The Difference in Knowing and Believing.

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Jana Kramer (who I love for her country music, but she will always and forever be Alex (from One Tree Hill) to me) has a great song called “Love.” Jana sings about still believing in love after heartbreak and though I have heard this song a hundred times the lyrics never lose any power–what a brave thing to do, to believe in something after that thing has been lost and broken.

If you ask most people if they know what love is they will most likely say yes but if you ask them if they believe in love there is a good chance that they will say no. Same thing goes for religion, family, etc. i because in this very broken world in which we live the most precious things (religion, love, family…) are also the most broken things. They are Jesus’ favorite things to give so in turn they are the enemy’s favorite things to destroy. So how brave is it for us to say that despite the broken things we still believe?

..Knowing and believing are two very different things. Everyone can “know” but it takes bravery and strength to believe. So don’t just “know” that the best is yet to come or that the Lord is fighting for you or that whatever it is that you’re needing is going to happen, believe it.

Sometimes after a hard season it is good to just sit down with a journal, a song, a prayer, or whatever special “language” you and Jesus speak to each other with and just declare the things that you still believe in. It does not matter how badly the enemy destroyed them and it does not matter how much the world has distorted them, believe anyway.

Jesus > Enemy | Believing > Knowing

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The Seasons Change & So Do I.

Dear you, the twenty-something | Dear you, the broken-hearted | Dear you, the broken dreamer | Dear you, the are scared, the anxious, and the lonely,

Those words, they do not define you. They build you. Do not be ashamed to say them out loud. Your words are important and your feelings are valid. But those words, those feelings? They are your present– but, you, yes. you, with the quarter life crisis, with the broken heart, with the broken dreams, with the anxiety, the fear, the loneliness– they are not your future.

They are building you.

When you look at a building do you see every brick, every drop of mortar, every paint stroke, every nail? Or do you see it in it’s entirety? Exactly.

As those words, those experiences, and those circumstances are building you, you are going to take different shapes. some days you are going to look like a brick. Some days you are going to look like paint, some days you are going to look like mortar, and other days you are going to look like nails. And when those words above begin to [finally] fade, you are going to look completely different than you did before. Do not let that scare you, you are still you, you have just been re-modeled. You have been refined. And I bet if you look closely, past the trendy hair and past the water stained glass, into your soul, you will see that the you who is starring back in the mirror looks a bit more like Jesus now.

I let it scare me.

Somewhere along my journey I got the idea that I was not supposed to change. That my plans were not supposed to change. That everything was going to go one certain way. I got the idea that if I changed: myself, my mind, or my plans, if things did not end one certain way then I would be a failure.

Things changed. I panicked. There were tears, anxiety, and fear for days, for weeks, for months. But then I realized [I can take absolutely 0% of the credit for this realization] it’s perfectly ok to change. In fact, its better that way. We are living books of our own stories and if we don’t change, if we don’t let our experiences become a part of us, then we aren’t going to be any fun to read.

Jesus in no way sets destruction in our path, Jesus is not the one who put you in that quarter life crisis, He is not the one who broke the hearts or the dreams, He is not the one who dumped those feelings of anxiety, fear or worry, but Oh can He use it for His glory. We live in a very fallen world, but we have a very risen King. 

So if and when you find yourself, like me, switching from introversion to extroversion, making new rules, replacing old dreams with new, or developing new passions while letting go of others, do not let it scare you. Change. Add to your book.

I won’t pretend to know your struggle but know that you are not alone in your struggling. There is a world full of strugglers out there, but even more comforting than that, there is a world full of Jesus out there and the beauty of Jesus is that He redeems, He refines, He remodels, He changesHe is the author of the universe, He is over qualified to write our story. Let Him.

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Vulnerability, half-filled journals, & mom’s rose bushes.

I’ve been wanting to blog for some time now. But, honestly, I don’t know what to say or where to begin. I want to say all of the words and none of the words at the same time– but I’ve heard the Lord tell me to be vulnerable with my journey. So here I am being vulnerable and hoping that the words in this blog, as messy as they are, will speak to someone’s heart and let them know that they are not alone. Sometimes the best peace and healing comes from knowing that you are not the only one who is a mess.

Tonight as I was journaling I reached the middle of my notebook– it’s not necessarily a large notebook and I started writing in it in January… its now September. And I just. now. reached the middle of the book. When I realized this I asked myself how. “How are we just now to the middle of this journal?” To be completely honest in my answer, it’s because this year has had a lot of parts that I would rather not write out. Most days I have just been spinning along at a 100mph pace because picking up a pen and writing out the words in my heart or the circumstances that I find myself in would have just been too painful.

When I bought my shiny new black and gold journal I was filled with so much excitement for 2015. It was going to be my year. I was going to travel, I was going to get married, I was going to have a bigger savings account, I was going to thrive in a job I loved, I was going to become a better version of me, I was going to “bloom”.

As the New Years Eve confetti settled and January turned to February life took a bit of an unexpected turn. My mom very suddenly and unexpectedly passed away. No one is ready to lose their mother, especially not a twenty-three year old woman. Moms are supposed to be the ones you lament to about bad days, the ones who answer the questions about that recipe that you can never remember, the ones who you ask where the heck you’re supposed to buy vacuum bags, the ones who help you choose that special dress for your special day, and the ones who hold their grand-babies and spoils them rotten. But in the very early hours of a mind-numbing Monday morning in a stale fluorescent lit hospital room I had to forfeit all of those “I want my mom moments” that I was yet to have. That will shake you.

When I was growing up I always remember my mom tying her rose bushes to a wooden stick when she first put them in the ground. I would always ask her why and she’d tell me that the plant wasn’t strong enough yet to weather storms on its own, it needed an anchor. So when the storms came, and inevitably they would, the roses would lose their blooms, petals would be scattered over the yard but the plant itself would still be standing. And somehow when it bloomed again the petals always seemed so much more vibrant and fragrant.

It’s September now, I haven’t put a dent in my travel plans, I feel like I’ve done more “withering” than “blooming”, and the past eight months have been the opposite of thriving careers and wedding plans yet I am still standing. The storm may have scattered my petals but by the grace of Jesus himself my plant still has its roots.

For months I’ve struggled with why the Lord led me to choose “bloom” as my word of the year and every time I’d open my journal and see the phrase “In 2015 I will bloom” written in big gold letters I’d honestly get a little mad– “Really?! Bloom?!! Thats hilarious.” But you know what? I may just be a plant tied to a stick right now but because I’ve weathered the storms my blooms are coming, and they will be oh so vibrant and so very fragrant.

It may be the ninth month of 2015 and my year may look NOTHING like I expected but that means that I still have three months of blooming left to do. As painful as it may be I’ll finish out the pages in my journal, I’ll book the plane tickets, I’ll trudge through the path of brokenness and when I look back on 2015 it may not look a thing like what I expected and I may not be the same girl who clinked her glass on January 1st but the year will not be bloom-less and I will be exactly where and who God wants me to be.

We are all a mess. You are not alone. It’s okay to be honest. Vulnerability = beauty. God isn’t afraid of our mess or our emotions. Storms can only last for so long.

Those are all things I’m just now starting to understand. Life is messy but God creates beauty out of the ashes.

Wasteland to Blooms.

Chipotle: Clean eating, AMAZING corn salsa, and apparently a real nice place for revelation.

Three years ago I sat quietly with a racing heart in a living room of a woman I knew little about with six other girls I knew even less about. I looked around at all their faces and thought they all think I’m weird. They probably hate my outfit. They won’t laugh at my jokes. I bet they’ll all text each other after about the weird girl who tried to be a part of their small group. Insert every other negative thought us girls feel when in the presence of other females into this paragraph and you’ll get a pretty good idea of what it was like inside my mind that Tuesday night in February.

Normally as a female in this situation I’d find a way to power through the insecurities at least for the time being and realize that the things being whispered to me were simply not true. But nothing about my life in that season was normal. I was broken-hearted in more ways than one. I had been lied to by many, cheated on, found out my parents were getting a divorce, “broken up” with my best friend, and had a incredibly hostile relationship with my father and in the midst of all my personal chaos I felt the Lord prompting me to move cities.

So needless to say as I sat in that living room that night as insecure as I may have been feeling I was just glad to be sitting there with other people, even if I thought they didn’t like me because if I was honest with myself I was terrified of being alone. And now that I think back on it I don’t even know if terrified gets the job done, it was absolutely my biggest fear and my greatest worry.  Because of all the things that I experienced in that valley of a season I bought into the lie that I wasn’t good enough. That I wasn’t worthy to be loved. That I was flawed beyond repair. That if I was alone it was because I had been rejected.

I remember having a discussion that night in small group about how we could develop friendships with each other outside of Tuesday nights and about what we were looking for from each other as friends and as fellow-believers. When it was my turn to talk I said I just wanted friends to hang out with. That I hated being alone and that if any of the girls ever saw me sitting alone in the caf at school that it wasn’t by choice and I would want them to come sit with me.

To be honest I had completely forgotten that the above conversation had ever even happened until today. As I sat down at Chipotle this afternoon, by myself, the whole conversation came flooding back and I had to fight back tears as I silently told the Lord thank you. Today I sit at lunch alone because I make it a point to catch a cup of coffee or a bite to eat each week with just me, myself, and I. I do this because it allows me to exit my busy world for just a few minutes and to reflect and engage with my Savior.

I use the word Savior there because thats exactly what he did for me three years ago. I’m not talking about saving to something, that happened years before when He saved me to Himself and His grace, the kind of saving I’m talking about here is the saving from something. He quite literally saved me from my strongholds, from my insecurities, from my circumstances, and from all the lies the enemy was whispering.

I walked through a wasteland but and then I was standing in a field of blooms. 

The last couple of weeks as prepare for the next season in my life some of those same insecurities have tried rearing their ugly-heads, and I regretfully admit that they momentarily had me in their bondage. I felt sadness and loneliness despite of all the beauty and relationship I have around me. I felt jealous of others despite all the confidence I have in myself from the Lord.  But then I remembered what He did for me three years ago.

He put rivers in my wasteland.

The rivers came in the form of people, words, apartments, and trips. And all those rivers gave way to blooms– beautiful, unexpected blooms.

So this last week as I selflessly got ahead of myself and started resenting my current season of life despite all of the wonder, beauty, and excitement it is offering me I had to take a few moments to reflect. To zoom out and see full-range all of the blooms around me. Do all the blooms look like I imagined? No. Did they all bloom in the order I would have asked? No. But what I’m realizing is that they are not any less beautiful because of that. In fact, they are more beautiful. It’s one thing to plant a watermelon seed and grow watermelon, it’s an entirely different thing to plant a mustard seed and grow a rose garden. Those problems I had back then were so much greater than the small trivial ideals I’m selfishly desiring now on my own watch instead of His. So woe is me to how much more can He grow from these already beautiful seeds I have now, because he sure made a bountiful and lush ground out of the ugly ones I held before.

Thats the kind of Savior we have. Thats the kind of garden He grows. So wherever you are, whatever your circumstance, whatever your seeds are— don’t give up, don’t grow weary— three years from now when your grabbing Mexican food alone on a Friday at 11:00am you’ll see a panoramic shot of world and all you’ll be able to do is cry into your napkin and silently tell Him thank you.

Revealer of Mysteries.

(I’m not a fan of stereotypes but for the sake of my next sentence I’ll put that aside) Being the millennial that I am, I am not a “news junkie”. However this past week there is one particular news story that has my full attention, and I’ll get to that in a minute.

When I say “news junkie” I mean you’ll never catch me watching the local news– not because I don’t want to be informed but because if I’m honest with you the newscast is so often filled with hopelessness and despair. Don’t get me wrong, this world is messed up with a capital M– there are wars, murders, bankruptcies, and more injustice than we can even imagine and I hate that. But living alongside all the fallen things of this world are also really beautiful things. There are thousands of companies and groups changing our world for the better, there are beautiful sights to see, and inspiring people to meet and that barely even grazes the surface of all the wonderful things our present world has to offer.

As a whole, humanity these days focuses much more on how this world is falling to pieces rather than how we can rally together to make this place look as much like Heaven as we can before we leave. I don’t like that. I’m not a huge believer in counting down the days until we get to physically be with Jesus in Heaven where everything is right and pure, don’t get me wrong– I do want that. But. God didn’t create us so that we could disregard this spinning sphere that we live on as some sort of wasteland where we are all stuck in darkness, despair, and destruction. He created us so that we could bring hope to hopeless things and a light to the dark things. Thats how I want to live my days here, thats what I’m a believer in– living my days on this Earth spiritually being with Jesus in a way that radiates Him to my surroundings. Despite what we see and what we hear, this world isn’t all bad, we just have to choose to see and to seek the good. Because there is someone higher, someone more powerful, someone who loves us wildly working in ways that we cannot see, and He isn’t a God of despair, confusion, or destruction. He is THE God of hope, THE revealer of mysteries, THE God of life.

That news story I mentioned earlier, the one I can’t stop thinking about– is the M.I.A. Boeing 777 that left Malaysia Beijing bound on March 8th, 2014. When I  tell you that I can’t stop thinking about it I mean I’ve literally read 97% of the articles that have been written about it, I have CNN updates pinging my phone, and I can tell you how many passengers were on the plane, how many countries they represented, all the theories thus far, and the ages of the pilots and how many flight hours they each had under their belt. It blows my mind that a huge aircraft full of people could just disappear.

I can’t stop thinking what I would be doing if someone I loved had been on that flight. I do not do well with unknown things. So the thought of not knowing where someone was or if they were alive numbs me to my core. But what I have to make myself come back to every time I struggle with the unknown (which is more times than I care to admit)  is that Jesus knows. HE KNOWS. He does. He is the revealer of mysteries. So whether I am wondering about something as trivial as where I’m going to live when my lease is up or something as serious as where is a Boeing 777 full of people I can rest in that truth. I do not know but He does. I can’t see but He can.

I feel for the passengers’ families, I can’t even imagine what they must be going through or how hopeless they must feel. I feel for the passengers who probably fearlessly boarded the plane excited to reach their destination, to see familiar faces, to go home. I feel for the crew whose goal is to care for their passengers. I feel for the 5 people who checked in for the flight but never boarded it and all the emotions they are feeling. I feel for the airline company, for the group of men and women currently searching around the clock for this missing aircraft and for everyone effected in even the smallest sense by this current event. We can’t change the reality but we can remind each other of hope, of truth, and of Jesus’ love. I don’t have the opportunity to speak to those effected but if I did I hope I would be brave enough to tell them something like this…

To the passengers: I don’t know what your purpose was boarding the flight, I don’t know if you were flying for leisure or for work, whether you were a frequent flyer or a first time flyer, whether you were flying alone or with a group. What I can probably imagine is at some point during your journey and maybe even right now at this very moment you are afraid. I pray that in your fear you are comforted that you feel the arms of your Creator around you, I pray you don’t feel alone and that you have an immense sense of peace. You have not been forgotten about, their our a number of people searching for you and a million more waiting, silently hoping for, and thinking of you.

To the loved ones of the passengers: I can’t even imagine what you must be feeling. Anger. Fear. Helplessness. Sadness. I pray for peace for you, that somehow in even the smallest way that you find peace. I pray that you look to Jesus and find rest. I pray for clarity and for answers. I encourage you to find community in the group of others walking beside you in the horrible situation, I pray that you lift each other up. I believe that love is a strong enough to force to communicate with out words, your loved ones know they are loved, just as you know you are loved by them. Love transcends all things, even though you have unanswered questions, cling to what you know is true– the love you have for them and the love that Jesus has for you both.

To the crew: I don’t know how your day started, if this was your first flight or your 100th, but I know that like the passengers, at some point during your journey you probably felt scared, maybe even know you are still experiencing that fear and I pray that you will feel comforted. I pray that you will feel the embrace of your Heavenly father holding you and telling you that He is with you.

To the 5 people who checked in but didn’t fly: I don’t know your story, I don’t know if you over slept, you got stuck in traffic, or if you weren’t feeling well, whatever the reason you missed your flight I pray peace over you. I pray over any emotion that you may be feeling, rest in Jesus.

To the search and rescue crew: I think you are so brave. I pray strength over you. I pray that your minds are quick, that your eyes stay open, and that your bodies stay strong. You aren’t alone, you have legions of angels looking over you and fighting alongside you, stand firm in what you are doing. You have a great purpose in this story.

To all the on-lookers like myself and most of us: Let’s lift up these people, they are our brothers and our sisters and we have a duty as believers and as humans to fight for them. Let’s not dismiss this as some freak accident that doesn’t involve us, lets pray for them, lets think about them, lets show the world what community looks like.

At the end of the day we must remember that yes, we do in fact live in a very fallen world where unexplainable things like missing aircrafts happen but that does not mean we are not loved by our Creator or that He is punishing us. He didn’t intend for us to live this way, centuries ago in a beautiful garden full of knowledge we chose this. Now, our lives look differently than God intended them  to look but that doesn’t mean he has forsaken us. He is still at work. He is turning evil back into good. He is raising beauty up from destruction. He did not intend for this to happen but He won’t let it all be for nothing, He will use it for good in some capacity. Let’s not forget that.

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:20

“Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” – Matthew 26:53

“…but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries.” – Daniel 2:28

A Sassy 17 Year Old & An Unveiled Passion.

Being 17  years old standing in the middle of a foreign country and hearing God tell you to care for His children will stop you dead in your tracks and cause you to weep uncontrollably– I speak from experience. In March of 2009, four thousand eight hundred and
fifty five miles from where I sit now, in a favella called Glebba-B that is s exactly what happened to me. That Spring the Lord awakened a part of my heart I never knew existed.

So I cried harder than I ever had up to that point in my life the  day I had to leave those precious Portuguese babies to come back home to my comfortable house, free education, pantry full of food, home to where I could drive myself to school in my so cool sports car, wear my name brand clothes and obsess over the oh so pressing issues of prom dresses, football quarterbacks, and Friday night plans. Because after all that is how I left good ole Mount Juliet Tennessee.

I boarded my flight and came back home. Everything was the same, almost. One thing however was very different, that thing was me. I was bitter and I was mad. Why did I have all of this? Why was I born in America? Why was I rich and why was I wasting it on Abercrombie Jeans, Ford Mustangs, and Starbucks Frappuccinos? So I so boldly and sassily told my parents to sell my car, I refused to go out to dinner, I stopped shopping and I shut down. When people at school would talk about things such as movies, prom dresses, and football game I rudely explained to them just how trivial and narrow minded they were because children were living in horrible conditions all over the world.  When my parents asked me how my trip was I quickly let them know that they just wouldn’t understand even if I tried to tell them. I even told my parents how selfish and unloving they were for not adopting children and having their own. I lived like this for three months being rude and bitter and irrationally emotional in all the wrong ways.

I lived like this because I had no idea what to do. I was 17. I couldn’t adopt these children: I had no husband,  I was in school, I couldn’t provide for myself much less for someone else. It’s been 7 years almost to the day since I heard God speak to me about His children and I am still not sure what to do. I have all of this passion, all of this emotion, all of this care and I just can’t seem to figure out how to unveil it.

In the last 7 years I’ve visited those sweet Portuguese babies twice once for an entire summer, I’ve danced and I’ve laughed with His Creole children, I’ve played with and I have held hands with His Bengali children, and I walk weekly, submerged in grace, with his Nashville children. I still can’t adopt and I won’t be able to for many years but what I can do is I can love. I can visit. I can pray. I can openly tell you what my heart is feeling. All of those things are me at least in some way following the command I heard that Spring day in Brazil.

These days I still drive a car, I still drink Starbucks Frappuccinos, I still converse over seemingly trivial topics, I still go out to dinner. The difference is those things are not my life or my focus, I’ve seen things that broke my heart in all the best ways and my eyes will never see the same. I don’t have all the blessings that I have because He loves me more– God loves all of His children the same, the Nashville ones, the Creole ones, the Bengali ones, the Portuguese ones, and all the others who I haven’t met. I have the blessings that I have so that I can share them, so that I can bless others.

I still don’t fully understand what His command means or will mean for my life but I do know that He doesn’t just give random passions to random people. He has lit my heart on fire for His children for a specific purpose and even if I spend the rest of my life wresting with those words whispered to me that day I’m ok with that because I’m growing closer to Jesus through all my questions, all my tears, and my wonders.

India

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His voice isn’t limited to audible words.

I probably over talk about Love Languages and I’m ok with that. But I am fascinated by our bodies, our personalities, and how we all receive things, how we fit together, and why we do what we do. It points me back our Maker every time. How did He create us so intricately? So differently? So perfectly? So unique? It’s truly amazing.

One of the amazing things about us as His creation is that we all feel Him in different ways: some people feel alive and most in sync with God when they see a sunset, for some it’s during a worship set, for others it’s reading a book or journaling, or through a conversation with someone else. That last group of people– that includes me. Any time words can be involved or are involved I’m pressing in, I’m opening my ears, I’m fighting the clamor, I’m trying to hear Jesus. Oftentimes I do hear Him–after all He is my Father, He created me, He knows this is how I come alive with Him, so He talks.

But lately things have looked a bit different.

At first, in true human fashion I got mad.
“GOD, SERIOUSLY???” Silence.
“REALLY? I’M ASKING YOU TO SPEAK TO ME!” Silence.
“WHERE ARE YOU??” Silence.
“WHY CAN’T I HEAR YOU?” Silence.
S.I.L.E.N.C.E

Or so I thought.

See for the past few months I’ve been praying fervently that Jesus would show me how to love how He loves. So in true Jesus fashion He was showing me.

By default I receive love the most in words and I give love the most in acts of service and gifts but Jesus, He gives and receives love in COUNTLESS ways. He isn’t stuck in a default setting and because of His ability to change us and grow us, neither are we.

I wasn’t “hearing” Jesus but that did’t mean He wasn’t loving me. In the last two months He has taught me so much about love and he did so in some pretty unexpected ways. He met me where I was and He showed me how to love in more ways than just giving gifts and performing tasks, He showed me that words don’t always get the job done.

For example words aren’t useful when you need to give space and time to someone. Words become inadequate in foreign countries where you don’t know the language. Words can’t stop someone from making a decision you don’t agree with. In those times you have to love differently. You have to love those who you can’t see or talk to with a spiritual, prayerful kind of love that doesn’t need to be communicated to be felt. You have to love those people who can’t understand you with smiles, with hugs, and with body language. You can’t smother those decision makers with your love, you can only offer it and let them choose whether or not they want it.

So maybe I haven’t heard Jesus very much in the last 60 days but I’m ok with that. Because I’ve felt Jesus in the tender hand holding of Bengali children and in the strong bond of my community. I’ve seen Jesus in the form of flowers, sunsets, and missionaries. I’ve experienced Jesus in the way my pastor leads his staff. I’ve better understood Jesus’ pursuit of His creation by the way I myself am being pursued.

It’s been two months but my heart feels like its been seasoned by two years of love languages. Jesus is really sweet that way, He’s outside of time and sometimes He teaches us a bounty of lessons in a short time.

See all that time I thought He wasn’t speaking to me. I was wrong, He was. He was there, every step of the way, He was answering my prayer. He was teaching me to love like He loves. His voice isn’t limited to audible words.