Friday, August 11, 2017

on snakes and good gifts...

"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks, it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in Heaven given what is good to those who ask Him!"
- Matthew 7: 7-11
When I think of gifts, I do NOT think of stones and snakes. I think of Christmas and birthdays and hand written notes and surprise coffees on my desk (which are always and forever welcomed). It comforts me to know that even in our sinful humanity, we know how to practice the art of gift-giving; we know what would bless our friends and family. I am comforted in the idea that as much as my earthly community seeks to give, the Father desires to give abundantly MORE. 

Matthew 7 is quickly becoming one of my favorite portions of Scripture. It is a portion that reminds us to trust in His character and not in our circumstances. When we come to our Father as children, asking for the desires of our hearts, the deep and heavy things, God does not desire to trick us. He is not scheming and plotting against us, figuring out clever ways to confuse us or hurt us. He does not ignore or forsake or forget, He does not withhold any good thing, He does not give us stones or snakes. He will hear His children and give to them according to His kindness and His will, and when He doesn't give us our specific desires, He gives us Himself, the greatest gift of all. He does not give us stones, because He is the one who rolled the stone away. He does not give us snakes, because He trampled The Snake with His heel. His desire has always been to gift Himself to us, through joy and trial. 
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"He does not give us stones, because He is the one who rolled the stone away. He does not give us snakes, because He trampled The Snake with His heel..."
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We all have times where we pray for a good thing and think we have received a snake. Trust me, I have SO been in that place! We think that He is withholding from us, when in reality, He is blessing us with the gift of His sovereignty and protection. When I look at the past, how God has been so faithful to give, protect, and save, why would I ever think He would toss me a stone or a snake? Our God is good and He extends goodness to us always. We have to remember who He is when those snake-like lies slither into our hearts. Every good and perfect gift is from above, and the most good and only perfect gift, Jesus Christ, was sent to us out of the kindness and compassion of the Father. What more could we ever truly ask for? May we trust God as the Almighty Stone Roller and not a stone giver. 

"Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow..."
- James 1:17

Where are you tempted to see snakes and stones in your life?
What are the good gifts you are trusting God for today?

Friday, August 4, 2017

on what I want the younger (and older) girls to know...

I want you to know that you are both beautiful. You and the girl you are comparing yourself to; you are both worthy and lovely and absolutely amazing in very specifically different ways. 

I want you to know that it is okay to think boys are cute and fun, because they are cute and fun, but they aren't meant to consume your whole life. You are a whole person, whether you are in or out of a relationship. 

I want you to know that the list of things you want in a future husband changes, and praise the Lord for that because the most important things are not that he loves dogs, plays football, has brown hair, and listens to country music. 

I want you to know that a Jesus centered life is better than a Pinterest worthy life.

I want you to know the power of Jesus, the true power of who He is and what He does with our lives. He died for your sins and three days later rose from the grave, conquering death and claiming victory for humanity. He can redeem, restore, provide, prepare, lavish grace, love, and truth. He can take everything you have done and turn it into something beautiful, even the ugliest of things. 

I want you to know the power of dancing and singing and laughing.

I want you to know that God is big enough for your emotions. You are allowed to be mad, sad, excited, frustrated, confused, messy, and wild. 

I want you to know that you should eat the fries, buy the dress, say the nice thing, smile at the boy, read the book, go to the beach, buy yourself flowers, take a trip.

I want you to know that life is too short to be uncomfortable in your own skin.

I want you to know how important it is to find a mentor, for someone to show you how to live for Jesus in the middle of the mundane. Invite someone into your life to keep you accountable, to be a shoulder to cry on, a person to laugh with, a sister to encourage you in truth, and someone to come over on a Friday night with pizza and ice cream and a chick flick (preferably written by Nicholas Sparks, amen?).

I want you to know that the way you treat people matters. 

I want you to know that life is full of really good things. But there is a difference between good things and godly things, learn to discern the difference. 

I want you to know that we were never meant to "have it all" and "do it all".

I want you to know that there are worse things than gaining weight, a bad haircut, not having a boyfriend or a husband or kids, not having enough "likes" on Instagram, or not being invited to the party. It is far worse to be unkind, ungrateful, ungodly. 

I want you to know the value in having fun and not taking yourself too seriously. Give yourself some grace. 

I want you to know that life is hard, but God is good. Seriously. He is the treasure.

I want you to know that the church is powerful and is the most beautiful source of encouragement and community.

I want you to know that you are loved. SO FREAKING LOVED. Just because you aren't loved by the people you want or in the ways you want, doesn't mean you aren't. 

I want you to know that I am cheering for you, don't give up, you've got this.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

on sunfish and scary places...

Confession: deep water scares me.

I specifically remember jumping off the side of a boat out at Folsom Lake when I was in high school and swimming frantically back to the boat for fear of what was in the water with me. And I didn't jump back in again. I stayed on the boat, where I thought I was safe and known. Fear does that, it scares us out of the good things. 

This week a large species of sunfish was found off the coast of Portugal. And listen, before you think I am some fish connoisseur, let me assure you I'm not, I just like to keep up with current events, especially ones that are fun and completely unrelated to The White House. Divers discovered this massive sunfish; you can watch the video hereIt's amazing to think about how there are fish we have never seen down in those deep waters; big fish and small fish, glow-in-the-dark fish and black fish, ugly fish and beautiful fish. Just because we can't see them, doesn't mean they aren't there. 

I can't help but think about how my heart kind of feels like that deep, dark water sometimes. There are places where I am willing to go and places where I am scared of diving in for fear of what might be there. Proverbs 20:5 says that "a purpose in the heart of a man is like deep water, but a man of understanding draws it out..." This verse has been an anthem of prayer over the past few weeks. A man of understanding is willing to dive into the depths of his own heart, to seek wisdom and self-awareness, to see what might be living down in the deep. I want that for myself.
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       "A man of understanding is willing to dive into the depths of his own heart..."
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Now more than ever, I'm experiencing the vastness of my own heart. The waters are deep and the waves are tumultuous, and at times, completely overwhelming. There are feelings and thoughts and prayers that are completely new territory, and I feel like a diver discovering new fish; some are scary, some are beautiful, some are ugly. But the deeper I dive and the darker it becomes, the more opportunity I have to reach those places with light and truth. There are deep places of hope, insecurity, desire, grief, and brokenness. That's a lot to discover, a lot of tension to live in.

Some days, I am tempted to stay in the shallow areas and I am sure you are too, where we can see clearly, where we don't have to do any hard work, where we can wade around in clear, crystal, seemingly perfect moments. Shallow water allows us to see with ease, but there is something beautiful about the depths; they can be scary and at times hurt like hell, but the beauty of discovering God in those places... it's worth itWe discover Jesus as the Sustainer, the Comforter, the Great Planner and Protector, as the Great Foundation, the Grace-Giver, and the Quick-to-Compassion God. We discover that we're extremely complex, full of feelings and experiences and tensions. We discover that God is God, we are human, and that's how it should be. We discover that it's okay to feel simultaneously, to grieve and to celebrate.

May we not be too scared to miss out on the scary-good things at the bottom of our hearts. I don't want fear to be the boss of me and scare me out of the the heart work, out of the good places, like it did that day on the lake. I want to dive deep and discover both the ugly and the beautiful, so that Jesus may have His way within me.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

a coffee date...

(coffee + cream in Ireland!)
If we were on a coffee date, I would order my new favorite: a triple espresso over ice with two agave sweeteners and a splash of cream. I would also pay for your coffee because God has been telling me to be more generous to the people in my life.

If we were on a coffee date, I would tell you that I am currently obsessed with watermelon, summer candles, pool floaties, and Tabata cycling.

If we were on a coffee date, we would wish for cooler weather because this whole 108 degrees thing is a NIGHTMARE.

If we were on a coffee date, I would tell you that I just booked a trip to Portland in November and I already have a Pinterest board of all my plans.

If we were on a coffee date, we would talk about God's love, about how He protects us and pursues us and fights for us and gives us way more grace than we could ever deserve. We would talk about how His love draws up lines in our lives taut by hope. We would talk about grace and how the hardest person to give it to is ourselves.

If we were on a coffee date, we would also talk about sin and how much we hate it. It comes to seek, kill, and destroy, and we must seek, kill, and destroy it.

If we were on a coffee date, there would be talk about relationships and emotions.

If we were on a coffee date, we might talk about Eugene Peterson and his recent statements about same-sex marriage. Here is my favorite article on the subject. (Update: Eugene Peterson retracted his statement here. This is what biblical humility looks like!)

If we were on a coffee date, I would share with you all my photos and stories from Portugal and my four hours in Ireland. ALSO IRELAND. WHAT.

If we were on a coffee date, I would tell you my two newest guilty pleasures: "Riverdale" on Netflix and the song "Unforgettable" by French Montana. 

If we were on a coffee date, what would be your newest guilty pleasures?

Friday, July 7, 2017

on the lines of hope...

Ever since we were kids, we were taught to "color inside the lines".

This never bugged me. I loved lines. I still love lines. In a weird way, they give me freedom, they tell me where I can go, they tell me where I am safe. Throughout the past month, the theme of these lines has been popping up. Lines and lines and lines...

"The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and my cup; you support my lot. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places, indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me..." 
- Psalm 16: 5-6 (NASB)

"The lines of purpose in your lives never grow slack, tightly tied as
they are to your future in Heaven, kept taught by hope..." 
- Colossians 1:5 (MSG)

The lines have fallen in pleasant places because they are tied and taut by hope; they are beautiful and not reckless. God is not a reckless Sovereign, He knows what He is doing and He knows what we need. Sometimes, it's hard to see the lines as good; maybe the lines fell and you ended a relationship or friendship, or cancer snuck in, or you lost a job, or you are going through the treacherous "post-grad" period, or death happened. But even in our discomfort, we are safe. The lines are painful and confusing and grey, but we know the God who put them there and His intent is not to harm us or confuse us, it is to draw us closer to Him, to use the boundary lines to bind us to Him. The lines are placed as an act of love and grace; sin must be kept out, holiness must be kept in. We continue to hope in the God of our circumstances, not in our circumstances. 
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"...the lines are painful and confusing and grey, but we know the God 
who put them there and His intent is not to harm us or confuse us..."
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As I think about my life, where the lines have fallen, I am grateful that the Lord loves us enough to step in. He protects us from the good to reserve us for the godly. Friends, this is a truth that I have been needing to preach to myself daily. I want to be a woman who embraces the seasons and the lines that are provided for me, not resisting them or doubting them. I want a heart that rests within the boundaries, a heart that dwells in peace inside the lines, having no desire to jump outside of them. I want to color inside the spaces that the Lord has placed before me, filling them with vibrant color and beauty. I want to trust that His boundaries for me are greater than the boundaries I have for myself, that His ways are truly higher than mine.
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"...a heart that dwells in peace inside the lines 
has no desire to jump outside of them..."
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I don't know where you are today, what boundaries you're living in or trying to resist, but today, rest knowing that God is aware of your heart and needs, He is fighting for you, protecting you, pursuing you. Lean into the lines that He has placed for your life, because in that, you will find Him and He will meet you there, He will meet us there.