Grace and Gluttony

I admittedly have a problem. I’m a glutton. Now before we continue this conversation, I have to stop you. When I say glutton, I’m not referring to eating. Don’t get me wrong, I love sitting down to eat a meal that has been put together with loving hands, or taking a bite of a delicate pastry that has just come out of the oven. However, overeating is something that sickens me. On the occasions that I have found myself in the place where I put too much food in my mouth, I feel sick, not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually. What I am confessing here is not the overconsumption of food, but the overconsumption of life.

I’m an all or nothing kind of person. If I’m going to cook a meal for my family, I want it to have a main course, two sides, and dessert. I want my coffees Venti and my schedule picture perfect. If I’m going to workout, only an hour will do. If I can’t fit in an hour with Jesus, then obviously He won’t be pleased to hear from me. If I’m going to use a planner then it has to be followed to the T. Any change or skipping of a duty is treason to my life. Seriously, this is a problem.

For those of you that know me as the person who loves adventure and trying new things, this may seem odd. The funny part is, I love the little things in life. I love randomly going to try a new activity or tasting a new kind of lemonade. Just ask the man (my husband) who has to constantly hear my “OOO’s and AAHH’s” over the changing of the leaves or the twinkling stars. He sees me breathe sighs of deep relief when I relish in a warm cupcake or cozy up next to the fireplace. A piece of chocolate can better someone’s life. A small candle lit makes a world of difference in a room. Yet, I’ve come to realize that I only enjoy the small things in life if they’re coming from something or someone else. If the things of life are about me or coming from me, then by all means, it must be big and good. It must be of the impressive kind of things, nothing less than the best given my this girl over here.

This seeps into everyday life and I’ve found that it affects not only my to-do list and my adventures, but also my joy. I’m afraid to take on something new because what if I can’t give it 150%. I’m afraid to start cleaning, because what if I only clean the counters in the kitchen! I’m afraid to cook because what if the flavoring isn’t just right or what if someone is still hungry; it would be a crime for them to have to take some berries out of the fridge to munch on. I’m afraid to start a new adventure because what if I can’t do my best. I don’t want to take a day off of work for a mental health day because what if someone is disappointed in my work ethic. I’m afraid to write a blog post because surely it could be longer, more in depth, more nourishing to the  soul. What I need is grace, from myself, to myself. I need to give myself the permission to try new things, to celebrate in the little things, to spend only 30 minutes a day working out, to read only 3 pages in a book, to sip on a Tall or Grande sized coffee, to call someone I miss even if it’s only for ten minutes.

Do you need that kind of grace today?

Luke 16:10 says: “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.” How many times have I been unfaithful in little things because I was afraid of how small it was? It’s okay to do seemingly small things. It’s okay to spend 5 minutes praying, it’s better than 0. It’s okay to fit in a 10 minutes workout, your body needs the movement. The dinner you’ve prepared for your family doesn’t need to be extravagant. Do the small things my friend. Take joy in the little things that you do, they’re enough, you’re enough.  

 

Lost Sheep

Read: Matthew 18:11-14
I’ve read these scriptures 100 times over, and if you include the times
I have heard sermons on it, or read a devotional, the number would
most likely increase exponentially. I know that Jesus would leave the
99, He has, and He will do it again, just to save the 1 lost sheep.
In the short twenty-something years that I’ve been around, I have had
multiple reactions to this story. Like everyone else I process these
stories through my life experiences. I internalize them when I feel
connected to one of the characters. This makes is personal and I feel as though I really understand what Jesus was saying, and come to find
out, all my thoughts were quite off.
As a dedicated 99, I get frustrated at the 1. The 1 just can’t seem to
get it right. How dare you? Jesus died for your sins and yet you treat
Him like trash! Can you not just follow Him? That thought process
normally happens when I’m up on a mountain top where I carelessly
have forgotten just Who placed me there.
Sometimes, I connect myself to Jesus in this story – can I give you a
word of advice? You’re not Jesus, nor were you intended to be. And
despite what you might be thinking right now, when you try to
understand a story by thinking the character you mostly relate to is
Jesus, you may just be headed down a road where you try to do all the
saving. But I digress, there are sometimes that when I read scripture,
my brain says: “Yes, I am most like Jesus in this! I relate to Him the
most.” When this occurs, instead of becoming more like Jesus, I try to
take His place. I see that 1 and instead of pointing to Jesus, the One
True Savior, I lend out my own hand.
When I’m the 1 though, that 1 who just can’t get her act together, my
mental thought processes are quite different. Shame enters in.
“Goodness, Ali,” I say to myself… “Jesus died for you, and look how
you’re thanking Him! You’re worthless. You don’t deserve Him or His
love.” Now some of you might say that these thoughts are slipped into
my mind from our enemy, and while sometimes I know this is true, I
think it is important to realize that sometimes our biggest enemy is
ourselves. My brain really is that mean to me and I’d be willing to bet
that I’m not the only one.
With all these different approaches that I’ve had to this story in the
Bible, I thought I had touched it from all angles. Surely, one was close
to being right? Let me tell you my friend, just when you start thinking
that, you’re in for a lesson…
Many of you may know that I’m a teacher of the littles. Some of the
littlest of littles. The 5-year-old littles that forget whether they’ve
eaten lunch, or how many recesses there are per day. By the way, Ihave not forgotten what I was writing about. I promise this all ties
together. Now, where was I? Oh yes, the littles, and recess. Can I
share with you just how God opened my eyes to Matthew 18:11-14 using
my littles?
One beautiful school day recess time came for the group of littles that
share my classroom and on this particular day, I didn’t have recess
duty. Relieved at the promise of 20 minutes of quiet, I walked them
down to the recess doors, checked to make sure the teachers that had
duty were out there, dropped off the children and went back my
classroom to get some of my to-do list done.
Twenty minutes passed and my sweet kiddos came walking back in. As I
gave them directions, they went to gather the supplies and made their
way to their carpet squares to get ready for our math lesson. It didn’t
take even a minute, once everyone was sitting on the rug, for me to
become slightly panicked. “Where’s A and R?” I asked, trying to hide
the panic from them.
“Still outside…” They all replied.
As I asked them why, I could see on their faces that they were
starting to worry. No one knew why they were still outside. I stepped
out to see if maybe they were lingering in the hallway, but to no avail.
Another teacher offered to go look for them and my heart twisted.
While I thanked her for the help, they aren’t her babies. They’re mine.
I’ve been given the responsibility for them. It’s my job to find them. I
know them. I know where to look. After what seemed like eternity she
came back to offer to watch my other children while I went to find
them. It took everything in me not to run outside, but with other
groups of children in the hallways I did my best to show them the
example of “quick walking because you’re not supposed to run in the
hallway”. I want to add here that my students that were outside, were
never left without supervision. Other recesses were going on, and they
were perfectly safe, they just were not where they should be.
As I got outside, I looked through the crowd on the playground for
them. When I found them, my heart loosened a little from the panic it had taken hold of. Once their hands were in mine and we were on the
way back to the classroom I could breathe again. I thought about what
to say, how to respond. When my two littles realized that I had come
to get them and the rest of our class was not with me, they became
worried. They were apologetic and scared. My response was calm: “It’s
okay, you’re safe now. We are going to go back to class and start math.
It’s all okay. Everyone is glad you’re safe.” As I was talking I assessed
my feelings. There was no anger. I wasn’t mad at them for not hearing
the whistle when our recess was over. I didn’t want them to be
punished for their mistake. I didn’t even want them to know they had
caused my heart to hurt so much, I just wanted them to know that I
cared that they were safe and I wanted them to feel loved.
Please know that I say this next part with caution. I don’t want to ever
claim to hear the voice of God flippantly or make you think it’s
something that happens often or that I even take it for granted. I
know though that His voice was there that day. As all these thoughts
were running through my head, as we walked back to our classroom
hand-in-hand, as I explained to them it was all okay, I heard Him. Also,
may I preface this, if you’re new to my writing, Jesus talks to me in a
way I understand. Sometimes it’s sweet and kind, other times it’s
sarcastic and witty, and lots of times it’s a bit of both. Our
conversation went something like this:
Jesus: “You went back to the playground for 2 of your students… huh…
isn’t that like 10% of your class?”
Me: “Well yeah! They’re important. They would have been so scared if
they would have realized they were with a different group of kids and
teachers and I hadn’t been there!”
Jesus: “Oh, you’re right… I would know nothing about that. I didn’t
teach about that 1 in 99 before either…”
Me: “……”
Jesus: “Ali, what you feel right now, is just a small bit of the love I
feel when I go get my 1, any of my ones. I’m not mad at the 1. It’s My
job to save them, but it’s My job because I chose it to be. I want them had taken hold of. Once their hands were in mine and we were on the
way back to the classroom I could breathe again. I thought about what
to say, how to respond. When my two littles realized that I had come
to get them and the rest of our class was not with me, they became
worried. They were apologetic and scared. My response was calm: “It’s
okay, you’re safe now. We are going to go back to class and start math.
It’s all okay. Everyone is glad you’re safe.” As I was talking I assessed
my feelings. There was no anger. I wasn’t mad at them for not hearing
the whistle when our recess was over. I didn’t want them to be
punished for their mistake. I didn’t even want them to know they had
caused my heart to hurt so much, I just wanted them to know that I
cared that they were safe and I wanted them to feel loved.
Please know that I say this next part with caution. I don’t want to ever
claim to hear the voice of God flippantly or make you think it’s
something that happens often or that I even take it for granted. I
know though that His voice was there that day. As all these thoughts
were running through my head, as we walked back to our classroom
hand-in-hand, as I explained to them it was all okay, I heard Him. Also,
may I preface this, if you’re new to my writing, Jesus talks to me in a
way I understand. Sometimes it’s sweet and kind, other times it’s
sarcastic and witty, and lots of times it’s a bit of both. Our
conversation went something like this:
Jesus: “You went back to the playground for 2 of your students… huh…
isn’t that like 10% of your class?”
Me: “Well yeah! They’re important. They would have been so scared if
they would have realized they were with a different group of kids and
teachers and I hadn’t been there!”
Jesus: “Oh, you’re right… I would know nothing about that. I didn’t
teach about that 1 in 99 before either…”
Me: “……”
Jesus: “Ali, what you feel right now, is just a small bit of the love I
feel when I go get my 1, any of my ones. I’m not mad at the 1. It’s My
job to save them, but it’s My job because I chose it to be. I want to know they’re safe. I want them to know they’re loved. And I want
them to know that the rest of My children are happy they’re back safe
and sound.”
My heart stilled, the three points of view that had so dominantly been
in place had ceased to exist. They had quieted to the Truth of His love.
That’s what happens to lies when they are confronted by His
never-ending love, they have no choice but to fall back.
My dear friend, I don’t know where on that spectrum of thoughts you
fall. Maybe you’re the 99, strong in your walk with the Lord, but you
tend to get annoyed at those who can’t get it together; maybe you’re
the compassionate servant, holding out your hand to the lost, but
forgetting you’re not their savior; maybe you’re the 1 that keeps
messing up. Jesus has a word for you today. To the 99, love the ones.
To the compassionate, keeping loving, just remember Who does the
saving! To the ones, you are loved, let Him make you safe; He’s not mad
at you. To all of His children, His love, His never-ending love, is much
deeper and everlasting than our beings can even imagine.

Six Minutes to Eternity

I’ve been told this message jumps all over the place, and while that is true, I ask that you stick around. Come with me on this multi-lane adventure, because I promise you the destination makes sense, once you get there.
A while back I woke up too late to do my devotions. Because of my habitual pressing of the snooze button, I had missed my time of praying and decided to pray while I was driving. That week in particular was more than busy. Monday was small group, Tuesday was song practice, Wednesday was church, Thursday was something at school, and Friday I was due to teach a lesson at a church youth event. As the realization hit me that I had yet to prepare a lesson for the upcoming youth night, my confusion of God’s provision was heightened.
“God,” I spoke up, “Why haven’t you given me anything yet?!”
There aren’t many times I here a direct, quick answer, but this one threw me for a loop.
In a thought loud enough to be barely a whisper I heard, “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”
Nearly in tears I asked God for forgiveness. I had been upset with Him because I had expected Him to give the answer when I hadn’t even asked.
Then I asked: “God, this is important to me. I know they only give us six minutes to teach this lesson, but those six minutes could mean someone’s eternity.”
This latter sentence rolled over and over in my mind and wouldn’t let up. Six minutes could mean someone’s eternity… Six minutes.
When I got to work, I spent a few minutes looking up “six minutes”. Why wouldn’t this idea of that specific time frame leave me? What things of importance could you do in such a little amount of time? So I asked Google, because obviously that is the place to go for answers. The following is what Google suggested:

  1. You could run a mile (insert picture of me laughing hysterically, because as smart as Google is, this one, my dear friends, it got wrong).
  2. Go through a drive thru twice… Once again, dear Google, you are misinformed, or we need to switch our food choices because I’m not sure I’ve been through a drive thru in that amount of time… ever.
  3. You could go get coffee down the street! Oh, here is the Google I know. Good job Google! Finally you speak my language. Coffee. Coffee is a good thing.

Now as you can see by the three things in this list, six minutes is not a lot of time. In fact, if you do the math, six minutes is less than 1% of your day. Yet, this small amount of time, the time it could take you to get coffee, or run a mile, or whatever your thing may be, that time could be used to save someone’s life.
Too many times when God asks us to do something, He asks of us the things we consider small. The things that seem so minute that we mistakenly think they are not worth our time. There is no “little” or “big” thing to God though. In His word, He continually shows us that He uses the things we consider little to perform great miracles. We see Him work in David. I’m sure David could’ve let fear take over. He could’ve said: “I’m not big enough. I’m not old enough. I’m not enough.” Instead though, we see a small, young man defeat a war champion, a giant, with a sling and a few stones. Flip a few books on and we find a young orphan. She was chosen to be the wife of a king, a seemingly flippant king at that. Yet she was chosen, not only by a king, but by The King. He chose her to save her whole country from genocide. Skip a handful or more books on and we come upon a small village that was chosen to be the birthplace of our Savior. I can’t help but wonder how different Christ’s story would have been, if that small village, if that small stable, would’ve said, “I’m not good enough, no baby can be born here”.

1 Corinthians 1:27-28 (NLT)

“Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish… And he chose things that are powerless… chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them…”
Have you ever felt foolish? Have you ever felt like you weren’t good enough, worthy enough of the calling you had received? Has God ever asked you to do something that seemed too big for you to accomplish? I’ve been there. I could venture to say that we’ve all been there. No matter how small or insignificant you feel, God has made you for a specific purpose and NO ONE else can fill that exact role.
Have you ever felt like the calling you received wasn’t good or big enough? Maybe you feel like you should be doing bigger and better things. Yet, God has something “smaller” in mind. Sometimes his voice is hard to hear because he chooses to whisper things and when he asks something small, we don’t think it’s going to make that big of a difference, so we don’t listen. Yet there are so many times he asks something small because he wants to use it in a big way. These small things might sound something like this:

  • “Go sit by that kid at the lunch table.”
  • “Give that teacher a smile, I know they get on your nerves, but they’re hurting.”
  • “Say yes when your little sibling asks to play a game.”
  • “Ask your mom or dad how their day was… and really listen this time. They’re human too.”
  • “Text this person, they need a friend.”

God doesn’t call all of us to go to Africa, He doesn’t call all of us to be Pastors or Worship Leaders. But He does call all of us to something; whatever He has asked of you, no matter how small it seems to be, it’s worth it, and He has a bigger plan.
The call rings out clear. Come. Serve. Be planted where you are. Love where you are. Esther 4:14 says: “… And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
I’ve changed the words just a bit and maybe it’ll help you see how it applies to you, right here, right now:
“…And who knows, maybe you were made (in your workplace, in your school, with your family, with your friends) for such a time as this?”
Photo by Eder Pozo Pérez on Unsplash

A Letter To Me

A book I read a while back inspired me to write a letter to who I was ten years ago. My 14-year-old self was going through quite the traumatic time, as many that age do. I had recently turned back to God from a middle school version of rebellion. I was repentant; worried I had messed up any chances of witnessing to those around me, quiet and worried about every little thing. God and I were closer but I still wasn’t sure what it looked like to serve Him in love; the center of our relationship was solely fear, fear I would miss out on Him, fear I would make Him unhappy… Fear. But still I pressed on. With all of that in mind, I’ve decided to write a letter to Freshman self, and I invite you to come along this journey with me; it may end up more important than you realize right now.

Dear 14-year-old self,

May I start by saying hello. If you don’t believe it’s me, I could share a few secrets that only a select few know. Yet, I think if you look into who you are at your core, you’ll believe every word. You are beautiful. You are wanted. You are loved. You are enough. I know life is hard right now, it is for everyone. It never really stops being hard, you just find better ways to give it to God to handle. I have a few words of advice, and I hope at least one of them sticks with you:

  1. Find your worth in the One Who made you. You can’t find lasting worth in achievement because the minute you fail, so does your identity.
  2. Let that guy go, the one who tries to control you, the one who says you need to lose weight, the one who chooses another girl, let him go. He doesn’t know who he is either. And if God’s plan is for you to marry, He will bring a man to you that will love you as He does. He will bring a man that will treasure you more than you feel worthy of.
  3. Take a risk, try out for the squad, go for a late night movie with your friends, do something; just be sure to make stories that will last a lifetime.
  4. Do everything but don’t forget yourself. You have the time, right here, right now to do whatever you want. Be the secretary of a club, join a team you don’t know if you’ll like, join the choir at church, take a night class for a craft, take up a real hobby. These things aren’t what makes you who you are, but you may find a bit of yourself in one of them. You’ll never know if you don’t actually go.
  5. It’s okay to fail, just learn from it. And if all you’ve learned is one thing that doesn’t work for you, then you’ve done well.
  6. Love well. Love those around you, make them smile, make them laugh, show them the beauty you see in them. You’re good at it. It’s one thing you do that’s as easy as snow falling. It just happens. Let it happen.
  7. And for the love, quit letting others define you. There will always be those who talk; give them something to talk about. There will always be those who hate; give them something that makes them question their hatred. There will always be those who love you with everything in their being; don’t push them away.
  8. Just be you, honey. You are beautiful. You will mess up. It’s okay. You will do great things. Celebrate them. You are determined. You have talents and dreams. Pursue them. Most importantly though, out of any of this, you are loved, created for a beautiful purpose. Be you.

Sincerely,

The 24-year-old version of You
You know, as I look over this little letter to myself, I think of how applicable it still is today. I’m in the beginning years of my career, engaged to be married this summer, and yet those eight things apply to me, here and now, just as much as it ever did. And I have this feeling that they will still apply 10 years from now. So the question is this, what would you tell your 10-year younger self? Go write it… and then do something courageous, take your own advice.

 

 

 

Photo by Alexa Mazzarello on Unsplash

Masking My Testimony

I remember the first time I watched Phantom of the Opera. I was entranced by the costumes and masks during the ball scene. It was all beautiful; each mask detailed and with intricate designs. When I became a senior in high school, I got to go to my own masquerade, a prom. Finding a mask to match my dress, posing with it during pictures, it was all a blast. But you see, masks are only pretty on one side. The intricate designs, lace, beads, and colors are only positioned on the side that everyone sees. The other side, the one you see personally is often constricting, covered in itchy fabric, and sweaty if you’ve been wearing it through any kind of activity. Masks often make it hard to breathe, finding one that fits perfectly to your face is quite the challenge.

In life we often wear masks like we attend balls every day. We hide our true selves with fear that if anyone knew, we’d be cast away, thrown out like trash. We teach ourselves to believe that everyone is perfect except for us. We teach ourselves to think that only when we have it all together, only then can we be loved. Yet, our God sees us with these masks and says: “Take them off!” He loves you as you are. As my pastor says, “God doesn’t hold you at arm’s length until you’re perfect and have it all together, He embraces you as you are and lets His love change you over time”.

I’ve hid behind these masks, comfortable in the solace they bring. Then I heard God’s voice say “Enough, daughter, quit hiding your story because I can use it for my glory”. It’s about to get real, I’m opening up something here I’ve never opened this publicly before. They say there are not little or big sins, it’s all the same to God. This is true, and I believe it. With that though, I believe to us there are big and little sins. Their size though is not dependent on how evil they are, for they all separate us from God. Their size, to me, are dependent upon how much they impact our personal lives. I am who I am, the mistakes that I’ve made are in the past and covered by His blood. I no longer claim shame; guilt can no longer reside here. In community there is healing, and if me opening up this raw place in my heart is what it takes to create a safe place for someone to say “Me too”, then that’s what I’ll do. This is the story of my biggest sin, the one that tries to still haunt me to this day. The one that tries to rear its ugly head and say I’m unworthy of love. This sin, it doesn’t define me, by it once did.

It started out as just plain curiosity. When you’re a toddler and trying to discover your body, you’re not completely sure what everything is and what it’s purpose is. So you explore, and try to understand the design you were created with. As I got older, I realized that it had become a habit, the idle curiosity had become a vice. God convicted me and I realized that what I was doing wasn’t meant for that time in my life. I knew I needed to stop, but I kept going back to it. It was a comfort, something that got me through long nights. When I was old enough, with access to technology, it intensified. It became a regular thing. I prayed about it regularly, the guilt ate at me day and night. Its control on me was stronger than I would care to admit. In my own power, I would quit. I would celebrate a day being “clean”, a month, and then I would fall, and I would fall hard.

I believed that if anyone knew, then they would throw me away like yesterday’s smelly trash. I figured everyone would be disgusted with me as I was with myself. How could they love me, knowing it, when I didn’t even love myself. I remember one church service, I went to the altar, as I had in times past. But this time it was different. I gave it all to God, and God told me that He had bridged the gap that my sin had caused between me and Him. I felt free, but I doubted that I could truly be free. Could the chains that had bound me so long truly be gone? My doubt eventually pushed away all hopes and faith that God could heal such a broken thing. I fell back into the habit again. It’s amazing how much temporary comfort a sin can bring. If it didn’t bring fun or comfort, we wouldn’t run to it like we do. That comfort didn’t last long though. The comfort was replaced with the old guilt and shame. Only this time, the load was unbearable. The guilt weighed me down until I couldn’t walk up straight. The shame condemned me until the light in my eyes was gone.

There were times I would muster up some strength, surely this is the last time, I thought. I was sick of it. I was sick of me. How could someone so weak ever be used for anything. Every night the enemy would whisper “it’s okay, it’s your life, your body, do what you want”. Then, in the morning he would whisper again “You’re filth, you’re dirty, no one can ever love you. You have to love yourself, because there’s no way anyone will ever forgive you”. When I would try to quit, he would tell me that God could never use me, my story wasn’t relatable, no one would believe it. You see, you don’t hear stories like this from girls. In the world’s eyes, this is something to celebrate. They say: “You’re exploring your body! Good for you! Know yourself! Find what makes you happy.” In the Christian worldview, we are ashamed to even mention its name. Sure, guys struggle with this, but girls, that’s gross, unthinkable.” I say enough because I feel like God says enough. Enough of this story that says I am perfect. Enough of this story that says I can’t struggle with this kind of sin. Enough of this sin binding me and chaining me down from God.

Here recently, I was freed from this sin. I’m not saying it doesn’t try to sneak in again. It does. I’ve learned to say no. I tried so many times with my own strength, and I failed every time. With God’s strength though, it’s an entirely different battle. Freedom to say no, doesn’t take away the shame and guilt, surprisingly enough, they still hang out on my doorstep. Even with the door closed, I can hear what they say to me. Then, God said enough to them loitering. I went to a church service and the lady speaking talked to use about our masks and how we need to desperately lay them down and let them go. We are not fine. We do not have it all together. We don’t know what we are doing. We can’t do life on our own. At the end of the service, they had an altar call. One of the ladies on stage shared her story, and asked if any girl had something done to them and still felt shame, still questioned, still hurt, to come to the altar, and they did. I prayed for those girls, hard; I was heartbroken for them. Then, she said: “I have one more thing I feel like I need to say, if there are any girls who have done something, anything, this covers a vast majority of things, but if you have, I want you to run, run up here.” And that thing, that sin that brought me so much guilt and shame popped up in my mind. I’ll be honest, I didn’t go at first, and when I did, I didn’t run. I walked up to the edge of the altar area, with my head down. It didn’t matter how long it had been since I had sinned, or how many times I had asked for forgiveness, the heaviness was there. I put my hands up and started to cry. Then, a friend came up and hugged me and prayed for me. I don’t know what she said, I couldn’t hear a thing, but I know what I felt. I know God took away the shame and the guilt I had been bearing for far too long. Once my body and brain had calmed down some, I heard God probe me with a question: “Are you willing to share? Are you willing to share in the place where you share everything? Are you willing to let go of this perfect identity, to create a safe place for others? Are you willing to create a place where there is no condemnation, no guilt, no shame, where someone who is struggling can say ‘me too…’? I want to use you to create a place where the enemy’s hold is no longer present because My children who are struggling no longer feel alone in their struggle.” I juggled these thoughts in my mind, for a few seconds, and then I said yes. If this is what it takes for true freedom, if this is what it takes to be open and honest, yes Lord.

My friend, I don’t know what you are struggling with. I don’t know what you’re hiding, but I can tell you from experience that letting it go, out in the open, is the best choice you will ever make. That thing you’re hiding because you’re scared, it’s not as strong as God. God loves you, He sees you, He sees the struggle. You are not alone. He is pursuing you. I’ve sinned a plethora of sins. I’ve lied, I’ve cheated, I’ve cursed, I’ve ran the other way when God gave me a calling. My brother, my sister, we all struggle and that voice telling you that you are the only one, is a liar. Let God show you His love through the community of His believers. I know you may have been hurt in the past, but the people that love God, Christ’s followers, they will embrace you as you are and love you through it.

You are loved. Your sin is not your identity. You are a child of God and He desperately wants to heal you. Let Him complete the work that He has started in you.

Pumpkin Spice and Jesus

On September 1st I made my students look at me with questioning eyes because of my excitement over it being the first day of the first month of fall. I’m pretty sure they questioned my being an adult because of how excited I got. I love fall. I love the leaves changing colors and falling to blanket the ground. I love the smells of bonfires and the cheers of football games. I love a good cup (or two) of hot apple cider. I even love the storms. The fall festivals that have too many people and too many delicious calories. The extra layers of clothes that cause one to feel comforted. The windows open on a windy day and laying on the couch with a blanket has been the source of some of the best naps I’ve ever experienced. The pumpkin pies and family gatherings. The corn mazes. I love the color pallet of fall, the deep hues, rich in color. Seriously, it’s all just wonderful.

Most of all though, I love how my life happens in fall. As a teacher, summer is my time of adventure, I get to go anywhere, do anything, try everything I want, without worrying about my students and the lessons I need to plan. But summer is not my season of rest. Don’t get me wrong, my spirit feels rejuvenated and relaxed after a good summer. However, fall is the time when everything slows down. The students get into the routine of school again; all the beginning of the year, school craziness, calms down, and I get to live in this beautiful life God has called me to. In the fall I’m surrounded by responsibilites, lesson planning, church events, and spending time with family and friends on the weekend – a very scheduled life. There is something very sacred about this time of year though. A time when everything quiets down with a hum of life around it. It is easy to feel mundane when you see yourself doing the same things over and over again, if you’re not looking for the joy. There’s joy in doing the same things over and over again because you become consistent, well-practiced in what you do. There’s joy in the quiet moments you sip on pumpkin spice lattes with a friend. There’s joy in the crowded fall festivals and letting yourself eat a goodie you usually would refrain from. There’s joy in cheering your students or children on in their favorite sport. There’s joy in the marshmallows and bonfires, sitting surrounded by people you care about.

God created us to live a life here on Earth and while we are to live with eternity in mind, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t enjoy this life. There is a tactic that the enemy sends our way. The enemy wants us to believe that we cannot enjoy this life because it will mess with our eternity. This enemy wants us to be so consumed with worry over eternity and what we can do for it that we forget the simple things.

I struggled with this for such a long time. I was not secure in my place in Christ. This insecurity caused such turmoil when I realized I had been enjoying life in things that were temporal. Ephesians 2:8-9 says that we are saved by God’s grace. God’s grace is not something that just stops. it is renewed every morning (Lamentations 3:23). My friend, if you have given your life to Christ and have accepted Him as your Savior, you’re living eternity already. You are already living a life for Jesus, using your time to worship Him through the tasks that even seem mundane.

There are seasons when God will call you to adventurous things, things that are scary and maybe even life-threatening, but fall reminds us that God also calls us to seasons of rest and enjoying this life He created. God created us to live, to show joy in our everyday lives. To live with the peace that we are saved. That peace and joy will shed light into the people around you. They will ask why you can enjoy life so easily. And God’s love is the answer. Living everyday life with the joy of Christ, with the peace of salvation, is a great testimony for the people around you to see.

Ecclesiastes 3:1

“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.”

Realize that Christ is your security. He has created you to love through the things you do each day. You can worship Him through your actions: having coffee with a friend, giving your best at work, loving the people around you. You are in this season for a reason, and it is a chance for you to grow.

Here’s The Truth

With everything going on around the world, I feel the need to speak life. I know we each have our personal hurts and problems we face in our day to day lives. With everything going on, I know a lot of people are hurting and feel vulnerable because their hurt is out for everyone to see. The hurt is amplified all around us. No matter what you are going through, let this life be spoken into you. These are truths.

  • Your cries are heard

I Peter 5:7

“Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”

1 John 5:14-15

“Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.”

  • You are seen, your good parts, the parts that hurt, all of it.

Proverbs 15:3

The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.”

Job 34:21

“For His eyes are on the ways of man, and He sees all his steps.”

Psalms 33:13-15

The Lord looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men. From the place of His dwelling He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth; He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works.”

  • You are not alone

Deuteronomy 31:6

“Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.”

1 Samuel 12:22

“For the Lord will not forsake His people, for His great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you His people.”

  • You are loved

John 15:9

“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.”

Ephesians 2:4-6

“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raise us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places with Christ Jesus.”

1 John 4:7-8

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”

Here is the thing, my friend, you are loved, you are seen, you are heard, and you are not alone. I know life hurts. I know some nights you cry yourself to sleep. I know you fight and sometimes you cannot fight anymore. I know because I do too.

I felt the need to write all of this in mainly scriptures, because my words can encourage, but His Word can heal. His Word is what can provide peace. His Word is love. If you skipped over all of the scriptures, I ask you to read this last one. Know that you are precious in His eyes.

Psalms 139:13-16

“For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were not of them. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!”