My Perfect Little Picture

IMG_0268.JPG

Here it is. The ever so classic, (ahem…and maybe a little cliche), oh-so-cozy winter scarf and trendy coffee mug Instagram selfie. Add in white lights and red finger nail polish for good measure. Oh, how my life looks so lovely.

But what if you were actually here sitting in this room with me? What would you see? Well, for one, the Earl Gray tea in my cute Starbucks mug is cold….like 3 hours old cold. And, in actuality, I’m not even drinking it anymore. I’m double dipping my carrot sticks into hummus. Oh, and my nails are chipped. And well, if you turn the camera around you see the cute, but snotty-nosed, toddler with the pile of things that should have been put away yesterday.

But alas, I did not open my real life up to you. You only saw my perfect little IG life. The one that makes you feel less than and like your day to day doesn’t measure up.

And again, I ask myself what is all this for? Did that picture I shared bring a smile to your face or leave you feeling just a little inadequate?

I write this today because I’ve felt it. I think we all have. Those strangers with 30k followers who share pictures of their perfectly decorated homes for their perfect dinner parties with all their beautiful guests. Or maybe it’s a little more up close and personal. And the reality is nobody’s life looks like their silly, perfect pictures. It doesn’t matter if you have the prettiest home, the most well dressed children in those precious Christmas cards, the best handmade Christmas gifts, or the most fun and extravagant events to attend, or heck, the most likes or blog shares.

At the end of the day, your life will not be measured by this. And, at the end of the day, your worth and value don’t come from it either.

Oh, and here you go. Merry Christmas.

IMG_0266-1.JPG

Advertisements

Seasons

IMG_9035.JPG
I woke up the other morning and had one of those life reflection moments. You know, the ones where you examine where you are in life.

I was just well……thankful. God has us in this beautiful place in life. Two young kids who wear us out but bring such joy. A merging of friendships old and new. Opportunities to try and learn new things. To meet new people. We are healthy. We are provided for. We are loved. Healing has come to my family.

Yet, as I look at life through the lens of the present with gratitude for my own life, I am painfully aware of friends who sit in very different positions.

Friends who are raising families while battling cancer. Friends who are weary from fighting for their children’s lives. Friends who sit next to their husbands in hospitals hoping memory will return. Friends who are grieving loss. Friends who can’t plan for the future because they are waiting. Day in and day out. Friends who have broken families battling depression and darkness. And I know darker days will come for me as well. These seasons are a part of all of our lives. They make take different forms but we will all inevitably have valleys.

Here’s the truth I rest in today. No matter the season, God is Unchanging. He’s not broken when we are. He’s not sick. He’s not weary. But He has everything that we need for those of us that are. And while this season I’m in is good, I pray I dont waste it on just being content. But instead, let me be mindful enough to respond to those who are in very different seasons. That I can share in the suffering of those carrying burdens. Praying over them. Encouraging them. Serving them. That’s what we are here for.

So today, I am thankful. For the goodness of God in my past, present, and future. And that His goodness and capabilities dont change when our circumstances do.

Legacy for Glory

20140707-084435-31475566.jpg
Years later, her words of wisdom and closeness to Jesus, still impact me. Though she now tastes the goodness of our Father in a new and glorious way, I remember her life and the beauty she exuded of Jesus while here on Earth. 

Valerie was one of those people whose quiet strength, sweet spirit, and intentional discipleship, had a way of influencing so many around her. Her love was just so….well….lovely. Even through her battle with cancer, she glorified Jesus in ways that made me want to know him more. 

Currently, I’m reading one of Valerie’s favorite books. It’s called The Practice of the Presence of God. It’s based off of conversations and letters by a 17th century monk named Brother Lawrence. It’s a short book, but full of snippets of wisdom from a man who pursued communing with and glorifying God through the everyday monotony of life. 

It’s funny. I never read it when Valerie boasted of how good it was. Maybe it was because it was meant for now. As I read through scripture and through another book called Everyday Church, the words of the three books echo each other….all written hundreds of years apart. It’s a beautiful thing how God allows conversations to live on to remind us of who He is….whether they be with a 17th century monk or a dear friend and mentor. 

Today, I’m thanking God for sweet friendships, for those who intentionally pour Truth coupled with love into others, and for the opportunity to be in continual commune with Jesus throughout the day. These are all sweet gifts from Him alone. 

Why Moving Stinks

20140420-231034.jpg

I’ve been in a funk. On the brink of tears for days. Tired. Knot in my chest. Blegh…

It’s the pending move. Boxes gathered by friends and family sit in my shed and I haven’t been able to make myself get started on packing. 

I’m not doubting what God has called us to do. His hand is all over it in ways I will save for a different day. And I’m definitely excited about the opportunity that lies before us to live out the Gospel in High Point. Still, it doesn’t make it easy. That feeling of needing to breathe deeper to feel relief just won’t go away. This sacrifice is NOT an easy one. 

It’s because of what it requires me to leave. And all the little things that make up beautiful memories. 

And it’s them. The ones we have done life with on a daily basis for the last 12 years. 

The ones we lived with in college and “traded” roommates when we got married. 

The one I would hide and jump out to scare as she came in from school. 

The one I had sleepovers with in our apartment just so we could stay up talking. 

The ones we shared wedding days with. 

The ones we’ve shared countless pancake breakfasts and cookouts with. 

The ones that gave us a giant candle of shells as a wedding gift that became a back and forth “hide the candle” game that ended up on our roof, in a grill, and under the ground. 

The ones who we moved next door to when we got married.

The one who defends me to this day regarding the car wreck that was my fault because of that lady doing push-ups on the corner. 

The one who does my hair every time I need to dress up for something.

The ones who model unconditional love. 

The one we text at 10:00 at night when our baby has a fever. 

 The one who wrote me a note on the anniversary of my dad’s death every year. 

The ones who were at the birth of our children and we at theirs. 

The ones who are parents to my little boy’s favorite person in the world. 

The ones who let us live with them for 5 months while our home was rebuilt. 

The ones who listen and who pray. 

The ones who we have hard God conversations with and who arent afraid to challenge us or ask questions. 

The ones who encourage us and love us unconditionally. 

I could go on and on and on. Lauren and Ryan, this blog is for you. You are our family. The memories we have made    the last 12 years have been some of the best of my life. 

Thank you for being the kind of friends that make me feel this kind of sadness about moving. Not that I enjoy the sadness. But God has blessed us with one of the sweetest gifts in life. A sweet and beautiful friendship. Our moving does not and will not ever change how important you are to us. 

You are treasured. 

“Is any pleasure on earth as great as a circle of Christian friends by a good fire?”  C.S. Lewis

Is Your Church An Idol?

If you were to sneak into my home on any given night at 8:30….er….9:00, you might hear me humming the words to one of the most well known hymns of all time. As I lie my baby in her crib, and stroke her sweet forehead, this song I hum with my face to her cheek. It is my nightly prayer over her and Jude. It’s not a song I heard growing up on Sundays because I didn’t grow up “in church, ” nor have I attended many churches where this song was played regularly on a Sunday morning, yet somehow, its words have found a home in my heart. 

Just take this simple line. 

Be thou my vision, Oh Lord of My heart. 

Now. Soak. That. Up! 

Isn’t it so pure, so raw, so beautiful?

Now I realize the title of this blog probably caught some people off guard, but I need to share the song God has been humming in my ear lately. It’s the song above, only in relation to the church. 

I’ve had the opportunity to be in community with some pretty cool believers through different church bodies. Each body looked very different from the one before. Each one was a place where God allowed me to learn and grow. Each one a place where I experienced His goodness and grace over my life. However, I’ve made one critical mistake over and over and OVER again. Even still, I struggle to not make the mistake. 

Confession time. 

MY CHURCH HAS BEEN MY IDOL.

Yes. It’s true. I have been so in love with my church that it became about it being “my church.” Sin crept into my thinking as I loved my church so much, that I began to worship IT and not God.  It became my vision, more than He did.

The comfort of a great community. The depth of a great sermon. The gift to a person in need. I loved this so much that pride took root. And when pride took root, comparisons began. And when comparisons began, I played a part in the division of God’s Church.

So, I took something beautiful, the beautiful parts of church, and made it ugly. How human of me.  

I must remind myself not what the church is, but whose the Church is. It is His. Not mine. My identity is in Christ, not in where I sign my membership card. And more important than everything that I love about my church, is the Gospel. I’m one teeny, tiny person in a teeny, tiny local church body that is in His enormous, worldwide Church. And if I can continually remind myself of these truths, perhaps, His Church will be a little more the way it’s supposed to be. 

So my prayer tonight no matter what church body you affiliate with, is this…

As the church body, this message reverberates through each member:

Be thou our vision, Oh Lord of our hearts.

Relearning the Gospel

20140210-084049.jpg

I thought I had it down. 

I’ve known Jesus for a long time. Known that He turned my life around from a wreckless child pursuing things that fall void. Known His power to work out the deepest hurts of my life. Felt His word direct me, encourage me, convict me. And I am THANKFUL!

BUT, He’s shaking everything up lately. 

EVERY.  THING. 

There is a holy dissatisfaction that while I have honestly pursued Jesus, I have been missing something. 

Are you ready for what’s been missing? Don’t judge me. I’m being real. And raw. And I’m embarrassed. 

It’s the Gospel. 

I’m in the midst of a paradigm shift.  A new lens of understanding the Gospel. 

It’s enough, you know. 
The Gospel. 

My life means nothing without it- My passions, my strengths, my skills -My family, my friends, my job, my social justice causes. 

The Gospel shapes everything about me. It IS my identity. I read in Colossians 3 today, “From now on everyone is defined by Christ.” 
 
I am DEFINED by Christ. But do I live that way?

Evan and I been going through some intense conversations lately with some people that are helping us understand the absolute beauty of the gospel. I’ve left these conversations frustrated, scared, and sobered by the reality of what God has required of those who know Him. 

The Gospel isn’t just a story we tell people. No, it should permeate every sense of who you are. The way you prioritize. The way you sacrifice. The way you give. The way you love. The way you respond. The way you live-EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. 

Not Just A Drive Home

20140201-152724.jpg

It’s so easy to get lost in the busyness. If you let it, life will pass you by. Another day wasted. 

My drive home usually looks something like this.

A busy mind trying to detangle the work of that day:  “Did I send that email?” “Did I add that appointment to my calendar?”

Anxiety over the growing list of “to dos” after dinner is made, the kitchen is cleaned, and the kids are tucked into bed. 

Zero patience for the person in front of me who is holding up the passing lane. (Don’t worry Mom-I’m not driving wreck less). 

On my drive today, God captivated me with THIS. 

Subtle pinks of a fading sunset dancing on the tips of leafless trees. 

A brilliant orange commanding attention as it burst through the rugged terrain of Winter’s landscape. 

Glassy, cool hues of dark blue reflecting the gifts of the earth above.  

Be still, my heart. Be still. 

Open my eyes to the beauty that quiets my soul and refreshes my spirit. 

“The heavens are telling of the Glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.” Psalm 19:1 

Ben’s Road

Ben 

I remember our last family vacation the summer before my dad died.

Our family traveled to Maui and I am forever thankful for some of the beautiful memories that were made there. One memory made was our exploration of the well known Road to Hana, a 55 mile stretch of road that exudes the breathtaking beauty of God’s creation. We had to take 2 cars for our family of 6. Ben, the youngest of my siblings, was riding in the jeep with one of my other siblings, Dad, and I. If you know my brother, or you have ever known him, you would agree that he knows how to talk. During our ride, Ben’s God-given enthusiasm for life was pouring out of him by way of words. I remember Dad setting a rule in place, “Ben, you can say one sentence per mile that we drive”. The poor kid had gotten in trouble for, as he would say at that time, “denominating” the conversation. Every mile, Dad would give Ben the opportunity to share another sentence of his story, yet Ben’s 8 year old mind couldn’t wrap his brain around picking up where the story had last left off without a recap, so he was never able to get past the first few sentences. We laughed that day about it, and we still do today.

Ben was my dad’s only son, and a perfect little mini-me of him. An outspoken, adventurous, full of life little kid that brought so much joy to our family. The day my dad died, it changed everything for all of us, especially for him. Ben struggled to process the pain of losing Dad. He struggled with a deep rooted anger that infected him to his core. Though incredibly intelligent, he crawled his way all through school, eventually turning toward drugs as a coping mechanism. It was as if we were slowly watching him die and didn’t know how to help. Believe me, this wasn’t for lack of effort on anyone’s part. My mother, family and friends poured into this hurting heart, but our sincerest efforts were not what could rescue him.

 By the time Ben graduated high school, he had slipped into a downward spiral. Depression was deep. No matter how much good was in his life, a dark cloud fogged his ability to see clearly. He struggled to see any good in the world or in people. He sat at times with my dad’s handgun in his lap contemplating the unthinkable.

A series of events led Ben to pursue a fresh start at Teen Challenge, a discipleship based program for men struggling with alcohol and drug abuse. By the absolute grace and goodness of God, my brother has been CHANGED. For the first time since my Dad’s death, I have seen him whole again. But is he broken? Yes. Are all his problems gone? No. What has changed in him lies in his submission. All the weight, all the years of anger and pain- He has laid them at the feet of our Father. Ben’s wholeness lies in the work of Christ in his life.

This morning I visited a church where Teen Challenge was visiting. My brother had the opportunity to share his story-his story of pain, but more his story of hope. As I sat there this morning, I was absolutely moved to tears as I watched my brother spend more time glorifying the goodness of God than dwelling on the pain of his life experiences. He spoke Truth over those people. His goal was not for them to hear his sufferings, it was to edify the church and to Glorify God. His heart was to see people in that building changed the way he had been changed. At the end of the service, I watched my brother walk over to a broken family friend, hug her, and start praying over her. Then my mom walked over. Then her friend. They all wept as he prayed. I wept as I watched from afar. God’s work in Him is influencing others. It’s encouraging them. Inspiring them. Reminding them of how He makes all things new.

My gratitude today is deep. He has turned ashes to beauty.

Enter your email address to follow beautifullyconnected and receive notifications of new posts by email.