First Kicks

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The other night we were sitting on the couch and it happened… there was an undeniable kick.  In fact, I could actually see my stomach move.  I thought I had felt the baby move in the few days prior, but this time there was no other way to explain it. The  baby was kicking me.  I may or may not have cried.

 

Four months ago, if you had told me feeling the tiny kick of the little baby inside of me would move me tears, I would have laughed in your face. I am not typically super sentimental and I had no intentions of becoming a mom right away.  But now, every time this little thing kicks me (which is a lot), I get this overwhelming sense of excitement and fear.  Excitement over the idea of having my own child and fear of raising it in this often scary world. Honestly, I am pretty nervous about becoming a mom.  I have researched a lot, but I know full well, all the research in the world won’t prepare me for those first few months.  And I am learning, slowly, how quickly and how easy it is to get wrapped up in a world of comparison and discouragement. Some days, I feel like I am so very alone in all of this, trying my hardest to figure out and navigate my way into motherhood and making the best decisions for me, our child, and our family. I am ever thankful for a husband who so lovingly reminds me I am not alone and for a Savior who never leaves my side.

 

As I have been praying and studying lately, I have come back over and over to one of my favorite passages of scripture. Psalm 139, specifically verses 13- 18.

13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.

As I sit here and ponder once more the promises of those verses, I am reminded how very much not alone I am. In all the planning and praying and preparing, Someone has already woven together the sweet child inside of me and ordained each of its days.  A plan has been set into motion and the God of universe promises to be there each step of the way. Just as He is with me each step of the way.  Every time I feel a kick or question this moment, I am reminded each of my days were planned out long before I arrived.  It is the most precious, comforting thought. No matter what lies ahead, I can rest in the fact God knows and He is in control and He is laying out the plans. I simply have to be obedient and place my cares and worries into His hands.

O’ Christmas Tree!

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Some of my fondest memories as a child are from Christmas. Specifically the weekend we would bundle up, load up, and head out to the nearest Christmas tree farm to pick out our very own Christmas tree.  We would walk up and down the rows to find the most perfect one and then my dad would spend a lot of time making sure it was trimmed and ready for us to decorate with ornaments. Finally, I always got to set up the Nativity scene and we would watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  (ok, we probably didn’t do that all in one day… but those are my memories)

About the time I packed up and headed off to college, my mom invested in a fake tree. To me, this was an absolute treason to the season.  Christmas was not the same without the smell of evergreen wafting through the air.

Tree

When I met Jordan, we talked about all the important things you should discuss before you get married including the fact I wanted a real Christmas tree. I mean, this was essential. 🙂   So almost 10 years after my mom bought a fake one, I finally got my real Christmas tree.

Last weekend, we bundled up and hiked out to find a Christmas tree. Albeit, our tree is far from perfect and leans quite severely to the right, but it is our tree and it smells amazing.  Not to mention, I think it turned out beautiful. But truth be told, decorating the tree turned into a minor marital tiff and reminded me as hard as we try, sometimes life is messy.

Especially during this time of year when the temptation to be perfect is so high, let’s remind ourselves life is messy and we are not called to perfection, but to holiness. We are called to love those around us and be patient and kind. If the tree isn’t perfect, the elf isn’t glorious, or the cookies aren’t Pinterest worthy, it is going to be alright.  I promise you, I don’t remember the tree or the ornaments, I remember the time I spent with my family.  And I am learning as a wife, friend, and daughter, time is the most valuable gift you can give.

 

The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17

 

Life…Interrupted

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If I could go to coffee with anyone right now, it would be Jen Hatmaker.  Her books and blogs and absolutely ridiculous Facebook posts make me laugh, cry, and challenge me to think bigger and beyond right now.  I mean, my friend Whitney and I regularly have texting conversations about her. Which may be a little weird considering we don’t actually know her..oh well.  Given my huge respect for her, when she sent out an e-mail enlisting bloggers to be her launch team for her newly re-released copy of  Interrupted,  I immediately jumped on the opportunity.  I mean, who wouldn’t want to the chance to read a book for free, write a blog about it, and then give one away to your faithful readers (pretty good chance my mom might win!). All this to say, here is my review of Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity by the one and only Jen Hatmaker.

 

Several years ago, I spent a summer in the bush of Africa. At night, we had the only lights within miles and you could see the stars with incredible clarity.  You also find a lot of ways to entertain yourself when it gets dark at 6 and you are stuck in a small building with 18 other people.  So one of the things we did often was drag the mattresses outside and gaze at the stars.  One of those nights, I remember feeling so very small in the grand scheme of things.  Here I was, a middle-class, white girl in the middle of Africa thinking I might be able to do something good.  And while I am sure we did something decent while there, the internal change in me was probably more significant.  I came home convinced it was not about what I could do, but it was all about Jesus.  And Jesus, well, He will compel you to do all kinds of crazy things.

Fast forward five years, I am planted in a southern Indiana. A far cry from the simplicity of Africa and the simple joy of star-gazing and discussing when exactly was the last time you showered.  An internal wrestling began in my soul-how can I be Jesus to those around me? Is there not more to this being a Christian thing than cool worship sets and trendy churches? Why do I feel so exhausted after doing church? As I have traveled down this road, God has brought along encouragement and answers at the exact moments when my soul was ready to listen. Interrupted came at just such a time.

Author Jen Hatmaker, in Interrupted takes readers through a journey of figuring out what following Jesus looks like in our post-modern world.  The book is broken into five phases in which Jen, in her typical style, walks you through the journey of starting Austin New Church. Her writings made me laugh, cry, and put into words so eloquently the deep wrestling of my soul. She doesn’t write from a place of having all the answers, her book is more like a conversation. One between close friends sharing the victories and the struggles.  When I finished the book, I breathed a sigh of relief. I felt like I had permission to make mistakes, engage culture, and be about the business of loving people like Jesus loves them. This is not about us. It is about Jesus and His kingdom.  We may get to play a small role in the big picture, but never ever is it about us or our church or our program or our ministry.  And amen to that because if it is all about Jesus, we have the freedom to love and to admit mistakes and to try again.

I could write all day on this, but I will sum it up by saying if you go to church, lead in church, or serve in church, you need to read this book.  The message is overwhelmingly clear. It is not about the church. It is not about the band or the building or the programs. It is about the kingdom of God and the bold message of Jesus who proclaimed light in the darkness, commanded his followers to love the least of these, and offers hope and salvation to anyone who would believe in His power to cleanse their sins.  He doesn’t demand perfection, He demands sacrifice, bottom-dwelling, and death to self. As Jen puts it at the end of the book, “the battle is for the souls of humanity, and our secret weapon is love.

To give you more incentive to read the book, here are some of my other favorite quotes..

This is it. We can follow our Jesus to every dark, scary, broken place He just insists on going, hell-bent on healing and restoring people, because He is a good Savior and we can trust Him.

I realized I was completely normal. But  my Savior was the most unnormal guy ever. And it was His unnormal ideas that made everything new.

We don’t get to opt out of living on mission because we might not be appreciated. 

I dream of a church that is once again called great, even by our skeptics, because our works of mercy cannot be denied. 

I am no Savior; I am just a sister. 

Serving people is not heaven’s requirement, only a response to heaven’s mercy.

People are hungry to have a meaningful spiritual discussion; they just don’t want to have it with the Christian weirdo who doesn’t even know their last name. 

Living on mission will be misinterpreted and criticized.

 

And stay tuned for a giveaway of the book in the next week!!! 🙂

 

All quotes taken from: Hatmaker, Jen. (2014). Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity. Navpress. 

I Quit

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Tonight I told my husband I needed to become less likable and less dependable.  I was dead serious.

 

He responded, “You just need to learn to say no.”

 

Thing is, I had not even told him the reason for my desire to be disliked. He already knew.  I knew too.  But as a person who has felt left out and less than most of her life, saying no when asked to do something is a really, really hard thing for me.  I feel as though if I say no, people will forget about me, they will move on, and I will be left unnoticed and alone.   The root of all of this, of course, is finding my pleasure in what other people think of me.  If you have figured out how to live with complete abandon to what those around you think, please let me know the secret.

 

Although I think I already know. The secret is finding joy in Jesus.  Finding my sense of worth in who He is, not in what others think or what my resume looks like, or my impressive community service record.  And tonight, as I sat down on my couch for a minute, I realized how quickly I was self-destructing.  One yes at a time.  (for the record, if you read my blog, you may notice this is a theme) My plate is filling up and my soul is growing emptier and emptier.  For all churches and organizations ask of people, we often do a lousy job of taking care of those same people (but that is for a different blog).

 

The worst part of it all is I really just want to finish hanging pictures on my walls, organize a closet in my office, print some wedding pictures, and vacuum.  All things neglected for the sake of volunteerism. Don’t get me wrong, I love everything I am involved in and I have made some wonderful friends. But I thought I would get married and life would slow down. I was looking forward to yard sales and coffee dates and reading. Not so many meetings I can’t keep them straight, more committees than I can juggle, and a constant stream of e-mails asking something else of me.  So I am going to take up the wise words of one of my favorite authors Bob Goff.  

 

“Every single Thursday, I quit something.”

And I am going to blog about it. Because I love to blog and this poor thing has been neglected lately.  Perhaps I will quit a bad habit, or a lie I am believing, or an activity. Regardless, Thursdays are going to be “Quit It” days.  So stay tuned for Thursday.  And perhaps you would like to join me. On Thursdays, you can comment on what you are going to quit that day. We can do this together and slowly stop placing our worth in what we do and place in the One who loves us. Period.

 

Lead Me Where my Trust is Without Borders

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Saturday morning I spent a long time with a dear friend dreaming and planning for next steps surrounding a big vision.  As we put things down on paper and we starting talking about connections, people, resources, details, and trips, it was a bit overwhelming.  I knew when I stepped into this path, it would not be easy. I perhaps failed to account for how big this was and how God would show up and bring exactly who I need across my path.  As I looked at our list of people, resources, and ideas, I felt very small.  The thought crept into my mind.. why me?

 

I  attempted to shrug it off and move on with my day.  Sunday was our day to serve at church and I went through the morning in a routine. Show up early, make sure everything is running smoothly, make sure everyone is on time.. some Sundays it is easy to get lost in serving and fail to enter into worship. I had heard the worship songs four times by the last service, but I decided as everything had gone smoothly up to then, I would take some time to truly worship. All of a sudden, the bridge to Oceans by Hillsong hit me like a freight train.

 

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

 In that moment, I wanted to cry, laugh, and jump for joy.   As I thought back to our list the day before, to the plans, the dreams, the hopes, the fears, I realized the question is not “why me?“.  The question is “How much will I trust God?”  Will I refuse to listen to the fears and gremlins whispering in my ears and pursue a Savior whose presence makes me stronger?   Will I trust without exception?    Thus as I move forward, this is my prayer… Maybe it needs to be yours today as well.

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

The Threads of Our Lives Part 1

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In my Bible study, we have been reading Restless by Jennie Allen. I HIGHLY recommend the book.  Right now, we are walking through different areas of our lives looking for the threads tying them all together.  I know some of you are big picture type of people who can connect the dots between each experience and God’s plan, but I am a little dense.  I often can’t see the forest for the trees.  I get lost in the details and the immediate, and in the process, I forget about the eternal.

 

This book has been life changing in many ways, but the idea of looking at the moments in our lives as threads of a greater story has revolutionized my dreams.  I have started to put practical steps behind what I once put on the shelf as just ideas in the sky.  Restless has helped me to connect the dots.  Dots connecting things such as..

  •  Between why I love paperwork and all the details needed to start anything..a blog, a non-profit, an etsy site.  I never thought my ability to handle lots of details was something God could use, but He is showing me how my God-given gift of administration and details can be used to change the world and spread His love.
  • Between my constant struggle with feeling left out and my intense desire to serve those on the margins, people who society has cast aside. My greatest hurts are motivating the passion in my heart.
  • Between my spiritual gift of giving and my current job.
  • Between my struggle for approval and acceptance and a dream to bestow the approval and grace of Christ on women who feel much less than worthy.

 

There are others, deep desires and longings God is connecting. Friendships and experiences God is using to shape me and help me see He designed me perfectly and divinely placed me here. I am not a mistake or a mess up.   And reader, you are not either.  God gave you unique passions, strengths, and weakness to bring glory to Himself and spread His love.

We have only gone through this exercise with our gifts and our suffering.  The next several chapters will walk us through people, places, and passions, hence the part 1 in the title.   So until then, take some time to think about your gifts and the suffering in your life.

What if the things you love and your greatest hurts were part of God’s plan to change the world?   

How would your dreams and actions change if you looked at every moment of your life as part of God’s plan for your life?

What will you do to take a step forward? Will you un-shelve a dream?  Take a risk? 

 

New Year, New Name, New Goals

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 Resolute: admirably purposeful, determined, and unwavering.

Normally I am not a fan of resolutions. We make them only to forget them a few weeks later thus cementing the fact that we were never very resolute in the first place.  However, since 2014 brings a year full of changes and free time I haven’t had in two years (not to mention a marriage and a new name), I decided to make just a few to guide the next year of my life.

 

1. Read my Bible every day.

I go through spurts and while I would argue you always need to do this, I am 100% convinced if I don’t do this, I will be the bridezilla they make TV shows about and I do not want that to happen.

 

2. Write once a week. 

That is a minimum of 52 posts this year.  I am not sure what I will write about, but I want to continue refining and growing my writing skills now that all my research papers are finished.   This is post #1.

 

3. Pursue a personal dream I have. 

More on this later. It is perhaps the biggest, most ambitious goal I have for the year. It is something God has pressed on my heart and I am refusing to listen to the voices in my head that say “You can’t do it.”

 

That’s it. Three goals. Three resolutions.  And one year to build the habits.

 

Are You Available?

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Not for date. Not for a job. Not for an event. But for a friend who is struggling. Or the stranger behind the Starbucks counter. Or the employee at the grocery store.

 

Are you available?

 

One thing that I go back to over and over as I study Christ’s life is how available He was.  No matter what he was doing,  he was watching out for the needs of those around him. Whether it was feeding them, paying attention to the touch of his cloak, listening to them, or stopping to look up in a tree, Jesus made time for others. He did it every day in whatever He was doing.  He was never too busy or too involved in His life.

 

This I am horrible at. I will admit. I am VERY often too busy with my life. For the past six weeks I have been juggling a full-time job and two master’s classes that generated enough work to cause me to spend at least 25-30 hours a week at Barnes and Noble reading and writing papers.  It has been like trying to drink out of a fire hydrant. Thankfully, I am almost done. I have three more 20 page papers to submit and one final project to complete.  The thing is, spending every night and most of my weekends at Barnes and Noble has taught me a lot. Lessons I will keep unpacking in the coming weeks. This week, the biggest lesson I have been learning is the beauty and impact of being available.

 

In the past five weeks, I have met person after person who was available. I have had conversations with strangers that have changed my life.  Those conversations have compelled me to open my eyes and to notice the people around me. Because someone noticed me. In the midst of books and papers and probably a very frazzled look on my face, people took the time to get to know my story. And some of those people have changed my life.  They listened to me complain about 20 page papers, talk about my dreams, and debate why I am doing all this. I can’t even tell you most of their names. Like the couple who sat and chatted with me for an hour while on their date night about ministry, the beauty of big dreams, living simply, our passions, and loving others.  They encouraged me and inspired me. Oh and she gave me a hug as we were leaving. I still don’t know who they were, but they were exactly what I needed that night.

 

 I could recount story after story like the one above. Each one is a precious memory and was often the encouragement I needed to endure hours of writing and reading. It has reminded me of the impact a kind word, a hello, or a “how are you doing?” can have.  Everyone has a story and I believe most of us are just waiting for someone to take an interest in that story. To listen to us. To hear our thoughts. 

 

So my goal for the rest of my summer is to work on being available. I want to be the person that pays attention to the people around me, that notices the stranger and invites them in to a conversation. I want to be the person that makes time for others.

 

Would you join me? Just think of how different a world we would live in if each of us took a small step towards opening our eyes to the needs and stories of the people around us.

 

 

Poor and Humbly

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Humbly You Came/To the earth You created/All for love’s sake became poor*

 

Name that song.  If you grew up in church, I bet you could not only name it, but sing the rest of it from memory. I will admit, I am not a big fan of the song because it has been so over-sung in our churches. But last night, as I sang the words of the song, I was overwhelmed by the weight of those words. What does it really mean that the light of the world came to earth? And how did He come?

 

Poor and Humbly.

 

Not in a flash of lights. Not broadcasting to the world how great He was. Not in a fancy car.  The Savior of the universe, my Jesus, was born in a stable to a family we would consider impoverished. He went mostly unnoticed for the first part of His life, and finally started making the news by.. feeding the hungry, healing the sick, and helping the broken.  How drastically different a picture then the one painted in our churches today.  I mean, sure we will sing a song about how He came to earth and how high the price was that He had to pay for our sin, but in that same breath we will complain about the lights or the sound or the chairs. We have become a people so consumed with our own lives that we are perhaps, dare I say, unwilling to even consider that perhaps Christ came not simply to save us from hell, but to teach us a better way to live here and now. He set an example of love, humility, and graciousness. He was poor and lowly by earthly standards.

 

This is something I have struggled with for a long time now. How do we reconcile the life Christ lived with the consumerist nature of society and the church? And if we choose to instead, just seek Christ and attempt to live as He lived, how do we do so without everyone thinking we are weird? But perhaps those are the wrong questions to ask. Perhaps the bigger question is, how can we afford not to? Our example is Christ. And I have a strong feeling if Christ came back today, He would walk into our church buildings and start turning tables over.  That is if we even let Him through the doors. Perhaps His lowly appearance, unwashed hair, and dirty feet might be reason to not allow Him through the doors. Perhaps we would be too busy making sure the lights were right, the music was timed correctly, and the atmosphere was inviting.  Perhaps we would be too busy with ourselves, with our friends, with our group that we would fail to see the visitor silently entering through our doors. Perhaps we are too caught up in church arguments, who said what, who goes where, and how much I can promote my own building (note I say building because we aren’t promoting the body of Christ or the church when we simply promote our place of worship). 

 

Beyond those things, I wonder how as the American church we have decided that big buildings are acceptable, that fancy cars are a wise use of our money, and that houses that boast of our wealth are ok because they are simply an outpouring of God’s blessing. Perhaps God blessed us in order that we may use our funds to “live simply so others may simply live.”  When I would argue that more of the body of Christ is living in poverty, then living in excess, why the need for more, more, more?  Can we take a step back and truly listen to the words we sing? Can we stop for a moment and think of the gravity of Christ’s life? And in doing so, can we truly evaluate our own lives against that standard? I am guilty so often as charged. I am not claiming for a second that I do not struggle with the desire to want more, to spend more, to have things a certain way. But I am committing to following Jesus regardless of how “weird” that may make me in the eyes of those around me.  So I ask you, today, this week, what can you do to live more like the Jesus who came to the world poor and humbly? What change can you make in your actions, in your words, in your spending habits to reflect a life modeled after the One who gave it all?

 

 

*Light of the World by Chris Tomlin