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."

Get the mug here:

Get the shirt here:

Make sure to apply the code "HPritchard15" at checkout to receive 15% of anything you buy at Elevated Faith: 

If you're interested in becoming a social media ambassador alongside me with Elevated Faith, please reach out to me.

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.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Be The Light

     When everything is dark and hopeless, I want to be a light. I don't want to be a light that shines only when it's convenient or when I see other lights around me. I don't want to be a light only on the sidelines or in broad daylight. No- I want to be a light in the hard places. I want to be a light in the trenches; shine my light to people and situations that are depleted and empty. I want to shine my light when all that's known is darkness; when every other ounce of light has been swallowed up. I want to be a light when it's not popular, when it makes no sense, and when every other light has blown out.

Jesus said, “For a brief time still, the light is among you. Walk by the light you have so darkness doesn’t destroy you. If you walk in darkness, you don’t know where you’re going.As you have the light, believe in the light.Then the light will be within you, and shining through your lives. You’ll be children of light.”-John 12:35-36 (MSG)

~Then the light will be within you and shining through your lives~

     I want that light within me. I want that light shining through my life and spilling out onto others; spilling out onto the broken world. We don't have to argue about the fact that we are living in broken times. In fact, we shouldn't even be shocked at the hate and hopelessness we witness daily. Things will never be perfect on this earth. There will always be tragedy, there will always be darkness. Jesus did not come to earth to bring light to a world that already was filled with light- He came to bring light to world quite literally contaminated with darkness. And after He left earth, He appointed us to continue the cycle of spreading truth and light to every dark corner of the world. We can't fix everything in our lifetime, we can't stop all of the senseless crime or the unmerited hate- but we can do something. We can focus on what's important: spreading love and light exactly where God has placed us. We can stop pointing our finger at society and asking it to change. Instead, what if we were the change?

"We have missed our calling. We need to understand that even if we devoured every single moral issue on our plates, the people of this world would still be seeking meaning and purpose for their lives.....We can attempt legislation of morals until the end of time. But change comes from the inside (heart) out, rarely from the outside (rules) in."-Page 129, When Bad Christians Happen To Good People by Dave Burchett

     I often wonder why we get so caught up expecting broken people to adhere to a set of rules. Change happens in the heart. Change happens when light enters. Rules cannot transform a person's heart, but love and light can. God has given us certain loving guidelines to live by, but people who don't know God as a loving God first must learn about His nature. We are fighting the wrong fights and we have overcomplicated the mission that Jesus left us with.

“You have your heads in your Bibles constantly because you think you’ll find eternal life there. But you miss the forest for the trees. These Scriptures are all about me! And here I am, standing right before you, and you aren’t willing to receive from me the life you say you want."
-John 5:39-40 (MSG)

     He has called a generation to rise up and Be The Light. That means not remaining silent and complacent. It means standing for the things he stands for: love, justice, righteousness, and making salvation available to every person to the ends of the earth. We should be a strong voice of hope and justice in the midst of the dark events playing out in our society. It's easy, however, to forget entirely that spreading love and light is the answer and instead become convinced that winning debates is the answer. Being the light has nothing to do with political party, joining a bandwagon of "christian beliefs", or highlighting the sinfulness of society, but instead it has everything to do with shedding light to people who only know darkness and letting love abound in a world that only knows hate. Be the light to your cashier, to the single mom on your street, the coworker who you don't normally talk to. Be the light to the drug addict, the girl who just got an abortion, the alcoholic. Let's use our light to take a stand for righteousness and speak out against racism and homophobia and sex slavery- let's be vocal about the injustices of homelessness and hunger and be active in speaking out against bigotry, pride, and selfishness.  Be the light where darkness and lies have taken root. Let's use our light to redefine who Jesus is and what He stands for.

"I've very rarely met someone who doesn't like Jesus, but they have been offended by those who claim to follow him." -Carl Lentz

"The opposite of love, I have found, is not hate, but indifference...even if I have not hated to such a degree, I have been indifferent. And the indifference of the church and of Christians is the hole in the fence that allows evil to crawl through unencumbered."
-When Bad Christians Happen To Good People by Dave Burchett     

I don't know about you, but I don't want to get to the end of my life and see indifference. I want to look back and know that I embraced every opportunity to stand for what Jesus stands for; that I hungered for situations to arise where I could shine my light. I don't want to look back and see an amalgamation of trying to push rules and regulations on people; I want to look back and see that everything I did pointed to the fact that Jesus came to abolish religious systems of the day and everything he stood for was extending grace and light to people that seemingly deserved none. We have an opportunity to repent of our silences, to rise up and take a stand against the spaces where we've allowed people to speak falsely and degradingly. We need to take a stand for the hope of the human species. We must stand for truth and righteousness. When we do and say things in the name of God we must ask ourselves: what God are we referring to? Are we referring to the God known fully in the teachings of Jesus? The God that embraces the foreigner? The God that loves and welcomes those who are hurting, broken, and different from us? Or are we referring to a God that fits in our box? A God that loves only certain people who do certain things and look a certain way?

We have a responsibility to confront the evils that are in power in this day and I want to be a part of that by shining my light. Let's shout about redemption on the rooftops and respond with grace in a graceless society. Let's be the light in the wake of disasters and unfathomable murders- let's respond with love and light rather than bitterness and confusion. In a self-serving, materialistic, judgmental, hopeless, depressing time- let's be the light that shines brighter.

Join the movement of light with me.

"You can believe all the right things and still be in bondage; you can know the right answers and still be miserable and unchanged. It is possible to know a lot about Jesus, but not really know Him. My fear is that lurking behind our American understanding of belief is the false Jesus of Suburbia- the Jesus who requires Christians only to agree with the truth, but is not so bold as to require us to live it. Not the real Jesus. This is one of the reasons the church is so ineffective in engaging and redeeming culture: we think people are the enemy. So we fight people and try to hurt them in the process. It's the pornographers or the abortionists or the courts that are at fault. We think the problem is out there-in the culture- when in reality the enemy lurks right in our midst."
The Jesus of Suburbia by Mike Erre

Saturday, February 17, 2018

What Did I Sign Up For?

My outlook on marriage has been a patchwork of feelings and opinions that have shifted over time. First of all, I never thought I would be married right now-at 21 years old. I thought maybe I would be married somewhere far, far down the line at 35 or something. And most of the time, trying to conceptualize the thought of marriage at all seemed like a stretch. 

"Why would I limit myself?" I used to think. 

"Why put my hope in another human being who will break my heart into a million little pieces?" 

"I'm young, I have a life to live, things to accomplish, and a husband will just drag me down," I told myself.

I used to view marriage as a prison cell- locking you in with confinement, disappointment, and less opportunity.

One October day, at 17 years old, I sped off in my car in the pouring rain, not knowing my life was about to change. You see, I was about to get into a very dangerous car accident and everything I once knew would be completely turned upside-down. This was one of the darkest seasons of my life; I hated God, I hated love, and quite honestly- I hated myself. I had turned to self-destruction and I was completely unstable, lacking any fragment of purpose or direction. My heart was hollow and closed off. I was out of breath and exhausted from running away from God. Honestly, I was petrified of Him and I wanted absolutely no part of the "love" that I had seen coming out of some "christians". My view of love was seemingly flawed beyond repair. Love was the last thing on my mind in that season- love with God, love with a man- I wanted no part of it.

Through the splashes of rain, as I saw another car's headlights in my lane, there was no time to react. In that moment, I realized how close death was. I couldn't run anymore; it was coming straight for me. I didn't realize how much I truly did yearn for life and love until pain and death were a few feet away. I sharply turned the wheel at the last possible second and I cried out to the God whom I wasn't even certain I believed in. 

"I'm not ready to die yet. I want to live for you. I still desire to meet my husband and have a family someday."

My car spun around uncontrollably, eventually ending up in the ditch on the other side of the road after hitting a telephone pole. The telephone pole fell on top of my car, causing the front end to catch on fire just as I stepped out of it.

God saved my life that day. Plain and simple. From that point on, He began reshaping and capturing my heart, breaking down all of the lies I had built a foundation on. Over time, He began to reveal purpose to me, breathing life into everything that had been lifeless. And He opened my heart to love.

Two days after the accident, I met and started talking to Simon, who is now my husband. Two weeks later, I knew that he was the man I was going to marry. This is the girl who was broken and shattered and hated the idea of marriage, especially despising the idea of getting married young. Simon loved God and wanted to pursue a life of serving Him. He was patient with me as I started to understand what that meant; I had no prior understanding and it was a process (still is and will always be) to shed all of gruesome layers of my flesh. In the beginning of our relationship, we learned what love was together. We learned how to love each other and love God together. We grew from teenagers to adults together.

I will never be able to wrap my head around the weight of what God did that year of my life. I was in a downward spiral and He caught me, gave me a second chance, and literally carried me to the man who was going to be my future husband- a man that loved Him. And He used twitter to do this. I'm not kidding. Simon and I met on twitter. That's how big of a God we serve- He meets you right where you are- and at 17 years old, that's where I was.

So naturally, during our dating and engaged years- my view of marriage changed into a sea of prince charming and white horses. Looking toward marriage, I thought of a fairytale- endless happiness, no arguing, constant fun, holding hands in the sunset, candle-lit dinners, romantic getaways........

After being married for 2 years, though, God is chiseling my understanding yet again. God did not create marriage so that we could be happy or get all of our needs met or fill a void in our heart. He didn't even create marriage so that we could have a lifelong partner to have deep conversations with or go on lavish dates with- though there's nothing wrong with those things and they are actually a by-product of a healthy marriage. Marriage should reflect Christ. There's a war going on in today's society; there are broken, empty, and confused people everywhere. God's design for marriage is for a husband and wife to come together in unity to accomplish His mission- to share the gospel as a team, to share the same vision for how to love others together and win over souls for Jesus. Yes, marriage is supporting one another's dreams. Yes, it is carving out intentional date nights. Yes, it is dying to one-self and choosing to serve your spouse over your own desires and needs. But at core, it is chasing after the same vision together. There is only one vision to chase. The vision is the same for every couple that He brings together: to make disciples and love others alongside one another. The way this takes form is different for every couple depending on gifts and timing. It is so easy for this to get diluted and over-complicated. 

There are influences from the world saying that marriage is all about pleasure and happiness and perfection. There are even toxic influences in christ-centered communities slowly trickling into our minds in conniving ways. These messages are more subtle and they are wrapped in appealing packages- these messages can make us forget about the vision of the gospel and instead focus only on bettering ourselves and strengthening our own home. Faith in Jesus was meant to be shared beyond our walls. Marriage is more than an amalgamation of cooking meals together and cuddling on the couch- those things are a blast, but they can't be the only purpose in your marriage. I think often in faith-based communities, messages about marriage mean well. We hear about respecting and honoring our spouse and spending enough time together. We see step-by-step processes of how to have a constructive argument and how to have beneficial communication. These things are all good; they aren't bad. But what are you and your spouse doing to together to further the kingdom of Jesus? Everything needs to be built around that. God has provided a vessel in marriage for this to happen; a unique way for His message to be carried. God's love for us is not based on performance or service, so please don't hear that, but a thriving marriage will be a deep well overflowing with love to pour out on others. It does not mean every couple will be overseas missionaries, but it means that God calls us all to be missionaries right where we are. He placed you and your spouse in a specific location and time period for a reason and brought you together for a reason- To love and enjoy one another, yes- but also to extend that love to others around you as a team.

Don't misunderstand- marriage is meant to pleasurable and delightful and beautiful- but these things come from flourishing together in your calling. There are some days filled with tickle fights and board games and adventures and movie nights. I believe God wants us to enjoy marriage, too. And also understand this: there will always be challenging days. Stop and think about the austerity involved with combining two people and two lives together. Woah. There is going to be friction. There will be harsh words exchanged and bad choices made. You will hurt each other often. We are flesh and selfishness rules through our whole being. Trying to mix two broken people together is difficult, but worthwhile. The vision is bigger. The vision for God's kingdom is bigger than socks left on the floor or your husband forgetting to ask how your day went. Some days it might be hard to forgive or extend grace, but remember the vision. When you remember the vision, and you truly understand what you signed up for, dissatisfaction can't reign. When you get married, don't sign up for perfection, don't sign up for bouquets of flowers and loves notes (although those are a sweet surprise sometimes), don't sign up for a white picket fence and the perfect little family, don't sign up for Instagram photo shoots, don't sign up for only pursuing your own dreams, don't sign up for no conflict, and don't sign up for building your own kingdom.

Sign up for unity. Sign up for embracing imperfections. Sign up for constant forgiveness and grace. And definitely sign up for striving together after God's vision to share the gospel together. Sign up for forever.

I am more in love with my husband, Simon, now than I ever have been. It is breathtaking to pursue God's calling together and the most attractive thing in the world to see him desire God.  We laugh together and cry together and there is no one else on this planet I would rather have by my side. We are still learning how to pursue this common vision together, though, and I believe we always will be growing in this. We still argue while driving sometimes, things get chaotic and we say hurtful words, and at times, we altogether forget the unity God has called us to. But God always reminds us again of the miracle of love He has given us and His purpose in that.