Be a Cheerleader, not a Competitor

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Ever notice how sometimes themes tend to run through your life? Lately, a theme of running in your own lane has been weaving its way through several areas of my life. A few weeks ago, I had the amazing opportunity to attend Q Conference in Nashville with a group from my city. Honestly, any other conference I go to from now on will be judged against Q. It was hands down one of the best conferences I have attended. Perhaps because over a period of 2.5 days, we heard approximately 50 different speakers. Talk about information overload! I am still trying to process it all.

Annie F. Downs gave a short talk the first morning and it hit me like a ton of bricks. She talked about how so often we live our lives like we are playing Chutes and Ladders instead of like we are playing Solitaire.  When we see someone else roll the dice and get to climb up the ladder we are jealous or envious and if we were honest, when we see others slide down the slide, perhaps there is a moment of where we think we aren’t doing terrible after all. We spend a lot of time and energy comparing everyone else’s lives to our own. We watch them succeed or fail and judge our own progress against theirs.

The thing is, as Annie said, our hands don’t look like everyone else’s. We were given a unique set of gifts and talents and entrusted with passions and skills. God has put a call on each of our lives only we can fulfill. And He knew what He was doing. (this hit me straight in the face). When we spend our time comparing or wishing our lives looked like so and so, we are doubting God’s perfect call on our own life. Perhaps we question why others have success and ours seems ever elusive.

For me, I struggled so much with watching other people seem to be living out their passion and doing things they love while I felt left out and left behind. This is not the life God has called us to live. We walked out of the room after Annie’s chat and were each given a card to remind us to play our own game. As I have been mulling over the card and her talk, I have come to a couple major aha moments.

  1. We are called for such a time as this. If you have ever listened to Ann Voskamp speak, you have probably heard her refer to the Esther generation and how we were called for such a time as this. As Christian women, I believe God has called us to the work of love and reconciliation and restoration.  This has to start with us. We have to stop competing against each other and start cheering each other on. We have to be agents of love in our families, our friend groups, our churches, and our communities. We have to stand up and say enough. My call is my call and your call is your call and guess what, there is enough room in this world for both.
  2. Her success does not mean my failure. This has been a tough one for me. It’s so easy to view life like a pie with finite slices. If she gets a slice, it feels like there is less for me. But the thing is, there is an endless number of pies. Instead of viewing others’ success as taking up some of ours, lets celebrate each other. Let us encourage and cheer and support and motivate. For much of the last couple years, I have felt so stuck. Unsure of what was next or what to do with the dreams in my heart. And then Annie told us to do the best with the life we have been given and it was like a light-bulb. I have felt stuck because I have been watching others tackle their dreams and felt like I was getting left behind. When God was simply asking me to put my dreams in His hands and trust He had a perfect plan for my life.
  3. We all need cheerleaders. After Annie’s talk, we were supposed to talk with the people we came with about what we felt our lanes were-where or what was God calling us? I told the two ladies I was with where I feel God is leading me and they were both so supportive. When we got home, one of them texted me and said ok, what now? How do we move forward? It was a moment I realized, we all need cheerleaders in our lives. And we all need to be cheerleaders in the lives of those around us. I mean, can you imagine what life would be like if we were all cheering each other on as we pursue our dreams? My dreams aren’t a threat to hers nor are hers to mine. Together we can encourage, cheer, and motivate each other towards the life God is calling us to live.

How can we do the best with the life we have been given? I believe it starts with running our own race and cheering on those around us instead of viewing them as competitors. I believe it starts with vulnerability and community and understanding the world is full of pies, waiting for us all to partake. It happens when we become cheerleaders to each others’ dreams. So friend, join me in cheering on those around you and enjoying pie all around!

Folks, We Have A Pantry

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My Farmhouse Friday updates have been basically nonexistent because there has been nothing to report. I joked the other day I feel like the house is going backwards not forwards because on top of the mile long to-do list of projects, we have 3 messy humans living in it, one of which is zero help in cleaning it up. He certainly knows how to make a mess though and has started a lovely habit of throwing his food everywhere when he is done eating. But I digress.

This update is to say there is indeed an update. After a month, we have a pantry. I know this is a small victory, but when my pantry has been our dining room table since we moved in and I have spent the last month trying to keep toddler hands from grabbing all the crackers and spilling all the bread crumbs everywhere, having a pantry with doors that close is glorious. I also feel like our house got instantly cleaner because there is now an entire space empty! I unpacked a few more boxes of random non-perishables and decided I must have gone through a phase in which I planned to make a ton of meals with diced tomatoes because I have about 8 cans of them.

This house has taught me a very important lesson. Progress takes time. And while the time is tough, it causes growth and makes the final product so much more worthwhile. I can assure you I would not be as excited about a pantry if it had come with the house. But because it took time and energy and the thoughtfulness of my sweet husband, I love it. We are also getting closer to actually being able to have company over which makes me oh so excited!!

I included two pictures for you-one, the Pinterest pin that inspired us and two, the actual pantry J created. He did a pretty good job turning my idea into reality especially given the weird shape of the closet we used (it’s under the stairs).  Eventually we may rip up the nasty carpet and do something different with the floor, but for now I am just thankful my canned goods have a home other than the middle of my dining room table.

 

                                                     

Put Down the Expectations

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My word for the year was authenticity. And right now, being authentic means admitting to myself (and ya’ll) my expectations set me up for a dark dive into struggle.  See, buying your dream farmhouse with dreams to fix it up is very different from living in said dream farmhouse in need of fixing up. Pinterest boards full of Farmhouse decor are exciting, but ants covering your counters and bathrooms not working are not. I have spent hours aimlessly wandering or doing nothing because I am so overwhelmed by it all. Perhaps though the aimless wandering gave me ample time for much needed soul-searching. I realized in all this expectations can set you up for massive disappointment. Reality is often different from what we picture or what we see on other’s newsfeeds and Pinterest boards. And when your expectations and reality clash, it can all come crashing down.

As I have sorted through these feelings and tried to get to the core of it all, I realized so much of it comes from wanting the finished product without the hard work. It’s wanting to post a perfect picture of your pristine kitchen when the reality is three days of dirty dishes, unpacked boxes, and ants. It’s feeling like you need to fit into society’s version of acceptable instead of giving yourself grace because you just moved, have a toddler, and between you and your husband work outside your house 100+ hours a week. It’s carrying it all on your own when we were never called to those burdens. So here are three things I am working on as I reset my priorities and put my soul-searching into action.

 

  1. Accept help. Seriously, unpacking is the worst. But when your mother-in-law offers to help you unpack the rest of your kitchen, take her up on the offer. No one is going to take away your super mom status because you couldn’t do it all by yourself.  This has been really hard for me because I tend to be pretty independent, but I have had to admit I can’t do it all. I am still working on asking for help from others, but baby steps.
  2. Unplug from Pinterest. And any other social media site making you more overwhelmed. I gave up pinning farmhouse decor and stopped scrolling through my app aimlessly.  Someday my house may look like one of those pictures, but for now, it looks like a tornado came through and left a wake of empty boxes, random clothes, and nonperishable food which happens to be all over my kitchen.  There is no magic wand I can wave to make my house perfect and right now I have to be okay with the “character” of the house.  I have to settle in and live there and not feel like because the walls aren’t painted or the house isn’t perfect, I am somehow less than those around me. This is tough. Comparing our reality to other people’s highlight reels is oh so easy.
  3. Give Grace. As I mentioned, I have spent a lot of time soul searching as I have dealt with an onslaught of emotions surrounding our move. I am Type A to the max and grace is hard for me. It’s hard for me to accept and it’s been hard for me to give. I honestly think so much of my struggle comes back to beating myself up for not meeting some impossible standard I set for myself. But we bought a house in need of a lot of work and the work has humbled me. It has caused me to cry and to laugh. It has caused me to get on my knees and to realize the life Jesus is calling me to is so different from the life I have been living. Jesus doesn’t ask us to get our house in order first. He asks us to come to Him and rest. To accept His grace. His stamp on us says we are bought, we are covered, and we are redeemed. He says His burden is light. I preach this message a lot, but for some reason letting it sink into my own heart has been harder. The burden I have been carrying around felt like a ton of bricks. It felt like expectation and perfection and pressure and the need for my life to appear put together. The more honest reality is both my house and my soul are a disaster. They are both in desperate need of grace. One for physically being left empty for years and now housing 2 working adults and 1 messy toddler and one for spiritually being starved for years. Neither will get to their full capacity on their own. Both will require work and grace and patience and acceptance.

Friend, Jesus invites us to come to Him with all our burdens and weariness and He will give us rest. Are in a season in desperate need of rest? Do you struggle to give yourself grace in our picture-perfect world? Let’s trade our heavy burdens and Instagram filters for the burden of a Savior who is light and life and unconditional love. Seems like a better deal to me.

 

 

Stop Striving and Start Seeking

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Every once in a while I miss reading actual books because you cannot highlight and write in audio books. I am a highlighter of books. If you ever borrow one from me, they will have marks and double underlines and “yes” and “Amen” written in them. When I switched to the world of audio books because I have a toddler who refuses to sit still, I find I miss being about to go back and reference lines or quotes from the books. Occasionally, something hits me so hard, I hit pause, reverse, and hit pause again to write down a line. Near the end of one of my most recent “reads”, I did exactly this because the line the author wrote and was now reading hit me square in the face. The entire book, entitled “Breaking Busy” by Ali Worthington, was incredible. If you are an over-scheduler, Type A personality like myself, I highly recommend it.

“You do not have to strive endlessly to be good enough or to find God’s plan for you. When you stay focused on God, you will not miss your destiny. “

Oh sweet friend how those words washed over me like water on the ocean shore! As tears welled up in my eyes, I realized this was exactly where I had been all these years. Striving to be good enough. Striving to be worthy enough. Striving to fit in. Striving to reach a dream which felt so far out of reach. And in all my striving, I lost focus on the One who loves me unconditionally. Who died on the cross and opened His arms to me with no strings attached. Those of us who grew up in the church could probably quote Jeremiah 29:11 forwards, backwards, and in our sleep. It’s one of those verses we just like to call on for all variety of situations. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  But so many times we stop there. We stop with the promise – God has plans for us. And somewhere, we get all caught up in trying to figure out what those plans are and how to accomplish them. We add to our resumes, to our knowledge, to our calendars, all in an effort to pursue this ever elusive plan God has for our lives.

But what if we are completely missing the point? Perhaps the verses we really need to memorize forwards and backwards are the ones following Jeremiah 29:11. The next two verses say, “12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”  God promised us a future, but it is not a future we are to strive for on our own. Our future plans come when we seek and find God, when we call on His name, when we spend quiet moments in prayer. He never intended for us to move ahead on our own. The verse doesn’t say I promised you a future and the only way to get there is to have the perfect resume, the perfect network, and the perfect wardrobe.

No, sweet friend, God is calling us to a different path. A path often unknown and perhaps a bit scary. A path which for me has been a struggle to find because it is a path I cannot control. I cannot work hard enough, hustle fast enough, volunteer long enough to get there. I won’t find my way on my own. My dreams will lay in shattered pieces around a broken soul, tired by the striving, until I sit at the feet of Jesus and offer Him it all. Until I seek Him with my whole heart. Only then will the path start to make sense. Only then will my feet begin to walk and skip and run again.

If you, like me, struggle to be quiet in a world calling us to strive harder, I encourage you today to start small. Sit in quiet for one minute. Reflect on Jeremiah 29:12-13. And together, lets stop striving and start seeking.

 

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You Are a Missionary

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Growing up, the term missionary was reserved for a group of people who left the comforts of America to go serve a foreign people group. I believe God calls people to serve in remote parts of the world and missionary is a very accurate term for them. As a church, we should support and pray for them and continue to send people around the world to serve. But this Sunday, the pastor at my church asked us to consider the fact we were indeed all missionaries.

If Jesus is Lord of your life, you are part of the mission of God. You are a missionary.  Over and over in scripture, we see God as a God of mission and purpose. He is on a mission to save the lost. And His mission is not reserved for a specific class of people. Matthew 28:18-20, often referred to as the Great Commission asks us to go and make disciples of all nations. Your community is very much a part of all nations and the charge to go and make disciples is not reserved for the few who go, but it is a charge for all who claim to follow Jesus.

Matthew 28: 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Maybe you are a missionary called to your children’s school. Or to your workplace. Or to your neighbors. Wherever God has called you to live and serve, there is your mission field. This is your “all nations.”  What would our communities look like if we all stepped into the role and calling of missionary?

The tough part of being a missionary is you must carry a message. A message which some find rude and ignorant. The message of Jesus is hope and love. But it is also one of condemnation for those who do not believe. John 3:16-18 paints this picture clearly,

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned,but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

 

Jesus is the answer, but how we communicate the answer matters. 

 

We did not get out of our condemnation on our own. We did not come to salvation based on our own merits. And we cannot carry a message with strings or requirements. I love how my pastor put it, “ Jesus is our ultimate motive, not our ulterior motive. Perhaps loving those around you means they never convert. This does not change our charge as missionaries carrying a message. This does not change the heart we are supposed to have for our communities. And perhaps if we loved people simply because we are loved by Jesus rather than loving them towards conversion, this would change everything.

What does it mean to look at life as a mission field? How can we be people of mission here? Perhaps it starts with the same ways we would propose to be missionaries in foreign lands. We begin to pray for those around us, for our communities, for our leaders. We build relationships with the people in our lives. We survey the areas we live and assess the needs. And then we bring the message to our mission field. We bring it through our lives, our love, our service. We bring it by dropping off a meal to the neighbors or working hard in our jobs or encouraging our children to befriend the lonely kids at school. We see the mom in the drop-off line who needs some extra encouragement today or the neighborhood that needs a voice to help it find its own. Can you imagine how our cities might change if we all viewed them as mission fields? If we stopped complaining about them and started loving them. If we stopped taking from them and started giving to them. I believe it would be revolutionary.

Will you pray with me today and ask the Lord how to live our mission right here? How to step into the role of missionary in our own communities and how to carry His love to those around us? 

 

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Farmhouse Friday Update #1

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One of my favorite grammatical tools is alliterations. Hence the title of my blog-Amanda’s Annotations and now my Farmhouse Friday Updates.

Currently I have very few super fun and exciting updates, but I did include a few more pictures of the farmhouse and property for your perusing.

The past two weeks have been full of a lot of troubleshooting, fixing problems, and spending money. This has been tough on us because J is a saver and I like to spend money on currently frivolous things like new curtains and paint.  Alas, I have practiced great self-control as I pay for things like fixing the furnaces, mold remediation, appliances, and pumping out the septic.

The positive is we now have a warm, mold-free house with 3 working toilets, a fridge, and washer and dryer.  This is a huge improvement over the text I sent some girlfriends two weeks ago which said “we bought a house today without heat or flushing toilets and full of spiders and mice.” We also spent some time picking through the barn and found an amazing piece of furniture I plan to use as a vanity in one of our bathrooms. Other interesting things in the barn-half a treadmill, the insides of more than a few VHS tapes, a decent set of weights, about 5 Christmas wreaths, and a groundhog. I also found a picture that looks eerily like my dad and I. I seriously had to look at it twice to not be totally freaked out.

Earlier in the week, J and I were sitting on our new porch eating lunch and the beauty of it all hit me. It was peaceful and quiet, so different from my normal mode of operation. I realized not only did we purchase a new house, but perhaps we subconsciously accepted a new way of life. Slower, more thoughtful, full of neighbor boys who invite you over for s’mores after a five-minute conversation, and projects J and I can work on together. This is what we have been longing for and this is a huge reason why we fell in love with this house. Little H has changed our lives in many ways and we adore him dearly. He is bright sunshine on rainy days and sometimes we laugh so hard at him tears spring from our eyes. But H has also required a lot of both of us. In the middle of it all, J and I had to make choices to give up certain things. Don’t get me wrong, neither of us regret those choices, but we both wanted something we could make ours. This dear old farmhouse is ours. Each decision, each paint color, each project is something J and I get to do together.  We sit in the evenings and dream of ways to use this home and our lives to serve the community around us. I cannot wait to see where this adventure leads us and I hope you will enjoy the ride alongside us.

Perhaps today something in your life needs to change. I don’t necessarily recommend buying an old farmhouse, but maybe you need to say no to a commitment or say yes to new adventure. Maybe you need to listen to the nudging to invite someone over or tackle a project you feel unqualified to finish. Whatever it is, know I will be here cheering you on!!

 

 

Dreaded Daycare Drop-Off: 4 Tips for Success

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For most of the H’s first year of life, my husband handled daycare drop-off. I will admit, I didn’t realize quite how awesome this was until he got a new job and daycare drop-off become my job. Most of the time, I love being a working mom, but man, some days or most days, daycare drop-off is tough. There was something about saying goodbye to H at home while he was eating breakfast with his daddy that made going to work a little easier. Dropping him off in a room full of other sometimes crying children is not easy. But after several months of being solely responsible for drop-off, I have come up with a few tips to make the process so much easier and keep me from driving to work crying and dreading my day.

  1. Plan ahead and leave enough time to say hello to the teacher. I have made it a point to get to know his daycare teacher and ensure I leave at least a few minutes in the morning to check-in, say hi, and catch up. Sometimes we talk about daycare, but oftentimes we just talk about life or the mornings we have had. Our conversations are never long as I know she is responsible for watching the other children in the room, but I make it a point to do more than just drop and run. This has made leaving H there so much easier because I adore his teacher. She is excellent with her kiddos and loves them like her own. It allows me to leave some of the guilt about being a working mom at the door because she is teaching him sign language, Japanese, and all sorts of fine and gross motor skills I know nothing about. There is a long list of reasons why I work in corporate America and not in a classroom. I have major respect for teachers because I tried it one year and found out it was not for me. If your little one often cries when you leave, talk to the teacher about what happens after you leave. Often I bet your little one is perfectly fine by the time you are out of sight and this can be reassuring if you do have to leave them in tears.
  2. Reassure, reassure, reassure. Perhaps this is just as much for me as it is for H, but I make sure I give him a hug and kiss and tell him I will be back to get him. I encourage him to go read books with his buddies or find a toy he really likes. I make sure he is occupied and knows mama will be back. I try not to tell him I will miss him, but instead tell him I love him. According to Today, keeping your goodbyes upbeat (even if you are a little sad too) will help the child feel safe and secure. I want H to know it’s okay for him to be at daycare and that he is safe and taken care of even if I am a little sad to leave him there some days.
  3. Focus on the positives.  This has perhaps been the most helpful for me. You can find bemoaning working moms and stay-at-moms all over the internet. And it’s easier to look at the grass and assume its greener on the other side. But spending all your time focusing on what you wish were true about life won’t make the reality of life any different and will heap a lot of guilt and frustration on you. I remind myself how social H is, how much he is learning, and despite being at daycare, that I am still one of his favorite people. He is thriving and making friends. The other week we were in the middle of the grocery store when he yelled out hello to a friend from his daycare. My heart almost melted. I also feel very called to my work and know I am the best mom I can be when I am operating out of this calling. It is always easy-of course not, but I try to focus on all the good things instead of wishing I was in someone else’s yard.
  4. Create a routine.  I am big on routines. Perhaps because I love them, but also because I believe they really help kids. H and I have both evening and morning routines. We do almost the same thing Monday-Friday so he knows what to expect. I try really hard not to do things different or try new ideas during the week. This may get a little boring, but he doesn’t seem to mind eating the same thing for breakfast everyday and following the same schedule. It also helps me not be so frazzled and allows me an extra few minutes if he wants to read a book or watch the “quack-quacks” outside. Everyday as we leave, we say bye-bye to the dog and I always remind him we are going to see his teacher and friends. The routine also helps me leave enough time to have a few minutes at daycare to touch base with his teacher and say hello before heading to work.

What are your tips for doing daycare drop-off like a pro? How have you made the transition easier? Let me know in the comments!

 

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The Story of a City Mouse and a Country Mouse

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Aseop’s Fables were some of my favorites as a child and the story of the city mouse and the country mouse ranked near the top. While I didn’t grow up in a huge city, I am through and through a city mouse. My dream for the longest time was to move to a big city, sell my car, and live in a cute little studio apartment overlooking the busy streets. And then this city loving girl fell in love with a country loving boy.

This turned out to be handy when I moved into a downtown apartment and had mice. One night I perched myself on top of my couch, not on it, but literally on top of it, until my knight in shining armor, or boy from the country, came to rescue me from the tiny mice in my cabinet. Looking back, I am sure it was a comical scene and I feel very thankful he didn’t leave me after this incident.

Fast forward 5 years and the country boy is now married to the city girl and recently bought her a farmhouse in the country. A farmhouse she fell in love with before she quite realized what moving to the country really entailed. Things like wells and septic systems and no internet and spiders and mice. However, I have always been one to love adventure so with full gusto I am embracing this adventure. Our beloved farmhouse needs a lot of TLC and I plan to blog about the transformation of both the farmhouse and of the city girl turned country girl.  Along the way, I hope to share with you the fun (and frustrations) of the giant Do-It-Yourself project house we took on as well as the lessons learned and mistakes made.

Subscribe to stay updated on all the excitement and stay turned for the first update!

 

It Starts with Sacrifice

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In September of last year, my dear husband and I looked at a house. It was a big white farmhouse on three acres and we immediately fell in love. And I mean in love. We started talking and dreaming and pinning ideas on a secret Pinterest board. The house was a foreclosure so in our budget and although we were not looking for a house, this house was perfect. It had almost every detail we wanted in a house.

house2

It also had a lot of details we didn’t want like mold and mice.  But nevertheless, we moved forward.  Did you catch above we looked at it in September? Of last year.  It has taken 6 months to get to this week. Yesterday we signed all the papers to make that white farmhouse our house. It has been a long road. And it really hasn’t even started.  While on paper we own the house, to make it our home is going to take a lot of time and effort.

Life is like this. We may all wish we could wake up tomorrow with beautiful hair, perfect skin, and a beach-ready body. We want our homes to look like magazines and our children to look and act like models. We strive and strive for some societal version of happy and realize at some point, we are exhausted, our house is a mess, and the Instagram filter just isn’t cutting it anymore.  Because the good things in life take work. A lot of work. It takes work no one will ever see. And requires sacrifices no one will ever notice.

The first thing we have to do in our house is remediate the mold so it is safe. This is an expensive process no one will ever notice. No one will walk into our house and say, wow, the mold remediation looks amazing.  But it is necessary.

Sometimes I hate necessary. I want the fun and frilly and pretty. I want the finished product before the initial step. But this is not the life we are called to live. We are called to patience, to sacrifice, to quiet, to love, and to running the race with endurance. To run with endurance means you have to train. It means you can’t just wake up and run 26.2 miles because you think it sounds fun. You may have to start with one mile. or 5 minutes. It means you have to put in the necessary training to reach the goal. Jesus promised us He would be with us each step. He promised His burden was light. But He promised us if we lived like Him, it would be tough. It would take hard work and sacrifice. It would take lots of mold remediation before you get to new paint colors.

But when you do the hard work, the end result is so much better. Sure, we could ignore the mold, slap some paint on the walls, and call it a day. But in a few months, we would all be sick and have a much bigger mess on our hands.  God isn’t asking us to paint over the tough stuff, He is asking us to dig in and work hard to get rid of it. He is asking for the hard work and sacrifice. And He has promised in the end it will be worth it. In the end, we will see Him and we will be complete.

My house here may never be perfect, but I know at some point, I will look around and all the hard work and sacrifice will be worth it. At some point, we will be able to put new paint on the walls and know we aren’t covering up the problems, but we are highlighting the beauty.

Friend, what do you need to remove from your life to get to the beautiful? What sacrifice or costly decision do you need to make to take a step closer to Jesus? It won’t be easy, but I promise you, it will be worth it.

 

Love-Colored Glasses

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The other day I saw a post on Facebook complaining about how awful the city I live in is and several people agreed with the comment. According to the post, it’s a violent, drug-ridden town and you should be afraid to leave your house. Now, I will give you for instance, that our city has been on several top 10 lists for worst place to live, fattest city, most unhappy etc. While I am not entirely sure where this data comes from and am sure not everyone in my city is the nicest person you will ever meet, these lists and the above Facebook post are poor representations of the town I call home. And honestly, the post broke my heart.

Several years ago, I would have sworn up and down I would never settle in this town. I hated it. I wanted out and I wanted out bad. Then I fell in love with the most amazing guy and I began praying for God to change my heart and help me see my town through His eyes.  I took off my rose-colored glasses and put on love-colored glasses. I also started hanging out with a bunch of people who are working hard to make my city better. These are people fighting for progress, development, growth, and community. They are the people who could list off 100 things to do on any given night while others are complaining there is nothing to do in this town. They are the people in the trenches loving and working in some of the toughest parts of the city. They are people opening their homes to all manner of people, those like them and those completely different. And if you asked them, they would all express a sense of love for this dear town.

It’s a not a love springing from circumstances. Our town didn’t suddenly make some top 10 best places to live list. But they, like me, have committed to cultivating love for the people in this city. They are choosing every day to view our city through the lens of love.  We are praying for restoration and wholeness in our city. We are seeking to build community across religious lines, race lines, and socioeconomic lines. We are spending time in the dark places, the places with violence and drugs, we are moving into the neighborhoods and inviting others into our lives. It’s messy, it’s often tough and scary, but it is opening my eyes to how much Jesus must have loved me. He died for me. He gave up His life when I couldn’t care less for Him. He loved humanity-a humanity which would someday be full of drugs, and violence, and slavery, and all manner of evil. And yet, He still died. In His death, He called us to life and He called us to love.  He called us, those who claim to love Him, to love those around us. And each day, as I get ready for my day, I pray for His love to be part of my life. For love colored glasses to be the lens through which I view my co-workers, my friends, the clerk at the grocery store, the city in which I call home. And each day, it gets easier and easier to say with all sincerity, I truly love this community. I want to see it succeed and grow. I want to see it transformed and restored. And I will keep fighting for this because there are so many in our city who need someone, anyone to fight for them.

Friend, wherever you are, will you join me in praying for love-colored glasses? I believe this is the only way Jesus would want us to view our communities. If you live near me and want a practical way to show some love, check out City Serve Day on March 18th. Join a team to serve our community or add your own service project to the list. Let’s show others how much light can change the dark places around us.