Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Tangerines on the Nightstand

I am brand new at this mom thing. Brand new, meaning my little one is still tucked safely away inside of my tummy. And while I know I still have so much to learn about motherhood, I feel like my pregnancy journey is already christening me into the unpredictable, beautiful chaos of being a Mom.

I have pregnancy alter-egos. I swear my body wakes up a different person everyday and I never know what type of day it is going to be.

 My alter-ego #1 is energized and wonderstruck, ordering over-stuffed chipotle burritos and java chip frappuccinos. When I wake up in this world, I feel beautiful and dazzled to be pregnant. Give me all of the tutu onesies and cute maternity tops that tie above my belly. I'm doing all of the prenatal yoga, I'm organizing everything, and I'm making smoothies with spinach for breakfast (Who even am I?) I'm reading pregnancy books and journaling and doing so many productive things. I can't be stopped. I'm on top of the world, I'm starving, and I'm crying tears of joy.

My alter ego #2 wakes up in a parallel universe; a universe in which I can't even hold down the tangerine I left on my nightstand. All food sounds repulsive, all movement feels like I'm doing acrobatics on a boat after I ate too many nachos (I'm barfing at the thought!). On those days I can barely get out of bed without throwing up, much less plan my next plate that should be brimming over with all the colors of the rainbow. The thought of prenatal yoga makes my stomach churn. That chipotle burrito? Don't even mention burritos. In fact, don't ever bring up Chipotle again. I am not mentally or physically prepared for beans and guac. Not now; not ever. All I can do to make it through the day is lay down, maybe sipping some lime water (I said maybe), and groan as I watch 7th Heaven reruns. I'm either throwing up all day (or on the verge of it every second) and rolling my eyes at one more suggestion I get saying I should "try some saltine crackers." I have eaten probably five boxes of saltine crackers since being pregnant and they have not done a single thing for my nausea. They aren't going to become a miracle cracker for me anytime soon.

I feel like I am living out two completely different pregnancy experiences rolled into one. It is almost like clockwork at this point. I'll have a day that is nothing but the green, sick emoji on repeat and then without fail I'll wake up the next morning and be living in my alter ego #1 world, skipping around and wanting chocolate covered strawberries. The only thing that gets me through the indescribably queasy days is knowing that more than likely a breathtaking day will follow.

I don't know whether to laugh or cry at the fact that my days range from tangerines making me throw up to being able to down a whole Chipotle burrito on other days, but the contrast seems to be a lot like what I hear motherhood is like: dazzling and out-of-this-world on some days and exhausting and mind-numbing on others. But whether it's a dream day out of a magazine or a scene out of a horror movie, every day is so worth it. There is light following the darkness. New hope will come after the disastrous mess the day before and I am sure that is a constant encouragement in all stages of motherhood.

Thank you, little one, for preparing me for the roller coaster of motherhood that is to come. I am honored and blessed to carry you everyday and I would do this pregnancy alter-ego thing for you ten times over. Everyone says it will subside soon and maybe it will; but maybe it won't and I'm ready for anything.

I'll keep putting tangerines on the nightstand and anxiously await whether or not I'll throw them up in the morning.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Dreams & Desires

I am definitely a dreamer and a thinker. Not just sometimes, but all the time. The wheels in my head are constantly spinning and they won't stop- I'm always coming up with a new idea, painting a picture of what's next, or creating a fresh vision. This dreamer mind-set stirs up so much anticipation and excitement about the potential in situations or the possibilities in life that are yet to come. It's charming and spontaneous, perpetually striving for more and new and better. You know what, though? It's exhausting, too. It's this confusing blurred line. Which is it? Am I simply trying my hand at taking advantage of every moment given to me, not letting a second go to waste, not throwing away any gift or opportunity God has presented? Or have I actually entered into an ugly, never-ending competition with myself that will never be satisfied or completed? Am I challenging myself to creatively dream big dreams in a healthy way or am I weighing myself down with crazy expectations and only concerning myself with what could be? Honestly, I don't know. I'm asking God to deeply search my heart and draw out any toxins getting in the way of what He is truly calling me to.

This season of life is full. It is already brimming over with relationships, situations, and responsibilities that I know God has carefully selected and crafted for me in this time for His purpose. Yet, I feel like I'm always seeking more; I always feel like I could do more, I could reach more, I could be more. The truth is, there are a lot of days I wake up and I feel immediately overwhelmed in a (good or bad?) way when I think about all of the tasks, plans, people, visions, and dreams before me. My plate is already overflowing and I keep dreaming up more. I reason with myself that some of it is healthy, that it's all for God's kingdom and there's nothing wrong with infinitely dreaming, but sometimes I feel like it turns into expecting this long list of things I think I am owed.

I know that Jesus sees and knows my heart, but it is so easy to get lost in a sea of jealousy, wanting what someone else has or even just getting stuck in a fantasy and forgetting what is important. Before I continue, let me put a disclaimer out there: I am about to be completely transparent, handing over the key to deepest parts of my heart. Let me be honest, some of it (maybe and probably) all of what I am about to say is selfish, but this is the reality of what I have to work through with Jesus. I open up my selfish and awful heart to Him, spouting off ridiculous ideas and scenarios I've created in my head of what I think would be best, and He realigns my perspective, completely turns everything upside down, and shows me what I am truly promised when I enter into relationship with Him- not what I've somehow convinced myself I am promised.

I want a decent sized house with a writing space for me, a music room for my husband, and a green, lush yard with lots of space for gardening and growing all of my own fruits and vegetables. I want five little ones running around-maybe more. I want my own kids, and foster kids, and adopted kids, a playroom for them, and a homeschool room with cute little chalkboards and art and science experiments. In between the chaos, I want to write. I want to write books, blogs, articles- anything and everything. I want my home to be a sanctuary for my husband, for my babies, for family, for friends, and for broken and lost people God puts in my path. I want my home to be bright and inviting, a space I'm able to decorate with joy and cook healthy meals. I want to always have all the bills paid and have lots leftover to give away, without a second thought. I want to have lots of guests over and drink lots of coffee. I want sticky fingerprints on my refrigerator and a thousand little kisses each day. I want to travel and experience God's creation and people in all different part of the world, spreading the gospel with every step that I take. I want to be a wife and a mama to many and an encourager and a leader.

But you see, those are my dreams. Do I think some of them are from the heart of God? Yes. Do I think some of them have gotten clouded and mixed up, so that its hard for me to decipher which are mine and which are God's? Yes. I know that God did not create me to simply expel out a list of desires that I want and wait for the check mark to appear when they happen. Even if some of them are good, I am missing out on so much while I wait for my dream-world to happen. Not only that, but NONE of those things are promised to me. I am not owed ANYTHING, apart from the unearned, radical salvation, love, and grace that Jesus so freely offers. I am not promised security. I am not promised wealth. I am not promised a dream job. I am not promised that the bills will always be paid. I am not promised a home. I am not promised children, or a spouse, or a family.

My security, my hope, and my foundation are Jesus. 
He is my portion.
He alone is what I have been promised.

Everyday when I rise, Jesus is the only stable thing that I can count on and be sure of. I have to keep relearning this over and over again. I know this truth, but it is particularly challenging, especially in the age and generation we live in, to stay focused solely on Jesus. I wish it were easy to wake up each day and lay myself wide open as a blank slate for Jesus to use, completely disregarding my own so-called needs and wants. I wish it weren't so tempting for me to fall into the blurred line of dreaming so often that it turns into discontentment. It is hard. And it is sometimes downright painful to live in this world of credit scores, down-payments, and brushed-over Instagram posts. How on earth are we supposed to stay the course? There is nothing wrong with dreams and desires, especially for God's kingdom and especially when God's desires become my desires, but there is something terribly, horribly wrong when my yucky heart thinks I am owed everything that I have dreamed up.

"There is nothing outside of a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him."-Mark 7:15

We focus on the world and everything around us needing to change, but in reality we need desperately to change. The darkest sins come from lofty and greedy desires stemming from the depths of our own hearts. Yes, some of that is influenced by outside sources, but ultimately it comes from within.

"For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, but lose his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul?"-Mark 8:35-36

It is so agonizing to not lose your life to the pressures and influences around you and from your own heart and mind. Sometimes we convince ourselves that we are "saving" our life by dreaming and doing and accomplishing and being independent and unmovable, but its quite the opposite. In the pursuit of contentment, we lose our souls and forget what is actually promised to us.

My home could be taken away today. I might never be able to have children. My writing may never reach trillions of people. My loved ones might die. There might be nothing left in my bank account.

But I still have Jesus. 

Maybe you crave comfort, security, and stability like me. Somehow, in some way, though, pieces of that will slowly get chiseled and/or ripped away. Then what? Are Jesus' promises somehow void?

We all have access to the true peace and contentment that Jesus brings, but we are all running away. How long can we run? Instead of flocking towards Him like we read in the gospels, we are running away from Him, breathless and scared.

"And wherever He came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well."-Mark 6:56

I want to be desperate to touch Jesus like that. I want to yearn after Him. I want each day to be a new chance to accomplish His will and appreciate the beauty that He is building, not that I am building. I want to be obedient to His calls and plans, pushing away my own. I want to radiate joy when it doesn't make logical sense. I want to be generous when I have nothing; love when hate is the theme all around me.

And then....when I look back on my life, I will know it has been a true masterpiece, because the creator of life itself has crafted every twist and turn.

Let's journey together, because I am far from fully grasping this. Reach out to me with your honest thoughts!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The Art of "Being"

The sunshine is warm today and I know what God's called me to do.

Just Be.

I get so lost in plans and responsibilities and filling my schedule. Sometimes I am buried beneath seemingly thousands of demands.

"You don't understand," I mutter at my husband, as I try to explain how I'm juggling umpteen different roles and barely staying afloat.

But maybe he understands more than I do. Maybe his laid back personality allows him to more easily adapt to the art of being.

I'm laid back sometimes, but most of the time I am hyper-aware of everything that needs to be accomplished. I like to do everything well, which is great. But it's only great until I stop altogether doing the only that matters: Simply Being With Jesus.

The funny thing is, most days I aim to just be, but anything and everything gets in the way. The dishes are piling up, there's dirt on the floor, I have a world of things to plan and prepare, one-hundred people that need my attention, and two-hundred problems that need to be solved- there's just no time to be. 

The truth is, there's no time in my day to NOT just be. I'm complaining about not staying afloat, but where is my fuel coming from?

When will I understand that it's not about doing, but instead about being?  Jesus doesn't measure His love for me based on performance, tasks, or productivity. His love for me is measured by one thing only: What He has already done on the cross. That changed everything. That changed my need to work for acceptance and grace. He died so that I could have abundant life and lay to rest all of my doubt and guilt and shame about not doing enough.

Jesus is concerned with transforming my heart first. Before anything else, I can rest in His presence and know that's enough. First, my heart will be renewed and changed by drinking in the fullness of His love and then that will spill into my outlooks, desires, thoughts, and actions. There is no life that comes out of to-do lists and task-doing that is centered around performing to please. Jesus wants my heart. Once I surrender my heart to Him daily by stopping to connect with Him and allowing Him to strengthen me, His love will outshine everything that I try to be on my own. His desires will become my desires to love and serve others. My actions will follow my heart transformation and God will purify my intentions. He will make my actions and responsibilities come from a place of love, rather than duty.

I long for this. I long for Jesus to have complete control of my heart, guiding my every step. I long for Him to free me of my guilt and the burdens I grip tightly whispering that I'm not doing enough. I yearn for Him to change my perspective.

It is getting harder and harder to not be selfish in this world; to not be only consumed with building a perfect little kingdom for yourself, with all of your own strength, and blocking out any need for God.

Who am I if I don't need God? Who am I if I don't have His love etched throughout my skin and bones? I'll tell you who I am: I am tired and broken, ashamed and selfish, lonely and definitely not content, anxious and drained, shattered and lacking vision, void of compassion and completely lifeless. A total mess, trying to survive by doing, rather than being.

My prayer for each of you is that this truth will be planted deep within your heart. Simply being God's daughter and hungering for His presence is the key to allowing God to transform everything else that follows. Fleshly tendencies will always lead back to the lies that you're not doing enough, that you're not enough. In those moments, I pray for God's grace to point you to the truth once more.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Beautiful Reminder

What a beautiful reminder the changing of seasons always is. I took this picture the other day at the house I grew up at. As a little girl, I always looked forward to winter morphing into spring because it marked the beginning of my adventurous search for wildflowers. I would run outside barefoot and examine every square inch of our yard, making sure I didn't miss any pretty spring flowers. In admiration, I would sometimes sit down on the grass by our pond and marvel at the fact that the very same landscape had just been blanketed in snow and somehow it was now gone. Everything was turning green and brave little flowers were peeking up just waiting to be picked and fussed about.

Recently, I found these daffodils blooming, bright and yellow. This discovery marked the beginning of something new, as it always had. I picked them and held them for a while, nostalgia overtaking me. Soon they would sit on the counter in a jar for my mom to find her treasure, just like when I was a little girl.

I watched the seasons change as a little girl in Maine. During wintertime, my brother and I transformed our yard into a frosted play land, making snow forts and snow men. Our cheeks pink from the cold, our mom would always take our wet hats and mittens and put them in the dryer as we walked through the door. Hot chocolate was always soon to follow. From our yard, as I explored every inch, I watched harsh winter turn into hope-filled spring. I danced around in the newfound warmth, my eyes dazzled by all of the flowers that needed picking. Birds were chirping and mud was everywhere, waiting to be splashed in. Spring grew into summer where I could pick every type of berry imaginable. I would put them in a bowl, trying to resist the urge to eat as I picked, and bring them into my mom so that she could transform them into a delicious pie. Summer meant flying kites, water-gun fights with my brother, and begging my dad to give me a ride on his lawn-mover. Oftentimes, my dad would also be found in the garden, where I would sneak in and chomp on a fresh picked vegetable that was meant for dinner that night. The days of summer would come to an end and I would wait patiently for the leaves on all of the trees to do their job. Breathing in the crisp, new fall air, I would jump in piles of golden colors. Looking for any excuse to take in the mesmerizing autumn scenery, I'd take off on my bike, collecting leaves along the way. 

The changing of seasons has always been a beautiful reminder to me;a constant that I can count on; a message that new life and new hope are coming; a chance for a fresh start. God alone can turn hot summer days into the crisp, cool Autumn. He alone can make Autumn slowly fade into the still, serene winter and then transform blankets of white into fresh green grass, singing birds, and flourishing nature. He is present in every season, in every transition period, and He makes himself known all around us. Just when it seems like we can't take any more cold, He ushers in the warmth. Just when the sweltering heat gets overwhelming, He allows us to welcome in cooler air.

The unmistakable presence and breathtaking work of God in the seasons, points me to His presence in daily life. He carries us through life seasons, too. He is our constant through the transition periods. Sometimes it can seem as if God is opening and closing some doors before we are ready, but we have the opportunity to hunt for the beauty of the position He has placed us in. It may seem like He's not there, but He always makes himself known, just as He does when the flowers bloom and the snow falls for the first time. As humans, we can't go outside and tell the seasons to stop and start when we see fit. We don't have the ability to tell plants their timeline for growth or direct the sky on what type of precipitation will fall. God arranges all of that perfectly and we have the honor of enjoying it. Why is it so easy, then, in our daily life to try to maneuver our seasons a certain way? If God can take care of the seasonal changes and beauties of nature on the whole earth, He can and will take care of the transitions in your life.

When you look at the wildflowers, remember that God is greater than the highs and lows. Despite what was going on around them, He still allowed those flowers to bloom and flourish.

Admiring the changing of the seasons brings a steady, unshakable peace. You can have the assurance that God is present and capable and you can breathe in deeply of the breathtaking creation and say. "It is well with my soul."

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Monday, April 16, 2018


"The seed is the Word of God. The seeds on the road are those who hear the Word, but no sooner do they hear it than the Devil snatches it from them so they won’t believe and be saved. 

The seeds in the gravel are those who hear with enthusiasm, but the enthusiasm doesn’t go very deep. It’s only another fad, and the moment there’s trouble it’s gone. 

And the seed that fell in the weeds—well, these are the ones who hear, but then the seed is crowded out and nothing comes of it as they go about their lives worrying about tomorrow, making money, and having fun. 

But the seed in the good earth—these are the good-hearts who seize the Word and hold on no matter what, sticking with it until there’s a harvest."-Luke 8:11-15 (MSG)

When planting a garden, you search for good, fertile soil that will create abundant and life-filled plants. Your flowers won't grow very well when stifled by weeds or immersed in gravel. If the seeds don't start out in healthy soil, they will have a hard time growing to be healthy and long-lasting. In the same way that you ensure reliable and favorable soil, you also make sure to plant your seeds deep. If they are too close to the surface, animals and birds will make sure to find them and devour them.
It is the same way when we plant God's word in our hearts. When the seeds of God's promises have a firm foundation in our hearts we will flourish and see a harvest. Unfortunately it's very easy to plant these seeds of truth in soil that will decay and destroy. When we don't let the truths fully sink in and remain in a state of complacency, skepticism, and doubt, the seeds are only on the surface and have not been yet nourished , creating the perfect scenario for the enemy to snatch them before they start to grow. Oftentimes, too, we will hear the truth and be temporarily passionate about following God, but then that passion fizzles and fades away before it even has a chance to bear fruit. When the seeds are planted amongst gravel in our hearts, we can see following God as more of a fad and ride the up and down wave, based on circumstances in life. Some days we might be on fire and other days we abandon God's love altogether.
Personally, I think the most dangerous way our seeds can be planted is when they are surrounded by weeds. There are "weeds" everywhere, constantly threatening to crowd out and choke the harvest. These weeds are distractions and temptations and tendencies to sin. Some of these things can appear harmless and that's where it can easily become a murky, grey area. Lies get in the way. Anxiety and depression tangle themselves in. Material items and money grow right on top of your seed. Pleasure and selfishness shoot up tall, making the original plant almost unrecognizable. Busyness, success, and productivity creep their way into the garden. The soil is now toxic. These things are all around us.
The only way God's truth and love can remain in our hearts is when the seeds are planted on good soil. When we open our hearts completely, set our eyes totally on God, and don't welcome in distractions or allow ourselves to waver based on lies or distractions. When the seed is planted on good soil, it will grow. When you keep pursuing God, day after day, letting His word feed your heart and direct your life, you will be transformed. The seed will grow into a gorgeous, flourishing flower. If the seed only remains on the surface or is planted in unhealthy soil, though, it's only a matter of time before it dies. If you hear God's word, but don't allow it to change you and penetrate deep into your soul, it's only a matter of time before your forget, get bored, or fall completely out of step.
When the seeds of God's truth and love are planted on good soil, you will live a life of abundance. Your heart will be overwhelmed with abundant joy and full of His life. You will experience the fullness of growing in Him and turning back is no longer an option. The seed will grow into a plant that keeps growing and growing and growing- and eventually it will begin changing and influencing every aspect of your life. You'll see people different, you'll see yourself differently, and you'll see life differently. Love will be the foundation from which all that you do, say, and think stems.
Plant this truth on the good soil in your heart and it will never fade away: God made you for a purpose and He has a plan for your life that is bigger than you can fathom. The love of God is beyond comprehension- He will show you grace and mercy exactly where you're at and revitalize everything in your life that seems dead. He sent His son Jesus to die on the cross to save you from every bit of sin, every ounce of shame- He had overwhelming compassion and love for you and still does in this very moment. Believe that He died for you, that He loves you, and allow Him in the depths of your heart. Don't stop pursuing Him; allow Him to fill the deep wells within you that have been empty.
When this seed is planted on good soil it cannot be uprooted, it cannot die, and it will ignite a change everywhere. Not only will the seed in your heart grow with love, it will impact the hearts of others as they plant their seeds.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Devotional- Nothing Can Seperate

I'm going to start posting devotionals as often as I can. Thinking realistically, I probably won't have the chance to post one everyday- but I am going to try to share truth and encouragement that God puts on my heart after reading scripture. We are all constantly in need of truth, hope, and light- it is my prayer that through these devotionals you will be uplifted and encouraged throughout your day and that you will ponder God's love and His word more deeply. If you'd like to receive these posts and others, make sure to subscribe on the sidebar by putting in your email address and new posts will be sent straight to your inbox!

"Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture:

They kill us in cold blood because they hate you.

We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one.

None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us."-Romans 8:31-39 (MSG)

Is there any place God's grace doesn't reach? Is there anything that can separate us from Him? Is there anything you can do to drive Him away?

These questions often run through my mind. It seems basic, in theory, to embrace the concept of God's grace, but in daily life we sometimes don't let this truth permeate below the surface. It's hard to even fathom, really- that absolutely nothing on earth can come between you and God. That's a reason to celebrate; a reason to rejoice and permanently throw away that bag of bricks you've been holding and burn your checklist of things you need to do to please God. Read it again: "Nothing can get between us and God's love." Nothing. No emotional outbursts, anxious worrying, negative thoughts, selfish choices, love of the world, unkind words, worshipping of status, material, or money- absolutely none of that can separate you from God. The Bible says "not even the worst sins" could separate you from Him.

So don't listen to the lies. Don't listen to the lies that God's grace doesn't apply to you. Don't listen to the lies that it's too late or you're too far gone or what you've done is too horrible. The baffling and awe-inspiring thing is that you don't have to clean yourself up and become a walking, talking piece of perfection before approaching God. If you had your life together and never made any mistakes you would have no need for Jesus. Nothing you did yesterday, nothing you've done today, and nothing you'll do tomorrow can pull you from God's hand. His love and grace cannot be taken away. The reality is that you will fail- over and over and over again; but the important thing that you can't afford to miss is that in your failure, God's grace is made perfect. Nothing you go through, nothing you say, nothing you do can put a wedge between you and God.

The next piece of good news is that all of those dark, terrible things you feel weighing you down are not intended to stay there. With God inside of you, transformation is inevitable. Of course you will never be perfect and darkness and sin will never be completely extracted from your life on this earth- but even still, if God's spirit lives deep within you, He is constantly guiding and helping you to depart from your old ways and embrace His new and life-filled ways.

"But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him. Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won’t know what we’re talking about. But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells—even though you still experience all the limitations of sin—you yourself experience life on God’s terms. It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s!" -Romans 8:9-11 (MSG)

Wow. So as humans we are constantly experiencing the limitations of darkness and sin, but in the midst of that, God raises us to life. He turns our perspective and our choices from darkness and death to light and life. He delivers us from all of our mistakes and all of our shame. 

Let's walk away fully understanding both truths today: God's grace is available forever, no matter what we do or what we've done, but at the same time, as He lives in our hearts He is constantly helping us to change and become more like Him.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

I Don't Live For Myself Anymore

The past couple months have been crazy. Bad crazy or good crazy? That answer would depend on the day you asked me. There have been some days where I can easily remain hopeful and even some days where I am filled to the brim with joy and bubbling over with gratitude for all that God is doing. In the midst of that, though, there have been hard days- I mean really difficult days where just getting out of bed is a challenge. I've had some days where I just feel completely and totally bogged down and overwhelmed, crying out in desperation. My anxiety has been through the roof on other days, altogether plagued with negativity and helplessness. My husband lost his job, I had mono and a whole host of other sicknesses, was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, and began letting anxiety overtake me all within a matter of a few weeks.

In the recent months I have been met square in the face with illness and health concerns I've never experienced before, financial instability, relationship issues, self-image lies, and the list goes on. I felt like I was being hit in the face with baseballs and there was no way to dodge them. In this season I have many responsibilities and many tasks I have been entrusted with and trying to navigate those things while battling physical and emotional afflictions was exhausting to say the least.

This whole experience has been humbling, cleansing, and renewing.

Until recently, I had never really struggled with any health concerns. And honestly, I didn't truly know what it was like to struggle financially either. I recognize, though, that it could have been and still could be far worse, but experiencing these new challenges still changed me to the core and allowed me to understand that without complete dependence on God, I am literally incapable of absolutely everything. I am not somehow immune to going through hard situations, but God is right there to carry me through. If glorifying Him is the only thing that matters, even in the middle of chaos, that changes everything...

Eventually I realized that I had some important decisions to make. I could continue allowing emotions and circumstances to determine who I was and what my life was worth-or I could fall on my knees and earnestly seek God, desperately yearning for Him to fill me in all the places I felt isolated, scared, and confused. I could choose to let these hurdles weigh me down or I could boldly choose to say, "You know what? No. I don't live for myself anymore. I live to see God lifted high." God doesn't promise stability or pain-free living; He isn't a vending machine that spits out alluring things for me to grab. How shallow-minded to think that His intention for my life is constant comfort. I shouldn't be shocked that I've had to endure some unpleasant circumstances, but I should be humbled, speechless, and thankful that I do not have to endure them alone- and in complete awe of the fact that in the middle of my broken, pitiful mess God can transform my heart and point me towards Him.

My heart is black and yucky. I'm selfish and I want everything to go my way and line up perfectly. I believe that I shouldn't have to go through sickness and that I have the right to know 100% all the bills are going to be paid. But that's just what I think. My greed and grumbling and self-worship will always get in the way and speak lies. But guess what? I don't live for myself anymore. That takes the pressure way off. The burden is lifted. Trying to please yourself is exhausting and honestly, it can never be achieved. Once you realize that you are living for God and God alone, the way you think things should go is thrown out the window. It doesn't matter anymore. I want to worship God with my whole life. Instead of letting my blackened, cold heart rule over me I want God's grace, mercy, justice, and truth to define everything that I do. Shedding the ugly skin of self is agonizing and not natural. Jesus died on the cross to save me from the sin of living for myself. God is my healer and my provider; He fills me with His everlasting life and I never have to thirst again. He helps me to seek Him, love as He loves, serve as He served, and stand for the things He stands for.

I'm not living to ensure safety and security. I'm not living to ensure I have a steady cash-flow, a five-figure income, infinite savings, and a retirement plan. I'm not living for the perfect house with a view, the most qualified resume, or the most pristine wardrobe. I'm not living for a collection of social-media worthy snapshots and cool adventures. I'm not even living to retrieve the "good health" that I think I deserve. My life is more than a collection of earnings, accomplishments, and 5-year-plans. I could keep trying and trying and trying to build my perfect little kingdom here on earth. I could continue trying to meticulously plan and envision how my life should look and brainwash myself into thinking I am entitled certain luxuries, when in reality I'm not. 

I want to wake up each day and live for God. I want to lay completely open for Him to mold, make, and use. I want to take all of my expectations, all of my false Gods and comforts and tear them to shreds, because they only get in the way of God's plan. Living for God changes everything. Truly diving in head-first in pursuit of Him changes every interaction, every conversation, every decision, every relationship, every responsibility- it's all done for His glory and not your own. I'm not interested in sprinkling just a little bit of God in my life because it makes me feel good sometimes. It's all or nothing. Either you let Him take over or you don't. Either you live for Him or you live for yourself.

If I don't live for myself than I can go through struggles and still worship Him. I can be so filled with His joy and radiating with His life that circumstances do not control me. If the son of God could lay down His life, than who am I to hold onto mine?  I am free. I am free to let Him capture my whole heart and free to live radically for Him. When I let go of the expectation that I am somehow in control I release my life to fully let God move. In fact, this opens the floodgates of gratitude and blessing; the pain is no longer the focal point.
It's funny, because even though so many baseballs have been thrown my way the past couple of months- they have not knocked me out. I have literally felt God collect up all of those baseballs and toss them aside and speak to my heart and say, "Yeah, those things are here- but I don't want you to look at them. Look at this instead.." And he fixates my attention instead on what's important. I have seen Him move like never before in this season, opening new doors, new relationships, new purpose- so much new. God has ushered in so much hope; more hope than I can hold. He has helped me to open my eyes to the beauty that's going on around me and allowed me to be a part of it instead of being plagued by darkness and disease.

I'm still navigating this. I forever will be. I constantly have to say, "Okay God, I am a mess. My instinct is to live for comfort, pleasure, and stability- but please help me to recklessly abandon all that I want, throw out all that I've planned and to stop living for myself. Help me, God, to live only for you; to live to see you lifted high and worship you in awesome times and undesirable times. Make my words, your words. Make my thoughts, your thoughts. Make the way I love, the way you love."

*I encourage you to listen to "I Don't Live For Myself Anymore" by Isla Vista Worship. This song has effected me greatly and helped to inspire this post.