith,” (Ephesians 3:16-17). Paul does not pray that their work would get easier or harder, or that they would stop failing, or that they would find time to take a three-month vacation to Sardis. Instead, he prayed they would be strengthened by His Spirit in their inner beings. Friends, this hope that provides rest for our souls does not come from ourselves. It is not something we can muster up in our own strength. Rather, IT IS A WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. So what? “So that Christ
may dwell in your hearts through faith.” Christ reigning in a heart. Christ reigning in my heart. Christ reigning in your heart. I can think of nothing greater than to have Christ—in His fullness of steadfast love and abundant grace—reigning in the hearts of those who He bought with His blood so that He might be glorified and our joy might be full.
That day He spoke to me through His word, I found rest. But I still fail; I still struggle to find grace in the midst of the mess. I still struggle to find rest in the midst of the chaos. But I am learning to see failure as a blessing because as the Scripture reminds us, “For when I am weak then I am strong,” (2 Corinthians 12:10). We knew this life would be hard. John 16:33 says, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” As long as we are on this earth, we will struggle with failure and with our flesh. As Paul wrote in Romans 7:15 and 19, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate… For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” Until we reach forever with our Father, we will battle our flesh as we struggle to fight temptation and sin. WE WILL FAIL. BUT, WE WILL FAIL UNDERNEATH A CANOPY OF GRACE that has been covered
by the blood of the Lamb, representing: “It is finished.” Because this world will still bind us up in failure, we must keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and focus on the hope for His return to provide our ultimate rest. That rest will be fully completed the day when our King will tear open the heavens wearing a robe dipped in blood, and come down to earth to rescue His bride with armies of heaven following Him on white horses (Revelation 19:11-16). He will be coming for you and for me. We will be caught up with Him and rescued, and we will find our ultimate rest. Our King will take us to a place where “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore,” (Revelation 21:4). The tears we have cried because of our failure will be wiped by the bloodstained white robe of Jesus Christ. The war will officially be over. It’s hard to live with our eyes fixed on eternity when we are swamped with the mundane. We read promising passages of Scripture, but eternity seems a distant dream so we put those powerful passages in the back of our mind.
So when we find ourselves frazzled, focused on failure, and lacking grace for ourselves and for the people around us, let us respond to the invitation of our Savior that urges, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light,” (Matthew 11:28-30). Friends, forever is not far away. Ultimate rest is rapidly approaching. We are one day closer to seeing His face than we were yesterday, one year closer to beholding His beauty than we were last year. What if we acknowledged those accusations from the devil about our failure, but then RAN to Christ and reminded ourselves that He became failure for us so that we might not be condemned? Let’s labor well in this life, and keep our gaze fixed on eternity where we will, one day, find our ultimate rest.
Things I wish I knew at 32 words
M A R IS S A S I M PS O N
Happy 32nd Birthday from the older and wiser – and I
bad people. He’s not a celestial dealmaker who will strike a
believe improved – version of yourself. (Think of me as a
bargain to answer prayers so long as you behave well. That’s
young aunt whose clothes you want to borrow.) The old adage
not why Jesus went to the cross. There’s nothing you can do
“hindsight is 20/20” is of absolutely no help after the fact,
that He hasn’t already paid for.
so I’m here to give you a glimpse of what’s ahead and some hints on how to successfully navigate it.
WHEN YOU MAKE A MISTAKE OR MAKE POOR CHOICES, DON’T THINK YOU’VE MISSED THE GREAT PLAN FOR YOUR LIFE. The
The mere fact that I am writing to you from your own future
cross is our big “do-over.” If we let him, God has a way of
should bring a measure of comfort. Tonight as you were
taking our messes and getting us to our destiny even when it
blowing out the candles with your eyes squeezed shut, I know
looks impossible. God is the most wonderful kind of father.
what you were thinking. "What is ahead for me? Will it be a
He hears your prayers and he sees your tears. He will dispatch
good year? Is there anything scary on the horizon?" You, my
angels from heaven to fight for you. And when you think you
friend, have a habit of worrying. And it does not serve you
are all alone, God is there – His Holy Spirit is right beside
well. You spend so much time being anxious about things that
you, preserving you and providing for you.
possibly, maybe, could happen, and you will come to realize I know you have heard of the Holy Spirit mentioned in
that they rarely ever do.
church. But I have got big news for you. The Holy Spirit is IT'S TRUE WHEN GOD SAYS IN JEREMIAH THAT "I KNOW THE
a person, despite the fact that many in your circles don’t talk
PLANS I HAVE FOR YOU. Not plans for harm, but plans for a
about him. He will enable you to do things you couldn’t do
hope and for a future." The devil lies and he will use all kinds
on your own with an aptitude you didn’t know you had. Jesus
of smoke and mirrors to make things look threatening. Plus
was not kidding when He told the disciples in John 16 that it
he knows your hot buttons and will take advantage of any
was good that He left, because someone even greater would
opportunity to make a situation look more menacing than it
be coming to help. It was the Holy Spirit who empowered
actually is. He will try to get you to believe things that are not
Peter – an uneducated fisherman – to boldly bring salvation
real. And even worse, he will tell you things about yourself
to a crowd of thousands! Not bad for someone who had
that are not true.
vehemently denied Jesus only weeks earlier. That supernatural power is the same power that is available to you. You have
THE GOOD NEWS IS GOD IS ALWAYS WORKING ON YOUR
big, exciting things ahead of you, and the Holy Spirit is the
BEHALF. You are going to know Him so differently than you
one who is going to give you the power, strength, and wisdom
can imagine. He’s not some shadowy image sitting on a
to do it.
throne giving good things to good people and bad thing to
I know the desire of your heart is to be married and to have kids. You will have both, and it will be a huge source of joy but also tears. Here is a word of advice. Listen to me on this! When you hit a rough patch in your marriage – and you will – don’t wait to ask for help. Don’t think you can just soldier through and hope for things to improve with time. When two people come together, they bring all their yuck with them even though you’re both charming and lovable. You may not even know what it is that’s causing the trouble, but undoubtedly it is a wound from the past. I'm here to tell you that God can heal it. He can fix it. But you need to nip this in the bud and ask for help. It will save you from looking back on too many wasted years of what could have been a great marriage. Hang in there. The good news is that people can change. And maybe one day you will wake up and realize he can pick up his underwear off the floor! It’s also time to learn to be a good friend. You have a tendency to go it alone, but if you do, you will miss out on some of the major joys of life. In Romans, Paul encourages us to love from the center of who we are. You will risk being rejected, but as you walk with Christ, He will help heal your heart. With God’s spirit on the inside of you, you will attract the kind of friends that you want to have. I'll let you in on a secret on how to be a good friend: Learn to give preference to them. Don’t insist on having your own way, but consider them first. Practice playing second fiddle. Remember when Erin was crowned homecoming queen and you were the one behind the scenes decorating the gym and organizing the cake? I know how you would have loved to wear that crown. But don’t ever think that God doesn't see what you do in secret behind the scenes. He is watching to see how you take care of what He has placed in your hand – however small it may be. If you take something ordinary and do the job extraordinarily well, promotion will come. Be faithful in all that you are doing and do it with excellence – whether it’s cleaning houses or counting inventory at Pier I – it’s all preparation for the destiny that’s ahead of you. And to be honest… tiaras? They’re not all they’re cracked up to be. Turns out they are giving them to toddlers these days. As you get older, stay teachable. Be willing to learn new things. No matter your age, God is always about the new thing. He can use you at any age.
Be willing to look at yourself and ask the question: "What in my life is not serving me well?” Put yourself in a position to receive correction. And be ready when it comes. Be even more ready when it will come from someone younger than you. And brace yourself for the day it comes from someone you gave birth to. In the future the modern-day church is all going to look very different. But it’s a good thing. But be assured that God is in it. Don’t get your panties in a wad when you see a woman in the pulpit. Turns out the American church will be late to the party on this one. It’s not unlike the Pharisees, who were so zealous about religious law, they didn’t recognize God standing right in front of them. Be careful not to leave a church because you don't like the worship music or because it’s filled with more young people than old. If the presence of God is there, that is all you need. Besides, a young and vibrant church will keep you young and vibrant as well. Their zeal and love for God is contagious. They will be fun and creative and needing the wisdom of older people. Forget the idea of retiring in the tropics and sipping mojitos. Life is going to be exciting if you can find out what God is doing on the earth and do it with Him. It will be more fun than you can imagine! Finally, my 32-year-old friend, I am reminded of the words of Jesus before he left his disciples and went to the cross. He told them "I still have so many things to tell you, but you cannot bear them." The same is true for you. My sweet girl, you will walk through some difficult things, things you cannot bear to know now. But you MUST know that your God is faithful and He can be trusted. He WILL see you through it. He WILL comfort you. He WILL preserve you, and He WILL redeem all things. You will be living proof. By the way, don't get rid of your favorite high-waisted jeans. And keep saving the long, red glitter pageant gown. Everything that is old becomes new again – and decade-themed parties are all the rage. You’ll have the perfect outfit. GET READY-IT'S GOING TO BE A GREAT RIDE.
ISN’T IT FUNNY HOW WE THINK WE’RE IN
CONTROL OF OUR LIVES?
We make plans, write out checklists, and set goals, but still those unexpected twists and turns threaten our perfectly laid out plans
and our sense of security. Can’t our plans just work out this one time? After hours, days, weeks, even years of thinking and preparing for what’s to come, why can’t our plans just go as expected for once? Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard
it all before; God has a bigger plan for us and it’s better than anything we can imagine. But isn’t my plan good enough?
B RO O K E PA Z
M EG H I L L P H OTO
S A R A B. C A L L I GR A P H Y
I’ve gone through questions like these over and over in my mind, and I’m sure you’ve struggled with similar ones, too. In this age of instant gratification, it’s hard to be patient for someone you can’t see or hear to deliver in ways you can’t predict or understand. We ask for a clue or a sign, to no avail. As His Word reveals in 1 John 5:14, GOD IS GOOD TO PROVIDE US WITH AN INCREDIBLE OPPORTUNITY TO DIALOGUE WITH HIM. In fact, He truly desires for us to speak
with Him, which is one of the many incredible character traits our God possesses, which distinguishes Him from any other religious deity. He promises to listen and answer, but it must come in His way and timing, which is neither early, nor late, but sometimes, those answers aren’t exactly what we hoped for. Matthew 7:7 say, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you”? Ah, but the Bible also says, “The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him” (Lamentations 3:25).
Adjusting to changing plans has proved to be a challenge for me recently. Since the 8th grade, I’ve wanted to attend a private Christian college close to home. Unfortunately, my family and I discovered during my senior year of high school that the university was far too expensive for us to afford. This was a devastating blow since I had already visited the campus and fallen in love with it. After years of prayer and seeking God’s will for my future, I thought He was leading me to that school. I shadowed some classes, attended chapel, stayed overnight in a dorm, and bought merchandise to show my school spirit. It felt like home. It felt right. The peace, comfort, community, and love I felt there seemed like a sign from God. All of my friends, family, and teachers knew that I had my life figured out, from the college I was going to attend to my intended profession. I took pride in knowing exactly what I was going to do and where I was going to go as graduation neared. Meanwhile, my classmates were completely lost and frantic without vision for the future.
Learning that I could not attend my dream school was a crushing blow. It turned out that I was lost and frantic, just like everyone else. Why hadn’t I pitied them before? This was truly a low for any graduating senior, being pressured by the world to go to college like everyone else, to know our major immediately, and to stick with it for whatever career we chose. I think sometimes parents and other adults forget that their plans didn’t work out as they expected when they were younger. I’ve never known a single person whose life turned out exactly as they planned. I struggled to salvage my dream. I entered countless scholarship contests without any return. Eventually, I had to resign my vision and take on a new path. As president of our student government organization, I had to give a speech at graduation. How humiliating to stand in front of my graduating class, friends, family, teachers, and strangers to admit that Brooke Paz, the girl who had it all together, had no idea what she was doing. Every president before me had a plan and triumphantly explained it to the audience in their speech. But I did not have that same luxury. I tried to have a sunny disposition while I gave my speech, outlining the positives of the situation and my hopeful outlook, but inside, I was confused, bitter, and hopeless. When God seems to open a door, it’s exciting to be in His will and hear His guidance. However, when those same doors close we begin to question our discernment. From then on, we constantly question whether God is really guiding us, or if our judgment is wrong again. Every high school and college student knows the pressures that others heap on us regarding our future. The expectations we’re held to at such a young age are incredibly daunting and overwhelming. WE ARE STILL LEARNING, DEVELOPING, AND CHANGING. As a twenty-yearold, I now look back and realize that I am a completely different person than the naive and discouraged girl graduating from high school. I anticipate that, as we enter young adulthood, whether we go to college or dive right into the workplace, we will be completely different in four short years. This story does have a happy ending, though. After taking the year off to work, I enrolled in a state university which was significantly cheaper than my dream school. Through that, God has opened many doors and consistently provided opportunities that I would not have experienced if my plans had gone according to what I wanted. When I wanted to give up, He upheld me and pointed me toward the grace-laden path to a better future, filled with opportunities that surpassed what I previously imagined. He provided all I needed along the way- finances, encouragement, friends, and comfort. He truly did as Psalm 94:19 says, “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.” And I’m thankful for how He has grown me and molded me into the woman He desires me to be.
Through this brief, yet discouraging situation, I learned about humility and trust, but I mostly learned that a change in plans doesn’t mean an end to your dreams. PATIENCE CAN BE ONE OF THE MOST DIFFICULT OF VIRTUES TO LEARN, BUT IT CAN ALSO BE ONE OF THE MOST WORTHWHILE. The Lord may take away, but He
also gives with such grace and abundance, surpassing all expectations. I urge you to face the hurdles in your path with confidence and trust in the Lord, for He will not fail you. The Lord never gives us more than one can handle, as long as we find strength in Him who can do all things (Philippians 4:13). He will provide all you need and more; you need only ask for that which is in accordance with His perfect will. God exists outside of our perception of time and sees our lives in a way we can’t. He knows what is best for us today, tomorrow, and into our future. We can rest in assurance of a faithful, constant, and considerate God. Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” When the world around us is chaotic and unpredictable, our God is a strong tower, providing refuge, comfort, peace, and eventually understanding of the plans He has for us. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” What an incredible reminder it is that the Creator of the universe cares about us enough to work out everything— every mistake, every trial, every unexpected circumstance for our overall good. He is an intricate artist, weaving together the countless strands of our lives in order to make a beautiful and strong masterpiece in and through us. We may find comfort in knowing that Jesus Christ understands our human struggles. His decision to manifest as a human being living on earth allowed Him to truly empathize with our experiences and struggles. As Hebrews 4:15-16 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are- yet He did not sin. Let us approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Isn’t it amazing that the Creator of everything desires to have a close relationship with us, filled with love and grace? He wanted it so much that He allowed His own Son to live and die on earth, experiencing everything from the smallest of irritations to the deepest of pains. In all we endure, Christ understands our pains and our pleasures, our joys and frustrations, our disappointments and our triumphs. At every turn, Jesus faced mockery, unbelief, chaos, sinners, and self-righteous religious figures, yet, through it all, He remained steadfast because He relied on His close relationship with His Father, who HE TRUSTED COMPLETELY. So friends, I leave you with this verse, hoping to bring you comfort and guidance in the small and large hardships: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (1 John 5:14). Our Lord is not a distant and unfeeling God. There’s a reason He’s referred to as our Friend and Father. The Lord our God loves us and knows us so deeply. He longs to be in relationship with us, desires to pursue us, and wants to help us through trials. Maybe He doesn’t always give us the answers we seek, but maybe that’s for our own good. How else would we be encouraged to pursue Him if we felt we didn’t need Him? The truth is, we can rely on God in the little and big things. And the exciting part about it all is that He is there, waiting for us to let Him into our lives and so that He can do wonders. ASK, SEEK, KNOCK, AND HE WILL OPEN INCREDIBLE DOORS TO YOU THAT YOU COULD NEVER IMAGINE.
the poison of poised performance words
CH A R A D O N A H U E
TA R A N E W M A N
We all have tells; nervous habits that appear when we
to let their words touch my worth and tried to enjoy the
are feeling apprehensive and insecure. Some twirl their
ride. It was gratifying, but it was also fleeting.
hair, others bite their nails, but when I am unstrung — my posture peaks, my strides become even, and my hips
The dark side of desirability found me quickly. Every
sway. When I am nervous, I perform.
year a community presenter would come to my high school, as a public service to explain and warn that one
It wasn't always this way. In junior high I played almost
out of every four women would be sexually abused. I had
every sport my school offered, but left the courts for the
heard the statistics; I just hadn't planned on being one.
runway when I was recruited by a modeling agency at
I was barely sixteen. I sat up tall and did my best to will
13. About a month later, I had my first opportunity to
the welling tears away and forget the date in which I was
work as an extra in a club scene for an M.C. Hammer
a conquest — not the courted. When the presentation
video. I walked into the club and joined the crowd of
concluded, I put it out of my head and walked to my
the glamorous. I worked my way to the back, shy, and
next class like I was at Fashion Week in Paris.
intimidated by the scene. I could not legally be in a club for eight more years and it felt surreal and slightly
WHEN WHAT I PERCEIVED AS WEAKNESS THREATENED
perilous to me. My hair was feathery, I had make-up on,
MY COMPOSURE, I POLISHED MY POISE AS I HID THE PAIN.
and my skirt was leather. I had changed my place in the
I preached habit and professionalism into my soul, and
world of generalized stereotypes and transitioned from
all the tricks I used on the runway or in front of the
the jock to the model. I wasn't quite comfortable, but I
camera became lifelines that held no life. Don't let them
began to find potential hiding in the exploitation of what
know anything happened, act like it was part of the plan;
the world called powerful. I left my t-shirts and sports
the show must go on. However, a dam constructed with
bras for high fashion and push-ups, and dove into the
shattered dreams and webs of covert cracks will not hold.
universe of worldly glamour.
The elegance I tried so desperately to project would be stripped away by attacks of panic.
"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in
Anybody who has ever experienced an anxiety attack
the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and
knows the debilitating nature of them. The pulse
pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the
quickens, terror sets in, and the need to find safety
world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the
becomes preeminent. It becomes the great desire; the
will of God abides forever." 1 John 2:16
objective that can paralyze a person from experiencing the life they were designed for. Suddenly, illusions
Nothing taught me the fickle nature of physical beauty
of security speak the lie that you can control your
and its lack of depth, like being in the modeling industry
circumstances, and it is tempting to allow those lies to
while attending high school. Girls at school would
speak louder than God. But He is still bigger, trustworthy,
constantly compare, trying to break me down, and the
and faithful. He tells those trembling:
modeling industry couldn’t care less about feelings. Either you were the right fit or you weren't, and when
"Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God;
you weren't it was because you were too tall, too short,
I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my
too fat, too skinny, too classic, or too exotic. No physical
righteous right hand." Isaiah 41:10
critique was off limits, but thankfully I knew early on not
It took me a while but eventually I BEGAN TO COMPREHEND THE LIGHT SHINING IN THE DARKNESS. I had started down many paths hoping one would lead to healing, but found that
worshiping people, places, and pleasure all left me wanting, or wailing. My feeble attempts at control led to a crippled heart and broken life. As I entered my twenties, I was lost, brokenhearted, and filled with buried shame. Then came the scandal of grace: peace that surpassed understanding, and the redemption available in the arms of Christ. Everything began to change as I turned my painted face toward Him, and instead allowed His face to shine on me. His hope had not ceased calling to me even when I refused to answer. I found it firm and steadfast, waiting for me when the perfect storm threatened my end — Jesus anchored what was left to Himself, the Rock of Ages. I didn't come to Him well, stable, or pretty. I came to Him ailing, fragmented, and disgraced. I came to Him not through perfection, but by promise. "Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life." -John 5:24 He would never leave me or forsake me. He held, carried, and led me into the unknown without fear, and gave the poise of peace to my soul. My weary spirit strengthened and I emerged a victor, no longer the victim. We lose the power of beauty when it becomes something to conquer instead of cherish or when we use it to manipulate rather than minister. It has been given as a gift, and evil often twists and distorts its design. THE WORLD AROUND US IS CONSTANTLY TRYING TO DEFINE BEAUTY DIFFERENTLY THAN OUR SOULS FEEL IT, AND WE NEED TO FIGHT BACK.
"For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” -1 Samuel 16:7 Beauty isn't something to fear or something merely external; we need to stop allowing others to tell us it is. The gift of beauty is something eternal to be embraced. It's found in nature, the arts, and even mundane moments. There is something healing and powerful in the loveliness that lingers from the Savior’s touch. It sings to our weary souls and begs to be revealed. We hear it in laughter, soak it in when creation astounds, and feel it in the tender whispers God quietly discloses to our hearts.
I strive to see it, I long to find it, and I want to see it released around me. I believe, like David, we must ask for it. "One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple." -Psalm 27:4 We are privileged to be the audience, invited to gaze upon the beauty of God. We are honored also, to be administrators of it. We display glimpses of His beauty through our service, words, and love. The size of the glance is not nearly as significant as our obedience in carrying what has been asked of us. Whether you have a way to share the weighted glory with thousands or if you kneel to speak to the heart of a child, you are involved in the ministering invitation of God when you lead them into His presence. When I was an infant, I lived in Yosemite National Park. My Mom attended horses and my dad climbed mountains. They both led people into the lush beauty of creation. They didn't form the glacier-carved rocks, or set the waterfalls to their massive flow, they just helped others understand this is how we ride, or climb, and engage splendor. As we follow the great commission of Jesus to spread the good news, the results are not up to us. We are simply the ones who point out the path. As I traverse the trails of life, I have surrendered to the song of true beauty that strums in the background of the busyness of life. I am grateful to my Jesus who embodied all goodness, faithfulness, and every desirable thing. I push aside the preaching of performance, possession, and self-protection, and listen for His voice to lead me on. For only in the God of the universe is perfection found. When we are adopted into his family as child, friend, and beloved we then rejoice in the inheritance of glory. I strive to be a steward of beauty. Not the cheapened kind, but the magnificent wonder that Christ asks us to shine as His bride. Some of us resist the classic image of the little girl in the dress twirling, desiring to be found captivating. In Susanne Collin's Hunger Games when Caesar Flickerman says to Katniss Everdeen “Twirl for me,” we are tempted to cast it off as sexist or degrading. But as one who has posed on platforms and known the empty espousal of stage lights, I would encourage us to not disdain the hidden glory in twirling beauty. When we twirl, when we show up, our beauty is like that of the heroine. It doesn't say, “Look at me I am frilly, pink, and weak.” It says, “I am radiant, made in the image of God, and as a woman I reveal a hint of His glorious beauty. Woven through my soul is wild feminine boldness that reflects the Eternal - so when the next day feels like an arena of death, I stand. I will be the girl fueled by the consuming fire ready to set hearts ablaze. I will twirl in my wedding clothes, confident in my identity as the bride of Christ. I will come out as a breath of hope; a symbol of the revolution of redemption.” I am all these things because God has made me new. He looks beyond the layers of caked makeup and pulls out who He created me to be. He softens the places of the soul that have been hardened by striving, and offers peace. I do not need to attempt to be beautiful. I am beautiful, because I am His.
"Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life." -Philippians 2:15-16
M E I WE N WA N G P H OTO GR A P H Y
Trust In a house with happy faces in frames and a perfectly posed dining room table set, and I say I will trust God and His unfailing promises. At least, that’s how it was before life threatened my joy. In December 2014 my mom casually mentioned to me that she was going to see the doctor for a biopsy. I was only 19 years old. Of course, that’s never something a daughter at any age hears easily, but I agreed to pray for a good report and to trust God with the outcome, even if it wasn’t what I wanted to hear. Two weeks later, my parents headed back to hear the results. The silence was deafening when they returned. I knew it wasn’t good. On December 23, 2014, my mom was diagnosed with stage three triple-negative breast cancer, a unique, yet viciously aggressive type of breast cancer. Hearing the gnawing word “cancer” possessively come out of my mother’s mouth twisted my stomach in knots and clouded my eyes with tears and my heart with questions. I reminded myself that I agreed to trust God before we received the results, but I was eating my words as our family’s reality cut deep within me. I could only trust God with the blinded steps I took moment by moment, because I could no longer see past that day. I had faced struggles that begged me to trust God will before this diagnosis, but none of them threatened my grip of control as much as this. This was different. I had no authority over what the oncologist’s report declared, and as a family we were forced to swallow this sharp information whole as we prematurely got a glimpse of what 2015 would hold. It was a glimpse of chemotherapy appointments, medications to compensate for my mom’s weak body, and the emotional process of seeing her suffer, and crying as a family, all while trying to continue life as if it were normal. Although I could see nothing in front of me, I chose to trust God to guide the physical, spiritual, and emotional steps I took and put my feet on a smooth path as we moved into a new normal of treatments and taking care of my mom.
TRUST: a sweet word without
depth when everything is seemingly perfect and unthreatened.
THROUGHOUT THAT YEAR
we laughed, cried, treasured days, argued, prayed, hugged, and took a lot of pictures. We celebrated life whether it was beautiful or ugly. However, we quickly found out that trusting God is not always blissful, especially with serious and life-threatening circumstances. It takes prayer, devotion, focus, determination, and letting go of your own agenda in order to trust God when life isn’t going according to plan. It is especially not blissful when the situation becomes even worse than the original diagnosis. At the end of July 2015, we received news that the cancer had spread to my mom’s liver and filled it with multiple lesions, and the doctors declared the cancer stage four. This news evoked a vast range of emotions as I heard the deafening words escape my father’s mouth as he held our family in glassy-eyed prayers. I stared at the painting of Psalm 112:7 on our mantle and was stubborn to believe the plastic words as my heart filled with anger, hurt, and feelings of abandonment. We suddenly faced the reality of hospice, oxygen tanks, tears, and goodbyes, and on July 29, 2015, my mother passed away. I stood outside on the back patio with my dad and stared at the planted flowers blowing in the wind, as we stood in the beauty of the sunlight that mocked the dark and empty house inside. I was faced with an entirely new reality of what it meant to trust God. In the days ahead, when I needed my mother’s advice, when my sister needed new shampoo, and my dad grieved sharing the responsibilities of both parental roles, I WAS FORCED INTO THE DEEP END OF TRUSTING GOD. In light of unexpected tragedy, loneliness, break-ups, job losses, failed tests, and confusion, what happens to our pretty Sunday school version of trusting in God when our control is threatened by circumstances that suffocate our sense of what is normal? Is it still worth trusting in God, or should we take matters into our own hands? If you are experiencing the same questions that I did this past summer, no matter the circumstance, I encourage you to keep reading about what why we should boldly and confidently trust in God.
WHY SHOULD WE TRUST GOD?
TRUSTING GOD GIVES US HOPE BEYOND WHAT OUR EYES CAN SEE. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but
on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18). Looking at our present situation can leave us empty, hopeless, and with a lack of expectation for the great things of tomorrow. However, when we look to the promise of an eternity with a Savior who intimately loves us, we have hope in something greater than our broken earth; it is hope in a constant God, an unchanging love, and a promising eternity. TRUSTING GOD SUBSTITUTES FEAR FOR PEACE BEYOND OUR UNDERSTANDING. And the peace of God, which
transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7). Living in fear will counteract our trust and faith in God. Having faith is boldly trusting that God will deliver us from the calamity of our depression and hopelessness. By placing our thoughts of worry, fear, and dread into alignment with God’s Word, we are taking hold of the peace that is promised to us as we trust. This peace is unshakable and irrelevant to our circumstances because we serve a God of miracles and beautiful impossibilities. Thanksgiving counteracts fear and anxiety, and fuels our trust. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God (Philippians 4:6). This is no easy thing to do, and it takes practice. I was not thankful for cancer or for watching my mother take her last breath. Healing came for her, but not how I wanted. Sometimes our prayers are not answered the way we want. Thankfulness, especially when God doesn’t answer how we desire, starts with digging deep. I had to dig very deep behind moments of sobs and silent hugs. I found that I was thankful for God’s character and comfort through people. In the very midst of grief, God cared enough to send godly women into my sister’s life and mine to care for us with love, prayers, and comfort. In the midst of tragedy, God’s attention to detail was not missed, and for that I could trust Him to take care of what I needed, and give me strength by the moment. Notice the detailed ways that God takes care of you. A LIFE OF SURRENDER WILL YIELD JOY, AND THAT IS OUR VERY STRENGTH. For the joy of the Lord is your strength
(Nehemiah 8:10). Before we surrender our grip of control, the idea of letting go can be daunting, especially because the enemy of our soul is at war against our freedom. But we need to be reminded that freedom is waiting to embrace us on the other side of our fear. Joy will encompass our hearts, and we will give God all the glory as people watch us live under God’s strength through the toughest of trials.
HOW DO WE TRUST GOD?
REMEMBER WHO GOD IS. We can often forget the goodness of God when our life yields frightening or devastating
situations. If we recognize that God doesn’t wish harm upon us, that He does have amazing plans for us, and that He does care enough about our pain to walk with us through it, we can recover from our anger and blame. God doesn’t force us through terrible situations just to cynically provide tests for us to suffer through alone. Disease and turmoil are products of our broken and sinful world, but God is quick to show us protection, care, and grace in this process, despite how undeserving we are of His help. He has shown me His strength to walk to my classes and accomplish work, joy on days I feel hopeless, and reminded me that I am not alone even as I cry on my floor. These are the moments to be thankful for, and this is the God I am thankful for. I want to gently remind you that whatever you need to trust God for, He will meet you with open arms. You do not have to use your own empty strength; instead you can rest in His love. He will meet you right where you are and you don’t have to attain His forgiveness or love because Jesus paid for it on the cross. THANK GOD FOR WHAT HE’S DOING IN YOUR LIFE. This is a lot easier to do when we have remembered who He is, but like
most things in life, being thankful takes practice. Even in the midst of harsh turmoil, I can thank God for His unchanging character, and the constant and steady care He provides. Thankful thoughts that are specific to your own life are yours to embody, but I challenge you to dig deep to find something of value that you recognize as a true gift. Thankfulness is the opposite of entitlement, and requires a humble heart of gratitude that recognizes we are unworthy of the gift of grace. There were days I called my best friend on the verge of a meltdown, and she’d meet me for coffee. Of course, it wasn’t the tears and sadness I was thankful for, but it was the comfort of God through my best friend that reminded me it would be okay. We serve a God who offers free passage to a relationship with Him despite our choices. God so unfairly granted us a life of wholeness in a world of brokenness. I am continually thankful for this God we serve. Thankfulness invites the presence of God into our hearts with no strings attached, and it shifts our gaze to be fixed on His goodness. Recognizing what God has done and continues to do for us helps us to remember that there is good in our future. STAND ON THE PROMISES IN HIS WORD. It is easy to let Biblical promises become words on a page instead of life to our
bones when we are hard pressed against our circumstances. However, by combining thankfulness and an understanding of God’s character (points one and two), we can hold these promises as true and unfailing. Meditating on Scripture will allow us to loosen our clenched fists so we can live in the freedom of trusting His beautiful protection. Declare these promises over your life: God walks with you through fire (Isaiah 43:2), He will care for you (Psalm 112:7), He works all things for good (Romans 8:28), He will strengthen and uphold you (Isaiah 41:10), He is close to your broken heart (Psalm 34:18), and He is faithful (Psalm 33:4).
I want faith and trust that is unwavering despite my surroundings or experiences. I want to love God and worship Him on mountaintops and in dark valleys. We will have trouble in this world, but Jesus has overcome it (John 16:33); this is why we can trust Him. This life is not the end because we have hope of an eternity with Him. Because of this, we can safely trust a faithful God. Our faith needs to be strengthened daily. Even after my mom passed away, I have entered into new seasons of my life that pull me into trusting God’s guidance. His guidance has taken me from chemotherapy treatments and grief to transferring to college in a different city, and discerning where God is leading me. I am always challenged to trust God when my future is unknown and I have little or no control. When I am unsure about which steps to take, whether this is with job opportunities, colleges, or relationships, I wait on God to answer. I know that He will make my steps firm as I trust in Him. I believe that my experience of seeing God’s faithfulness carry me through the darkest pit of my life truly allows me to trust Him even more when I don’t know what is coming next in life. Trusting Him has become an excitement, because I know He cares about the details I haven’t thought of yet. I have learned that unlike trusting in people, trusting in God is a safe place of surrender. His grace also makes this a safe place; if I fall, He is able to catch me and mend my mistakes. I have come through a season in my life where I have not only read in the Bible that God keeps His promises to care for us and never forsake us, but I have seen it right before my eyes and felt His comfort beside me. When I feel my trust wavering, I remember how God has been faithful in my life in both grand and small ways. Turning my thoughts away from anxiety, and toward God’s faithfulness always gives me peace. This is what reminds me that He has always been close and cared about both my sadness and my victories. May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)
MOVING BEYOND MONOTONY words
K YL I E H OWE L L
M ACK E N Z I E K EO UGH
You draw in a deep gulp of air and let out a slow, loud sigh. Today was brutal; another tough day in a line of hard weeks or months. You pick up your Bible, desperate for inspiration and guidance on how to make it through another day, longing for something, anything, to help you feel like you and your life have meaning and purpose. As you flip through the pages of your Bible, instead of finding the motivation you seek, tears spring to your eyes, salty water welling up from the depths of your aching spirit. You long to find comfort in the words nestled between the thin pages of God’s Word, but instead, accusations swirl inside, distracting you from His truth. You are intimately aware of your shortcomings, wounds, and insecurities. You know all too well the feeling of never being enough. The frustration feels almost unbearable. You’re desperate to live the kind of abundant life you read about in your Bible, but you’re too worn out and exhausted by an endless list of to-dos to figure out how to make it happen. Sometimes we read the stories of our spiritual ancestors in the Bible and don’t feel encouraged. In fact, sometimes as we read their stories of wild adventures and miracles we become downright desperate for a life beyond the monotony of laundry, dishes, and dentist appointments. As we read about their lives we think to ourselves, that’s amazing that Moses parted the Red Sea, but I’m stuck behind a desk all day shuffling paper from stack to stack. What on earth could I possibly do to measure up to that? Or maybe we scold ourselves as we read the Word. Joshua and the Israelites caused an entire wall to fall by simply yelling? The only yelling I seem to do these days is directed at my kids. I’m a terrible Mom. God must really regret the day he made me a mother.
Maybe the thoughts that roll through our minds aren’t so boldly taunting. Maybe the thoughts are more subtle and covertly drive a wedge between you and God. As you read the Word, all you feel is a stinging and profound discomfort in your heart; it seems your potential doesn’t come close to matching up to these spiritual giants. In those moments, all we know to do is set down our Bibles to escape the gnawing pain of feeling like we don’t measure up and will never be enough. Whatever path our thoughts take during these times, the inner dialogue goes on and on until we are left feeling discouraged and empty, not at all experiencing the peace that surpasses all understanding that Jesus has promised us (Phil. 4:7). And yet, despite the multitude of thoughts that swirl around in our minds, accusing us of never measuring up and condemning us to a life-long sentence of never being enough, we believe that there has to be something more. We cry out, wondering if the mundane is all there is. The question grows in intensity and our hearts grow restless, aching, questioning; this can’t be all there is to this life, is it? Are we really just meant to wake up, go to work, pay bills, cook dinner, work out, oversee the kids' homework, and go to sleep, only to repeat this same routine, over and over again, day after day, until there are no more days left to repeat? No. We aren’t. No. This isn’t all there is.
We are meant for so much more. And if we read the Word through a lens that causes us to see how we aren’t measuring up or how we aren’t enough, that’s exactly what we will encounter, for what you seek, you will find. If this is how we approach the Word, we’re doing a disservice to God and to our hearts, missing the entire point. The fact that we are meant for so much more than the monotony of life is exactly what the stories of our spiritual ancestors tell us. Their stories are not meant to make us feel like we aren’t enough. Instead, the tales in our Bibles reveal that there is really no such thing as the mundane at all. All we need to do is allow God to change our minds about our ourselves and our potential. The truth is, it’s not really about us and our potential at all (Gal. 2:20). Instead, it’s about the God who lives inside of us and His vast potential (Phil 4:13). This detail is the inspiration our hearts desperately seek on the hard days when we fear we aren’t enough. This reality is the motivation our soul pants for during those times when we believe that no matter what we do, we simply can’t measure up. It’s not just you who has believed you don’t measure up, by the way. Our spiritual ancestors felt it, too. Look at Moses. He didn’t think he had what it took. He wasn’t a natural speaker and didn’t have confidence in himself at all (Exodus 40:10). But he didn’t gaze solely at his shortcomings. Instead of believing (or rather, not believing) in himself, he allowed God to change his mind. Because Moses dared to believe in God’s valor instead of retreating into his own fear, he became part of something much bigger than anything he could have ever imagined in his wildest dreams.
It wasn’t Moses who parted the Red Sea - it was our mighty God who drove back the roaring waters. It wasn’t Joshua and the Israelites who caused the wall to fall - it was the Holy of Holies who worked through them and made the wall come tumbling down. Had Moses held up his staff, stretched out his hand, and commanded the waters to part without God, he would have been called crazy. If Joshua and the Israelites had marched around the Wall of Jericho without God, they would have simply been a group of people power walking to get in their daily 10,000 steps. But with God, the stories vastly changed and miracles occurred because these people of faith shifted their minds and their focus from themselves and their limitations to the immensity of God. If God had not worked through Moses and Joshua, their names wouldn't be in our Bibles; it was God who made their stories great. That same God who parted the seas and caused walls to crumble lives within you and me (Romans 8:11). His Holy Spirit guides and leads us daily. How easy it is to forget, especially in tough times, when it feels like it’s our own hearts that are crumbling down around us. So how can we begin, then, this journey of changing our minds about ourselves and our potential? First of all, we will be set free when we realize – not just with our heads, but also with our hearts - that measuring up was eradicated from the plan the instant Jesus’s grace and mercy became the theme of our life’s stories (John 16:33). Through Him, with Him, and in Him we now have everything we could ever need (2 Peter 1:3). Everything beyond him in this world – families, jobs, travel, things – they are all just a bonus. Jesus is the prize. We have already won (Eph. 1:3). And because we have already won, it changes everything about us and our potential. We're free to take risks and mess up. Because we have already won, messing up doesn’t mean we are messed up; we are still a beloved child of God (Romans 8:35-37). We are free to take risks, for even when our wildest dreams come true, we’re not any more of a sensation than we were before; we are loved in the same, extravagant way we have always been (Lam. 3:22-23). Our personal potentials have been sealed (Eph. 1:13). We’ve won. We’re His (Isa. 43:1). So yes, you may spend your days working at a job where you shuffle papers from one side of your desk to another, but guess what? God is mighty within you (Eph. 3:20). You may have moments where you yell at your children, but you have been given grace upon grace, have already been forgiven, and the Holy Spirit dwells inside you (John 1:16). You may spend an awful lot of time doing chores that never seem to end, but it’s not mundane, for the One who created the vast oceans and time itself calls you His beloved and sings over you, even while you are up to your elbows in dirty dishes (Zeph. 3:17). You are chosen. You are His. And He wants to work through you. You are His beloved and He can do all things through you (2 Cor. 12:9). He can do it - you can't - but He can. Through prayer, release the old way of thinking, of limiting yourself by focusing on what you think you can’t do. Instead, focus on all that He has done and can still do today through those who are willing to see their potential not through the broken, cracked, and marred lens of the world, but through the radiant lens of Christ. What can you do to possibly measure up to the lives of Moses and Joshua? Absolutely nothing. What could the endless and all-knowing God who dwells inside of you to do measure up to the stories of Moses and Joshua? Anything and everything. And discovering what that anything and everything could be is what life is all about. YOUR BEST IS YET TO COME.
W H E N YO U PA S S through T H E WATE RS
S A M A N T H A D E N IS E H A R D C AST L E
I M A N I CH E T LY T L E
Two years ago, I moved to Southern California to pursue my
and the sea and breathed it all in. Though it was overcast, I
literary career. I moved for an awakening I knew I couldn’t
extolled my God for the exact moment that I was in—purely
find being where I was. But, if someone were to unravel me, I
being—and I prayed that He would meet me there.
would have been completely undone. The only thing holding me together was the anticipation of a new life; I felt undeserving
Instead of pitying myself, I began to feel empowered and
of grace and my worthiness was immersing quickly. I reasoned
adored. I could hear His whisper against the wind, Why, even
moving halfway across North America would avow me to
the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of
find my value again. Instead, I found myself with a horrid
more value than many sparrows. As I looked at the waves, I felt
compulsion of gathering worth from temporal, often fleeting
my worthiness in Christ flooding back into me. I felt like I lived
things, relationships being my central haven—and in no way,
more in that year and half than I could have in ten years had
were they safe havens. Though I flew to California with alacrity,
I not moved. I prayed out at the sea, and I was grateful to God
the change I desired never did come.
that I chose to pass through the waters—that I chose to brave my storms. Easter Sunday fell on that weekend, and I ended
I didn’t find what I hoped for: a stable career, a lasting
up finding what would become my home church for the next
relationship, a home church. Literally, my first night in my
five months until I moved. It was a small, non-denominational
apartment, everything trembled as I experienced my first
church with stained glass windows.
California earthquake. I had no idea it would be foreshadowing my stay there. I dated someone where I felt spiritually pressured
I praised God for both the pure and frailer times: the instances
to be more, worked part-time at a café, floundered through half
of laughter with my co-workers while we spit out Durian
of my English graduate degree, and went through evanescent
macaroons at the same time, the moments I prayed for strangers
relationships. Despair was engulfing me; I wrestled with my
while strangers prayed for me, the times I lost my breath seeing
identity and could feel her slipping away. When my troubling
an original Jackson Pollock at The Getty. I praised Him for
nights came, I was breathless by morning.
the days I wandered the coasts from Marina Del Ray down to San Diego, seeing wild dolphins leaping and whales breathing,
QUITE SIMPLY, I WAS DROWNING IN MY OWN WATERS; I HAD
often with wonderful people beside me. I became braver by
DARK THOUGHTS AND WAS POWERLESS FROM STOPPING THEM.
being bold in the moments I felt like cowering and stronger in
I remember crying out, clutching my sheets, and praying
the seasons relationships depraved me; the devil could not stop
struggled prayers. God, please pull me out—save me. In March
me. I did things I wouldn’t have normally done, like a poetry
of 2015, for two straight weeks, fevers ran through my body and
reading, hiking for 4.5 hours in Malibu, and allowing my walls
I was feeling unusually weak while working at the café. Until
to fall down.
one Saturday, I noticed my legs were full of minuscule red dots; I ended up being taken to the ER by nightfall. I was hospitalized
That day, I walked away from the shores of Southern California
for three days for a blood disorder due to a medication I was
knowing it would probably be my last time to go alone. In late
taking. It took three days in isolation for me to understand what
August, I moved back to Texas. Change did come, but not in the
God was doing in me; He was trying to rescue me, to resurrect
way I expected.
my life from the depths of despair. He was answering my broken cry. I fully believe He used that time to beckon me to come back
I want to say this: our worth is simply not measurable. It’s not
to Him, to allow Him to be my safe haven, my shelter during
found in a single day or even created by a drastic change in
our lives. It's not supposed to look alluring and successful and so freakishly put-together. It’s rather quite the opposite. It’s the
“I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm.”
times we fought breathlessly for our lives, when we forgave and
showed grace, when we cried out for God to save us, the days we danced and fell and stumbled and walked on, the moments we
After I was released from the hospital, I drove to Newport Beach
gave a helping hand, shared a smile, a prayer, and anointed our
to reflect. I walked to the shoreline and saw there was a regatta
apartments with olive oil from Trader Joe's. OUR WORTH IS THE
going on, which somehow calmed me. I studied the sailboats
VERY BREATH OF GOD. IT RESTS IN GOD.
We are worthy, not only because we are fearfully and wonderfully made, but because God's history, His present, and His future have proved nothing other than to tell us just how chosen and cherished we actually are. His redemptive, yet justifiable nature has been revealed. He has been a fighter for us since the beginning of time, when He showed compassion to Noah—how much more could we ask for in seeing just how consecrated we are to God? “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” -Exodus 14:14 Find yourself again, dear woman. If you find yourself listening to the quiet, in the stillness, He is speaking to you. He is fighting for you. Trust that He holds your victory in His right hand and holds the waters from engulfing you with His left. “'Do you not fear Me?' declares the LORD 'Do you not tremble in My presence? For I have placed the sand as a boundary for the sea, an eternal decree, so it cannot cross over it. Though the waves toss, yet they cannot prevail; though they roar, yet they cannot cross over it.’” -Jeremiah 5:22 Together—we can conquer what it means to be worthy. We’re battling our demons through the strength of each other’s hands. If I could, I would take you by the face and say—it's time to take your life back, too. You don't belong in the hands of darkness, because deep down amid our bouts of frailty and fear—we’re fighters. “And the Egyptians said, “Let’s get away from the Israelites! The Lord is fighting for them against Egypt.” -Exodus 14:25 That’s how God fights for you and how the enemy will speak about you. The God who parted the Red Sea for Moses and had Jonah swallowed by a massive whale, is the same God fighting for you. Don’t believe in the lies that you must be more to be worthy—you are enough. You simply won’t find full satisfaction in anything worldly, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be, because you were made for something holier. Your longing is a holy one. So, when the wild, raging storms come, don’t be afraid to pass through the waters, because there is another side. You’ll see it peeking through the hurried winds of life; there is a light that reaches through the tossing sea and the vastness of your story, and it whispers to you gently: You’re here, now. You’re safe now. SO, KEEP PASSING THROUGH, BRAVE ONE, AND KEEP YOUR GAZE ON THE LIGHT THAT BECKONS YOU HOME.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze (Isaiah 43:2).
TA R A S A N D E R S
DAWN V I C TO R I A P H OTO GR A P H Y
I love the song “Oceans” by Hillsong United. After hearing it for the first time, it quickly became one of my favorite songs to lead in worship on a Sunday morning. For me, it is one of those songs that just says it all: “Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me, You’ve never failed and You won’t start now.” At times, I can barely get the words out, but that’s because they are so relevant to my life. Like so many women, I can relate to the fear of stepping out in faith and choosing to do something despite being afraid to fail. There is a certain degree of shame attached to failure that causes people like me to live in mortal fear of defeat. BUT WHAT IF FREEDOM COULD BE FOUND IN FAILURE? What if a new direction could be discovered after plans fail? What if experiencing failure meant seeing God move in greater ways? I don’t know if we can truly answer these questions because we normally don’t give ourselves enough room to fail. In my life, I’ve tried to avoid failure and the exposure of my greatest weaknesses, but God in His all-sufficient grace has lovingly allowed me to face my fears and failures to make me braver and stronger. My life tends to be ridden with guilt, too. When the dishes are piled high, I’ve failed. When the laundry isn’t done, I’ve failed. When lunches don’t get packed and bills don’t get paid on time, I’ve failed. When I throw something and break it in anger, I’ve failed. When I get angry at my spouse, the accusations fly, patience is tossed out the window, and I fail be the wife God is calling me to be. PEOPLE RARELY TEND TO CONFESS MAJOR WEAKNESSES OR FAILURE IN THEIR LIFE, SO LET ME BREAK THE ICE BY CONFESSING MINE. In doing so, I hope it might create a safe space for you to open up to your
fellow sisters in Christ, and start to address the weaknesses that keep you from stepping out of the boat and walking closer to Jesus. FAILURE HAS CAUSED MY FAITH TO GROW IMMENSELY, AND I HAVE SEEN GOD’S POWER IN WAYS I COULD NEVER IMAGINE. God’s plan for my life far outweighs anything I could conceive in my own mind, and His
solutions come about in situations I never dreamed could occur.
True confession: I have not been laid off once from a job.
that the next three years of my life would shape me and
No not once, but three times… three times in two years!
build skills and wisdom into my life that would allow me to
Then, I owned a wedding consulting business that I let
take even larger leaps of faith in the future.
go of because it was eating away at my free time and
So, what makes us so fearful? How do we get so paralyzed
consequently my marriage. I have started three blogs, and
by failure? Why do we hide it away?
only one remains successful. I went on to the mission field to devote my life to the work only to come home when my
I think the answer is a simple one. We define our worth by
plans did not take flight.
our success. If we do well and succeed, then we are worthy of reward.
Now, I could take this laundry list of failures and never try to do anything ever again, but they haven’t left me
The message of the gospel is totally the opposite of the lie
paralyzed. They have made me fight harder for the things
that success defines our worth. While we were yet sinners,
I know God wants me to do. I’ve become stronger. I have
drenched in our sin and failures, Christ died for us. This
a tougher skin. I am not afraid of the things that I used to
ultimate sacrifice was made for us in spite of our failures,
be so fearful of. I could hide these failures away, nurse my
not because we were pretty, perfectly packaged, and
wounds, and become introspective, but then all the beauty
successful. Grace came, not when we were at our best, but
of the successes and fulfilled plans in my life would never
when we were at our weakest.
be seen or experienced. One of the most poignant lines in “Oceans” is, “When oceans After being laid off for the third time, I finally realized
rise my soul will rest in Your embrace.” I think an amazing part
that God was not calling me to plow through the fields of
of this journey is simply experiencing peace with God,
career success and climb to the top. I had completed my
resting in Him and seeing His faithfulness.
undergrad in communication and planned to be a news anchor at a major television station. I had the connections
At my core, I was defined by the success of a career, and
to do so and the chops to make it, but after sending out
when that identity was pulled away, it left me wondering
over a hundred newsreels with no response, I started to
what was left of me. However, when we are complete in
seriously reconsider my career goals.
Christ and find our identity in Him as His daughters, we are never left alone or wanting. We are forgiven and filled
All of this failure led me to take the one risk I said I would
up with His spirit. Fear and failure are overwhelmed by
never take: going to seminary. The thought of ministry
His love and faithfulness, and all that remain are grace,
scared me because I thought that maybe as a result I
forgiveness, and rest.
wouldn’t get married, or God would ship me off to some remote tribe, or I’d be perpetually poor and never make
The song goes on to say, “Spirit lead me where my trust is
any money. God used failure to break me of my silly fears.
without borders… take me deeper than my feet could ever wander.”
I finally chose to obey and took the leap. Little did I know
And I want to go deeper. I do!
Each year, when I start my new journal, I pick a theme verse for that year. This year’s verse was so easy to pick because it speaks right into my fear and gives me hope. I chose 2 Corinthians 12:9: “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” We get so caught up in the shame and guilt. Perhaps the plans you have made are really good, well-intentioned plans. Failure does not always equate to sin and wrong-doing. Sometimes, what we see as failure is just simply God closing a door. It could even be a reminder that this life is not all about us, and that we can’t do everything on our own. Oh, how the enemy loves to feed on our shame. We hide. We don’t take the risk. We work hard to shield ourselves, but we can’t. When I get to the breaking point and all the plates I’m spinning hit the floor, I am reminded again and again that I don’t have the strength to do it all on my own. I just don’t. I take comfort in God’s Word, especially passages like Psalm 103:13-14: “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.”
God knows we are only human. He is fully aware of what we lack, but in our weaknesses His “power is made perfect.” To me, this means the STRENGTH AND POWER THE LORD GIVES US IS NOT ONLY PERFECT FOR THE CIRCUMSTANCE WE’RE IN, IT ALSO CAUSES OUR SUCCESSES TO POINT TO HIM.
In 2009, God gave me a job at a wonderful company that I have been with for the past six years. I have successfully run a blog for the past two years. I am leading worship at my church and ministering to the marginalized through a local non-profit. This past year, I launched a thriving podcast ministry with a dear friend. I feel I am truly in a place of complete, surrendered obedience and in the center of God’s Will. I don’t think I would be in this place if all of those other plans had not failed. God used the tears and disappointment to take me to places and opportunities I had never thought possible. He showed me real success lies in knowing that I am enough in His eyes. Today, you may be facing some heavy waves, and you are struggling to hold onto even a little crumb of faith. It’s tough to step out when you don’t know what will happen, and it’s difficult to have the boldness to walk into a storm. But know this friend, I am a living, breathing example of God’s faithfulness and kindness, and I WOULDN’T CHANGE MY STORY FOR ANYTHING.
in the tension
TA R A AS H TO N
My face was buried in my hands, and crinkled Kleenex formed a mountain before me. She screamed in the room a few steps away, swaddled and exhausted, and as red-faced as I’ve ever seen her. As mascara continued to streak my face, I recalled how I had harshly scolded my daughter in the car, how little empathy and compassion I had given her 3-month-old heart on that drive home from the Bible Study I left early, exposed and humiliated as a new mom in front of all those seasoned women. I was so angry. At her. At myself. My blood was boiling, and yet at the same time, shame raced through my veins; all I could tell myself was that I failed. “You’re a bad mom,” I repeated to myself again and again until the self-flagellation took its proper effect. I felt it in that moment—THE TENSION BETWEEN WHERE I WAS AND WHERE I COULD GO. My mess had been exposed, to the women at the Bible Study, to my sweet daughter, to myself, to God, and to who-knows who else that had seen this mama huffing and puffing to the car with her screaming child in the carrier. I knew I had been seen. And in that moment, I had a choice to either collapse into worship and repentance to my Father or to run away with my tail between my legs, overwhelmed by my shame.
This is the tension. I feel it every time my failure to live up to what I know is abundant life is exposed. I feel it in the smallest, nearly self-justifiable moments of sin, and especially in those big, flashy messes that are sometimes so dark they stay hidden from the common eye. You know what I’m talking about. And in these moments, I often choose shame over forgiveness, discord over harmony. I choose to remain in my old self and reject my new identity as a daughter of God. I tell myself there can’t be unity and peace with the Father in such a moment. There can’t be a table to feast with the Spirit in those moments of brokenness, can there? There can’t truly be a room for worship amidst such a mess. Truly not this time. I choose to believe these lies, time and time again. Christ is in this tension with us, regardless of whether we accept it. He is there, ready and waiting for us to look up and lock eyes with Him. And when we do, our hearts change. Our intimacy with Him deepens as we see and trust in the heart He has for us. To quote one of my favorite authors, Brennan Manning, from his book The Signature of Jesus, “Through an intimate, heartfelt knowledge of Jesus Christ we learn to forgive ourselves. To the extent that we allow His kindness, patience, and trust toward us to win us over, we’ll be freed from that dislike of ourselves that follows us everywhere… [we must] side with his all-accepting love for us” (p.163).
But when we fail to lock our eyes in His gaze, we only see what’s in front of us: our dirty hands and the mud we’ve tracked into our seemingly tidy lives. It’s enough to cause a dive headfirst into shame, which turns us inward to ourselves and becomes a sword in the hands of self-hatred. This is so far from our Father’s heart for us. He desires that we see ourselves through His eyes. In John 3:18, Jesus says, “None of those who trust in Him shall be condemned.” Condemnation is not for God’s children, and shame truly is the song of condemnation. We must trust in His smile over us. PEACE AND HARMONY WITH HIM IS NEVER AT RISK IN THE FACE OF OUR FAILURES; WORSHIP ALWAYS BECKONS, NO MATTER HOW MESSY OUR CIRCUMSTANCES. Romans 8 reads, “Therefore since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul reminds us that our justification is not in our efforts to live perfectly, nor is it in punishing ourselves in the ways we believe we deserve. No, our justification is in Christ and Christ alone. There is no conditional statement in this verse, but Paul affirms that once we have trusted in Jesus as Lord, we have already been justified, and we have peace with God. This beautiful truth reveals that when faced with the tension between our brokenness and our response, our sin and shame, we simply need to LEAN INTO THE REALITY THAT WE ARE LOVED. We need only to raise our hands and worship. The walk of shame brings no lasting, heart-softening change; it reveals nothing of the Father’s heart. It only causes us to hide. But this peace we’re given through Christ leads us to hope, as seen continued in chapter 5 of Romans where Paul states, “...and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” I often have to ask myself why it is so much easier, or perhaps even seems more natural, to run to shame instead of belief in the Father’s grace and love. It seems so counter-intuitive to reject something good and embrace something so negative. I know deep down that shame is toxic to my soul, yet why am I so allured by it? I believe the answer lies deeply in control. In his book Shame Interrupted, Edward T. Welch says that “If we blame ourselves...in a strange way it helps us feel as if we have more control. If we are responsible for whatever went wrong, for whatever hurt us, we might be able to figure out how to keep it from happening again.” I think he’s onto something here. When we run to shame, we’re ultimately trying to monitor our own justice system. Surrendering to the unconditional love of God seems like a cop-out; shame feels deserved and right. Punishment feels just. But Welch furthers his point beautifully saying, “Jesus freely placed your interest above his own. His desire was to elevate your status; in the process he lowered his own. He gave you the royal treatment: he works, you benefit. And you must accept this treatment.” We don’t stand before the King; the King stands before us on our behalf. This is counter-cultural and radically illogical for many, and yet this is a Kingdom-reality. This is the language of heaven.
Romans 5:20 states, “Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” I have found great comfort in this verse because it reminds us that when our sin and shame increase, grace increases with it. No matter how deep our knees go into the muck of our own mess, we can receive comfort that He has completely buried us in grace. His grace always supersedes our sin; it is never too overwhelming or too much of a burden for this gift of grace to cover sufficiently. We can’t outrun it. It’s hard to believe when we are confronted with just how broken we are, but it’s only then we can see how radical His love is. He is faithful to us because of His love, not because of our worthiness! What a gift to be fully known and fully accepted! We can truly join with Paul as he states in Romans 8:15 that “You did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs - heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” Paul reiterates our identity here; we are God’s children, and His heart for us is always love, always abundant life. There are times He asks us to change our behavior, just as we do with our earthly children and as I do with my daughter, but this never eradicates His love for us; and we can come to Him in full assurance of grace. Freedom from ourselves, from our brokenness, comes not from ourselves, but from Him. He is the lover of our souls, and the One who makes all things new. He has made us children; He has made us beautiful. Faith that He has done this work in us is what frees us to worship in the space between the tension of our brokenness and our response. When we embrace our identity as children of God, we cast off shame and all the voices that go with it. Freedom comes when we worship—when we collapse into the truth that we are loved, no matter what we do or what we have done. As musician Josh Garrels wrote from the Father’s perspective in his song “At the Table,” “Son, there ain’t nothing you can do, but listen close and follow me; I’ll take you where you’re meant to be, just don’t lose faith.” There’s nothing we can do to soil the Father’s love and care for us - this is the profoundly gorgeous reality that we live in. We can actually respond in worship when we fail, knowing He has covered us. Worship is not stored away until the moments we are most presentable, but every moment, no matter how messy or how clean, is an invitation to worship the One who has loved us! Just take that in. I look back on that mama - defeated, shaken, tear-streaked - and I shift my perspective to that of the Father’s. I see grace. I see warmth. I see love, and I see the Father’s smile shining over the mess I had created, the mess that I was. And as I move forward in motherhood, and in all of life, I find myself staring straight into the eyes of a new identity - one that is known, one that is loved, and one that has every reason in the world to truly worship.
My Worship words
M E L IS S A LO P E Z
THE WHISTLING OF THE WIND AGAINST MY FACE, THE STEADY RHYTHM OF MY FEET STRIKING THE SIDEWALK, AND THE QUICK, YET CONTROLLED SOUND OF MY BREATH AS I PROPEL MY BODY FORWARD IS THE KIND OF MUSIC I WORSHIP TO.
The feeling I experience as I lace up my sneakers, give my legs and quick stretch, and brave the streets, building my slow walk into a steady jog, is what makes me most feel like I am giving glory to God. It's a feeling I can't quite explain because it's so immeasurably larger than me, but when I run, I exalt God. By being outdoors, running, and worshiping the Lord with my body, I feel that God is pleased. Running is my worship. Many years ago, when I was a new believer, I didn't understand that EVERYTHING WE DO CAN—AND SHOULD— BE AN ACT OF WORSHIP. I naively thought that what is typically defined as worship in the church, i.e. singing,
clapping, playing instruments, and giving praise to God via music and loud voices, was the only way to praise and worship Him. While I stood among a sea of beautiful voices, and watched as nimble fingers jumped across the keyboard and skilled hands artfully held the bow of a violin on stage, I tried my best to stay in tune and clap in somewhat of a rhythm with everyone else around me. I love being immersed in collective musical worship; my heart is always with Jesus during this time, and I know He forgives me for being a little tonedeaf, but I’m now clearly confident that musical talent simply is not my spiritual gift. God has made us all completely unique; I am special for the abilities He as given me, as well as the beautiful passions He plants in my soul. However, music is not one of those things. I know that I’m truly worshiping Him and using the special gifts God has given me when I’m on an outdoor running trail, immersed in everything He’s created. From the skies above me, to the earth below my feet, to the muscles that compose my body and the blood that runs through it, God is alive next to me and within me when I’m running. Showing gratitude for this amazing gift that God has given me—a healthy body that breathes in and out, and can take me great distances—is when I feel closest to God and most cognizant of all His immeasurable power and love. It’s a reminder that I’m not in as much control as I too often sinfully want to be. When I run, I let go and give myself up to God to gracefully transport me across the landscape. God designed us to worship Him always, and to restrict this to worship through music only is limiting and just a tiny portion of what He wants from us. When we use the gifts that God has given us, this is an act of worship. Some of us paint, some of us sing, some of us teach, and some of us—like myself—run. Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God. You do not belong to yourself for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body. - 1 Corinthians 6:19 Every time I think about the human body, I am beyond amazed. Of course, this is only something that God could create. Even the simplest movements that we take for granted, like the ability to lift a knee, or push against the pavement with the bottom of a foot, is GOD’S PERFECT WORK.
Now by all means, I’m not a perfect runner. In fact,
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful
I’m not even all that fast. But MY BODY IS THE LORD’S
are your works; my soul knows it very well. -Psalm 139:14
MASTERPIECE, and I feel Him smile every time I lace
up my sneakers and set off on another jog and spend
I am blessed to have legs that can carry me across miles
more alone time with Him. I know that every step I take,
of landscape. I am blessed to have lungs that heave
whether it’s fast and spunky, or slow and relaxed, is a
in and out without having to think about it. Running
way of glorifying God and thanking Him for my spiritual
reminds me that I’m not invincible. During this time I
gifts, abilities, and blessings.
feel gratitude and give thanks. I’m with God, and we have our longest, most honest, and emotional moments
When I run, I feel the grandiose of God meeting the
together. There are times of tears, times of smiles, and
smallness of who I am. I’m reminded that God is huge,
moments of stopping mid-run in the middle of nowhere
and I am a tiny part of this unfathomable world He’s
to simply look up and bask in His presence all around
created. By worshiping outdoors, I get to inhale His
me. It’s a feeling unlike any other.
fresh air, feel the sensations of the earth press against my face, stare into the vivid orange huge of a sunset, and be
The sound of my foot hitting the pavement and the
reminded that as His creation, it's my role to live a fully
beating of my heart are my worship music, my steady
beat that I move along with on my journey with the Lord.
I tremble at the ocean in front of me, am thrilled by the mountains behind me, and move along as a speck in
I THANK GOD FOR THE ABILITY TO SIMPLY MOVE. I’m
this universe. This awe and admiration is a heightened
grateful to God for my health, for a work and life
awareness and reawakening of His majesty and power.
schedule that allows me the free time to spend time with
My sinful desire to control and disobey God disappears
Him outdoors. I praise Him for the financial stability
with every breath and each bead of sweat that falls from
to buy the running shoes that protect my feet. I’m so
my face. I surrender when I’m running; I let God take
thankful for the ability to live in, travel to, and run
over and control the ride. It’s the most liberating part of
through awe-inspiring places.
my day, it has strengthened my faith, and it has brought But in those other moments when the run is tough—and
me closer to God than ever before.
when life feels especially challenging—I move with a I USED TO TAKE MY BODY FOR GRANTED, BUT NOW,
sense of peace, knowing that God is in control. Christ is
RUNNING AS WORSHIP HAS ALSO MADE ME MORE
enough for me, and I am reminded to always rejoice in
AMAZED THAN EVER BEFORE AT WHAT MY BODY IS
Him and trust God in hardships small and large.
CAPABLE OF BECAUSE OF GOD. It’s powerful, it’s delicate,
and it’s totally unique. Because of running, I think about
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. -
how the space of my body occupies God’s canvas, as
well as how He lovingly crafted me like a clay pot. I’ve learned to embrace myself as a woman since becoming a runner, and I feel more open than ever to God’s love.
Coming from someone who, two years ago, seriously thought she couldn’t jog a single mile, to someone who thrives on a daily jog, finishing each run couldn’t be done without God moving with and within me. Pushing myself on a run, whether that’s up a mountain or just to go one more mile because I’m mid-prayer, is an awesome thing that I know God is taking control of. I’ve stopped telling myself that I can’t, and I now trust that He can. He provides strength in so many ways, and I am thankful to be able to revel in that through running. Learning how to endure the pain of a long run has also taught me so much more about perseverance than anything else I’ve ever done in my life, or any church sermon I’ve listened to. I ask God for help when I’m tired, and I talk to God about everything else going on in my life when I feel lost. It’s as if God speaks to me through the things I notice on my early morning jogs, or the sounds of the rustling trees during particularly windy evenings. I see guidance in the lakes I run by, and I feel a sense of solace when I finish a run knowing that I’ll never know as much as our great God. My overwhelming thought as I slow down from a run into a light jog and eventual walk is, “God is good." I praise God through running and encourage anyone else to explore your own unique style of worship. Whether it's through playing guitar, climbing mountains, cooking for others, or running the streets, find it and make God happy by practicing that style of worship. It’s humbling, it’s a time for prayer and praise, and I thank God every day for the ability to run with Him and bring glory to His name with each strike against the pavement.
all for good
CH R IST I N A H U B BA R D
JULIA MADDEN SEARS
"“I JUST WANT YOU TO USE ME.”"
That’s what I’ve said to God for years. I deeply desire to utilize my unique gifts and personality to influence the world in a lasting way. My most satisfying endeavors have been when I’ve worked wholeheartedly with clarity and mission: serving in a food pantry, sharing education and resources with impoverished South Africans, writing for a non-profit, and homeschooling my children. Some assignments were brief, others stretched into years. Each experience affirmed the dreams and skills God was shaping into my life. But I haven’t always been able to see exactly what He wants me to do or identify the next step I need to take. Many of my adult years have felt like being marooned on a desert island called aimlessness.
When we have a plethora of interests, it can be hard to stick with one dream. The constant struggle to find exactly what it is that we love to do causes us to question our identity. Obstacles creep in: self-doubt, fear, shame, comparison, and guilt. So we spend our days second-guessing every opportunity because we want the situation to fit our interests and giftings perfectly. Our desire for fulfillment becomes the ultimate goal instead of living a life of service. We hesitate to make a decision and follow it into the unknown. How do we know what God is telling us and where He wants us? The most ready of missional women have been immobilized by this all-consuming quest to uncover their unique purpose.
a dark season of soul work
It’s winter. I’m weeping in a Wednesday night church service. I feel like a tightly wound cord is binding my chest and my soul. In the dim corner of the sanctuary, I cry out to God, “I want to do it all. I want to homeschool my children and be a writer. I want to change the world for You.” If I’m truthful, I picture myself as another Ann Voskamp or Pioneer Woman. The reality I know in my head is this: no woman does it all. We must all give up good things for God’s greater vision. In my desperation, I can only see exactly what I want, how I think my life should work out, and how much I am hurting. Chronic pain and anxiety are choking the joy from my life in this season. I’m not writing at all and I do spelling and math lessons from the couch as I sit on a heating pad. I barely make it through the day without curling up in a ball or crying myself to sleep. I ask God why I can’t break free from this ball of bound up, beautiful dreams. He placed them in my heart. Why won’t He help me grow them? At the end of the church service, I walk to the front for prayer. A woman presses her ear close enough to hear the lament spilling from my lips. She prays with me tenderly. Then she looks into my eyes and says, “You will write again.” I feel the cords wrapped tightly around my heart loosen, but I don’t believe her.
the readying I think about my friends whom God has used in powerful ways, who have followed His leading into unknown waters, ready or not. Their lives have not been free from difficulty or pain. In fact, hardship has been a marker of their journey to allow God to use them more profoundly. It’s in the stuck places where God has readied them for the journey. Amazing growth happens in the fight, the seeking, and the surrendering. When God places us in a hard season, it’s always for a reason. We can’t figure out our life as quickly as we want sometimes. As we try to follow God more closely, our lives may still feel like they are falling apart. When we want to be used by God, to hear His voice so clearly, we must press into that. We must get low enough, quiet enough, still enough to hear His voice. “Who gives intuition to the heart and instinct to the mind?” - Job 38:36 (NLT) We have a spirit sense given to us by a great God. I was so angry and embittered I could barely hear Him anymore. After that night at church, it took several more months of seeking God’s guidance, a trip out of the country, and the counsel of many friends to come to a place where I could finally move forward.
the useable life So how does God use us when we’re stuck in times of searching and waiting? Two characteristics permeate a life made fully useable to God. We must align ourselves with God so we can be aware of His nudges, and we have to move deliberately into the tension of God’s calling. Despite how we feel, we must rely on this knowledge: God has our best interest at heart. Even when we fear for the future, we choose to trust God anyway. From this faith and assurance, we can act: even when it’s uncomfortable, scary, or downright crazy. WE MUST EQUIP OUR HEARTS WITH THE CHARACTER OF GOD.
13 â€œIf only you would prepare your heart and lift up your hands to
16 You will forget your misery; it will be like water flowing away.
him in prayer! Ever so slowly, we will see the way lit by the hand we cannot Our lives will never be perfect, but we can be honest before
God. We can make plans through vulnerable prayer. 17 Your life will be brighter than the noonday. Even darkness will be 14 Get rid of your sins, and leave all iniquity behind you.
as bright as morning.
We confess our mistakes so we can experience His presence
The unknown places will be made known, our bleak hearts
and blessing. By giving our hurts and concerns to God, we
will be colored with promise and light.
can move forward into forgiveness. We will be dauntless. 18 Having hope will give you courage. You will be protected and will 15 Then your face will brighten with innocence. You will be strong and
rest in safety.
free of fear.
We will choose to dwell in the land of the living, where God Himself lives.
We must come to God alone in the midst of increasing 19 You will lie down unafraid, and many will look to you for help.
adversity. His Spirit emboldens and impassions us. We will find that the fight to make God top priority is always worth
-Job 11:13-19 (NLT)
it. He promises to relieve us of our burden and grant us complete freedom.
My prayer is that we are teachable, aligned with the Most
Christ because He is making us malleable and stronger. WE
High, who knows exactly who we are made to be. He holds
MUST DEPEND ON HIM FOR EVERY BREATH AND EVERY MOVE.
our personality, interests, and experience securely, like a
The more we trust and move into the fray, the less we fear
spool of thread He wants to unwind, one day at a time. We
and the unsticking begins.
are not meant to see where it will lead or the entire tapestry of our lives He is weaving. That knowledge would take the
Press into the tension and the risk. It’s okay to be afraid.
mystery and beauty out of the story.
Trust and move into the places you can’t see. He has us so close to His heart. He knows we want to be used and to do
Finding what we love to do and lining that up with God’s
good with this one life. So He takes us and draws us close to
work can take a lifetime. This is what I see from the
Him and says, “Yes, my love, let’s rest a moment right here
women around me. God can use us anywhere, whatever we
together so you can hear my heart. Find my pace and trust
choose to do. After months of feeling stuck, I have found a
me wholeheartedly. Then we will start the work.”
precarious balance of work and life. It’s not what I thought it would look like. I gave up a beautiful lifestyle to try a new
BEING USED BY GOD IS AS SIMPLE OR AS COMPLICATED AS
one. The choice was hard. The new difficulties keep me face
WE WANT TO MAKE IT. We can wait a lifetime waiting for the
down in dependence on my Savior. It feels messy most days.
perfect mixture of passion and opportunity, or we can just move. It really doesn’t matter what we do for God as long
But I am now less afraid of stuck spaces and dark places.
as we do something. May God give us strength for today; a
This is the fertile ground where God plants the seeds of
sense of His presence to propel us into the future, unafraid.
dreams and ignites the fires of passion. OUR DESPERATION
Listen to the Spirit’s voice. You may not realize it yet, but He
BRINGS US TO GOD’S FEET COMPLETELY NEEDY AND MAKES
knows you are completely ready to be used in unimaginable
US HONEST WOMEN. Here, we can experience the work of
holding all the elephants words
R I CH E L L E B E RGE N
Just before my daughter turned five, our family went to South
control, each situation of our lives. We were created in God
Africa for a much-needed vacation from our diplomatic
the King’s image, and the Bible says we will reign with Him (2
posting in Saudi Arabia. She especially enjoyed the safari and
Tim 2:12) and calls us kings (Rev 1:6). This God-given instinct
sharing all she knew about animals from watching shows like
to rule was corrupted by sin, and unredeemed it becomes the
Octonauts and Wild Kratts with the safari guides. I’m sure
constant struggle for control, which makes the small t trust so
they learned a lot from her. I know I did.
For instance, when we visited the elephants, she wanted
What does it look like for us when we lose what perceived
to go pet them. The guide said she couldn’t because they
control we have over the “each” situations in our lives? For me
were too big and heavy and might hurt her. She told him,
and many others it looks like fear and anger.
"WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW IS, THAT I’M THE STRONGEST, MOST POWERFULEST ONE IN THE WORLD, AND I CAN HOLD ALL 100
I learned this while walking through a devastating situation
ELEPHANTS IN THE WORLD!"” Even so, the guide said, she had
several years ago. Someone very close to me had made a
to stay in the vehicle because that was the rule.
marriage-ending decision and a family I loved was about to crumble. I jumped in with my super-hero cape to save the
For once, she obeyed. Someone who can hold all 100
day only to realize that my perception of our relationship
elephants in the world can certainly sit carefully in a jeep. She
was very different from my friend’s perspective. I thought my
had a certain belief about herself, but she trusted the one with
friend valued my advice, but on this matter what I said was
the greater authority and relinquished control. She doesn’t
acknowledged, and promptly rejected.
usually submit that easily, so I took the lesson on trust to heart. I found myself stewing in a boiling pot of anger as the Dictionary.com defines the noun “trust” as “reliance on and
situation worsened, though I couldn’t identify what was wrong
confidence in the truth, worth, reliability, etc, of a person or thing.” I like
at the time. Minor things around me set me off and I was
this idea of confidence in truth as essential to trust. It reminds
deeply unhappy even though everything in my life was fine.
me of when Jesus said that knowing the Truth will set us free
I usually present a positive countenance to the world, so I
(John 8:32). He was talking about truth found by abiding in
stuffed my anger down and wondered why I hated life. While
His words (v31). So we have a connection between knowing
listening to a sermon about anger, I recognized anger as my
truth, trust and freedom. Looks good on paper, right? It’s not
ailment and sought help from our church’s healing prayer
so easy in real life.
I’ve been following Jesus since I was five, which was, eh hem,
As they prayed over me, the Holy Spirit showed me my anger
several years ago now, and I still struggle to fully trust Him.
was coming from a deep loss of the control I thought I had
If most of us who call ourselves Christians were asked if we
over my friend. In His gentle loving-kindness, He showed me
trust God, we would say, “Yes, of course.” If asked whether we
other relationships suffering because my belief about myself
struggle with control issues, fear and anger, we’d probably also
did not align with the truth. From my perspective, I was one
have to answer “Yes.” How can these both be true?
thing (a super hero, a mentor, a leader) in the relationship and from their perspective I was just another optional voice so an
There’s a big T: “Trust” that functions like an umbrella, where
unwinnable struggle for control ensued.
we can more easily say we Trust God in every part of our lives. There’s also a small t: “trust,” which is the application of
I also feared the fallout of divorce for my friend’s children if
Trust in each individual situation of our lives. This is the hard
their marriage wasn’t healed. These are kids almost as dear
to me as mine, but I was reacting as if they were mine. My parents divorced when I was young, so I projected my family’s
The natural thing for us to do is to control, or attempt to
experience onto theirs.
God let me hear my fervent prayers fueled by this anger and fear, “You better change this person’s heart to listen to You (me) about their marriage or else their (my) kids will suffer awful things you are probably also not capable of managing.” Ouch! I big T Trusted Him enough to pray, but didn’t little t trust Him to pray His will in this “each” situation. My trust was full on in myself. Anger slow-burned in me because I could not control these people or the outcome of their decisions. I believed I could hold all the elephants and was getting crushed by a weight I was not meant to bear. I mentally walked this situation to its worst conclusion--according to me. My loved ones would end up divorced, and their children would live through the trauma and pain that comes from a “broken home.” They would question God’s love for them and even harden their hearts to Him like some of my family members did. This story would not have the “perfect for testimonies” happy ending I wanted. I stood at that dismal point with the Holy Spirit and He asked me, “Can’t I redeem this, Anna? Can’t I still heal and bring hearts to life, even at this point? Does death have the final say?” “YES, LORD, YOU ARE ABLE.”
It takes the power of the Holy Spirit to trust God in circumstances where everything visible is shouting that He is not able. Even Jesus, God in flesh, needed this help. On the night He was arrested, Jesus prayed the words we know so well, “Oh my Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39). In Luke’s account of the story, an angel came and strengthened Him after He prayed this, and He continued to pray more earnestly (Luke 22:44). The work to translate big T into little t trust is not one we can do alone. Here in the garden, Jesus showed us how to trust in the face of death, or Worst Case Scenario. First-- “Oh my Father,” -- He identified Who He was placing His trust in—His Father God. In glorifying God’s Fatherhood, He claims sonship. Romans 8:14-17 beautifully shows us how knowing our identity as children of God and joint heirs with Christ frees us from fear, but notably, not suffering: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.”
Second-- “If it is possible, let this cup pass,”-- He made His request. He was in a position of need and He acknowledged it. He was honest and direct; there was no time for ceremony. We can be sure God hears our cries of desperation, even if, as is the case here, He does not let the “cup” pass. Finally, Jesus surrendered-- “Not my will, but Yours be done.” He placed the whole thing in God’s court. He knew Who He was, He knew that He was heard and He knew that His Father’s will was best. I am eternally grateful for the record of Jesus- God in flesh, Creator of the Universe, Controller of the Wind and Wavesfighting to trust. HE CALLS US TO FOLLOW HIM, AND HAS NOT LEFT US TO FIND OUR OWN WAY TO TRUST. HE IS THE WAY. For me, in the situation with my loved one’s dying marriage, my fear and anger-fueled prayer gave way to trust: “Father, I know that you love this person more than I do. I know you are mighty to save, in a miracle now or a slow restoration over the rest of their life. I want You to save the marriage, keep this family together, but whatever happens, You are Lord and I trust You.” My heart still broke as the divorce papers were signed and the one became two again, but I could grieve without the bondage of fear and anger. I knew God was able to restore them to Himself, which was His desire even more than it was mine. I could trust that their children would be OK. They have strong, loving people all around them and God would not forsake them, just as He has not forsaken even the ones in my family who have rejected Him. Now, when an “each” situation is out clearly out of my control, and anger is raising its ugly head, I imagine myself in the garden with Jesus. I walk with Him to the Cliff of Worst-Case Scenario for that situation, where everything fails or everyone dies. Trust helps me raise my arms in surrender, knowing that even if the worst happens, if I do lose it all, even if real, actual death happens to me or someone I love, it’s not the end. Death doesn’t win. Trust is not, of course, a license for us to be careless or foolish. Yet, there is joyful freedom in knowing that the Author has control, not the characters, and He will end the story as He chooses. IF HE’S GOOD ENOUGH FOR ME TO FOLLOW, HE’S GOOD ENOUGH FOR ME TO TRUST, NOT JUST OVER ALL MY LIFE, BUT ALSO IN EACH SITUATION.
Someday, my “most powerfulest” daughter will have to face her actual inability to hold all the elephants, but I pray she sees in my faulty example how to seek to know and TRUST IN THE ONLY ONE WORTHY, THE ONE WHO TRULY HOLDS ALL THINGS.
To the Overburdened Woman:
Y O U C A N F I N D R E S T words
JOY JO H N STO N & L AU R A ST E P H E N S
B R I T T E N Y WAY
A SUPPRESSED SOUL.
In every season of life, feeling overwhelmed is an inevitable side effect of responsibilities towards ourselves, friends, family, work, and/or school. We live in a world where the weight of burdens and expectations is a reality. No matter what our occupation is, our schedules often demand too much time. Although many of us are women in active pursuit of the Heavenly Father, it seems as though, no matter how adamantly we press towards His presence, the world constantly finds a way to put roadblocks in our paths and distract us from our God-given purpose. The ringing in our ears from the multitude of daily tasks confuses our soul’s rhythm. Our souls naturally yearn for rest found in the shelter of the Most High. It is when we are cuddled up underneath “the shelter of [His] wings” (Psalm 61:1) that true rest is found.
SPREAD TOO THIN.
We as Christian women often promise too much of our time and do not allow for true rest. Our frantic over-activity drives us to find security in worldly possessions, earthly influence, and comfortable routines. We desire to be seen as strong and capable of reaching our goals on our own. Expecting too much of ourselves is exactly what causes our souls to become parched. When we become over-tired and weak, Satan finds ways to seduce our minds by convincing us that there will be time for rest after we reach our promised success. WHAT REST IS NOT.
We are on a pursuit of bettering our relationships
Because rest is important, vital even, we must be
with our Heavenly Father and our families, but to
cautious of confusing it with laziness. Contrary to what
what extent will we stretch our weary souls? We have
many people perceive rest to be, it is a component
picked up more than we can carry, and no matter how
of productivity. Rest is not a responsibility-avoiding
much time and effort is put into a task, we are never
Netflix binge followed by an all-nighter to catch up
fully satisfied with the end result. Everything seems to
on what has been neglected. Proper rest not only aids
demand our attention—so much so, that we have let
us physically, but also spiritually and mentally. When
ourselves become overwhelmed. We have forgotten our
rest is lacking, so is our walk with God, our earthly
purpose on earth: to glorify the Father in every aspect
relationships, and our emotional stability. We are only
of living.1 Corinthians 10:31 states, “So, whether you eat,
human, and as much as we would like to think we can,
drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” God
we cannot take on the world alone. We have a Savior
gave us life to live fully for Him alone, not to simply
who already overcome the world for us. He tells us this
fall into a routine that drains us of happiness, energy,
in Psalm 62:7-8: “In God is my salvation and my glory; the
rock of my strength, And my refuge, is in God. Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.” It is in those raw moments where we feel like we are about to break from the weight of the world’s demands when we can cling to our Refuge, the Rock of our strength. Though a Netflix binge does not require any energy, it will not provide you with the true rest your physical and spiritual needs crave.
FINDING TRUE REST.
As women, we are bombarded with the lie that action and accomplishment are achievable without rest and reflection, and that success is worth any sacrifice. The media feeds us the lie that unless we are constantly working towards something bigger and better, we are not successful. Because our minds have become so used to a never-ending schedule, we have forgotten that living requires more than fuel from that third cup of coffee we had this morning. Three hours of sleep each night is not adequate for the sake of quality. Not only are these habits unproductive, they are unhealthy. Our bodies were not meant to be run down to their last drop of sanity. We cannot single-handedly conquer
A QUESTION TO PONDER.
our own battles without the Spirit within us. Rest and renewal must be prioritized.
Can we find true rest in a world where we are constantly challenged by unrealistic expectations?
There are steps we can take to acquire this true rest, each step being entirely dependent on the strength of
Just as Jesus tells His disciples to â€œCome away by
yourselves and rest awhile,â€? in Mark 6:31, so should we be intentional in finding our alone time. We have Jesus, the One who sets us free from whatever bondage may be keeping us from getting that breath of fresh air. We need time to rest. It is in these moments of tranquility when we feel most connected to our Creator. He uses raw moments of solitude to whisper in our ear the encouragement that we need to keep on the straight and narrow path. Recognizing that rest is found in the Almighty, allows us to meet with Him first rather than using Him as a last resort. As we surrender to Him, we will experience the greatness of having our cup run over with energy to fuel our work and daily routine. John 10:10 should encourage and speak life into the quenched corners of our lives. It says that Jesus is Life and that through Him we can have all things. God desires to provide for His children in abundance. We can trust that when we go to Him with a need for true rest, He will answer us with rest and energy needed to fulfill His will.
BE FILLED BY HIM. If we start our day in the Word
of God, we will realize that a thirsty soul can only be quenched by Jesus. In John 4:13, He assures the woman at the well that He will not fail to deliver this promise when He says, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst.” Even the most independent woman cannot renew her own spirit—it must be renewed by Him. An understanding of how God would have us to live our daily lives is found through time spent in the
A FINAL CHALLENGE.
Word. Daily devotions should not be optional. We must make them a priority.
We can win the war that evil sneaks into our hearts. We can refuse to participate in activities that divert
BE FREE OF AFFLICTION. Too often we will allow
our time away from what is important. This is our
ourselves to hold on to past situations and trials that
challenge: to find refuge and new energy under the
have already been redeemed by the love of God. In
shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 23:1-4 reminds us that
carrying such weight, we leave no room for the Father
Jesus is the Way; He leads our hearts beside the still
to work in us. Until we turn over to God what has
waters and promises us peace in His presence.
been holding us down, we cannot expect growth. He tells us, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden,
When the demands of your schedule become louder
and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). God not only
than the truth God has placed in your heart about
expects us to go to Him in prayer, but He wants us
making Him first, take a deep breath and remember
to hand over our burdens. Our prayer life is directly
that God will provide nourishment for your soul. All
related to our spiritual life.
you have to do is rest in Him.
BE A COMPANION. Our world is overflowing with
This life is only a vapor, so allow the Lord to cultivate
things that can only satisfy us for a short period
renewal from the inside out. Let us no longer make
of time. We are left with confusion and weariness
rest something that comes once a year during a
once they are gone. He tells us in Jeremiah 31:24,
scheduled vacation. Rest should be implemented into
“For I have satisfied the weary soul, and I have replenished
our daily routines. It is not about achieving perfection.
every sorrowful soul.” God has already given us the
It is about growth. So, have daily quiet time with Jesus.
tools to live fully through not only daily devotions
Talk to Him about your biggest concerns and your
and consistent prayer, but the desire to share our
smallest desires. Give all of your worries to the Father
experiences with fellow believers. We were not created
so He may give you rest.
for lone-wolf Christianity. Exhaustion becomes a factor when we fail to share our journey with fellow believers. We will be prepared to receive the true rest and joys in life that God intended for us all along when we open ourselves to the blessings He has waiting for us. We can do this by encouraging one another in the love of the Lord and holding each other accountable. Day by day, as we stay disciplined, we will feel our hearts and lives become less heavy and more energized. Let’s not walk this journey alone.
Life happens around the table. The life that is unstyled, full of beauty, and the mundane. The life that embarks on adventure and builds bridges across cultures. The life that is real, where family drama breaks the surface and relationships are built or torn down. And this is where Freer Ceramics is found. It is a silent tribute on the table humbly displaying the truth that each life, like pottery formed from the dust, is an inherently beautiful, unique, and a purposeful piece of art. Freer Ceramics elevates "imperfections" as beauty marks. It is a reminder that humanity is like dust and clay, constantly being shaped by its surroundings into something powerful. This truth has been intentionally worked into each lump of clay that has been wheel thrown or slab built in Abigail Freerâ€™s studio in the Pacific Northwest. Her work is inspired from the dirt that makes up the craggy Cascade mountains to the small pebbles found in the lower river eddies.
H O P E
J A N E L L E PO L
T I A N A P LUCK,O L I V E + M I N T L E T T E R I N G
What causes one to lose hope? (and that instant heart response) Looking at circumstances. LOOK UPWARDS. LOOK TO HIM.
To the one who holds us even when we are at the end of our rope. For hope is not introspective.
“May the God of hope fill
Even where you see barrenness there is life.
you with all joy and peace
Stark reality doesn't necessarily predict future
in believing [through the
experience of your faith]
Hope dawns, even amidst darkness.
that by the power of the
It fortifies against despair & buoys one up when almost dashed asunder. HOPE IS HELD.
Holy Spirit you will abound in hope and overflow with confidence in His promises.”
It's held onto. IT'S THE CONSTANT IN THE UNREST.
A rope, a life source. IT'S THE LIFE RAFT, THE VESSEL, THE HORIZON AHEAD.
It's the grip pulling one up, aboard. Hope buoys the spirit. Hope is discerned. It's trusting despite seeing. Expectancy in the face of disbelief. HOLD ONTO HOPE. FOR HOPE HOLDS ONTO YOU.
Romans 15:13 Amp
J E N N I FE R TA R T I N I, FO U N D E R O F J A R S O F H O P E
J E N N A S O LO M O N
Q: WE ARE INCREDIBLY INTRIGUED BY WHAT YOU ARE TRYING TO
to sell among peers. I knew I did not need any money because
ACCOMPLISH THROUGH JARS OF HOPE. TELL US MORE ABOUT YOU
I had saved so much from jobs over the summer. So I decided
AND THE STORY BEHIND IT ALL.
to make these jars for charity, calling them “Jars of Hope.” In those moments I knew the Holy Spirit was speaking through me.
A: My name is Jennifer Tartini. I am a junior at Liberty
Each month I choose a specific need in the world to donate the
University with a major in Global Studies and a minor in
money and inside the hand painted mason jars was information
Business. Since my freshman year of college, I have changed my
on how that person can get more involved in making a difference.
major four times and it has been a very interesting journey from
I proposed the idea to my peers with a Facebook status and it
then to now. In the summer of 2015, I finally decided to change
exploded with over 200 likes and 40 comments encouraging
my major to Global Studies no matter how many people told
me to go through with this vision. In the very beginning of this
me it was a “waste of time” or I “wouldn’t make any money.”
organization, the Lord directed me to focus on a different need
Those factors didn’t matter to me; what mattered was where
each month, such as clean water, jiggers, schools, etc. With each
God wanted me to be and how I could be most effective for the
jar purchase, 100% of the profit went to the organization we
were partnered with in fighting that month’s issue. During the month of October, Jars of Hope focused on the issue of human
One of my biggest prayers over the course of that summer was
trafficking. As Jars of Hope began to grow, the Lord reignited
“God, I am available for whatever you have for me, it doesn’t
the flame in my heart for this issue and Jars of Hope became
matter what it is, just open the doors and give me the strength to
an organization solely fighting human trafficking. The issue
walk through them.” With that simple prayer, the Lord began
of human trafficking was placed heavily on my heart during
to open so many doors. A week before school started, I was at a
my senior year of high school and God reminded me to keep
diner with my mom, grandma, and little sister - this is where the
moving forward with my passion for ending this injustice. One
vision for Jars of Hope began. This idea was clearly directed
day, while my friend Hannah and I were looking for paint at
from the Lord because I came to realize the thoughts and ideas I
Michaels, we came across mini jar bottles and had the idea to fill
had that night for this organization were divinely planned. The
them with glitter and use string to make them into a necklace.
Holy Spirit was interceding in every word I said.
As we became more knowledgeable in making jewelry, we started putting eyeball pins in the corks and using jump rings to put a
As I was researching different mason jars to use to decorate my
real necklace chain through. It was extremely exciting to see the
dorm room for that year, I realized these jars would be excellent
finished product look so professional. 118
Our goal in creating each jar necklace is not just to give survivors a physical treasure, but remind them of their eternal treasure in Christ Jesus.
Q: WHAT IS THE MISSION OF“JARS OF HOPE”AND WHY DOES
a web connection through friends and family. Our jar
YOUR HEART BEAT FOR IT THE WAY IT DOES.
necklaces are filled with glass glitter to represent the shattered humanity and hearts in this world and how Jars
A: Scripture makes it clear: God cares for the broken, the
of Hope takes those broken pieces and is turning them into
lost, the overlooked, and He wants our hearts to have the
something beautiful. We we want the victims of trafficking
same passion. Isaiah 1:17 says, “Learn to do right; seek
to realize that even though they are broken, God can turn
justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the
that brokenness around and create divine beauty. Sand
fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” The God of the
goes through 1,000 degree fire in order to be made into
universe has commanded us to seek justice and defend the
glass. This process represents how God allows us to go
oppressed. He is a God of justice and freedom. Psalm
through the trials of life in order to be refined in the fire and
72:12 says, “For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the
reflect His image. The jar necklaces are also donated to the
afflicted who have no one to help.” These are only two of
survivors and girls on the street, reminding them they are
the many verses in Scripture where the Lord commands
not alone in this fight. For those purchasing the jewelry, we
us to love the lost like He loves them. Jars of Hope exists
want the necklaces to be a reminder to keep fighting human
primarily to rescue the oppressed from human trafficking
trafficking. Our goal in creating each jar necklace is not just
and help them find refuge in the Lord. This organization
to give survivors a physical treasure, but remind them of
exists for His glory alone.
their eternal treasure in Christ Jesus.
As I was growing up, I dealt with a lot of insecurity. I was
Q: TELL US ABOUT ONE OF YOUR MOST TRANSFORMATIONAL
insecure with everything from my looks, to my weight, to
STORIES YOU’VE COME ACROSS SINCE YOU’VE STARTED “JARS
my friends, to my boyfriends. I allowed each of these idols
in my life to define who I was and it was eating away at my soul. We are discipled in this culture to live in such a way
A: The donated jar necklaces have impacted survivors of
to impress others, but Jesus says the opposite. In the book
trafficking around the world. It has only been a year and
of Romans, Paul tells us to “not conform to the pattern of
two months since Jars of Hope was born, and in that time
this world.” I was a slave to the opinions of others and was
span, God has been working incredible miracles. The
finding my identity in relationships and materialism.
“buy one to give one” aspect of Jars of Hope has grown exponentially. For each jar that is purchased, a girl who is
It was not until I became a Christian during my senior year
either on the streets as a prostitute or has been rescued, will
of high school that I realized my true value is in Christ
receive the same necklace. This provides an opportunity
and not in what other people think of me. I want to be
for the message to the girl that she is not forgotten, she is
able to share this truth with girls who are struggling to find
loved and cherished, and there is a God who wants to take
identity and solid relationships. The deceitful lure of human
the brokenness in her life and make it beautiful. This past
trafficking brings nothing but heartbreaking tragedy and I
summer we were able to send jars to Moldova, Greece, and
long to see restoration in the lives of these girls and women.
Thailand. In each of these places, those working there to
My heart burns with passion for justice and God has given
fight trafficking told me the necklaces had a huge impact
me a vision to never stop raising my voice for those who
on the girls. In Greece, the girls loved them so much they
can’t speak for themselves.
went out and bought more jars so they could make them themselves! The girls and boys in each of these places
Jars of Hope is an organization seeking to bring an end to
cherished the necklaces and their faces lit up the moment
human trafficking by financially supporting organizations
they saw them. Through these stories, God continually
fighting this battle on the front lines. We have some type
reminds me of His ability to take something so small and
of personal connection with each organization we support,
make a huge impact in this world. It makes my heart sing!
whether it is through a direct contact with someone or
Q: HOW HAS GOD USED THIS JOURNEY OF STARTING YOUR OWN BUSINESS TO SHAPE YOUR FAITH? WHAT’S THE JOURNEY BEEN LIKE FOR YOU PERSONALLY AND WHAT KEEPS YOU MOVING FORWARD?” A: This journey has shaped my faith in more ways than I
could have ever imagined possible. Daily, I battle the lies of the enemy; lies stating I am not doing a good enough job or I am making too many mistakes and this organization isn’t really making an impact. I need to remind myself of what God has said and is saying to me through His Word and prayer. God reminds me to keep going and that He is making an impact through this organization and I just need to be obedient. He has used my friends and family to help shape me and trust Him that much more. Through constant encouragement, support, and help making the jars, we have come together to make a huge difference in this dark world. This business has caused me to let go of my independence and rely fully on God and also to trust other people. Throughout this journey, I have also learned more about human trafficking which has compelled me to fight that much harder for justice. The fact that there are 35 million people trapped in slavery today compels me to keep moving forward. My primary motivation is the truth that God has called His people to fight for justice and to care for those in need. The girls in slavery and their traffickers are in desperate need of Jesus Christ and I will stop at nothing to shine a light on such a dark issue.
I will stop at nothing to shine a light on such a dark issue. Q: WE BET THERE ARE MANY WHO WOULD LOVE TO GET INVOLVED. HOW CAN THEY JOIN YOU?â€? A: The most important way to get involved with Jars of
Hope is to pray for us. By subscribing to our email list, those wanting to get involved can receive newsletters to be updated on what is going on with Jars of Hope and how you can pray for us. Another way to help us is to let us know if you have a specific trafficking fighting organization on your heart that we can support. Readers can also get involved with Jars of Hope through social media promotion.
WHAT A RE YOU A FRA I D OF?
A M A N DA H O USTO N
TA R A AS H TO N
If you were to ask women about some of their biggest struggles in life, and these women were truly honest, I bet a shocking majority would answer, fear. Fear of failure, fear of being wrong, fear of not measuring up, fear of harm, fear of the unknown… the list goes on. Fear has a grip on more people in this world than we know because it is easy to hide behind. But fear left to run rampant in our hearts and minds can have a devastating effect. Fear is the four-letter-word that is almost taboo among women. We don’t want to appear weak in front of others, so we push fear down and pretend it doesn’t exist. When people ask us about our struggles, we share about being stressed out, not having enough time in the day, maybe we even get deep enough to admit if we haven’t been consistently spending time with Jesus. But the fear we face is almost as scary as telling others we are afraid. Being a wife and mother (and not to mention a 28-year-old woman), I often feel childish for the feelings of fear I experience. But despite the stigma, I’ve begun to open up about those feelings in the hope of finally finding freedom. What I’ve found through my sharing is that a lot of women are afraid, just like me.
I experience fear on a regular basis; and not just your average, run-of-the-mill fear. This fear is paralyzing, joy-sucking, and straight up irrational. I’ve dealt with it for many years now, but I thought it was something that would go away on its own eventually, maybe once I got married – and for sure once I had children of my own. Well, I’ve been married for two and half years now and have a beautiful 1-year-old daughter, and unfortunately, that is not the case. In fact, my fear has only worsened since my daughter was born. And when fear rears its ugly head in my life, it usually comes with its partner in crime, worry. For as long as I can remember, I have struggled with feelings of fear, which leads to worry. And, as is the case with the things we worry about, they are often irrational, and almost always completely out of our control. But, to all my control freaks out there, that doesn’t stop us from worrying about the things we can’t control, does it? On the contrary, it’s almost as if my brain translates “don’t worry about it - it’s out of your control” into “if you only try harder, you can control this!” Anyone else with me? But when we try to control situations that are out of our hands, we are not left with any resolution. All we are left with are more feelings of fear, frustration, and a whole lot of stress. When I sit back and think about the incredible gift of my husband, Josh, who is my best friend and makes life so much fun, and my 1-year-old daughter, Aria, who is full of life, energy, and joy, I am beyond thankful. But sometimes, even in the midst of such beauty, I find myself paralyzed by the fear of losing them, losing it all. Without warning, my mind starts racing with thoughts of the terrible things that could happen to us at any moment, and before I know it – fear has won the battle in my mind. My husband is a very wise man. He is a pastor, spiritual mentor to many, and seems to always know exactly what to do or say in a situation. I recently broke down when talking to him about my feelings of fear, and how out of control it was getting, and his advice was spot-on. He simply asked, “Do you trust Jesus?” I sat and thought about the question for a moment, and I genuinely responded, “I don’t think so,” because I knew that if I fully trusted Jesus, I would not be so afraid. He went on to ask, “Do you think you can manage your life better than Jesus?” My stomach dropped as I realized that was exactly how I had been living my life. Every time I gave into fear, it was as if I was saying, “Jesus, I don’t trust you," and every time I began to worry and tried to control a situation, I was telling Jesus that I could handle it all better than Him. Whether I believed this to actually be true, or not, this is how I had been living my life. Now, before I continue, let me say this: To those of you who struggle with worry that leads to anxiety and or/ depression, this is not what I am speaking to. I myself have had to seek professional counseling to work through some of these fears, and when it goes beyond the point of simply worrying, I do believe counseling or therapy to be necessary. The struggles we face often merit professional help through counseling and/or prescription medication. In fact, I strongly encourage seeking medical attention in such situations, as well as finding a sisterin-Christ who you can share your struggles with, and will hold you accountable. So please hear first that this is something I strongly encourage if it is necessary for your situation, and these words are in no way meant to belittle the silent struggle you face on a daily basis. But I also believe bringing in a spiritual component to our mental health is crucial. If you find yourself in this situation, I hope these words will be an encouragement and assistance in your healing process.
Philippians 4:6-7 is a verse commonly used in situations of stress and worry so; naturally, I look there for guidance often: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” What a beautifully fitting verse for times when we feel worried and afraid. But this time, I read it in a new way. I wasn’t just looking to feel better about a stressful situation – I wanted to change the way I was living my life on a daily basis. But how does someone just “not be anxious?" I so badly wanted to experience this “peace, which surpasses all understanding,” but how would I get there?
If I have learned anything about approaching God’s Word, I have learned that context is necessary. It is not helpful to take one verse from the middle of nowhere, and claim it as truth for your life without reading and understanding the surrounding verses. Even though I know this to be true, I have still read these verses by themselves countless times. This time, however, as I was reading through Philippians, I noticed something I’ve never seen before. After spending countless hours trying to will myself to “not be anxious,” I finally kept reading and everything clicked.
“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. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”
I’m not quite sure how I’ve never put those neighboring verses together in my 28 years of life – but, for some reason the light bulb finally went on. The answer to our worry, fear, stress… whatever it may be for you – is right there in Philippians 4:8-9. “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… and the God of peace will be with you.” Now, I understand this is easier said than done. In fact, this is something I still have a hard time with each day. And while I have little to no control over situations in life, or even the thoughts that come into my mind, I can control how far I let them go. And, oh, what peace we find when we are able to do so. We hear about this beautiful peace in Isaiah 26:3 as well: “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” And there it is again – TRUST. Trust is actually something we work with on a daily basis, many times without realizing we are doing it. We trust our alarm clock will work because we set it the night before. We trust our water will turn on for our shower because we paid the water bill. We even trust the people in our lives that are closest to us, for the most part. But trust Jesus? I’m not sure I can do that... It sounds crazy when you look at it this way, but it’s exactly what we do. So how exactly do we move beyond worry, fear, and distrust? I think the key here is found in 2 Corinthians 10:5: “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” When we experience those feelings of worry or feel the fear begin to rise up, we must make an intentional effort to dismiss those thoughts and replace them with truth. I know by now that if my mind is left to its own devices, it will destroy itself. I have to make an intentional effort each and every day to ask myself “Is it true? Is it honorable? Is it just? Is it pure? Is it lovely? Is it commendable?” If the answer to any of those questions is “no,” it must be taken captive, and put in obedience to Christ. Once again, this concept is so much easier said than done. In fact, when I am spiraling into a “worry flurry” (that’s what I like to call them), I often have to get myself to a place of composure before I can even be a rational person. Many times this requires taking a walk for some fresh air, taking some deep breaths with my eyes closed, going for a drive while listening to worship music – whatever it is that can bring you back to your rational state, do that. It may take hours, or even until the next day, and that’s okay. When you’ve finally come back to your self, it is a great time to reflect on the situation and begin with the questions, “is it true?...” This will be easier for some than others. For some, it will be as simple as I just described it. For others, it will be a daily, even hourly, moment-to-moment battle. But the battle is worth the fight. And if we choose not to fight, fear will always win. So my encouragement to you is this: BE HONEST. Be honest with yourself, with your confidants, and with Jesus. If fear and worry have a grip on your life, don’t let them win. Jesus promises us a peace that is beyond our understanding, and it is something we truly can experience. But don’t be discouraged if a change doesn’t happen overnight. As I mentioned before, this may simply be a tool for you to utilize alongside the help of professionals. For many, including myself, this could be a journey that lasts longer than is preferred. But don’t give up. Choose to “think about these things,” and to trust that Jesus is who He says He is. Because LIVING WITH HIS PERFECT PEACE IS FAR GREATER THAN LIVING IN FEAR.
the When I was ten years old, my mom committed suicide. Devastation, shock, trauma, and fear hit me immediately and rightfully so. Why did she kill herself ?
How could I have prevented this? How would I live without my mom? I felt so alone. So isolated. I didn’t even know how to curl my own hair! I needed my aunt to help me with my hair for my mom’s funeral. How could my mom do this? Why didn’t she love me? The question, “Why?” continually repeated in my head.
It felt like I would never have answers, and some painful
B R A N DY L I D B ECK
messages began creeping into my soul. Messages that
told me I didn’t matter, I had no value, and my worth must be nil if my own mother could choose to leave me permanently. I didn’t notice the messages at first. They were whispers in the beginning. As time went on, the whispers became harmful messages that I allowed to play non-stop in my mind and heart. Eventually, the words became my destructive mantra.
We all have tapes playing in our heads of negative messages. We play them over and over throughout our lives. We begin recording these tapes as little kids and the more times a specific message is told to us, whether verbally or through an event, the more the message becomes hard-wired in our brains and set as truth in our hearts. These messages take many forms but they all serve the same purpose: to tell us we are not enough. When our parents take off, we believe we are not valuable enough for them to stay. When our classmates do not like us, we believe we are unacceptable. When we are abused, we believe we are dirty. When we are rejected by the opposite sex, we believe we are unlovable. Whatever the event, whatever the message, we come to believe these tapes and accept them as truth. As we get older, new life events occur, but the message is still the same. The messages are hard-wired and new events bring up feelings we are all too familiar with. A spouse leaves and those feelings of not being valuable jump up and tell us ‘we are not enough for anyone.’ Our coworkers and acquaintances don’t invite us to a social gathering and we hear the ‘unacceptable to others’ message loud and clear. Regardless of the event, the message is the same and we can recite it verbatim every time: “I AM NOT ENOUGH.” “NOBODY VALUES ME.” “I AM BAD.” “I AM UNLOVABLE.”
John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” He is subtle; we don’t even realize he is at work. He is the deceiver, full of lies and tricks. He continually whispers lies and we eat them up as if we have not even heard the truth. He knows the lies that hurt the worst in our hearts. He knows the wounds that cause us the most pain and he reminds us of them again and again. He comes to steal our joy, kill our spirits, and destroy our hearts. And he succeeds! It does not take much effort on his part, just a familiar whisper. Once we hear that message, we give up, we bow out, we leave, we fail, and we quit. His lies are crafty and oh so powerful. We accept them as truth and our hearts pay the price. GOD TELLS US A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT STORY; ONE THAT IS FULL OF TRUTH AND JOY AND VALUE. In the book Discovery: God’s Answers
to Our Deepest Questions, Will Wyatt writes, “The truest thing about God is what God says about Himself and the truest thing about us is
what God says about us.” The Scriptures are full of messages about our value. Psalm 139:14 says, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Deuteronomy 7:6 describes us as “His treasured possession.” We are called
God’s “Beloved” in 1 John 4:7, and “a new creation” in 2 Corinthians 5:7. In Genesis 1, we are told that we are “made in the image of God.” These messages sound entirely different from Satan’s scheme of lies we have believed. Somehow, we seem to look right past these verses and opt to believe the lies of the enemy instead.
We say we are condemned but God says we are justified. We believe we are slaves to our past but God has redeemed us. We feel shame in our lives but God sets us free. We see our lives through the lenses of this deceit. Our lives are broken, our relationships are broken, we are broken. We are in bondage and we don’t even realize it. Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” When we choose anything over God’s truth, we become enslaved to it. I struggle with this. I reject God’s truth often as it pertains to my value, significance, and worth. I know the truth yet I regularly believe it applies to others and not myself. Yes, my dear friend Karianne is lovable. Certainly Megan is adored by her Creator. Of course God finds delight in Janae. Me? No. Not a chance. God’s truths do not include me. I cannot imagine any of those statements being true for myself. The messages are so ingrained in my heart that I find it nearly impossible to accept truth as it relates to my value.
WHEN WE BELIEVE THE LIES OF THE ENEMY AND REJECT GOD’S TRUTH, WE SIGN UP FOR A LIFE OF CONDITIONAL “SHOULDS” AND “NEEDS.” “I should be all things to all people and then I will be valuable. I need to do more and then I will be lovable. I should change my entire appearance and then others will delight in me. I need to achieve more accolades and then I will have worth.” We set ourselves up for a life of doing and not being. God called the broken, the lame, and the sick. He came for the sinners, the helpless, and the poor. In fact, He chose them. The messages of lies spinning around in our hearts tell us to ‘be more’ but God tells us an entirely different message. He says we are more. What if we started believing the One that created us instead of the one known as the Deceiver? What if we told Satan to stand back and we invite God’s love letter to fill us with hope and joy and trust? What if we saw ourselves the way God does? Blameless, adored, and free! What if God is telling us the truth about how He sees us, how He created us, and how He is genuinely enamored by us? What if we do have priceless value and it is given to us by the Most High King? Then what? Would we be so quick to believe those old tapes playing in our heads or would we allow a new one in? We know it in our heads because we have read it hundreds of times. But, for some reason, our hearts still do not receive it as truth. We deny it. We refuse it. We want to hang on to the lie that we are not enough. Satan is pleased his work is so easy! Maybe we hang onto it because it is more comfortable than believing what God says about us. We trade in God’s Word for the lies of the enemy and we wonder why we are so hurt and broken and bound. We have to allow God to change this. We do not serve a God that offers us despair and hopelessness. In John 10:10 Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” He came to give us abundant life. We are all looking for abundant life and Jesus explains that He came to give it to us! He wants to give it to us. He wants to set us free. Will we accept this gracious gift or keep pressing ‘repeat’ on the tape titled, “Satan’s lies?”
S T E A D Y S H O W E R S words
M A R A CL E M E N TS
E M I LY ST E FFE N
I don’t know what it is about a warm shower or a leisurely visit to the “loo,” but this is where God chooses to speak to me more often than I care to admit. I read the Scriptures in bed and love cracking open my Greek New Testament and Lexicon at my desk, so you’d think God would speak to me more in those “appropriate” places. But I think it’s when I am most vulnerable, free from interruptions, and have relinquished control of my iPhone that I’m able to hear Him more clearly. (If my husband tells you I check Facebook in the bathroom, I will deny this to the end). Sometimes God convicts me of a specific sin as I test the temperature of the water. Sometimes He gently leads me to repentance as I rinse the shampoo out of my hair. Other times He overtly reveals lies I’ve believed and graciously reminds me of His truth as I cry in the hot steam. Most of the time, those truths are the ones I have glossed over in bed that morning or at my desk the afternoon before. This past year, I began learning the beautiful, but hard, lesson of trusting in God’s goodness and sovereignty, and how free-falling into that trust leads to divine rest. As someone who frequently wrestles with wanting to be in control (and would never consider jumping out of a plane), I even struggle to put the words “TRUST” and “REST” in the same sentence. How can I rest if I’m not in control? What if someone takes advantage of me? What if I’m seen as weak?
And like a soft reminder, I feel the warm water tap my shoulder, and I hear the Holy Spirit clearly telling me to GO BACK TO THE GOSPEL – the good news that, in the midst of my fears and doubts and unbelief, He came to rescue me, to adopt me as His own, and to shower me with His unmerited favor (Ephesians 2:1-10, Romans 8:16-17). The Greek translation for “God’s favor” reads as “God’s acceptance.” What a beautiful description! I picture my heavenly Father smiling as He comes to my level, takes my face in His hands, looks into my eyes, and gently tells me I’m enough. I believe the longing of everyone’s heart is to be known and loved, and God, our Creator, loves us right where we are (Colossians 1:21-23). These aren’t just words! This truth can bring healing and hope if we believe it is meant for us. God’s love and grace and acceptance frees us, moment by moment, to surrender to His kingship and trust in His sovereignty. And if our Creator can love us in our depravity, surely He can love us as His redeemed and chosen children.
This is the kind of love that casts out all our fears (1 John 4:13-19). These themes of trust and rest surfaced during an incredibly painful time in my life â€“ a time that didnâ€™t seem conducive to trust and especially not to rest. My husband and I took a scary step of faith around Christmas time over a year ago. What I hoped would be a graceful leap into the next chapter of our life turned out to be the most intense and uncomfortable season of growth for our family of four. Having attended and served in the same church for ten years, we found ourselves praying, waiting, trying to be the change, and then finally obeying the Spirit by moving onto a new church community and culture. Loads of programs, three mission trips, multiple Bible studies, and two small groups had allowed us to build a host of meaningful relationships and made it extremely difficult to break away.
We had celebrated marriages, brought meals to each other
16). We can remember that we were worth dying for (Romans
when babies were born, helped one another financially when
5:1-11). When we understand that we are loved completely and
cars or washing machines broke down, and grieved with each
extravagantly, that truth becomes the air that we breathe. His
other when there was a death or loss. We had been there for one
love compels us to forgive, because we’ve been forgiven of so
another, and they felt like family. But Sunday mornings were
much. It compels us to serve, because we’ve been served to such
different and continually left us frustrated and sometimes even
a great extent. It compels us to give, because we have all we need
angry. From the pulpit, we heard more about the Christian than
in and through Him. These truths pave the way to abundant
Christ, and more about the church than the Gospel. We would
life – a life that is less centered on self and more centered on God
leave feeling burdened with to-do lists, instead of feeling free to
and His people.
love and serve because God loved us first. It was the difference between living and working for freedom instead of from freedom,
When I chose to abide in Christ, trust and surrender became
and we knew we needed to raise our children in the latter.
challenges I wanted to pursue, because I had nothing to fear
Having experienced grace and freedom outside of this church
(Romans 8:28-39), and rest and freedom became something I
environment, it was hard for us not to speak up and even harder
started to strive for with a God-given perseverance. At that point
to stay in that church culture once we did.
in my walk, trust meant believing God would sift out friends that were not good for me, and surrender meant caring more about
When we finally said our goodbyes, the leadership shamed,
Christ’s reputation than my own. As painful as it was for me to
verbally threatened, and spoke ill of us to our peers, leaving my
lose some relationships and hear what was being said about me, I
husband and me in shock. Men and women I had trusted to love
was empowered by the men and women God had hand-selected
us without condition, failed to do so, and God began to show
to walk with me and speak life into me on this new journey. The
me how much value I had placed on human approval. Without
Lord provided for us supernaturally as we remained in Him.
realizing it, I had come to find my worth in what people thought
He used the message of the Gospel and the people around us to
of me, instead of what my Heavenly Father thought of me.
launch us into an incredible season of rest and freedom that grew our faith in His unfathomable goodness and perfect sovereignty.
Losing affirmation from a person or a system we value can knock the wind out of us, but it can also bring us to our knees. I believe
In my experience, trust and rest in the midst of hurt looks like
that’s where Jesus wants us to be – at his feet, convinced that His
a young girl, crawling up into her Heavenly Father’s lap and
approval alone is all we need (Luke 7:36-50, 11:38-42). I believe
collapsing into His embrace. No questions asked; no explanations
that God allows suffering in our lives to give us a life-altering
needed. Her simple, childlike faith allows her to rest in the truth
opportunity to either bring us into a relationship with Him or to
that her Father is good and just. HE COUNTS HER WORTHY, EVEN
press deeper into the intimacy that already exists. He can turn
IN THE PAIN. HE SEES HER AS CLEAN, EVEN IN THE MESS.
rock bottom into a sanctuary and the hard places into a refuge. Instead of struggling to claw our way out of our pain or trying
We can come as we are, whether we are excited or tired,
to tidy up the shattered pieces around us, we can look for God in
confident or vulnerable, secure or needy, because we belong
the midst of the wreckage and chaos. And believe me, He is there
to Him in the most beautiful way. We are His beloved children
whom He delights in and continues to shower with His extravagant love and grace, every single day. This is good news that leads to surrender, rest, and a joy that cannot be taken away.
We can ask God to reveal Himself to us in a new way and trust that He will answer (Matthew 7:7-11). Anytime we feel ourselves sinking into self-pity or bitterness, we can choose to put our eyes
JUMP IN! THE WATER’S PERFECT.
on the One who suffered rejection on our behalf (Hebrews 4:14-
CON F E S S ION S OF A S HOPOHOL IC :
breaking the bondage of plastic
K A R M E N SM I T H
TA R A AS H TO N
When asked what sound comes to mind when one thinks of a shopaholic, most would probably answer “cha-ching.” But they would be wrong. THE REAL SOUND THAT SURROUNDS SHOPAHOLICS, OR AT LEAST THIS SHOPAHOLIC, IS SILENCE. As a young newlywed, before we had children, I landed my dream job as a teacher and was thrilled to have paycheck with which to buy pretty things. My obsession with “stuff” began in the late nineties and went on for nearly a decade. Buying clothes, shoes, accessories, and knick-knacks for my home became my favorite pastime, and I was good at it. It was nothing for me to drop a hundred dollars on a dress or a pair of shoes. My standards were high, and only the best would do. Eventually, the mall and my favorite specialty boutiques couldn’t contain me. I began shopping online and over the phone daily and at all hours, spewing the digits of my credit card number from memory as if it was my birthday or my mother’s phone number. Just as quickly as boxes were delivered to our door, they were unpacked and slipped in with the laundry, on a shelf, or tucked away in a cabinet somewhere that J didn’t frequent. I didn’t want to explain, and he never asked. The credit card statements came each month tucked between catalogues that screamed at me to shop their pages. We were robbing Peter to pay Paul, and my teacher’s salary never quite covered all that I managed to charge. Still, J and I never spoke about the mess I was putting us in. I felt the occasional twinge of guilt, halfheartedly asked my Sunday school class to pray that I would be less greedy, but mostly, I looked forward to my next retail high. One December, several years into my shopping addiction, as the Christmas lights twinkled, my friends and I embarked on our yuletide girls’ night out to shop. Sales signs lured me in as I walked into one store after another, collecting my parcels and packages as if they were trophies. While a few items were masked under the guise of Christmas gifts, most were, as always, for myself.
I was not aware at the time, but this twinge, this pulling on my heart after keeping up my disastrous charade for so long, would be the beginning of the road to recovery from a very real addiction. When I arrived home that night, I wept for hours. When J came home, I somehow found the strength to confess. “I have lied to you. I have stolen from what we have built. I have a shopping addiction, and we are in a mess.” Would he scream, become irate, walk away? I wasn’t prepared for his reaction. He wrapped his arms around me. He enveloped me in his Christ-like love and forgiveness. I began to feel a shift in my heart. I was ready to break the bondage of plastic. I was ready for a change only One could bring. That night, J and I spoke more candidly about our finances than ever before, and we developed a plan to leave my addiction to shopping behind us and embrace a healthy financial situation. I realized I couldn’t keep doing what I had always done and expect different results. I began to understand the void that I was trying to fill with stuff that should have been filled with the Spirit. We closed all credit cards and sought help from wise counsel. We vowed to spend less. Be honest. Give back. This process wasn’t easy, and my habits certainly didn’t change overnight, but each time I faltered, instead of being sent on a guilt trip, I continued traveling on my grace trip. We slowly chipped away at our debt, evaluating everything we thought was “necessary” and “nonessential.” I worked fulltime as a teacher and cleaned houses on the side while J worked hard shoeing horses so that our family could undo the damage I did. These days, J and I, along with our two sons, lead a life that isn’t measured by stuff. Our blessings, the things that truly matter, are abundant, and I am so grateful that I am finally in a place where I can recognize the importance of these things that cannot be bought in a store. We choose to fill our life with experiences, time with God, and time with each other. It is Christ who has set me free from the grip of greed. I sing His praises knowing that His forgiveness and grace, coupled with the gracious qualities of my husband and finally making the decision to die to myself, are what have delivered us from the bondage of plastic. In Psalm 50:15, God says, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you and you shall glorify Me.” By calling on Him, BREAKING MY SILENCE, and seeking forgiveness, I was delivered and have been granted a whole new outlook on “stuff.” WHAT COULD HE DELIVER YOU FROM IF YOU JUST CALLED ON HIM?
5 WAYS TO WA LK WITH A FRI END TH ROUGH M ISCA RRIAGE words
BAI L E Y T. H U R L E Y
K AT I E WA R D
I never understood the difficulties of having children or the women who struggled through them until my husband and I had our first miscarriage. Then our second. I thought miscarriage was an adult issue that I was way too young to be experiencing. Emotionally, physically, and spiritually my husband and I were confronted with questions as we attempted to understand something that felt unexplainable: Why us? Is there something wrong with me? Is this the start of
a very long and painful journey?
PHYSICAL TOUCH: RECLAIMING LOVE OVER A BROKEN BODY
I planned on being healthy, strong, and ambitious during my pregnancy. I was going to beat morning sickness and fatigue, pour myself into work, train for a half marathon, graduate from Seminary, and do it all
To be honest, this is on the bottom of my love
looking beautifully bumpy. Losing two children denied
languages list. Even so, I know that an extension of
me the chance to domineer my own pregnancy.
the hand is an extension of God’s love, particularly
MY PERFECTIONIST NATURE WAS ROCKED BY THE
during a very physically painful experience.
FRAGILITY OF MY BODY. I had no way to control the situation and find comfort from my own efforts.
During both of my miscarriages, I felt untouchable. People treaded lightly around me, scared to touch
Forget race training, I needed people to help me
me as if I might fall apart. Having someone hold
verbally process the unexpected brokenness that blew
my hand or give me a hug helped redeem my body
up in my face; to walk alongside me as I navigated
by reminding me that I am loved, accepted, known.
questions I didn’t want to ask, and sorrows I wasn’t
Touch can restore worth and value to a body that is
prepared to cope with. As someone who formerly
hurting. Even though this might be my least favored
didn’t know how to relate to women experiencing
love language, it still made me feel loved and cared
the loss of a child, I want to propose some ways you
can care for your friends that suffer a miscarriage using the Five Love Languages, popularized by Gary
If you are a nervous touchy-feely person like myself,
ask permission before you reach out to them. As you walk out the door ask, “Is it alright if I give you a hug?” Your friend won’t be offended and you will get the chance to tangibly love them.
WORDS OF AFFIRMATION: WHEN TO SAY THE RIGHT THINGS
Inevitably and without trying to, people say hurtful things during a loss of any kind. If you haven’t experienced a miscarriage, it might be hard to know what is “right” to say and when. When I first lost the baby, I remember people telling me that it was really normal. They would say, “It happens to a lot of women and doesn’t really mean anything about your future pregnancies.” Is this a true fact? Yes. But was it helpful during the first week of the miscarriage when it was difficult to look past the next hour, let alone a month? Not really. Miscarriage felt more real than a scientific statistic and very specific to me. A more helpful response came from a friend who left a card with a beautiful bible verse from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 on the front: “Rejoice always. Pray continually. Give Thanks.” On the back she had written encouragements. She acknowledged her lack of understanding but reminded me how worthy and loved I was in the eyes of God. If you lack the right words, let God speak encouragement for you and see the woman for who she is not what she has experienced. If you are looking for more ways to understand how to discuss suffering with a friend turn to Timothy Keller’s book, “Walking with God through Pain and Suffering.” I just happened to be in a class on redemptive suffering during this season and this book was not only enlightening, but provided tangible ways for me to reach out to my friends who were experiencing tough times.
SERVICE: SUPPORTING A FRIEND IN HER VULNERABILITY
GIFTS: NOT JUST A TEDDY BEAR, BUT MEMENTOS
The gift of service is a gift that often makes me feel guilty, but it is one of the easiest ways to love someone in need. During both miscarriages, I didn’t want to admit that I was incapable of doing my day-to-day
A friend showed up on my doorstep with a bouquet
routine. It feels very vulnerable to need help from others
of flowers—not just any bouquet, but a replica of my
because all I did was lie in bed in the same pajamas for
wedding bouquet. She had taken my wedding photo
five days. Having a friend around, who allows you to
to a flower shop and asked them to recreate my floral
be you, whether strong or weak, is a great gift. Some of
arrangement. Not only was the gift a unique way to make
you out there are naturally servant-hearted. I bow down
me feel loved, but it also reminded me of a special time.
to your abilities to see opportunities to joyfully serve
It reminded me of the new family I belonged to with
while the rest of us look right past need.
my husband and the future family we have yet to see. It pointed me back to a firm foundation—the love and hope
Friends, make yourself available to women in my
my husband and I share in Christ.
place—allow others to get you water or bring you your favorite dessert. Offering to help a friend during this
Rachel Platten’s song “This is My Fight Song” came out
time might get you the classic response: “Thanks, but
during the time of my first miscarriage, and even though
no thanks. I’m good.” I say go and serve. Ask. And if
it may seem silly, I would belt it out to remind myself of
they say they don’t need anything, find ways to serve
my own strength. Offer to take your friend out for ice
them anyway. Doing the laundry or leaving grocery
cream and sing this song at the top of your lungs; give
supplies at the front door are just two ways you can
her the gift of remembering her courage to endure.
QUALITY TIME: SHOWING UP
Being is one of my favorite love languages. My husband and I scheduled an appointment a week after our trip to the ER to confirm that the baby was gone. I remember looking forward to some closure, but also dreading hearing the doctor tell us that it was all over. Three friends dropped by the day before just to be with us. Sometimes we brought up the appointment, but mostly we just talked about life. I felt comforted knowing people were steps away from our crumbled spirits, supporting us without focusing solely on the upcoming appointment. During my second miscarriage, my employer gave me some time off to process and heal. I felt lonely hanging out in the house all day with nothing but the Gilmore Girls to keep me company. But Lorelai and Rory were confided to the TV screen. Thankfully, I had a friend who also loved Gilmore Girlsâ€”and me. She came over and sat in bed with me while we ate pumpkin cookies. She was just there. She didnâ€™t need to have an agenda planned or scripture ready to read over me or questions for me to process with her. She made herself available with her time. She listened. She acknowledged disappointment. In both situations, friends were there to listen and be present. Their actions were speaking that they did not need to be anywhere else because being with my husband and me was the most important thing in that moment.
So I encourage you, your small group, and your family to surround the woman who has suffered a great loss. One does not need to over analyze or over theologize the situation. It’s important to see through the present struggle to the heart of the person. Give up your time to commune with the couple, maybe bring a gift or a hug or word of encouragement, or maybe not. Simply showing up in difficult and uncomfortable moments is representing the body of Christ in a loving way; it’s powerful—it’s healing.
garden S PAC E
K AYL A JO H N S O N
I feel it so strongly in my bones, deep down in my soul. I feel trapped, claustrophobic, and busy. Life just feels so…cluttered sometimes. My room is often overtaken by old mail, books, my TV, pillows, and shoes. My brain and heart become cluttered with all kinds of feelings that I hardly have time to sort through. When it comes to my relationship with the Lord, well – who has space for that when all other areas of life are spilling over uncontrollably? The clutter of life can be overwhelming. Does anyone else feel this way? Recently, the Lord gave me this beautiful picture of what it might look like to sit in perfect surrender, fully aware of His Presence without distractions. In the picture, I was kneeling before Him and He was on His Throne, and each time something came into that space, I would turn away from Him and toward whatever was coming. Imagine the game of Pac-Man, where the characters are chasing the little dots even though there is a better prize behind them. I would like to say that I am not one of those people who struggle with the Come Thou Fount hymnal struggle of “prone to wander, Lord I feel it.” In this moment, however, He gently reminded me, “You may not wander far, but you still wander.” He showed me that keeping my eyes focused on Him doesn’t mean that we will miss out on the blessings this life has for us. They come and are with us in His Presence as well. But when we run after other things, good or bad, they take us from His Presence. No prize the world could offer us is worth leaving that beautiful place. Sometimes it is hard to believe, but His Presence is always better. Come to me, all you who are weary, and I will give you rest. -Matthew 28:11 I FELT THE STILL, SMALL VOICE INVITING ME INTO THIS SACRED SPACE. THIS OPEN SPACE, WHERE CLUTTER DOESN’T EXIST. COME, BREATHE, JUST BE.
He calls us into this better life; this cleaner space, where the distractions and disorder do not control us. This life He has for us? It is pure, quiet, and full of true rest. He longs for us to lean up against Him, like a child comfortable in her parent’s lap. He provides space for our souls to breathe, where He can speak truth over us and erase our guilt and shame. It all goes back to Genesis (it always does, doesn’t it?). God created the Heavens and the Earth, the moon, sun, stars, water, and animals. Then He created man and woman. Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness… -Genesis 1:24 They walked with the Father in the cool of the day. They ate good fruit, they watched over the land, and they lived in full communion with the Lord. This was His original intent. …they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” -Genesis 3:9-10
Suddenly the clutter of the world came to be. Out of our shame, blame, and longing for control, mankind cut itself off from its life source. Life became hard; working the land no longer was a sweet calling but a hard task. Our innocence and unclothed union with the Father was taken away, replaced with animal skin and separation from the life originally envisioned. We live in a world overwhelmed with noise, pain, and distractions, all keeping us from the life God originally planned for us. His desire is for us to live fully alive, in perfect union with Him. He still offers that to us today, though. His desire is to walk with us in every moment of our day; He longs to create the “cool of the day” in which we can experience His rest and presence. He offers us life – a life more beautiful than we could ever imagine. We need to create garden space like Adam and Eve had with Him. SPACE TO WALK, TALK, LOVE, AND JUST BE.
What is your life overwhelmed with right now? Is it the constant comparison from seeing someone else’s “perfect” life on social media? Is it a job that takes up all of your time and energy? Is it escaping into Netflix so that you don’t have to really think about your own life? Is it heartbreak from a broken relationship or a dream that has not come to fruition? We clutter our lives with all kinds of things, be it shoes and bills or jealousy and insecurity. We need to make space for Him. What can you remove today? How can we create broad spaces for Him in our lives? He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me. -Psalm 18:19 Here are some starting points for decluttering and making space for God. They are anything but simple, but I truly believe they will change our lives.
ELIMINATE THE LIES OF THE ENEMY. In our busy lives, especially in our thought lives, we do not have time
or space for untruths. Hold the messages you hear up to the light of Scripture and identify what is true and what is not. Do not be defined by the lies of unworthiness or insignificance. God will never speak those things over you. Remember that Godâ€™s original intent was to live in union with us. He thinks that we are so great â€“ He spoke that over us when we were created: It is good. If you hear voices telling you that you are anything else, it is a lie. Do not let the devil limit you from living out your true identity. The devil will tell you everything that you are not; Jesus tells you everything He is. Since we have life because of Him, and are made in His likeness, we are defined by everything we are. I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full. -John 10:10
ACCEPT GRACE. Just as we are not defined by the lies that the devil tries
to tell us, we are not defined by our past mistakes either. Your sin is not your identity. Whatever road you may have walked down or whatever temptation may have stolen your attention from the Lord, you are forgiven and free. Jesus gave His life so that we can return to that union with Him, free from shame and guilt. God does not hold our mistakes against us. You are identified by who God says you are. Again, what does God see when He looks at you, friend? He sees His image within you. He sees a beautiful possessor of the Imago Dei, His lovely child who is precious and desired. Shame is a sneaky form of clutter, like the knickknacks that we keep in a box under the bed. We try to ignore it most of the time, but it is always there, taking up space. We see everything through this lens of I’m not good enough or I’m too broken. The beauty of the Gospel is that it proves these statements to be false. Your shame is old news, ready to be tossed into the “do not keep” pile. Replace those messages with the Gospel truth of His love for you. Write it on a post-it note, stick it to your bathroom mirror, make it your wallpaper on your computer; however you need to remember that you are dearly loved, forgiven, and free because of what Jesus did on the Cross. He longs for us to know that we are loved. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace… -Hebrews 4:16 We limit the work of the Cross when we continue to live in our sin and
MY PRAYER FOR YOU TODAY IS THIS:
clutter. Jesus came so that we are not only saved from our sin, but also so
I pray that you would know, deep down in
that we can experience the freedom God intended for us from the very
your soul, the desire that the Lord has for
beginning. Friend, what would it look like for you and me to put aside the
you. His deepest hope is for you to know
noise, distractions, and insecurities long enough to frolic in His grace?
Him fully, and therefore be able to live
What would God be able to do in you if you cleared the clutter from your
fully. I pray that you will hear His voice
life and heart? We live on the other side of the Cross, where freedom is
speaking your unique identity over you, and
our middle name and Christ is always present to us. What a gift it is to
not be distracted by the noise and clutter
learn who He has created us to be, and to live that out in this world. We
that so easily steals our focus. May we live
deprive the people around us when we let lies, distractions, shame, or
in this sacred space, bowed down before
whatever it may be keep us from living out our true, God-given identity.
His Throne. May we rest in knowing that
You were created like no one else, a beautifully unique individual with
though good and bad will come, neither
dreams and passions that can only be expressed through you. Seek the
should steal us from His Presence. True rest
Lord and ask Him how He sees you. Test the false narratives you hear
comes from knowing who we are in Him, and living
against His Word, and throw away the lies. DO NOT LET THEM TAKE UP
that out fully.
PRECIOUS SPACE, BUT LET GOD FILL IT WITH HIS GRACE AND PEACE.
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seek Him first
M A E A L B E R TO
TO R I GI L L I T
The ground below me is caving in, creating a giant sinkhole that will swallow up the cars on the 101 freeway. Large clusters of black clouds rage across the gray sky as the end of the world nears. Iâ€™m sitting in my car, stuck in rush hour traffic, and in my stomach, I feel the anticipation of what is to come. It makes its way to my chest, to my throat, and like a spider web, it spreads down my arms, to my fingers, and to my head. My heart and mind are racing. My chest hurts. Itâ€™s hard to breathe. And the sweat reeking from my palms make it difficult to hold on to the steering wheel. So I let go. I clench my hands until nails dig into skin, and I convince myself that the scenario outside my car is not reality. The images are all in my head. But the feelings they propel certainly do feel real. ANXIETY ATTACKS ARE LIKE INTRUDERS THAT INVADE MY BODY AND MIND AND ROB ME OF EVERYTHING FROM MY BREATH TO MY SENSE OF SECURITY. Most of the
time, its reason is clearly illogical, but the damage it causes in the few seconds or minutes they last feel real. The shame they leave behind is relentless. The first anxiety attack I can remember happened when I was around eight years old. My family and I were having lunch at a Chinese restaurant down the street from our apartment. There was a ceiling fan above our table, and as it spun around and around, I pictured it loosening. I heard the creaking sounds of its screws giving way, and I imagined it falling, breaking plates and scattering almond chicken, fried rice, and chow mein all over the room. Before my made up scenario could happen, I went under the table and refused to come out. My parents were upset with me for causing a scene, but I swore that the ceiling fan was going to collapse onto the table. As I grew older, the sources of my intruding attacks evolved. The washing machine used too much water, and the end of the world would follow. The mileage on my odometer kept increasing, and the end of the world was imminent. And most tragically, so much paper was being wasted, and the world was going to end. It was the latter that caused continuous, lasting concern and anxiety. But, all were clearly ridiculous to any sound mind. They were absurd even to my own less reasonable one.
After the Chinese restaurant incident, it took many years (not until I was an adult) before I verbally expressed my anxieties to my parents and friends again. Perhaps, even at a young age, although I didn’t understand what I was feeling, where it was coming from, and what it was, I understood that it was not normal. So I didn’t say a word, but I dealt with the war that was going on inside of me in other ways: either silent retreat or angry tantrums. To those who didn’t know me, I appeared shy, or at worst, snobbish and aloof. To my friends and family, I was a teenager with an attitude and violent mood swings. But to me, those assumptions were better than having them witness me shaking, hyperventilating, and rocking back and forth, spewing predictions about the waste of paper causing the end of the world. They would have thought I was crazy. I thought I was crazy.
In high school, I read I Never Promised You a Rose
now realize was wrong, but nonetheless, God got me in
Garden, and I feared that I suffered from schizophrenia.
church. And although it took a while until I really heard
In college, I took a course in psychology, and I thought
Him, He continued to plant seeds. And after a few years
maybe I was bipolar. Then, I saw the movie Mad Love
of attending church, my brother lent me the book Anxious
about Drew Barrymore’s character who suffered from
for Nothing by John MacArthur. While reading that book,
clinical depression, and I thought, definitely, I was
I was hit with God’s message to me. I finally heard what
clinically depressed. During the worst of my anxiety
He had been trying to tell me about my anxiety and where
attacks (and there were periods in my life that I had several
I failed in coping with it.
episodes throughout the day, every day), I often wished that I was dead. I thought dying would be better than
MY FIRST FAILING WAS THAT RATHER THAN SEEK THE PEACE
those inexplicable feelings that made my bones weak and
OF GOD, I FUELED MY PRIDE WITH ACCOLADES THAT MY
my stomach sick. So, I must have been clinically depressed,
OWN STRENGTH WAS ALL I NEEDED. Perhaps it was my way
of comforting myself, but such false and prideful selfconfidence blinded me into believing that I was the end all, be all answer to my anxieties. I relied on myself to
No, I was none of the above. And I wasn’t crazy either.
understand, diagnose, and cure my own symptoms. Forget WHAT I WAS, WHAT I AM, IS AN IMPERFECT HUMAN BEING,
the fact that I had no knowledge on the subject or that I
WHO HAS A NATURAL TENDENCY TO CONSUME THE STRESS
was no miracle worker. I believed I was the expert on my
OF THE WORLD AND CARRY IT ON HER SHOULDERS. I had
life. I had been fighting those intruding attacks my whole
been doing that since I was a young girl. And as far as my
life, so who better to know how to handle them, right?
anxieties were concerned, I took on that fight on my own as well. I reasoned that I was used to taking care of myself.
Over the years, I went to counseling. I practiced yoga.
Whenever life’s trials came my way, I prided myself with
Despite my discord with running, I forced myself to do it
getting through them on my own. I used to say that I was
because I heard it was good for the mind and soul. And
a survivor, that the one thing I knew how to do was get
after a counseling session or a good workout, I prided
myself out of jams and survive through storms.
myself with overcoming another attack. But, unfortunately, peace was still a stranger I gave up on meeting.
Yet I could never make my anxieties disappear. Although THEN, I GOT TO KNOW GOD.
I could make the surface look presentable and neat and organized, underneath the surface was a mess. I was a mess. And by the time I was thirty, I had succumbed
It took a while though. Like I mentioned, it was a few
to the idea that I was going to live the rest of my life
years of attending church until I finally heard Him. It was
experiencing over and over again those intruding attacks
because I was stubborn, resistant, and proud. But He knew
on my sense of security. I was going to live the rest of my
that. He knew me, and yet He continued to be gracious.
life fearing paper as the cause of the world’s end. The idea
He continued to place people in my life to keep me in
of realizing inner peace was so unfamiliar that I accepted
line whenever I strayed. Now that I know Him, I realized
the consistently sporadic state of turmoil that stalked me.
that He had been doing that all my life. All those times I thought I was doing everything on my own, I wasn’t. All those times I thought it was my strength that got me
Then, ten years ago, I met God. And everything changed.
through those anxiety attacks, it wasn’t my strength. God At that time, my brother had just become a pastor. So,
was there working in my life, and although I didn’t ask for
I started to attend church regularly but not for God and
it, He gave me strength. Even when I didn’t recognize His
not to hear God’s word. I went for my brother, which I
gifts, He provided me with them.
It was when the Holy Spirit opened my heart, and I heard God’s message to me that I learned to use what He has provided. I learned that God gives us the tools (like counseling, medication, etc.) to deal with whatever conditions, ailments, situations or circumstances we are in. But we must seek Him first, not just focus on how to “fix” our problems and ailments. Although I had been going to counseling on and off since I was in high school, it was not enough because I failed to seek God first. As much as I believe in counseling, I now believe that we must also be careful as to who we talk to and seek advice from. We must be careful as to what coping mechanisms we utilize. We must make sure those tools come from God. WE MUST TRUST THAT GOD IS IN CONTROL AND THAT HE IS GOOD. We can trust that whatever circumstances
we are in, He is there with us. He will guide us. But we must listen. When I remind myself to trust and seek Him, I can cope using tools I know are from Him. God is the one ultimately at work in me. SO, HIS MESSAGE WAS, AND STILL IS, TO SEEK HIM FIRST. Read his Word. Then, tell Him your specific
prayers. Pray that He reveals your next steps. Let God guide you as to the tools you need to deal with your condition, illness, and/or ailment, and then, use those tools to let Him work in your life. In the last few years, instead of just saying prayers in my head or out loud in my car, I set a specific time to write to God. I keep a journal that is addressed to Him. In that journal, I tell Him whatever I am struggling with, and I ask Him to guide me. Some days are harder. I find that my toughest and most painful struggles are the most difficult to write down. But I force myself to write until I reach the end of the page. I have found that in that process, whatever God wants me to do, his direction to me, becomes clearer. What I have also found is that even if my condition or circumstance doesn’t completely disappear or change after implementing tools like counseling and running (for which I now have no discord with), I am still changed, and I grow in Him. Thus, although I am still inflicted with anxiety attacks, they are no longer a daily part of my life. They no longer consume, control, or define me. I am more aware of signs of their onset and what triggers them. And now, my initial reaction to them is to pray. I pray for God’s help, and I remind myself of this verse: 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:6-7
HE HAS GIVEN ME THE PEACE THAT I THOUGHT WOULD FOREVER BE A STRANGER. Now when
the anxiety, that unwelcomed intruder, threatens that peace, the Word of God is my strongest weapon that makes any other tools or weapons capable and possible. 8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable— if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9 So, seek God and pray in whatever situation you are in. Seek Him, trust Him, and He will give you peace. Because even if we had given up on that peace, even if we think that peace is impossible to attain, GOD HASN’T GIVEN UP. HE IS THE PEACE.
HANDS & heart THE PURSUIT OF LIVING FULLY ALIVE
We are very excited to share several artists, entreprenuers, and makers who are actively engaged in their passions and using their gifts to glorify God. We believe you will be blessed and inspired by their courage and pursuit of living fully alive. See below for additional features found within our main content.
Story Feature JARS OF HOPE Pg. 118
Spotlight Features KIBIBI DESIGN Pg. 18 FREER CERAMICS Pg. 114 HERE BELOW Pg. 158
Market Catalog Pg. 166-171
PROMPTED JOURNALS TO SPRUCE UP YOUR PRAYER TIME
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WHERE FASHION MEETS PHILANTHROPY
PURPOSE • BEAUTY • JOY
PASSIONATE ABOUT TELLING GOD’S STORY THROUGH YOU
CREATING A STANDARD OF CHARM & CLASS
We think you are incredible. And, we believe in what you are investing your time and heart into. No matter how small or how large your business, we think it deserves attention. We want to support your passion and obedience to the Lord in doing what He’s created you to do. God has intentionally placed you and has given you a dream that makes you come alive. To us, your business is not just any business. It is a calling to glorify God. If you would like more information on being featured in our next issue, visit our partners page:
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no. 7 contributors
JULIA MADDEN SEARS
TAYLOR SHEUERMAN, TMINSPIRED PHOTOGRAPHY
MEIWEN WANG PHOTOGRAPHY
samanthadenisehardcastle. wordpress.com IMANI CHET LYTLE
chetphotography.net TARA SANDERS
vintageandsoul.co DAWN VICTORIA PHOTOGRAPHY
Cover Makeup Artist
TMinspired.com JOY JOHNSTON
sipofbrandy.com MELISSA LOPEZ
euncreative.com BETHANY KUIKEN
instagram.com/lydiatoll JAZMIN ANTOINETTE
TIANA PLUCK, OLIVE + MINT LETTERING
MEG HILL PHOTO
instagram.com/olivemintlettering KALLIE GARRETT
kaylajohnsonphoto.com KARMEN SMITH
annasjoy.com RICHELLE BERGEN
meghillphoto.com SARAH B. CALLIGRAPHY
BAILEY T. HURLEY
baileythurley.com KATIE WARD
progress. just make prog ress. it's okay to have setbacks and the need for do-overs. It's okay to draw a line in the sand and start over again and again. just make sure you're moving the line forward. move forward. take baby steps, but at least take steps that keep you from being stuck. then change will come. and it will be good.
LYS A T E R K E U R ST
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