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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Real or Not Real

since the third Hunger Games book came out, i've been playing the game Real or Not Real. i've actually been playing it much longer than that, but now it has a name. 

in the third HG (no spoilers here, don't worry), a character has been severely brainwashed. his mind is so maimed, he can't remember what's illusion or reality, real or made up. everything is up in the air, anything could be truth, which develops in him hatred and fear. it's a harrowing, hopeless way to live. 

so his friends devise a game. Real or Not Real. 
he says a statement - "the fire was my fault" - and his friends say either "real" or "not real," and they offer an explanation to go along with it - "not real. someone else started that fire. you actually saved a lot of people in that fire." and slowly, with the help of his friends, he reconstructs truth and wades through what isn't real. 

at first, Real or Not Real is a hard and confusing game. 
i'm saved by grace? real. 
there's nothing i can do? real. 
i've got to work hard to earn love? not real. 
this has all been a waste? not real. 
i've been set free for freedom? real. 
God is always good and I am always loved? real. 

it's community and Scripture that whisper and scream when the not reals hit hard. in a moment of pain and surrender and discouragement, when it's just coming at you and piling on and you're feeling overwhelmed, BUT WHAT IS REAL? which one is the voice of God? what do i have to pull me up when all of this feels like it's going to take me under? 

it's the very essence of taking thoughts captive. the very essence of writing words on your heart, cementing them on your mind. so when the dark days come, you will be ready. 

but here's the really good news. 
Real or Not Real actually gets easier. 
the more you ask for help and the more you memorize truth, the more it becomes rooted and the faster you can squash what is rearing to disrupt. because playing Real or Not Real and taking thoughts captive and filtering lies - it produces a great faith. 

there were days when i just didn't know. i didn't know what it meant that i didn't have to have things figured out before i came before God. i didn't know that God wastes nothing. i didn't believe - really - that God is always good and i am always loved. i didn't know Fear didn't have to own me anymore. sadness would hit and i wouldn't firmly know what was real. it was exhausting to beat back the not reals, especially when i didn't know which ones they were. 

and so i wrote. i asked for help. i searched Scripture day and night. i prayed the only way i knew how. my mind felt maimed and i needed to reconstruct it with solid reals. it's a sloooow process, because you're emptying out your mind of things that don't belong and you're filling it with things Above. with things of hope and joy, love and peace and freedom. it's gradual. 

but one day, maybe in the midst of a fear or anxiety or sadness or darkness,  
it'll hit you. 
wait. i actually know what's real. 
in the middle of the lie YOU CAN'T DO THIS, you'll know that's not true. you'll know that you're confident and worthy and able, that the light within you shines brighter than the darkness. you'll know, you'll BELIEVE, that God has led you here for such a time as this and that you've been uniquely positioned by a Good Father for just exactly this. 

and you'll realize that all that beating back of fear for all those months and months and all the Real or Not Real actually produced in you the sound mind you've always been created with. you might actually laugh out loud at what the enemy was trying to get you to consider to be real. and you'll scream loud GOD IS ALWAYS GOOD AND I AM ALWAYS LOVED and you'll be brave and bold to believe it. 

wait. i actually know that to be true. 

it is not real that you have to cower. 
it is not real that your pain is for naught. 
it is not real that God wastes suffering. 
it is not real that He is oblivious or disconnected or uncaring. 

it is real that the Lord surrounds His people, from this time forth and forevermore. 
it is real that He has equipped you confidently and ably.
it is real that you are loved with an everlasting love. 
it is real that hope is oxygen and it has the name of Jesus. 

go forward, friend, and be rooted in reals. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

O Holy Night

i've already started listening to christmas music. 
i used to be a real stickler for the 'no christmas music before thanksgiving' rule. but then i knew a girl who didn't eat anything pumpkin before october and i had already been drinking psl's (pumpkin spice lattes) for a month before her and suddenly she seemed so silly and it seemed so silly to deny myself the joy of christmas just because of a principle. so it's christmas music, all in (with katy perry sprinkled in, obvi).

the song "o holy night" - i've heard it so many times in my life. and it's mariah carey's angelic version that has been playing continuously in my car. i play it, press repeat, play again, press repeat. and it was just the other day when i really heard the lyrics for the first time. i mean, i REALLY REALLY heard them. 

o holy night, the stars are brightly shining 
it is the night of our dear Savior's birth
long lay the world in sin and error pining
til he appeared and the soul felt its worth
a thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
for yonder breaks a new glorious morn

fall on your knees
o hear the angel voices
o night divine
o night when Christ was born
o night divine!
o night, o night divine!

and it's like my ears have opened and i am hearing this song for the first time. and i just can't get enough of it. 


i go through times in my life where i realize/remember that life is hard. whether it's personal or because i live a ministry life, i get hit with the reality that life's just not fair for lots of people. BUT O HOLY NIGHT. oh, night divine! what a comfort and a hope. 

the weary world rejoices. it's a new and glorious morn. fall on your knees! when Christ appeared and entered a languishing world of sin, the soul felt its worth. 

o. holy. night. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

What I'm Learning from the Fort Mill Cheerleaders

cheerleading is no joke. 

i spend most weekends with the members of the Fort Mill High varsity cheerleading squad. at this point in the season, it has become a running joke about how little i know about cheer (aleyiah just laughs at me). it turns out their 'flips' and 'tumbles' all have cool names like  'back handspring' and 'standing tuck' and that standing tucks are really hard. i tell the girls as often as i can that 1) i would pay money to be able to do what they can do, but 2) i would literally break myself in two if i even attempted what they can do. so there's that. 

these girls are a wild and crazy bunch (just the way i like it) and they let me hang out with them and pray over them and laugh with them and have a blast with them. it brings me lots of joy, these 27 girls plus two coaches. it feels like family. being at practice and games feels like christmas morning. y'all, i have become so invested in the welfare of this team's success and these girls' lives. my heart, so full. 

one of my favorite parts about being an honorary cheerleader happens on competition days. one of their biggest tasks is to get mentally focused. coach jill calls it 'mental work' and the first time i saw it, i remember thinking that i was watching magic happen. it was beautiful. 

they finish stretching and coach turns on the routine music and each girl gets in her own space and they literally do the routine IN THEIR HEADS. they close their eyes, they don't move from their spot, and they replay their part of the routine in their minds. over and over and over again. and the best part is that they're shouting out encouragement to each other at each part where they know their teammate will need encouragement ("come on, maggie!" "you got this devon!" i look over and devon and maggie both have eyes closed too, doing nothing in that moment that would warrant shouts from their teammates. THESE GIRLS ARE LITERALLY PRACTICING ENCOURAGEMENT). 

i watch each girl's face and i can tell she's not there. she's focused, already out on the mat. the girls spend more time on competition days preparing themselves mentally instead of physically (can i tell you how much i love that? so much). and i just can't get over the critical advantage that gives them - over their opponents, over their own selves, over the doubts and anxieties and nerves they no doubt get. 

it's unlike anything i've seen. maybe it's because i grew up playing softball and that sport NEVER required anything like this. maybe it's because i'm such a mind person and i believe days are won and lost in the mind. maybe it's because i believe encouragement is the key to the Body of Christ. maybe because i believe - with all my heart - that there is great power in how we set our minds and what we do with our thoughts and what we believe and how we go into each day, into each challenge, into each moment. it's the mind! the mind, above all else, it's the key. 

it's inspiring to me to watch them work. it always calms me and leaves me speechless all at the same time. i want to set my own times of 'mental work' throughout my days - close my eyes, focus on what's at hand, focus on what's REAL, take deep breaths, SHOUT ENCOURAGEMENT. because don't we all need that? before we go out and perform, rush from one thing to another, get our checklists out, do things - don't we all need to sit and think, pray and believe, ask God to take our day and use it for His glory? and maybe it's just that we need to speak encouragement to ourselves. 

so, i had a rough morning yesterday. i was running late, couldn't find my phone, had a scheduling miscommunication (y'all. not my morning. literally in my workout clothes and couldn't make it to the gym). and i remember sitting in my closet thinking WHATTT IS THIS MORNING. and then i thought a thought, quite clearly, that said, 

"but that's okay. you can try again tomorrow." 

i tell ya, if that didn't set me free to save my day. i'm doing my own mental work. i owe you, Fort Mill cheer. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Fight for people.

"people have always preferred details and complications and rules, but when Jesus was pressed, He said, "love God and love people. that's pretty much it." this is what we do and this is why we do it." - jen hatmaker

jen's on to something. 
love God - with all your heart, mind, soul - and love people well. 

i'm still in process of believing that loving people well sometimes looks like fighting for them. in the messiness of relationship and the brokenness of trial, sometimes people just need some presence and prayer warriors. they need reminders of goodness, reminders of grace (even and especially the hard graces), reminders of the truth that God is always good and we are always loved. they need ephesians 6, armor of God covering. and then they need to be told they're covered! 

we need to believe for people when they can't believe for themselves.
we need to sit with and listen and walk alongside. 
we need to give of ourselves and we need to help and we need to tell people about the hope of Jesus.
we need to fight for people when they're tired. 
we need to fight for souls before the throne of grace and intercede against the schemes of the enemy. 
because sometimes it's war, people. and we're all in this together. as the Body of Christ. 

loving people well doesn't mean fixing. because PRAISE JESUS we can't fix and we can't be saviors. we can point to Jesus and sit with people and carry them to the throne of grace. and believe that we will receive mercy and help in time of need. we can challenge when we need to and encourage often and most of all, look people in the eye and tell them we believe in them and we believe in the God who created them. they are loved beyond comprehension or logic.

we've got to be FOR people. we've got to stand with people. people are the heartbeat of God and He sings redemption and love and pursuit of the people He created.

fight for people. 

Monday, August 26, 2013


someone told me about hebrews 10:35-36 the other day and i just can't shake it. 

it says, "do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. you need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised."

i was at a women's event the other night, and it was the speaker who shed light on this verse. i'm sitting in the back, trying to keep to myself, because people. it's been a rough few weeks. i'm going through major changes and man alive, my fiber was just not made to go through change quickly and smoothly. it takes process and time, patience and grace (none of which i have for myself). and i think, God has put me here for such a time as this, and maybe it really is my confidence that i am throwing away. what a tragedy. 

so i'm sitting in the back, and this verse comes on screen. and i sit up a little taller. 
could this be it?
then the speaker tells a story. she says she was working on a book and all these things called life kept coming up and she kept pushing her deadline back. she said out loud to God, I CAN'T DO THIS. and i smile in the back - oh, if i haven't said that to God a million times. and then God showed her this verse in hebrews and said to her, "do not throw away your confidence! you will receive what i have promised!"

then the speaker said she just straight up asked God. 
well, God, what is it that you have promised?

and now i am on the edge of my seat. i have wondered this out loud to God all the time, in brokenness and trial. what is this for!? come on God, what is the point of this!? and that's when God always brings me back to I WASTE NOTHING. but here was this speaker saying she's asked God the same thing and can i get an amen for the power of 'me too'?

so, God, what have you promised?

God said FREEDOM. child. i have promised you freedom.

and let me tell you what. if that's not the best news i've ever heard. freedom, sweet freedom. freedom from self doubt and fear and lies. just freedom. sweet freedom of Jesus. 

praying that verse over me, and over you. do not throw away your confidence, my friends! endure, endure in the will of the Father and receive what he has promised.


Monday, July 29, 2013


I was just reading (and rereading) an Ann Voskamp blog post recently about her visit to Uganda to meet her sponsored Compassion child, Anna. Ann writes about meeting Anna and about interacting with the beauty of Uganda. And there is a moment where the sweet child Anna makes a startling statement of faith, a statement of belief beautifully devoid of pretense or fear or doubt. 

I show Anna the photo of her and the goat under this exact tree and how it's been on our fridge for years, and when I turn it over, there is one cheerio stuck to the duct tape on the back. I pick the one stuck cheerio off the back of the photo. 
I'm shaking my head, awed, us sitting here in Uganda at True Love Baptist with the little girl we sponsored on Valentine's Day in 2008 and I choke it out, "Did you ever think that we would be sitting here under your tree with your goat photo?" I roll the years old cheerio in my hand.

"Yes. Yes, I did." Anna nods.

"Wait - you did think this would happen? You're not surprised at all that we're here? So we're the only ones surprised we are here?" I ask her wide-eyed, half-laughing, half-stunned.

Anna smooths out her white dress.
"I knew that you would come." She whispers calm. Her eyes find mine -

"I always knew that you would come."

and I cry every time I read it and I cry every time I think about it. can you just imagine? because this is faith, this is belief, this Africa faith. This "I always knew you would come."
a passionate calm. an "I knew it because I know my God. and He is good."

I read that kind of faith again in Isaiah. in the 25th chapter, the 9th verse. it is written, "It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us." 

oh, behold. this is our God. 
we know Him. we have waited for Him. here he is! 
we always knew He would come!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Eight Months Later

one of my sweet college friends just got back from kenya. 

we met for breakfast recently at the flying biscuit (because what's better than breakfast from flying biscuit?) and we talked about God and africa and how the two connect. and i remembered what i felt like when i was fresh from my own africa trip - overwhelmed, overjoyed, still a little broken, numb, very numb, much in awe. 

and as i sat across from her and heard her stories, i felt deep within me oh friend. i am pumped for you. wait. just wait and see what God will do with that trip, your experiences. it's going to blow you out of the water.

because as more and more days keep passing from mine (eight months worth of days), God reveals more and more of what He was doing, the picture that is big. 

He showed me faith.

i saw people who had experienced great loss, whose lives were marked by great sadness, unspeakable tragedy, great pain in hearts that were broken many times over. and it was these people who looked me in the eye and said God is so good. 
can you imagine that belief? i've never experienced anything like it and as days go by, they are in my mind. i yearn for that. 

there's something about pain and loss that draws us deeper into intimacy with Jesus. we're brought closer to the heart of God. the people in rwanda, God loves those people. very much. they've experienced the very brokenness Jesus died on the cross to save and redeem. they've experienced the brokenness that the cross was for. and by His strange and mysterious grace, they can identify with our Savior. God whispers, i know. me too. 

and they've found great Joy in Him. 

i've come through my own year of faith and drawing near and as i think about africa, i think that was it. it was perfect, the way it all fit in. 

oh kenyan katie, can we talk about your trip again in eight months? 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Hebrews 11:6

I've been thinking a lot about Hebrews 11:6 lately, that without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would draw near to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. And I think about my past year – all that drawing near to God! - and I think about how good He was to me, how good He is to me. And I think about what I always believed – that you seek God to get rewards, you seek God because you want something tangible. But really, it's so beautiful, you seek God TO GET GOD. And then He just blesses you because He's good and He loves you. He rewards those who seek HIM. 

and that's really all i want to say about that. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


my birthday post is always one of my favorites to write. 
because it's always SUCH A GOOD DAY.

in this case, such a good five days. on thursday, gun shooting and lunch with friends, who took time from work to treat me. i love experiences and memories as gifts. on friday, lunch with a cherished part of corner. saturday, dear friend from tennessee came and we treated our selves big time. and then on sunday, actual day of birth, i woke up at 7:45 to a knock at my door and my entire family is singing 'happy birthday' with starbucks in hand. got to spend the rest of the morning in my spot - drinking coffee, reading psalm 66, remembering, thinking. then church, lunch with my second family (plus a piece of mcalister's chocolate cake). advance that night with surprise balloons, singing, cupcakes, and cards (people, i legit almost burst into tears. so special). then a drive to the beach, in a huge storm, singing my heart out, as the sky is lit up with lightning. 
what a day. what a day. what a day.

but this year, even more so. 
i can't help replaying my year.
because this birthday feels like a real celebration! 

ann voskamp wrote a recent post about how things can overtake you real quick (so much exhaustion) and then she cites the end of the 23rd psalm - surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and i shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

and then she says. 
God is so bent on blessing, He chases. 
God's not out to get you - He's out to give to you. 
when i'm in a wilderness, His mercy and goodness run after me. when i'm hurting, His grace hunts for me. when i'm plagued by problems, His goodness pursues me. 
no matter where i go, He has his two blessing men right there in hot pursuit: goodness and mercy, and no shadow of death can overshadow the goodness and mercy that shadows the child of God. 
whatever is chasing you - no matter what it looks like - it's grace. 

did you just hear that?
no matter, in wilderness and hurting, no matter where i go, His grace and goodness and mercy pursue and overtake and hunt and cover me like a shadow. can you just imagine how good that is?

i read that saying, yes yes yes. 
that's what was chasing me! 
that's what wouldn't let me go! 
that's it!

Friday, May 31, 2013

A Lovely God

doesn't our God make things and do things that are just so lovely? 

and you kind of just keep saying over and over to yourself, 'God are you this good .. because i never could have imagined. and you kind of just go through your days a little bit overwhelmed, a little bit in awe of remembering the sad days when you drowned, yet the abundance of a God who is BEYOND LOGIC. 

beyond logic. 

so you sit on your back patio, in the stillness and silence, and you listen and think and remember. you drink coffee (black, the way you like it) and you look at the clouds (because that's beauty). you're not quite sure how to approach a God who was WITH YOU and you can't really articulate the joy besides saying the word beautiful, beautiful over and over again. 

beautiful. beyond logic. good. 

and as you sit and think and let the good stillness wrap you up tight, you look around and realize that your corner has grown. that you've gained women upon women, WOMEN UPON WOMEN. and you see, you've seen, you're still seeing that Jesus has answered prayers in the form of His people. His women. His loves. and you realize you've never lived life this way before, this i am with you, and you now know what you didn't know you'd been missing. isn't it funny how it works that way? 

and you remember what someone told you once, years ago. they looked you in the eye and told you that it will be an asset. when this is all over and you're on the other side, you'll have paid a price. and you'll be better for it. 
you marvel at that beauty and truth, because you're on the other side of that and the other side of this and you really just can't believe how better you are. but it's more than that. it's the crazy sneakiness of a God who's Good, who reworks your "good" to His Good. it's a God who wastes nothing. and you're almost stunned - is it really true, could it be, that God really does work in all things? not in a reactionary way, but in a 'I've got this, I've always had this' way. and you're actually having a hard time even knowing what it is that's got you so speechless. maybe because there are so many dimensions to His Goodness, His hope, and maybe because you really thought you knew the depth of His Love before. you realize too that God doesn't work the way you do and truly truly for the first time, you are on your face, deeply deeply grateful for that. God is more beautiful than you ever imagined.  

and then you go away this past weekend, a beach weekend with your life group, and you sit at dinner one night with these women, eating drinking being merry, and you all say hey, let's do what ifs. and your heart leaps because a what if night in january with your boston corner was what set you on the path to fight. dared you to believe God, allowed yourself to ask the question, what would happen if i hoped? what if i did this?
and that's when you got up, when your story really came alive. because someone said i know, me too, you say you don't think this story is over? let's believe it's from the Lord. 

but this night in may, around this table, you are asked what if. 

what if you started blogging again, once a week?
no really.
what if you did? what would happen?

and you realize what would happen. you would remember what the Lord has done and then you would be telling people about it. you would be reminded of His goodness, faithfulness, kindness, His beauty.

this you is me. 

Saturday, April 27, 2013


have you ever tried to run away from something because it was so good?
whether it's a dream or a job or a person or an opportunity, have you ever been so afraid it won't work out or it's not what you thought it was that you don't even go near it? you want it so badly, you decide that the pain of not trying is worth the pain of getting, then losing. so you subconsciously back out slowly until you can't see it anymore and pray it leaves your mind. whether it's hurt or brokenness or desire that fuels it, there's nothing like hope that will remind you that you're not in control. 
hope, man, it's a jump-off-a-cliff-trust-you'll-land-in-one-piece-at-the-bottom kind of thing. 

i've been there. boy, have i been there. 
and it's funny, but right now, i'm trying to run away from my story.

not that my story in and of itself is so good,  but what God is doing with it is incredible. it's the bigger picture that scares me because i think, "God, there's no way you're this good!" and God says, "i waste nothing, I waste nothing, I waste nothing, remember?" and i'm learning that not only is it not waste, but He actually makes it into something really beautiful. beauty from ashes, ashes to beauty.

i spoke to a group of middle and high schoolers this past weekend, on a topic that hasn't always been my strong suit. i actually, i'm being serious, just went through the past couple of months learning that exact same thing. and so my first thought when finding out was, "awesome! i can speak into that. i know about that!"

then the more i sat down with it and prepared, the more 1) i realized that without the Holy Spirit, i actually knew very little 2) i grasped the responsibility of sharing a personal message 3) it was the heart of my story and it was personal and i wanted people (students) to understand it so badly and 4) God is good and sometimes that's scary.

so i did what every normal person does.  
i ran. 
i thought of everyone i could and talked to everyone i knew who had a story (which was actually really cool and beautiful because it's so neat to engage someone in what the Lord has done in their life. i like doing that. but that's not the point here). 
the point is that i was running. and i didn't really even know it, because it wasn't shame that was fueling it this time. 

it wasn't until i was articulating it with my boston soul sister that she said,
"you were running because it was so big."

ahh. that's it. 

the bigger picture of what God is doing is so beautiful, i can't believe it. and have you ever run from something because it was just so beautiful and so big? and you can't imagine it could be real? so you'd rather not even engage it, just in case the mirage fades and there's a voice that says "ha.ha. fooled ya."

well, the voice of God never says fool. ever. 

i think all of us will come to a crucial part of our lives, our faiths, a crossroads, where we'll be faced with the question - is God good? it's a very personal question and we all "know" the answer is yes, but faith is more than knowing, it's believing. and there's going to come a time when God's going to say do you, even now, have faith? are you putting anything above Me? do you trust Me now? and no one can answer that question for you, except through a very intimate wrestling between just you and the Father. and i think, in the end, you're going to come out screaming YES.. but also, you're going to come out believing in HOPE more than you ever have before. your hope in Jesus is going to be through the roof because you're going to now believe in something bigger. 

the goodness of God, it's unreal. and it's really just when you think you've got Him figured out, His goodness nailed down, and you thank Him nicely, that He says to you but hey, i'm even better than you imagined i could be. i'm more! i'm more!

that's where my story comes in. He did the restoring and the redeeming and the pulling out of miry pits and walking out of darkness and now He's saying tell people about it. but i think the most beautiful part, and also the scariest and the part i can't seem to wrap my mind around how good it is (and so i flee) is the ASSET. 
pain is asset, which means it's also used as transformation and it also beautifully helps me do my job better and it also deepens my passions and then i'm also given the opportunity to speak to these sweet students in just the exact spot of my refinement.  

it's all so valuable to me.
God, so uniquely wonderful and beautifully sneaky, has woven and is weaving an ornately elaborate eternal picture. 
just because He's good and He loves.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Waste (and the God who has Nothing to do with it)

if you've spent any time with me in the past few months, you've probably heard me say (along with my usual "be free") "the God who wastes nothing."

the God who wastes nothing.
the God who wastes nothing.

i first heard that life changing phrase quite a few years ago. i read it in a book. since then, it's pleasantly been in the back of my mind for a time such as this, when it has come roaring back to the forefront of my thinking. THE GOD WHO WASTES NOTHING. and the more i marinate Scripture and the more i learn character of God, the more i see that truth is all over the Word of God.

waste? that's just not God. 

a wise friend once told me, a wise friend who once helped me walk through one of my tougher seasons, he once told me that those tough times are assets. asset = value. not something to look back on and shudder at the thought. not something to just chalk up to an experience and move on. but VALUE. value. God is in the romans 8:28 business, working all things for good.

and i can't help but think now that asset is the opposite of waste. that waste is not redemption, restoration, not value or asset. satan sneaks up and he whispers waste, you are wasting, you wasted. you are stupid. you are a fool. (by the way, just an aside. do your lies mince words? mine sure don't). 

that's when we can dare to believe.
have you read what i wrote from my kitchen counter?
and the thundering words of GOD WASTES NOTHING come storming through. waste? no, no. God doesn't waste anything. all things He uses. 

do you hear waste?
really, do you hear it?

i had a lunch with a dear, dear friend the other day. she's one of my favorites, this Godly woman, and all of our lunches always consist of hours of just talking about the power of Scripture. the goodness of God. the freedom of Christ. and this woman, who recently walked through her own season of grief and leaning hard into believing God, looked me right in the eye and said NO. any time you love, it is not a waste.

love. any time. even if you lost. not waste.
i like that, i love that, don't you?

you're probably asking yourself this, because i know i did/i know i do. if God doesn't waste anything - if He doesn't waste the heartbreak and He doesn't waste the lost children and He doesn't waste the cancer and and He doesn't waste the anxiety and and He doesn't waste the mistakes and He doesn't waste the rejection and He doesn't waste the disappointment and the disease and the no job and no husband and the lost dreams - well, what's He doing with them then?

well, i don't know.

that's what makes God, God and us, us. that's what makes trust, trust and open hands, open hands.

BUT. i do know this, and i'm guessing a lot of you might know it too. because we've all lived. 

aren't those dark nights of the soul, the Great Sadness, aren't those the times when you wrestle deep and God says hey, I've got this? isn't the crying out to God, isn't that when you feel set free? isn't the deepest tear of grief, isn't that when you realize the truest form of your rescue with Christ?

how can that be waste?
because it's not. the God who wastes nothing. 

so, if that's true. if that is true and God is good and He is the keeper of our lives and He loves us and HE IS GOOD, let's keep beating back the fear. let's not be afraid anymore. because God's over it all and He wastes nothing. He doesn't say whoops. my bad. you alright? that must have really sucked. He says, I've got this, I don't lead my children into destruction, just trust Me, you don't know what I'm up to. we're armed with the armor of God (ephesians 6 - it's right there!) and satan is no match for the power of Christ in us.

that's good, isn't that so good?

what do you believe about God?  believe this. He doesn't waste anything. 
open ears to Him, let's be attentive to Him, to the Word of God, to His voice. you can't miss it, He wants good for you. He's leading you to good, even when the road looks scary. we might not be able to see, but don't dare think that means He can't. let's do this together.

trust me. He'll overwhelm you with His goodness. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Kitchen Counter Confessions

i'm sitting on my kitchen counter, literally legs stretched across my kitchen sink. it's something i love to do (confessions of my apartment). maybe it's because it reminds me of elf on a shelf, which inevitably reminds me of my friend bailey, which obviously makes me smile and then that smile makes me happy. she's wonderful. and yes, elf on a shelf reminds me of her (there's a story there). 

or maybe it's because i do my best thinking up here.

well, whatever it is, i'm at my kitchen post tonight. 
and i have this overwhelming feeling that with Jesus, i cannot lose. 

it's a good thought, one that was born at an addisen lunch last week, but then i think maybe it was born a long time ago. 2012, a long time ago. maybe this 'no losing with Jesus' is the basis of what faith is. that we are free to live because we trust Jesus. and we know He is good, we know He wastes nothing, we know His love. 

can we lose? but really, can we lose?

small scale, little life, we can audition for a play with no fear because we have nothing to lose. we can sing in a choir and try out for a sports team and apply for a job and try new things. we know if we don't make it, we are not valued any less and we are loved just the same. we gain the experience and we tried and failing is okay and we can do the things that we love. yes, the idea of nothing to lose fits right in.

but loss. lindsay, life is full of loss. are you sure that with Jesus, there is still, still, nothing to lose?

but yes. yes. oh, yes.

cliche christianity aside. let's really get deep, let's really get in there. don't be afraid. 

life is so broken. toss a stone, just take a step, and you'll meet and interact and exchange pleasantries with someone that is hurting. it's loss. it's ugly. it's sad. it's grief. don't let anyone tell you differently. can you see it? people hide it, but everyone is fighting some sort of battle. this is a side note, but will you help people fight? we need each other. we're tired, help us fight. even if only to remind us we can just put our armor on. 

but then, ever constant, ever louder, is the presence and the power of God. because we lose, but can we really lose? with Scripture in front of us and the Word of God in our hearts, the ever breathing, living active, Word of the living God, who does it say God is?

what is true? what is real? what do we believe?

the Lord is the keeper of your life (psalm 121)
the Lord will keep you from all evil (psalm 121)
the Lord hems you in behind and before (psalm 139)
He hears your cries (psalm 40)
He draws you from miry pits (psalm 40)
He gives you a new song to sing (psalm 40)
God is a refuge for us (psalm 62)
we can pour out our hearts to Him (psalm 62)
He is continually with us (psalm 73)
He holds our right hand (psalm 73)
He guides us with His counsel (psalm 73)
afterward He will receive us to glory (psalm 73)
the Lord restores your soul (psalm 23)
He is a very present help in trouble (psalm 46)
He has loved you with an EVERLASTING love (jeremiah 31)
He will turn mourning to joy (jeremiah 31)
the Spirit helps us in our weakness (romans 8)
we are more than conquerors through Him (romans 8)
He has overcome the world (john 16)
with confidence, draw near to the throne of grace and receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (hebrews 4)
when you have stood the test of remaining steadfast under trial, you will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love Him (james 1)
draw near to God and He will draw near to you (james 4) 
When the goodness and loving kindness of God appeared, HE SAVED US not because of works done by us, but according to His own mercy, poured out richly through Jesus Christ (titus 3)

and that's barely just the beginning! there's a whole Bible full of that Truth. i gasp with joy at the remembering of each one because it's just that good. isn't it?

and so there. His Word is true. can it all apply, that there is nothing to lose, with God who has gone before us? in loss, pain, is there always asset? no really, search, come to know, don't just say it to be true. do you believe it? believe Him?

with that kind of Love, there is no fear. 

my feet are now completely in my kitchen sink and i'm really comfortable (is that weird? maybe don't answer that). and from this spot, i rest assured (only to rest assure myself again when i wake up tomorrow) that God is unequivocally, unabashedly, unashamedly GOOD. He's a restorer. a redeemer. that's His character, that's who He is. He loves without condition, His mercies are new every morning, His very character is grace. He's holy and good and compassionate and gracious and just and loving and fierce and mighty and powerful. 

And He created you, and He created me, and He knows about your hurts and He hears your cries at night and He knows about your broken heart. He knows about all your weird habits and He laughs and loves it because He created you to be uniquely wonderfully weird. He knows what you love and He loves your passions too because He's gifted you with them. He knows your thoughts and He doesn't think you're crazy or dramatic or immature or a mess. He says 'come as you are' and He welcomes and desires and wants to sit in your brokenness with you. 'I know you're weary,' He says,  'let Me take it.' He knows the pain and He hates the sin and He entered the mess and He sent His Son Jesus to die a painful death to carry it all, to face the wrath to save us, and He invites us in. He knows the plans you had for yourself and He knows what you desire because He made you that way and He says oh but give Me your plan, TRUST ME. 

He knows your story, every last detail, and He's working (He's ALWAYS working) and He's making things new. He's in the business of beauty to ashes and restored pain and forgiveness and repentance. He's good, He's good, He's not neutral about you, oh no no no He is not. He created you, He fiercely loves you. He is faithful, He will not let you down and He will not abandon you. He's present in your loneliness. He has not left you to falter or to 'just figure it out already' or 'get over it, why don't you' or 'i'll talk to you when you get your life together.' He's not HUMAN, He's God. we can stand or sit or lie at his feet in a crumbling mess and whisper, building to a scream or a shout, help. He wants to build our character and transform our faith. He uses what was meant for bad and He creates beauty. 

and your story, He knows it! there's not one piece or part or detail that catches Him off guard or sends Him reeling or surprises Him. He knows, oh He knows. because He's good and because He loves you. He's faithful, yes He's faithful. He loved and died for us while we were still sinners, can you imagine that goodness?

He doesn't look at you and feel annoyance. He doesn't look at you and shudder in disappointment. He doesn't wish you would shut up or stop asking Him the same thing over and over again. He looks at you and He thinks, "oh, but there's my son. there's my daughter. I love him! I love her!" that's what He thinks about when He thinks about you. 

He knows your weariness. "come to Me," He says. "wrestle, cry out to Me, I will answer you. don't fear! I have you, I've got this, will you let Me?" 

ah. that's who God is. i write it all to remind myself and to read it again tomorrow and the next day and the next and also the next. 

because He will set you free. 
(that truth is so good, maybe i should get it tattooed on my foot. haha already did. late night jokes)

let's believe together. come on, let's dare to believe Him. let's dare to be bold and believe what we can't see but believe what we read in His Word. let's write to remember and pray when we forget and tell the Gospel to ourselves in every breath that we take. let's be grateful, yeah? let's live open hands, let's hope because Jesus is our hope. 

it's hard, but let's do it. let's help each other and let's do it. let's tell each other every day He's a God who wastes nothing. let's surrender every day, let's believe every day. in the hard of life, let's do it. because in the darkest hour on the cross, wasn't that when we were set free? the purest, most beautiful form of life? let's remind each other. let's beat back the fear. let's choose Love, His Love. will you do it with me?

hopping down from the kitchen counter. so, see you soon?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Corner, Burden, and New Girl

One of my favorite episodes of New Girl was last year's Christmas episode. Jess is sad, she's upset, and as they're driving home from an office Christmas party, her friends decide to stop at her favorite spot - candy cane lane, a street completely lit with Christmas lights.

But they get there and the street is dark.
Jess is discouraged and says, 'come on, let's go.'

But her friends don't take that and they start yelling TURN ON THE LIGHTS and Jess sees and she joins in and in the middle of the night, one at a time, the houses hear and the lights turn on and the street becomes completely lit. 

Lately I've been learning about carrying burdens. Engaging in burdens. It's one of the biggest things corner does. You've heard me talk about corner, right? It's those people who stand with you, sit with you, ask about your mind and ask how your heart is, who make your battle their battle, and who pray and believe in a big, big God for you. Even when you can't.

I've got a great corner, one straight from our great Giver. One of my most treasured parts of corner lives in Boston. I can't thank God enough. and what I've watched unfold in the past months is the way our corners have intersected, to make one giant corner. We're all in this together, women joined together out of our common love for each other and a common love for our Savior. 

It's a unique beauty like I've never known. 

We can let people carry our burdens for us. Sometimes God works with us alone in our caves, but we can let people sit with us, carry it for and with us, cry with us. Letting someone just sit with you - not providing answers, or offering advice, but simply their presence. Saying, "oh remember. do you remember? Remember what the Lord has done. I'm praying for you, believe Him. I've been there. me too, me too. I know. me too. Do you know what God thinks about when He thinks about you?"

Sometimes there are things that it seems like we can't do. Whether it's fear that holds us back or maybe because we're broken human beings trying to handle a lot of brokenness. Thank God (literally) that He wastes nothing and He has gone before us. And the fear we face and the uncertainty and the rejection - well, maybe it's all God saying BELIEVE ME. There is more to your belief. Are you going to keep believing me?

It's all a big story, a bigger story, God's story. His timing, will, purpose.

But back to that New Girl reference.
back to what I've learned about burden and corner.
and back to what I've learned about God.

Corner teamed up lately and we helped carry burden for our friend. We were relief and did something she couldn't possibly imagine doing. It's one of the most powerful and beautiful things I've been a part of. It's turning the lights on, helping yell when we can't see gift, literally taking burden from the shoulders of someone and making the load lighter. hey, we'll do it for you. What an honor, a privilege, and a blessing.

And that leaves God at doing the exact same thing for us. He delights to sit with us, delights to carry our burdens, to fight for us. He came down and entered into our mess and died on a cross, don't you think He wants to sit with us? He hears all our cries and takes note of all our tears and fears. He doesn't see us as dramatic or immature or hopeful that we'll hurry up and get our lives back together soon. He says COME AS YOU ARE. you can come as you are and you can cry out to Me. I love you.

Pslam 55 says to cast your burdens on the Lord and He will sustain you. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Jacob's Journey

Back to blogging. Oh my word, this blog post was hard to come by. Originally posted on www.werewolfjesusbook.blogspot.com by my sweet friend Marri, here's where I am now (and learning to thank God for the hard graces)! 

hello readers!

i am the biggest fan of marri's. this is such a treat for me to write on her blog, to be a part of her story, to partner in her journey. you have no idea, this is such a gift for me to virtually be here.

so since i'm here, let's be honest with each other. i'm an honest writer, words are how my soul breathes, so let's just dive right in.
so since i'm here, 
i'm having a really hard time writing this.
i look back over my recent journey, over the last 3/4ths of 2012 and ponder and wonder and literally stand, mouth agape, at my life and at where He's led me. i couldn't begin to describe the heartache but the joy, the confusion but the peace, the uncertainty but the knowing God is God. 
and since i can't untangle and process through all of what God is doing with this part of my journey because it's not done yet, can i share someone else's journey? one of my favorite journeys, the journey of Jacob? would you so terribly mind that? (terribly mind? who am i, downton abbey?)

i've always been confused by jacob. he's a biblical character i haven't always understood. i think he's greedy and sneaky and selfish and prideful and his story is weird, isn't it? but then. that's who God loves to use. jacob always seemed like a wild card who didn't fit anybody's mold, a troublemaker that God was pursuing like crazy.
so in the story of jacob, he steals his brother esau's blessing and runs off to work seven years to marry rachel and has a dream about ladders to heaven. then he has lots of kids and becomes wealthy, runs away from his father in law, and then he finds out that his brother is after him. and he's afraid. he's distressed.
and so jacob is left alone in his camp and a man comes in the night and wrestles with him. and he keeps wrestling with jacob and jacob won't let go. the man touches his hip and jacob's hip is put out of joint, but jacob keeps wrestling through the pain. the man says, let me go! the day is coming. and jacob says NO. I WILL NOT LET GO UNTIL YOU BLESS ME. (i always gasp at this point in the story - the audacity!).
but then the man responds by asking him what his name is. "i'm jacob," he says. and the man says, "your name is no longer jacob, but ISRAEL, for you have striven with God and man and have prevailed." and then jacob is blessed by God. and jacob says, "i have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered."

i've been so intrigued by this exchange lately, this leg of jacob's journey. he wrestles, he doesn't let go, he's given a NEW name, he's blessed. i fear that if this had been me and if the man (God) had said let me go, i would have dropped the fight immediately. but he kept going. ann voskamp writes in her book "one thousand gifts" - "wrestle with God and beg to see the blessings."

and i think that's my biggest takeaway from crazy jacob. we can approach God and we can be real and we can say no! help me! blessings!? and we can cry out loudly. because we can believe that. He promises to be a God who not only hears our cries, but delivers and restores. i think this exchange can mean a lot of things. it means we can believe that God is a God who gives us blessings. and it's God that's in every wrestling - even and especially with people - and where there's God, there's good. how we respond to people is how we respond to the Lord.

we've striven with God. not against, but with. we're wrestling with God to find the 'what for, for what' of the brokenness we face. we're made new, given new names, and we're made more in the reflection of Jesus.

and the story continues. the next day, jacob meets his brother esau. esau runs up to jacob and embraces him and kisses him and they weep together. and in their exchange, jacob remarks, "God has dealt graciously with me." isn't that so good? the wrestling is grace.

so keep going. keep going. keep going. keep wrestling, keep fighting, keep honestly, boldly coming before God each and every day. He's not a friend who will gossip about what you've said, He's not someone you have to explain how you're feeling, He's not neutral about your existence. He loves you with a fiercely passionate love and He's good, He's really, really good. And it's your journey, your story - He's perfectly ordained it. He's gone before, He's right beside you, and He hems you in as you go.

blessed journey! may you wrestle and see all the many blessings of yours.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

A Change, A Thank You

Hi friends! for those who read my blog.

You may have noticed (Rebecca Woodman :) that my posts have been fewer and more far between. This season has been rich and deep and very hard, but better than anything I could have ever dreamed or imagined. God is good, so good, so much more than I've ever known. And because of that, because of this hard, hard but deeply good season, I can't promise to post weekly (like I did before) and I can't promise that my daily journal writings will be blog ready. Because yes, I'll keep writing because it's so good for my soul. And yes, I'll keep learning because God is so near, even and especially in pain. 

So not now. This season of blogging is not now. And I've wrestled with this {I love blogging!} but I feel most certain that it's okay to pause, take deep breaths, and share my learnings later, when ready. 

This isn't forever! singingmysongwithgrace will always live because I am always learning to sing by grace and live full of grace. God is grace and it is Grace that always chases me. 
I'll be back and around and I'll pop in here and there. My learnings already are vast and deep and wide and so good - God is good, I can't wait to share! And who knows, in the meantime, maybe I'll use some guest bloggers.

So now's the time to especially and deeply thank friends and corner and readers and encouragers. All who read, all who shared, all who felt the need to offer a word, a comment, a prayer. This has been one of my strongest sources and senses of community and saying I'm thankful wouldn't be enough. Grateful beyond words. You are loved so much by me. 

I'll keep writing and learning and journeying on. Thanks for journeying with me. 
For real. Thank you, thank you, thank you. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Worthiness of Women (Part I)

I've been thinking a lot about what it means to be a woman. Burdened with womanhood, burdened with the worthiness of women. Traveling to Africa on a mission trip to speak to young girls, dealing with my own levels of heartbreak, and sitting through a weekend's worth of the Ignite Justice conference can put some heavy things on your heart.

Can I say this without sounding feminist or angry or somehow anti-men? Because we're all created in the image of God and we're all broken and we're all in need of Someone to save us. We're all in this dance together, this process to Christ. 
But being a woman is hard. 
Being a young girl is hard, a teenage girl, a girl in her 20's, 30's, an adult woman. It's all hard. 

There's a global perspective to being a woman that I haven't always seen. There's a shame there that I haven't ever known. Speaking to 400 middle and high school aged girls in a school in Rwanda about their bodies and their God given worth as women, it suddenly became clear that the message of worthiness and the message of "you matter" meant more to these girls than I'd realized. And my sister, a missionary teacher in the Congo, always said that at their school, they always believed that "if you empower a woman, you empower a nation." Can you believe that? The value of that? You as a woman, God has a plan for you!

Working with teenagers at my church here in the United States, in Fort Mill, South Carolina, the girls face the pressures and the friends and the images of beauty and the images of what their bodies should look like and the boys, always the boys. There are so many messages, so many ways to communicate a message. Some of us have opportunities here that maybe all girls and women don't, but with all that's worldly (and there's a lot out there), there's that same need of that Gospel message, that same empowerment. Do our girls know that? Do they know that it doesn't matter what they look like, that if a boy's not ready or doesn't like them or told them he made a mistake, that never is and never will be a reflection of the wonderfully worthy and incredibly unique self they were made in the image of God to be? 

Just thinking out loud. It's not easy. Looking globally, looking at the issues that our women face, looking at the girls in our backyard. These girls are different, so different. Different families, different upbringings and backgrounds, different loves and passions, different scars and trials and fears. But these girls are the same. There's the need for the affirmation of Christ, for the restoring of dignity, for the girls in the slums, the girls in the brothels, the girls in our classes and in our churches and on our streets, for the unwanted and the abandoned and the left behind. There's a great need for us to partner and band together and shout loud BUT YOU ARE WORTHY. There are big things our girls are facing. But Beloved, that's what you are. There's so much strength in the brokenness. Power in empathy.

God values women. He created women. Jesus died for women. The Scriptural message of the worthiness of women is that they are loved so far and deep and wide. Mistakes made and pressures faced and relational hurts and pains - they were all absorbed by the power of the cross. Jesus came to make all that new. Those girls in Rwanda in the aftermath of that genocide, the girls in China, the girls in the United States having abortions and dealing with break ups and facing the pressures of identity. All facing the pressures of identity. What's the identity of a woman?

Jesus truly believed everyone had value. He really valued His creation. My friend Marri writes in her book, "He looked people in the eye, saw down to the deepest, most hidden corners of their soul, and He loved them. Not a pity love, or a duty love. He truly believed they were valuable."

And maybe that empowering of a woman happens when you take a girl by the face and you look her in the eye (in Rwanda, in the Congo, in Fort Mill, in your neighborhood) and you tell her - "you are worthy. you are wonderful. you are loved." Over and over again. Worthy. Wonderful. Loved.