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Father’s Day Stories

Father’s Day.

This day that serves to celebrate and honor the men that love and serve us so well, so faithfully without recognition.  This day that now serves as a painful reminder of missing all the sweet ways my Dad faithfully yet imperfectly served and loved me so well.

Stories.

Stories have often functioned as a healing balm for our gaping wounds over the past year as we have so missed our Dad, but so enjoy remembering how well he loved us and all that he continues to mean to us.

 Legacy.

Our family has discussed this word often.  My brother had friends and loved ones whose lives had been impacted by my Dad stand at his funeral, charging them that they were his legacy.

So here are a few stories to try to encapsulate the man we got to call Dad.  The man we celebrate today.  And the man whose legacy we are honored to bear.


M I C H A E L

One night when we were really little, Andrew and I fell asleep with our Mom for some reason.  Daddy found us there and rather than disturbing us went and slept in our bunk beds.  In the middle of the night there was a loud crash and Daddy came rushing into the room to check on everyone.  The sound came from his wooden shelves in his closet breaking, but he, still out of breath from his panic, said “I thought the boys’ bunk beds had fallen!”  “Honey, you were in the bunk beds.” My mom responded.

Emily Katherine had some stomach problems as a baby and had the hardest time sleeping.  I remember countless nights of Daddy pacing the living room walking her back and forth so patiently, whispering so softly.  There was not a light on in the room.  He just kept walking back and forth bouncing her softly.


A N D R E W

Every summer when we were young, my dad would shave our heads. We spent summers shut out of our aunt’s house and released into the woods, so the buzz cut made it easier to check us for ticks. Our ever utilitarian parents also used the summer to save money on haircuts. We would commemorate the start of each summer in the driveway, on top of a overturned five gallon bucket-made-seat where our dad would shave our heads and ring in summer with us.

The summer after my freshman year of college, I went to the Philippines to work on a farm for several months. My dad came down and moved me out of my dorm and we spent the several days getting the necessary supplies together. The night before I left, he showed me a weather report that showed my first glimpse of the triple digit heat I had signed up for. I began to grow my hair in the second semester of my freshman year, intending to use my time abroad to allow my hair to grow. My dad used the weather report as a bargaining tool and convinced me to let him shave my head. We went to the garage, flipped a bucket upside down, and removed my sought after hair. When my hair was on the floor and about my shoulders, my dad kissed the top of my head, thanked me for letting him shave my head, and told me he loved me.


 E M I L Y   K A T H E R I N E

I once was working on a music video project for school.  We were driving all over downtown filming in different spots.  We stopped in front of city hall and my car key wouldn’t come out of the ignition.  The longer I sat there trying to get it out the more my car kept overheating.  Not having the slightest understanding in the world of cars, I called my Dad crying, terrified it was going to catch on fire at any moment.  “I’ll be right here.”  He said on the other side of the phone.  In about five minutes, he pulled up next to me and walked up to the car.  I got out to let him assess the situation.  His tone with me got really gentle, but I could tell he was fighting not to laugh.  “Baby, I’m not trying to make you feel… Baby, you key won’t come out because your car is in reverse.”

When I was four years old, I was a bumble bee in my dance recital.  I was on stage at dress rehearsal dancing my heart out.  When the song ended, I stood there proudly expecting a grand applause from our teacher of how well we did.  Instead, all of the lights came on in the audience as our teachers whispered.  Mine walked right over to me with the microphone and said, “Where is her mother?!”  My mom had a work meeting that night, and I watched my Dad, still in his suit and tie from work, stand up to claim me.  They called him onto the stage to show him how a few of my velcro dots that held my tutu up were off and he listened so intently to make sure we could get it right for the recital.

 

Guest blog: Big Girl Move

It feels weird to even introduce you to Mrs. Victoria Love Hughes, because she has always been such a part of me.  Victoria is my closest cousin in age.  Actually, she’s exactly 9 months older than me.  Living in the same small town and going to the same tiny school, the Lord knit our hearts together from day 1 in such sweet ways.  Victoria taught me how to roll my tongue, how to whistle, and how to seek the Lord.  Her friendship, though later distanced when my family moved away, has always been such a sweet one to me.  I pray her words about she and her husband’s recent big move speak to you both about how transitions are the most growing times and how she and Bruce have been faithful to seek the Lord every step of the way.

Moving 500 miles away from your family, your friends and everything you’ve ever known is not something you think about until it becomes a reality. And it suddenly became my reality earlier this year.

The story of our move starts in August of 2014. 2014 was a big year for me, I got engaged, I graduated from college and I had started my first big girl job. It was also a big year for my now husband, Bruce, as he had also gotten engaged, graduated from college and started his first real job—which he hated. Bruce received a degree in Biblical Studies and felt the Lord calling him to ministry, but he was stuck at a call center.

We spent so much time praying for a way to get involved in ministry and the Lord answered our prayer in August 2014.  Bruce got a call from one of his college friends asking him if he wanted to take over his position as part time Youth Pastor at a church about an hour away from where we were currently living. After thinking and praying about it, Bruce decided to take the position. At the time we thought it would be good experience for future ministry and a way to make a little more money for our wedding. We had no idea the plans the Lord had for us at that time as neither of us thought we would ever be involved in youth ministry.

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2015 was a fun year for us— we were newly married, a lot of our friends were getting married, we learned we were going to have a baby nephew and we got to do ministry together as a married couple. In the summer of 2015 Bruce decided he wanted to quit his job so he could focus on ministry and also get his Masters of Divinity. This was a hard decision for us because it meant that we would have to live on my salary (which wasn’t much considering I worked at a non-profit) and his small stipend from the church.

This season of our life was trying, but the Lord was so good to us. Each month we worried we might not have enough money, but somehow we always managed. During this time we learned so much about trusting God and trusting each other. We both grew to love youth ministry, and Bruce was feeling called to full time youth ministry.

This season of life helped tremendously for what lied ahead—2016. After a semester of seminary, Bruce decided that he wanted to switch to getting his degree online and apply for other youth pastor jobs—even if that meant we would have to move. Let me stop here and say that I had no intentions of moving, I loved my job, I loved living near my closest friends and I loved living close to my family. I loved my comfortable life. But as a Christian I knew that God doesn’t necessarily call us to live a “comfortable” life.

Sometimes God calls us out of our comfort zones in order to further His Kingdom.

This is something I knew, but didn’t think it applied to me or rather I didn’t want it to apply to me. I was content living my comfortable life, but God had other plans for me.

On our anniversary trip, Bruce and I talked about what we wanted 2016 to look like. We both wanted to grow in our faith and we both also wanted Bruce to have a full time ministry job by the end of the year. We both also wanted to think of a verse or phrase (or for me a song) to be the theme of our year. My song for this year is “Here’s My Heart” by I Am They:

Here’s my heart, Lord

Speak what is true

Here’s my life, Lord

Speak what is true

The lyrics to this song are what I wanted my 2016 to look like. Here’s my heart and here’s my life, Lord. I wanted to give everything to Him, and that’s exactly what I had to do when Bruce got a call from a church in Kentucky about a youth pastor job.

A few weeks after our anniversary trip, we traveled to Owensboro, Kentucky for the interview. After the interview the church invited Bruce to come back a month later for D-Now weekend to be their quest speaker, and after that we would know if he got the job.  During D-Now weekend we absolutely fell in love with the youth group at the church. They were so welcoming to us and even though we were only there for two days we felt like we really connected with the kids. Also while we were there the entire church had to vote on Bruce becoming the new youth pastor. We had already felt at peace about moving to Kentucky, but when the vote came back as 100% yes we really felt the Lord saying this is where we need to be.

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Let me just tell ya, God is so good. Even though it has been extremely hard being away from our family and friends, we are loving this new season of our lives. We love our church, church family and our youth group kids. Every time we leave a church function, which is almost everyday, one of us always says how much we love these people and we are so thankful for this opportunity!

If there is something in your life that you haven’t let go and given to God, I urge you to do so. Trusting Him with the outcome of any situation is hard, but His plans are so much better than ours. Proverbs 3:5-6 is a verse we hear all the time and can become callous to, but it such a good reminder to trust God with ALL of our heart, not just a little, but all of it because He cares for us and loves us so much that He wants to help us, He longs to help us. All we have to do is let Him.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.

In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

 

 

Guest blog: My battle with my body

What a true honor it is to introduce you to Mrs. Jillian Lybrand Dean, who I affectionately know as JillyBear.  Jillian came on staff in the student ministry in my church when I was in 9th grade and we have been inseparable ever since.  Whatever our souls are made of, they’re the same and it is such a sweet gift I cannot truly put words to.  Jillian and her husband James Dean live in the great state of Oklahoma where they do ministry and are raising Miss Eliza Kate who we affectionately call EKD 2.0.

As many of you know, my dad died recently of a heart attack.  While we so clearly see this was the Lord’s timing and plan, my family has talked about making many changes in our lifestyles to focusing on physical health, what I truly consider to be an act of worship.  I pray you hear Jillian’s heart of encouragement in how to truly care for our bodies and what it teaches us about caring for our spirits as well.

May you be half as transformed and inspired by Jillian as I am on a daily basis.

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My battle against my body began when I was about 15. It may have begun sooner, but that’s when the recognition of weight, body types, and my poor understanding of nutrition began. I was running cross country, I could literally eat anything I wanted (and did) and somehow in the middle of my hungry hungry hippo days, I was a  size 0… If you want to stop reading right now, I would understand, but I would love to encourage you to stick it out. You can’t be the winning hippo and continue to see your feet. You see, my understanding of food was more of fairy tale than a reality. I just thought if I worked hard enough it should melt off, having no understanding of thyroids, metabolisms, digestion system, and most cruel of all… age!

Fast forward to college: My senior year, I worked out regularly, ate pretty well, or so I thought, but my health was the worst it had ever been, and I was in my early 20’s. I won’t go into all the details, but my weight would fluctuate non-stop creating more issues both physiologically and emotionally than ever before. My hair even began falling out. I wanted to sleep all day, had more stomach issues than I would care to remember (or say in mixed company), and my skin was showing signs of my poor health. Definitely not what I went to college for!

I knew I needed help. A family friend recommended a nutritionist and I eagerly went to see him, ready to dive in and see what was going on. He needed a hair sample, I felt like he plucked my last remaining hair, but I was desperate. The results came back and the lists of things and products I should avoid reminded me of something a politician would read during a filibuster. I was overwhelmed, alone, and fearful.

He explained a few things to me about my body: my adrenal gland was shot (I had never heard of said adrenal gland), and I should basically avoid everything that I love: breads, sugars, caffeine. You name it. I probably wasn’t supposed to eat it. So then I asked the question, well what can I eat? I know this sounds dramatic, but I will never forget the blue sticky note he wrote on. It was my food list. Really?!? A Post-It note. Didn’t he know I’m Southern and that sweet tea runs through my veins? He didn’t seem very sympathetic.

He said, “Jillian, I know this seems overwhelming, but right now this is equivalent to a flat tire, and if you don’t fix this now, in a few years you will be having far more issues.” I wish I could tell you I listened to everything and my life was changed… I wish I could, but I didn’t. At that point in my life, I was working extreme hours and truly tried my best, but saw no results. Eventually, I just gave up. Truly deflated.


God placed several people in my life who saw my struggle that encouraged me to revisit what I learned. So I did. I followed the blue sticky note for 30 days. It was just 30 days, right? I actually went 40 and decided that this was probably in my head and I would be fine…I grabbed a sub sandwich and boy did it taste good topped off with a Coke. Within minutes, I felt like I had the flu, my stomach felt like I had eaten a rock, and my muscles were actually aching. I was in bed for two days. I wish I was exaggerating.

Slowly but surely, I started a path to health by cutting gluten out of my diet completely (as well as making sure they weren’t in other products I used daily), sacrificing my still quite large intake of caffeine, and I started to do yoga for healing.

The road to health is a long journey. Each person’s is different and unique. For the longest time, my body wasn’t able to receive the proper nutrients because it was bogged down by allergens my body was trying to fight. Our Spiritual wellness is no different. We have to cleanse ourself of all the “junk” we’ve put in ourselves that was never originally designed to be a part of us… You know what I mean? That bad body image, fears of failure, or even our own thoughts and beliefs confusing us. We choose to ingest that. We choose to swallow it and allow it to become a part of our design. We allow it to fester and the infection bores so deep it is almost impossible to see life through a different lens.

It’s so easy to just throw on some Netflix when I’m folding laundry or doing something else around the house. I find favorite shows and get sucked into the season long wormhole, only to be bated into watching the first episode of the next season because the finale was on such a cliffhanger that I couldn’t go another day without knowing how it all turned out.. Unless it’s New Girl… and then you know Zoey will get through whatever problem with her charming smile and carefree attitude! I love her, judge sparingly please! But then as I’m brushing my teeth I think about how much time I spent following a fictional city girl, and how much time I missed getting to know the creator of the universe. I give Jesus my best Zoey smile and promise to do better, but it doesn’t happen. It doesn’t happen when I don’t carve out time specifically for getting to know my Savior. That’s the challenge I give to you, and one that I have placed upon myself. If we want to clean up the foggy lens we have been looking through, we have to listen to someone who knows what a clear lens is. That’s the important thing about drawing from the Word of God, when I’m doing it, it’s the first voice I hear, and it drowns out my New Girl world.

It’s time consuming reading God’s word. It’s time consuming to have a healthy prayer life. The results aren’t quick and a lot of times it feels like we are stuck on that dreaded machine.. The treadmill.  We can feel like we are on a spiritual treadmill, because we expect to humbly rival Mother Theresa after a week of bible study. Sorry, not happening. You have to sweat it out. Put down that chic Bible Study for a day or so and just dwell in His word. Nothing wrong with a bible study, but sometimes those are like turning the treadmill on and then sitting in your lawn chair in the garage drinking sweet tea. You spent time with the machine on but didn’t get any real work done. Don’t let someone else’s work allow you to sit in the lawn chair. Pick up your bible and start the ugly face, “I don’t know if I can make it,” scripture run. Read it, let it marinate in your soul, paraphrase it in your words, ask yourself what your life would look like if you applied it to your life. When you’ve done what you can, pick up a commentary on the passage you just read, now open the bible study… See how much deeper it is when you start the work on your own. FYI. I learn the most when I think I understand scripture and then find out I didn’t have it in the right context… I remember instruction and it pushes me deeper in Jesus.

Pause an episode of Netflix and spend it in prayer for all the people that surround you. Better yet, pray or listen to the Bible App while you exercise. I know it sounds crazy but you can’t absorb anything truly until you have the understanding of the nutrients at hand and that play a part. Ingesting something doesn’t constitute results.This is even more true for our spiritual lives. The height of what you put in is the height of your results.
Matthew 6:22:
The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light.

Spiritual wellness comes from allowing Jesus to tune you into Himself. See Him! When you see Him for the magnificent savior He is, you will find the rest of your life shifting into alignment. Trials will come, dark days, unfortunately are always on the horizon. Tuning into Jesus gives us the strength to lean into and the perspective that sees eternity in the days ahead instead of our momentary messes.

What are those warning signs that seem to creep up Spiritually? For me, I become less empathetic to His people. I get frustrated easily, and everything can sound insurmountable at the drop of a hat. I second guess my purpose and giftings He has entrusted me with seem to disappear when I’m depending on His words through a second source or even through my own foggy lens. These are the allergens to my spiritual health. They prohibit me from growth and wellness. I need the voice of my Creator. In order to do that… I have to detox , and insert those nutrients of His word so the real absorption begins and my lens becomes more clear.  And it isn’t always pretty at first.

 

Over the last three years of my journey I can tell you this: I feel better physically and that directly impacts my purpose. My spiritual health is a direct measure of my personal health. These go hand in hand for me. I know that my journey is not over, just as my spiritual journey is not. The more growth I see and experience, the more refinement must occur which in return requires more sweat equity. Our Creator designed us to find peace and grace knowing that today is preparation for the days ahead. My desire is to be full of light, in this and through this, I pray my lens would become more clear. I pray that you would see Jesus for all that He is.

When your biggest fears are all you see

I’ve grown up hating two things everyone around me seemed to love: roller coasters and thunderstorms.

Don’t get me wrong, Space Mountain at Disney World is my jam- I’ve ridden it at least 6 times in the past year.  I’m talking about the big, scary, slinging you around and upside down roller coasters.  Sometimes I would tell myself to muster up the courage to ride them.  I would stand in line with my brothers determined to be brave, but once I got close enough that I could see and hear what I was walking into, I would ever so conveniently need to go to the bathroom and “just wait this one out” with my mom.

roller coaster

And while we’re on the topic of brothers, be ever so grateful you weren’t one of mine during thunderstorms.  I mean it was sheer terror the moment I heard what could have potentially been thunder.  I’m not sure why I’m stuck on Disney today- maybe it’s time for a trip back- but when I was 6 years old my family went to Disney World.  We were in Magic Kingdom on a July evening and it was storming terribly.  I was naturally petrified and waiting for all of us to die there.  But we were eating in a restaurant and Chip and Dale came over so I was fine for a minute.  Then, my brothers convinced me the chairs were just someone moving chairs above us and the lightning was cameras flashing- P.S. this was the year 2000, long before iPhones so everyone had cameras with huge flashes.  Crafty as they were, I bought it and enjoyed our meal not scared at all, because the storm wasn’t real.


I think ultimately what I hate about these two things is that they place a threat on my sense of being safe.  If I am upside down moving at a rapid speed, I am in no way in control, in no way guaranteed my safety, and I don’t enjoy the thrill.  I just terrifies me.  And the storms, they just always made me feel so small and helpless and like some terrible thing was impending ever since a giant tree fell on my neighbor’s house growing up and tore down half of it because of a really bad storm.

I think we’re pretty naturally wired to try and be safe, that is unless you’re a big thrill seeker.  But for most of us, we want to know that we’ll live to see tomorrow and when we don’t believe it, all of the anxiety sets in.

I wrote recently about how the transitions of life are so hard and so scary.  (Read more)  But sometimes it isn’t simply transitions, but just situations or circumstances that threaten these sense of being safe and secure that we’ve created.  And what do we do there and how do we approach God when we know He can give us every good and perfect thing, yet we’re trembling and fearful, wondering if we will even live to see tomorrow?


storm

But there is this cool pattern in scripture of God proving over and over again that He is faithful and that we can trust in Him, which should come at no surprise.

In Ezekiel, God is warning the people to turn from all of their ways of sinfulness and idolatry.  Continuously in this book, we see God’s fierce and zealous love as He talks about how all of the altars they have built to other gods, all of the security they have established in so many things apart from Him will be destroyed.  “And then they will know that I am YHWH their God, who delivered them from Israel.” 

Ezekiel 38 describes when the people are living so securely that they don’t even have walls on their houses, the Lord will come to “remind” them of His zeal and glory by destroying all they have built.  The passage then goes on to describe how the Temple should be constructed and I was reading this like what, I think you missed some key transitions here, Ezekiel?!  But what a pattern I soon discovered through Scripture that God utterly destroys what we are placing our security in apart from Him, and in those moments when we are trembling in fear, He invites us to come and worship Him.  And these are the most intimate moments of worship.

Like when He destroys the whole entire Earth as they knew it, their sense of community, everything that had been established, and invites Noah and his family to build and altar and worship the Lord.

And when He destroys sin and death on a rugged cross and an earthquake and breathless Savior have us at a loss for if we will even live to see tomorrow.  But when the stone rolls away from the tomb, we are invited to come and worship.

Psalm 33

13 The Lord looks down from heaven;
    he sees all the children of man;
14 from where he sits enthroned he looks out
    on all the inhabitants of the earth,
15 he who fashions the hearts of them all
    and observes all their deeds.
16 The king is not saved by his great army;
    a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.
17 The war horse is a false hope for salvation,
    and by its great might it cannot rescue.

18 Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him,
    on those who hope in his steadfast love,
19 that he may deliver their soul from death
    and keep them alive in famine.

20 Our soul waits for the Lord;
    he is our help and our shield.
21 For our heart is glad in him,
    because we trust in his holy name.
22 Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
    even as we hope in you.

So in a season of seeing all of the senses of security and protection I have built, I am learning that having those torn down are not God telling me He doesn’t love me, but in the fear and in the trembling, He is inviting me to come and know and trust Him like never before.

I recently attend an IMPRINTED event, in which Erin Moniz ever so wisely said, “Fear and hope are a double sided coin.  Whatever you fear is what you place your hope in.”  And I had to swallow a big lump in my throat.  Because so often I place my hope in good things, but not necessarily the ultimate things and I fear because I know that I know that they will not be enough for me.  Only my Father can.

So I’m learning that fear is truly having my hope in the wrong things, the things that aren’t worthy of my hope of protection or hope of glory.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face.  And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.

Eyes on the road

Feature photo by Katherine Dalton

I feel like the story of the Prodigal Son has been a key story in my life this year, not necessarily because I’ve had some uniquely wayward experience- I do so greatly need grace each and every day.  But, the Lord has continued to bring this story back to the surface for me.

I’ve been struggling recently with the question What do I do when I am watching a friend walk into a situation I know is not good for them?

We all have been there and I know that friends have been in the very same situation for me.  So what do we do? How do we respond?

I was talking to a friend recently who is battling a season of watching her sister make choices that she knows will cause her pain down the road.  She loves her so much that it hurts to know she’ll soon be hurting.  But, we all have been given advice at times we didn’t want it and know exactly how we received it.


My small group girls have been walking through the book Popular by Tindell Baldwin, in which Tindell shares her testimony, many choices she wishes she didn’t make and scars she wishes were never created.  She shared that amidst this she felt so alone and so broken, but the one thing that kept her going was that amidst it all, her parents loved her.

She had cheated on her boyfriend when she was drunk so he broke up with her and though she was in a sea of consequences for choices she should have never made, her parents bought her a bouquet of a dozen red roses and put them on her night stand and told her they were sorry her heart was broken.


And what I realized recently about the Prodigal Son is that for the Father to have seen the Son coming from a long way off, it means that He hadn’t taken His eyes off the road.

The Father had never lost all hope for His child, never decided to just go on with life and believe His son would always be broken and wayward.  He kept His eyes on the road in eager anticipation of His son’s return and when He laid His loving and gracious eyes on Him from a long way off, He ran to him.


And I think this is how we’re called to love the people in our lives that we see in seasons of brokenness.  If it’s our place to speak boldly and directly about the choices they’re making then may we ever so abidingly do so (disclaimer- if anyone in your life is in danger to themselves or anyone around them, it is not only your place but your obligation to say something and report the situation).  But for situations that are not life threatening, situations that maybe kind of aren’t your business or aren’t your place to speak up, though you are painfully watching them unfold, I think we follow the Father’s model.

Keep your eyes on the road.

Don’t you dare give up hoping that was is lost will be found, broken will be redeemed, empty will be filled, damaged will be restored.

But the Father doesn’t just run to Him, He welcomes him back into His house as a son.

And this is so important.

Often when we are in seasons of wandering, seasons of brokenness, we forget who we are. And the people who make the biggest difference are not the ones who tell us we shouldn’t and are so eager to say “I told you so.”  Instead, the people who make the greatest difference are the ones who look at us in the midst of our broken, lost, and weary souls, and tell us who we are- redeemed, whole, holy, loved, and accepted in Christ.  

“When you see me filled with doubt or self hatred, when you observe me during my worst seasons of discouragement and failure, I want you to both weep with me ad I weep and be filled with hope, not the empty hope that says trite things like “It’ll all work out” [..] but a hope that exists because it sees something in me that is absolutely terrific.  Believe that there is life in me.  I want to catch the gleam in your eye that tells me you know there is more to me than my problems and you are confidently hopeful that good will emerge.  I want you to ache when you see the good buried beneath so much bad, but I want you to be passionately convinced that by the grace of God the good is there, waiting to be revealed.” – CONNECTING, Larry Crabb

So may we keep our eyes fixed on the road, knowing that there is no brokenness, no sin, too far gone that the grace of our Father cannot restore and the creativity of our Author cannot redeem.  And may we remind the broken that in them is wholeness.

 

What do you think?

How have you been affectively loved and cared for in seasons of making poor choices?

 

 

 

 

A Beautiful Journey// 2014

Today I went on a closet cleansing…

I was blessed with many sweet Christmas gifts and found myself overwhelmed with stuff.  So it was time to purge and I ended up getting rid of a good bit, making room for my new things.  We follow this pattern many times in our lives, regularly unknowingly.  We get rid of the old to make way for the new.  Stores are moving out the Christmas decorations and bringing in the Valentine’s Day goods, babies get too big for their cribs and need a “big girl” or “big boy” bed, we sell the car we have to buy the one we want.  We often follow this pattern, focusing on what’s new.  We emphasize the new stage we’ve reached, goal we’ve achieved, status we’ve earned, and miss treasuring what was.

I set this stage to say I was following the same pattern with the upcoming year.  I was thinking of what I would love to do in 2015, what they year would bring, etc. and not until I saw a sweet friend post her beautiful year in pictures (http://livinwords.wordpress.com/) did I realize I was bringing in the new, without treasuring the present.  The sweet sweet present and preceding year in which the Lord was beautifully writing, as He does, and allowing me to watch His splendor unfold.  He was weaving Himself, His beauty, His extravagance for 365 days and seeing His hand amidst the journey I walked was so beautiful.

So here’s capturing another year of this beautiful journey.

I got to go to Washington D.C. with 30 of my dearest friends on the DreamCasting Trip with the WinShape College Program.  Somehow, we all walked away with a sentence, capturing what we know to be the current purpose God has placed us on this earth to complete.
I was redeemed to nurture, strengthen, and communicate Truth to young women, especially those with untouched wounds, seeing them drawn to the power and relevance of the Living Word, identify and overcome the potency of Satan’s lies, and grow and bear liberating fruit in the Church. 
As I look back, it’s crazy, and of course non-coincidental that the following year included opportunity after opportunity to fulfill that purpose in so many unique ways.
Collide 2014// Pleasant Valley North Baptist Church// Rome, GA
Such a sweet time of both teaching and learning from these girls.  We focused on unity and the power of the unified Church, along with a lot of talking about boys 😉
LifeWay Girls Ministry Conference// Nashville, TN
This trip was such a sweet one for me as I attended the Girls Ministry Conference as a junior in high school with these three (Jillian Dean, Jimmie Davis, Courtney Veasey) as my girls ministry staff and mentors and this year attended it by their side on the leader track. I also got to share this time with my mom, grandmother, and one of my best friends. This conference is so dear to my heart as it was a time that solidified my calling to Girls Ministry.

Brazil
The Lord was too sweet to allow me to go hang out with the coolest students in Brazil.  We worked together on writing a leadership book appropriate to their tribal culture and it was beautiful.  Also, the girls met together and painted nails and ate chocolate under a cashew tree and it was incredible.  The sweet sweet little one in the first picture, Genesis, captured my heart.  I had prayed for a Spanish speaker, never expecting it to be the sassiest and cutest 6 year old I had ever met, but she was and we were best friends.
Disciple Now: GO// First Presbyterian Church// Rome, GA
This sweet group came together so beautifully, covered in the Lord’s sweet grace.  We literally moved manure and pulled weeds together all day Saturday and they served so well.
Restart Mirror Image Choir Tour// First Baptist Spartanburg// SC, GA, FL
From snorkeling in the Keys to cheering on the Braves, this trip was a blast.  Our students preached the Gospel through song to inmates in juvenile detention centers and had a lot of fun along the way.  Wearing the title “room mom” is still weird to me at a ripe 20 years old, but I loved hanging out with these sweet girls.
I also somehow found myself taking a swing at Children’s Ministry this summer.  While I’m not sure it was exactly my gifting, there were some super sweet moments.  This one in particularly taught me so much.
REVIVE// First Christian Church// Elk City, OK
My friend and mentor, Jillian, invited me to Oklahoma to sing and share at a conference for girls and women.  It was such a sweet time to interact with the women there and to know they are growing under Jillian’s humble and so devoted leadership.
Capitulum
Yes, that’s a very strange word.
In the WinShape College Program we have small groups called capitulum groups and I was privileged to become a leader this year, gifting me with these four beautiful souls who live next door to me.  It has been such a gift to journey with them, training them to teach week by week, and walking through intense accountability together.
7th grade girls small group
My sweet friend, Emily Moore and I get to hang out with these crazy friends every Wednesday and talk about Jesus and it is the sweetest of times.  We mostly laugh a alot, but hearing the truths move from ideas and cool stories to life lessons that apply to their tomorrows is one of the highlights of my week.
IMPRINTED// imprintedblog.com
Also as a part of WinShape, I am in a community impact team called Imprinted.
Imprinted exists to walk with the Body of Christ to implement and celebrate freedom by seeking and imparting transformational truths regarding identity. 
We launched a blog at the beginning of this year and the ministry that has followed has been so cool.  Chains have been broken and meeting each week has been really meaningful and hilarious.
So looking back I am overwhelmed of how God consistently opened doors for the Truths of His Word, opened hearts for the healing touch of His sweetness and freedom, and allowed me to play a part in His working.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:17-18 ESV)

Perpetually Bad Days & Satisfaction

You know those perpetually bad days? The ones where you’re like okay, at what point am I going to wake up and this will all have been a bad dream, but you pinch yourself and it hurts?

I am writing this from a collision repair center (because yes, I wrecked my car), starving and munching on a blessed protein bar I just found in my purse, because I lost my ID so couldn’t get food at school.  I have a test in 2 hours I have barely studied for, oh and did I mention it’s a rainy Monday around 25 degrees?

I am in a group right now that’s studying the most misquoted passages in scripture. Yesterday, we talked about “God won’t give you more than you can bear!” and recently discussed how God’s plans are “to prosper you” and to “give you hope”.. and I’m over here with more than I can bear, not feeling like I’m prospering, at all. And hope? lol.

So I’m just reminded again that this is where the rubber meets the road.  It feels so good to stand up on Sunday morning and say those “truths” that make you feel so good, so resilient, so courageous, but then on Monday when you’re hungry, tired, unprepared, and without a car, they seem really really dim, and actually not true at all.

So why do we love this? Why do we love little cliches that make us feel better but sting when we’re really hurting?

And I’m reminded of how we so love to fill ourselves with other things that actually don’t help us at all.  The Lord has been really convicting me and refining me of finding my satisfaction in anything other than Him.  He’s been really nailing into the ground just how futile that is, TRUST me.  And it hurts and it’s hard and I’ve cried a lot in the last week, but He’s been faithful before and He’ll be faithful again.

I recently read an analogy of how sometimes when we’re asleep we dream that we are eating, yet when we wake up, we are still hungry.  This is because we hunger for REAL, physical food, not just this dreamt food with no sustenance, no nutrients.  In the same way our souls HUNGER for the things of The Lord.  We long for His delight, His intimacy, His truth, His righteousness, His Body, His bride, yet I am so guilty of trying to find my satisfaction in all too many other things that I can even begin to form a list.

Also, I think of how we thirst.  I remember when I was younger there was a time when I hated the taste of water (first world probs, right?!).  I would be so thirsty but walk to the fridge and drink a soft drink or eat grapes or do anything possible to not have to taste water, but I would still be so thirsty!  In the same way, my soul, our souls as believers thirst so deeply for our Redeemer, our Living Water.  And The Lord is gracious to never allow an idol satisfy us.  He is jealous for us and will let nothing nourish us, replenish us, renew us, cleanse us but Himself, because He knows He is best for us.

So, I’m going to go study for a test.  I’m going to go get a latte and potentially cry a little to a sweet friend on the way.  But most importantly, know that I know that Jesus will meet every need.  Rest in His satisfaction, and stop wasting my time seeking any other thing!