Tagged: faith

When Life Is Dry and God Is Silent

Image by Guilherme Yagui via Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/dHX2x4)

Image by Guilherme Yagui via Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/dHX2x4)

I had the privilege of sharing a message to the middle schoolers I work with at my church this past Sunday. I was having a hard time preparing for it because I so badly wanted to say the right thing — what GOD wanted me to say — but I felt like I was repeatedly coming back from prayer empty-handed. I had been trying all week to hear from God and he just seemed to be so silent.

The night before I was supposed to give my message, I climbed into my fiancè’s bed and just started to cry.

“What am I doing wrong?” I asked. “I feel like I’m in a dry season, but I don’t want to be in this season. I thought everything was going fine, but even reading the Bible or spending time in worship isn’t doing what it used to do anymore.”

That’s when I got hit over the head (by Grant, but also probably by God) with some stuff I needed to hear. Thus, my sermon was born at eight o’clock that night.

I want to share with you what I was able to vulnerably and authentically share with those middle schoolers yesterday morning. I’m praying that it speaks to you just as it spoke to me and to those few middle schoolers who needed a good dose of encouragement while in the desert. We all sometimes find ourselves in the desert, don’t we?

. . . . .

Something I’ve always wondered is when I really began having a relationship with Jesus. I didn’t go to church very much growing up, but I knew who he was and there was a brief period of time between fifth grade and seventh grade where I thought I was completely in love with the idea of following God and being a Christian. But when eighth grade rolled around, I just kinda dumped him. I told my grandparents, who were taking me to church at the time, to stop picking me up on Sunday mornings, and I put my Bible in a box and I stopped trying to pray. I didn’t pray for two years. And during that time, I really lost my way. I made friends who weren’t the best influences and I treated my family poorly. I just didn’t care about God or the Bible or his plan for my life. I was selfish and self centered.

But I guess I reached a point where I felt too empty to want that sort of life anymore. So on a random night in tenth grade, I just told myself to be a Christian again. And I was. The next day I pulled out my Bible for the first time in two years and began reading. I started talking to God like we had never stopped. I even started going to church again. And I haven’t looked back since.

Seriously following Jesus these past six years has been the best decision of my entire life. Because I find joy in this relationship. I find freedom and healing and wonder and peace. But you know what? I also sometimes find sadness. And doubt. And questions. And that’s what I want to talk about today.

I knew since last week that I wanted to talk to you guys this morning about having a personal relationship with Jesus because I feel like it’s really easy for adults, especially pastors at church, to give us the do’s and dont’s of being a Christian. They define sin for us and godly living for us all the time. And I don’t know if it’s just me, but sometimes I feel like I need a relationship with Jesus to be defined too. Like what does that even mean?

What is a relationship with Jesus supposed to look like? Is it a relationship that has ups and downs, that goes through dry seasons and mood swings? Or is it supposed to be sturdy and steady and always the same? 

Lately as I’ve been thinking about this and trying to answer that question, I’ve been thinking about my relationship with my mom. My mom is my best friend. My mom has meant so much to me that she’s going to be walking down the aisle with me as my Matron of Honor when I get married this October. I can’t think of anyone else who’s done so much for me and has been so understanding of me and supportive of me. I feel like I can tell her just about anything. I love where my relationship with my mom is.

But her and I weren’t always close. In fact, when I was in middle school, I hardly wanted anything to do with her. I was such a moody preteen. Anything she said just made me so mad. Just a “hey, how was school” when I walked through the door was enough for me to roll my eyes. And she didn’t know what to do with my mood swings, so she’d just call me Miss Attitude and I’d go up to my room and not come down until dinner. Her and I just did not get along. And I know most of it, if not all of it, was my fault. Anytime she wanted to get close to me, I’d come up with reasons to keep her at an arms length. I pushed her away and our relationship suffered. In fact it wasn’t recovered until years later when I finally understood that my mom wasn’t out to destroy my life. She was actually trying to help me build my life. I mean, fathom that. My twelve year old self didn’t see that coming. Some of you in this room still don’t understand that about your parents. And for right now, that’s okay. I hope you do someday.

My relationship with Jesus reminds me of my relationship with my mom because it’s had ups and downs.

Some of you guys might know what I mean by that. We have these long periods of wanting to pray all day everyday. We want to read the Bible all the time. We want to go to every Bible study known to mankind so we can soak in all the wisdom and Jesus that we can. And then there are periods of time where we are like, “Hello? Are you there?” Reading the Bible feels like a chore. We don’t notice anything different about us when we do read. We can’t find the right words to pray. We don’t see him in our lives like we used to. We may even start to question if he’s moving in our lives at all.

While I was preparing to give this sermon, I was reminded of a really strange thing that happened to me two years ago while I was staying with my friend Lacey in her hometown. Lacey lives in this really southern town called Thomasville, which is like four hours South of here. And while in Thomasville, her and I would walk around the downtown district there and just hang out and look in the shops. One day, we found this patio kind of hidden behind a gate that someone left open, and there were some cute tables and chairs set up there. It was closed off and shaded by plenty of trees. It was really beautiful. And since she had her Bible and I had mine, we decided that was where we would have our time with God. For about a half hour, we read and journaled and prayed in silence.

That day I was reading the story in the book of John about Lazarus, the man who died and was risen to life by Jesus. In this passage, Jesus is summoned to go see his dear friend Lazarus who is ill, but instead of going to see him right away, Jesus waits. Now this is the man who is known for healing and saving lives. This is the man who’s been walking around town spreading the news about Gods love and goodness. And yet he waits to go to Lazarus. And when he finally makes it to where Lazarus and his sisters are staying, he finds that Lazarus is already dead.

Now this is the most difficult part of the story for me: When Jesus finally makes it to Lazarus’ house DAYS later, Lazarus’ sister named Mary falls down at Jesus’ feet and says to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ And as she’s weeping on the ground, Jesus begins to weep as well.

I knew that the story ends with Lazarus being raised back to life, but I was stuck on that one part for a long time, the image of Mary just being completely filled with sorrow before Jesus, the man she thought was going to be there and heal her brother.

As I read this story and sat with Lacey, I began to pray and I told God that I don’t understand him. I knew that Jesus was glorified through Lazarus’ death, but I couldn’t bear the thought of Mary’s suffering. I just didn’t understand it.

But what happened next was something I needed to see.

After I finished praying, I looked over to see what Lacey was doing. She was watching the birds playing in the trees above us and her Bible was opened to Luke 12, to a passage that talked about sparrows. The one that says something about how not one sparrow is forgotten by God and we don’t have to worry because we are worth more than many sparrows.

Well, as I was looking at this passage in her Bible, I started thinking about birds too. So here were Lacey and I, both sitting and thinking about birds in this beautiful isolated patio while trees are swaying and birds are playing above us.

And then those same birds, the ones she was watching, suddenly flew into a glass window just a few feet from us and dropped to the ground. Three of them. We were speechless, stunned. And those birds just laid there, motionless.

Now Lacey is the bold one and she jumped up to examine the birds while I was still sitting there and tears were flowing down my cheeks. I couldn’t believe what I had just seen. Lacey confirmed after a second that at least one bird was dead. And I remember asking God in that moment, What does this mean?

The two other birds, she then realized, were unmoving but breathing, like they were paralyzed. At first she told me she was going to have to kill them, which I could not emotionally handle at all. But then Lacey did what I didn’t have the courage to do. She picked up the birds and stroked them and started praying over them. So I started praying, too. And I remember my prayer was something like:

God, it says in your Word that if you care for the birds, then you must care for us too, right? …But what does this say about your love and care for us if you DON’T care for these birds? 

I was afraid to know the answer. But shortly after silently asking this, both of those birds were healed and flew back up into the trees as if nothing had ever happened. We were stunned. We didn’t know what to say.

And you might be thinking that wasn’t an answer to our prayers because maybe the birds were just in shock and were never paralyzed to begin with. Regardless, I do believe that God was there that day because I know that he was trying to tell me something through those injured birds. God wanted me to know that day that he does not need to prove anything to me. He doesn’t. And whether or not those birds continued to suffer and slowly die, his love and his goodness for you and I would still be true. It’s always been true and it always will be true. 

What I think God wanted me to learn from that day and what I think he’s wanting me to communicate with you today is that Jesus is in a relationship with you and he wants that relationship. He fights fiercely for that relationship. And if it feels like he’s silent and not doing anything and not present in your life sometimes, that’s okay.

His faithfulness to you far outweighs your questions and doubt. 

And those questions and doubts are a normal part of any relationship. When you are feeling distant from God, it’s okay to ask those questions. Where are you, God? Are you really there? Do you really care? Because when you ask those questions, he gets the chance to answer. And it’s not a quick “Yep, I do. You betcha” kind of answer.

It’s an answer that you will see played out over the course of your life — if you choose to see it.

Just like how as a preteen, your mom or dad’s love for you might not make sense, but as an adult they could very well be your best friends and everything is suddenly crystal clear.

Let Jesus be your friend. Let yourself be in this relationship with him. Because even though you might not see the full fruit of it right now, just like Mary didn’t understand the miracle she was about to witness in her dead brother’s life, you will see it over time. If you’re like me and sometimes wonder where your relationship with Jesus is at, just know that it’s not so much WHERE the relationship is at, but rather WHAT you are learning where you are at. Are you grasping the things he’s trying to show you? Are you learning to lean on him even when you can’t see him? Are you starting to figure out what his grace and mercy for you really means?

We are told in Scripture that we will find God when we seek him with all our hearts. And if you’re struggling to feel God’s presence in your life and you’re in a silent, dry season, that verse is still true. Because what that verse doesn’t say is that we will INSTANTLY find God when we seek him RIGHT NOW with all our hearts. God doesn’t operate in our timing. We won’t find him the very instant we want him. And that’s a good thing. Because he lets himself be seen and felt when he knows we need it most. Only he knows the growth that we need. Only he can tell the perfect time for us.

Think about this: Only Jesus knew that Mary’s brother wouldn’t remain dead forever. And the fact that he wept with her in her suffering instead of give her the quick reassurance right then and there might seem kind of mean, but it’s not. Because after that point, when Mary thought of her relationship with Jesus, he wasn’t just the man who healed her brother and did what she wanted him to do when she wanted him to do it. No, Jesus was now her friend, the one who wept with her and was there with her in her sorrow. That’s one of the moments she would have remembered most later on in her life. She would’ve carried that with her for a very long time. I bet the fact he was there with her in that moment, sharing in her sorrow, meant more to her later on in her life than a pat on the back and a quick reassurance would have meant.

Jesus went from being a miracle man to her best friend because he gave her what she really needed, not what she wanted. 

Jesus gives us what we need, too. He gives us what we need and not just what we want. Just like our parents. They know what’s best and we don’t understand that. But with time, we might begin to see and then our relationship can grow for the better.

What might happen to our faith if we stopped putting God in a box? What if we started seeing Jesus as someone so much bigger than a book or a sermon or a church or a worship song? What if we stopped accusing him of being absent and just started trusting that whether or not he proves it when we want him to prove it, he is actually all around us and loving us more than we could ever imagine being loved?

If we want to be in this relationship with Jesus, we need to understand that this relationship will not be as uniform and predictable as we want it to be. That’s why our testimonies are all so different. That’s why some of you guys went to camp and were forever changed and some of you guys went to camp and came back pretty much the same. And if you were one of those people who expected this big life change and then came back not really understanding why you went in the first place, I want you to know that Jesus did not leave your side at all. Not once.

But just because he was by your side doesn’t mean he was going to whisper all the answers you wanted in your ear. 

We want answers, don’t we? We want to know everything. I want to know why those birds hit that window. I want to know why it was Mary’s brother who had to be the one to taste death. I want to know why I went through that two-year period of not praying or caring.

But will knowing why really change all that much? Will having all of the answers we desire satisfy us? Will it make our relationship with Jesus richer and deeper and fuller? I don’t think so. There’s nothing in the Bible that says that when we seek the answers, we will find the answers if we seek them with all our hearts. There’s some things we don’t need to know.

But we need to remain committed to this relationship, whatever it looks like for us right now. Some of you guys are in dry, confusing seasons where you’re not sure of what following Jesus means yet and you don’t even know if you want to. Some of you have been a Christian for years but you’re not sure of how it’s changed your life all that drastically. Some of you have been experiencing the most amazing times of your life, growing in your faith like never before. Whichever one of those groups of people you fall into, I want you to know that your relationship with God will go through ups and downs, just like any relationship. But it’s the best relationship worth committing to.

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Four Reasons I Talk About My Fiancé Behind His Back

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I talk about my fiancé, Grant, behind his back. Sometimes I say good things about Grant; other times I say less-than-good things about Grant. And despite popular belief that this is a big no-no in relationships and marriages, I’d like to give you four reasons for why I feel the need to talk about my fiancé behind his back and why I believe our relationship has been better for it. Maybe by the end, you’ll start wanting to talk about your significant other behind their backs, too.

Four Reasons I Talk About My Fiancé Behind His Back

Reason #1.

Talking about Grant with my therapist has enabled me to become a better partner to Grant.

When I first began weekly therapy sessions with my professional therapist back in October, I was nervous. I was afraid that if I told Tonya everything that was going on in my life, including the nitty-gritty details of my relationship with Grant, I would be judged or labeled as “the troubled one.” I already knew I had control issues prior to seeking counseling; I didn’t need someone blatantly pointing out all of my perfectionist tendencies and anger management problems.

But once I began talking about Grant with Tonya, I quickly realized that this was something I should have done many months earlier. This is because no matter how hard I try, I cannot solve my issues on my own. Healing isn’t something I can force in my own bedroom. I need someone to help me pick through some of the rubble in order to salvage the good and make something beautiful. And despite how helpful Grant tries to be, there are simply some things that I need to hear from another woman. And from someone who, frankly, just knows what they’re talking about.

Because I have shared my insecurities about my relationship with my therapist, I have been able to better understand where those insecurities originated from. When I describe the way Grant and I communicate and handle conflict, she coaches me on how to be someone who fights fair. I have even brought Grant with me to see Tonya more than once so he and I could work through our anxieties, arguments, and miscommunications together. And the fact that she shares our faith and values makes her counsel even more relatable and impactful.

Having a professional give their opinion on your relationship might sound intrusive, but I truly believe it’s one of the best things I could be doing for Grant and I, especially considering the season we are in. There’s no way Grant and I would be this mature and better prepared for marriage (notice how I didn’t just say prepared because, let’s face it, we’re still not ready) if I didn’t start seeking guidance and counsel from someone as wise, understanding, and experienced as my therapist. By the way, I’m also an advocate of seeking mentorship from other couples within your church, Bible studies, family, or your community.

The point is that it’s not bad to talk to a professional about your significant other and your relationship with them. It’s actually the opposite of bad; it’s tremendously helpful and healthy. And the best part, in my opinion, is that you don’t have to feel guilty about talking about your SO behind their back (because how could they possibly get mad at you for seeking help on both of your behalves)?

I talk about Grant behind his back so I can be a better partner to him. And honestly, I should be getting brownie points for working this hard. Therapy is some exhausting, hardcore stuff — like kickboxing, only you have to use your words.

Reason #2.

Talking about Grant with family and friends helps me appreciate the role he plays in my life.

I love when people ask me how Grant and I first started dating because it gives me a chance to brag on this man’s faithfulness to me. I friend-zoned him, completely rejected him from the get-go, but he persisted. And a year later, when my eyes were finally opened to see the nerdy stud that he was, the fact that he was still smitten with me and willing to pursue me gave me a glimpse of just how special this man really was. And it doesn’t stop there.

Every time my friends and family talk to me about Grant, I’m given another opportunity to brag on how good he is to me. But no matter how much I have to brag about, I also feel the need to be honest and share our weaknesses and struggles, too. Like the fact he gets on my nerves. A lot. That’s something I probably shouldn’t hide; otherwise, people would ask why my eyes sometimes seem to be permanently glued to the top of my head and my mouth looks more like a scowl than a smile. I also like to tell people that Grant is a passive arguer, but that just does me more harm than good because they then realize I’m the true culprit of probably ninety percent of our arguments and conflict.

The more I give people little insights into our relationship, the more appreciative of Grant I become. Because at the end of the day, I am able to say that he is still one of the hardest working, most faithful men I know. No matter how berating and stubborn I can be, he is still always willing to hold my hand and wipe my tears. No matter how hopeless things sometimes seem when I feel the weight of my sin nature within the context of our relationship, he is still encouraging us to keep praying and pressing on. Being able to share these things with people not only helps them see the role he plays in my life, but it helps me see it, too.

I talk about Grant behind his back because when our relationship sometimes feels routine and things get hard, it’s nice to be reminded that he is my faithful partner who’s stuck with me through thick and thin. And the best part is that he actually wants to keep at it for the rest of his life. That’s impressive. No other man besides my daddy can boast of having such a love for me. And it’s that kind of love I am willing to talk about with anyone who will listen.

Reason #3.

Talking about Grant through my writing encourages others in their relationships.

The first time I wrote a post about Grant, I expected to be tagged as mouthy and over-sharing. My mom tells me that the more I talk about Grant on my blog, the more ammo I give other women who may want to try to get between us. And she has a point. Grant just gets more handsome by the day (I’m in love and dead serious so don’t laugh). But I don’t want to live in fear of what my writing could do to our relationship because I enjoy seeing what it’s doing for other people in their relationships.

I love that I was able to have a Skype call today with a woman I met over Instagram who, like me, is engaged. After reading my blog post on my fears concerning marriage, she related to it so much so that she actually wanted to talk to my boring, weird self and offer me some much-needed encouragement. I had no idea that this stranger would somehow become my friend and speak into my life after being spoken to through my blog. Once again, I was reminded that our writing can transcend our expectations if we let it.

I love that people seem to be more willing to talk about the hard things now, too. I feel like I see so many married couples who stray away from confessing struggles or issues that they have because they fear the negative affect it could have on their marriage. What I believe is that honesty can be harmful if you’re not careful, but it’s important nonetheless. Take risks, but risk wisely. If you know that someone could grow and benefit from hearing your experiences, I think it does more harm than good to remain in silence and hide away. In case you haven’t realized, I’ve quit hiding (for the most part). I want people to see the real me so they can love me and support me and maybe even relate to me. And they have. For the same reasons, I want people to see Grant and I for the real “us.”  I don’t want to endanger my relationship with Grant in any way, and it’s for that reason precisely that I sometimes open my big, fat mouth and blab away. I trust that God is giving me discernment and also protecting us along the way. And don’t worry — I do have limits.

I also love that when I wrote about the things no one tells you about being engaged, I saw many people jumping out of their seats, saying, “ME TOO.” Like holy cow. If more people had just told me that they were also experiencing these things and that my feelings are completely normal, I PROBABLY WOULD HAVE BEEN SO MUCH MORE PREPARED FOR THIS. Thanks a lot, guys. This is why we need more people talking about their fiancés behind their back.

I talk about Grant behind his back so others can be encouraged and built up. This world needs more authenticity when it comes to the realities of relationships and marriages. I praise God for the books on marriage sitting on my bookshelf because they were written by authentic authors. Their willingness to share their experiences and hardships have enabled me to better prepare for marriage and grow into the partner I sometimes fear I can’t be. My hope is that through my writing, I am having even just a fraction of that impact on somebody out there who feels afraid and alone at times, just like me.

Reason #4.

Talking about Grant with God does more good for our relationship than all of my feeble efforts combined.

Some of my most honest, heartfelt prayers have been prayers concerning Grant and I. And I’m not talking about the “Lord, please protect my fiancé because I love him so much” prayers. I’m talking about the “Lord, I’m at my wit’s end. I freaking hate everything that is happening. I honestly don’t understand why you created men. If you could just help me understand, then maybe Grant and I could have a chance. But I’m losing it! Can’t you tell I’m losing it? Lord, how many times do I have to scream and cry for you to do something? I can’t do this. I’m going to quit. I have no idea of what I’m doing. I don’t know how to love. I don’t know how to be loved. This sucks and I just don’t know if I can keep doing it” prayers.

What happens when I pray these prayers is that I learn to see God for who he is just a little bit more than I did before. And the reason this happens is because I am also seeing myself for who I am just a little bit more. And here is who I am when I am on my knees, crying out to God: a woman desperate for something more beautiful than what she could make with her own hands and free will, a woman so lost and confused that she knows she’s going to have to lean wholeheartedly on God, a woman so fed up that she’s finally willing to die to self and surrender all.

When I resurface from these prayers, I usually run straight to Grant, wanting to make things right (because odds are that I was responsible for something gone wrong). I also am somehow willing to forgive again despite being hurt by the same thing for the hundredth time and there not being a single solution in sight.

The thing about prayer is that it isn’t designed to change God; it’s designed to change us. And it has changed me. It’s made me into a fighter, a warrior. It’s opened my eyes to the work of God.

I talk about Grant behind his back because we need someone bigger than us fighting for us. The enemy has tried so many times to divide Grant and I. And there have been days where he probably thought he was successful. But the fact we are still standing and still moving forward proves that there is a higher power working on our behalf. The lies of the enemy are no match against the truth of God. And every time I cry out to God in prayer, I’m allowing myself to believe in that truth once again. When I pray, I am reminded that I can do nothing without God. He is my everything. He is our everything. He is the Rock on which Grant and I stand. 

And if that’s not enough reason to start talking about your man behind his back, then I don’t know what is.

Eighteen Things No One Told Me About Being Engaged

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There were a lot of things people didn’t warn me about prior to getting engaged, such as how being engaged doesn’t look anything like it does on social media. I think it’s too easy to get caught up in this idea that the season of engagement is supposed to be purely blissful and filled with photos, presents, and romance. For the benefit of those who are currently engaged or going to someday be engaged, I’ve put together a list of things that I have learned over the past four months on what planning a wedding, preparing for a marriage, and being engaged is really like.

. . . . .

Eighteen Things No One Told Me About Being Engaged

1. You will feel somewhat guilty for every decision you make pertaining to your wedding when your parents’ money is involved.

Very few of us have the privilege of coming from a well-off family that has thirty grand to spend on their daughter’s special day. I am not one of those few. My mom gave me a budget and at first, her number sounded too high. As time is passing by, however, I’m realizing that it’s pretty difficult, if not nearly impossible, to have your dream wedding without costing your mom and dad a couple (and by couple, I mean TEN) of thousands of dollars.

2. You will wonder if your flaws and weaknesses will end up being the downfall of your marriage.

If you knew you had faults before, you will certainly realize the gravity of them when you get engaged. All of a sudden, you’ll realize that someone is COMMITTING THEIR LIFE TO YOUR CRAZY, MESSED-UP SELF. And you’ll wonder if you’ll be the one to ruin it all. As a result, you will go into self-improvement overdrive. When that doesn’t work, you’ll think that maybe you should just do them a favor and break the whole thing off.

3. You will wonder if YOUR PARTNER’S flaws and weaknesses will end up being the downfall of your marriage.

If you thought you were critical before, then you haven’t seen nothing yet. There’s something about the idea of “wow, I’m going to spend the rest of my life with this person” that sends you into obsessive, crazy mode. You will nitpick every single thing they do, and become familiar with the phrase, “you better not do that when we’re married.” When fixing your partner’s problems doesn’t work, you may even think that you should just do yourself a favor and break the whole thing off.

4. You will mentally size up anyone and everyone’s engagement/wedding rings.

No matter how breathtakingly beautiful your ring is, there will be someone whose diamond is brighter and whose band is more intricate. And even though you’ll claim that you don’t care about the size of your diamond and you think your ring is perfect, you will start to wonder if people are judging you based off of yours just like you’re judging them. But of course you won’t vocalize these thoughts because 1) you would break the heart of the man who spent all that money on it, and 2) who wants to be that woman who isn’t satisfied with the ring she is supposedly in love with? By the way, having these thoughts, I’ve realized, is not dissatisfaction. It’s insecurity. There is a difference.

5. You will feel like you’re already married, which only makes things more difficult.

I’m going to be frank with you: there’s nothing worse than having to say goodnight and retreat to separate beds when you know that in just a couple of months you’ll be in the same bed every night. When you get engaged, sleeping with the love of your life (and no, I do not just mean sexually) is no longer just a dream or fantasy to you; it’s soon-to-be reality. But just because it WILL be true doesn’t mean it is just yet. And waking up to that fact isn’t fun at all. You will not only hate climbing into bed alone, but you will even hate brushing your teeth, cooking breakfast, and going grocery shopping alone. You will be so fixated on the future in which you and your partner will finally be in the same home that you will begin to loathe your separate lives. AND NO ONE WARNED ME ABOUT THIS. Maybe people danced around it and said things to me like, “oh, you will want a short engagement.” BUT I THOUGHT THEY WERE JUST TALKING ABOUT SEX AND NOW I KNOW IT’S SO MUCH MORE THAN THAT AND IT SUCKS.

6. You will secretly (or vocally) loathe purchases that your partner makes with his money.

Because soon his money will become your money. And there’s no way you want to see all of your money going towards comic books, iTunes, and computer speakers. You want that money to go towards the nail salon instead. Did I mention that you’ll discover your fiancé’s abhorrence of credit cards is an actual PHOBIA that he will USE AGAINST YOU EVERY TIME HE SEES THOSE STUPID CARDS IN YOUR WALLET??? Just don’t get them if you think they might be an issue, folks. Dave Ramsay was right; money fights are real.

7. You will realize that you no longer like some of your ideas of being a thrifty bride.

Like when you look at wedding dresses in thrift stores and on Craigslist. Buying someone’s used wedding dress might be pragmatic, but it certainly is not all that romantic. The first time you try on a brand new wedding dress in an actual wedding dress store, you most likely won’t check another thrift store or Craigslist post again. You will also realize that just having a chili bar at your wedding, though cute for the Fall season, is not going to fill the stomachs of your family members and friends who drove eight hours or stood in line at an airport to see you get married.

8. People will make you feel like all you are is a bride.

Never-mind the fact that you have a ministry and personal goals and school and a blog. When people see you, the first thing they’ll talk to you about is the fact that you’re getting married… and then the conversation will end.

9. You will find the perfect wedding dress, purchase it, take it home, and then spend the rest of the time leading up to the wedding thinking about whether you should return it.

Is it really the most flattering one? Are you sure it doesn’t make my waist too large? But is it too fancy? Too big? Too plain? You will begin to doubt everything about that dress sitting in your closet, even though you felt like a beautiful princess when you first tried it on and all of your family members cried when they saw you in it. FOMO (or the Fear of Missing Out) will take over in ways you never realized it could.

10. You will realize who your real cheerleaders are.

You will find out whether or not your parents are really all that fond of your significant other. If they actually are (and thank God this is the case for me), they will shower you with more love than you ever anticipated. You’ll begin to freak out and think that maybe they just want to get rid of you. Why else would they be throwing so much money, advice, and free furniture at you? It might be shocking to see just how supportive your family is (and if they’re not, it could be equally as shocking to see just how indifferent or insensitive they are). You will also begin to realize which of your friends are cheering you on and which ones could care less as long as they get a seat on your big day.

11. You will accidentally turn into a Brideszilla in front of your fiancé.

Your fiancé will pretend to know what they’re talking about when it comes to wedding planning, and this will only piss you off. You will start to rant about how hard you’re working to make this day perfect while all he does is ask stupid questions and make dumb suggestions. “NO. JUST NO. STOP IT. I TOLD YOU LAST WEEK THE COLORS ARE CORAL AND NAVY. DON’T YOU LISTEN TO ANYTHING I SAY?!” will actually come out of your mouth in a very loud decibel. You won’t realize just how obsessive you are until it’s your wedding day on the line.

12. People will assume they are invited to the wedding when they actually aren’t.

I’ve never seen this happen in movies and I’ve never heard anyone tell me that this has occurred with them, but trust me — it happens. All of a sudden, the people you haven’t talked to since high school start commenting on your photos and asking questions about when they’re getting an invite to the wedding. This is highly uncomfortable, and besides just pretending I didn’t see these comments, I haven’t figured out a polite way to handle them so far.

13. You will fear coming across as narcissistic or self-centered when you talk about getting married on any form of social media.

You’re excited and kind of want to brag! Not in an “OOO, LOOK AT ME” kind of way, but in a “wow, can you believe that this guy picked me and we get to have a future together?” kind of way. Even though you will see many forms of “spotlight” statuses on Facebook (i.e. getting a new job or making the Dean’s List), you will become paranoid that everyone hates everything you post on social media relating to relationships, love, being engaged, or marriage. You know that saying, “you hate me cuz you ain’t me?” You will think this is actually relevant to you now. You will also think that you being engaged and posting about it is the only reason people are unfollowing you on Instagram.

14. You will consider running away and eloping just to spare yourself from any more wedding stress, not to mention the torture of the wait.

As time goes on, you get more and more fed up with all of these decisions you’re having to make and all of these months you’re having to wait. Who cares about guest lists and catering menus? You’re just ready to seal the deal and get on with it! Let’s elope and just start our lives together NOW! Grandma will forgive us, you frantically tell your fiancé as you grow more and more desperate to escape the engaged life.

15. You will ask Google wedding-related questions on a daily basis.

Such as “how to address Save the Dates”, “who pays for the honeymoon”, “how to tell someone to not bring a plus one” , “can my mother be my Matron of Honor” , “how to pick your bridesmaids” , “how to fake calligraphy” , and “do I wear my engagement ring on my wedding day.” Yes, I have had to Google every single one of these things. The Internet is an amazing place.

16. You will feel like you don’t fit into some of your social circles anymore.

Bible studies for singles or students just don’t seem to be tailored for you anymore, and even hanging out with single friends, even though you swore getting engaged wouldn’t change anything, doesn’t excite you as much as it used to. You will find that you relate to them less and less, and you will cling to the people around you who actually are in long-term relationships because you don’t feel like the odd one out around them. Yes, being engaged can actually be isolating, especially when you’re a twenty-something still in the throes of college.

17. You will be more self-conscious about how in shape you are for your wedding day than you are any other time of the year.

Even though you’re fine with your weight or your size for most of the year, the pressure to have the perfect body becomes way more real when you get engaged. You know that those wedding photos will be around FOREVER and you want to look hella good in them (or at least just have super toned arms since the whole strapless dress thing). As a result, you will fixate on exercising and eating right, which, FYI, DOESN’T MAKE YOU A GODDESS OVERNIGHT. In case you didn’t get the memo (because I sure didn’t), it’s going to take some time to break out of the sedentary lifestyle you’ve been in for the past four or five years. So good luck forcing yourself to run on the treadmill that faces the mirror and shows you just how awkward you look on that treadmill. Who do you think you are — a runner?? 

18. You will forget that God has always provided for you.

If you’re moving out of your parents’ home when you get married, you have both the excitement and fear of being out on your own. You’re imagining all of the things you and your spouse will do together while also worrying about how you’ll pay for those things. You’ll be creating budgets that you don’t know will actually work and you’ll be making financial plans that you don’t know will actually stick. And as you fixate on money and homes and material things, you will begin to see life more out of the lens of an anxious woman than a woman protected and taken care of by the Creator of the universe. You will forget that God has been there with you every time you’ve been alone and confused. You will forget that he has shown up in miraculous ways in your life, that he answers prayer. You will think that you have to do everything on your own. But you don’t.

. . . . .

My lovelies, being engaged can be an intense and anxious time. Besides the constant fantasizing of just how amazing your life will supposedly get when you’re finally married, there’s also the fear of the unplanned, unknown future. Both of these things can stifle your closeness with God if you’re not careful. This is something I’ve been experiencing firsthand and am hoping to encourage other women with if anyone is finding that they, too, are letting this chaotic wedding season take their eyes off the true Prize.

My last conclusion on this whole being engaged thing is that it isn’t as great as it looks in the movies or on Facebook, but that’s perfectly fine, especially when you think about how short of a period this is in the grand scheme.Years down the road, when Grant and I are wrinkly and grey, this season will be remembered as a blur. We will have graduated on to bigger things, like having children, buying a home, having a career, and seeing our family grow. So I’ve decided that while I’m in this “waiting period” called engagement, I’m going to try to relax and enjoy life as much as I can.

Whisper a prayer on my behalf when you think of me, please. I could use it.

And if you’ve learned any lessons from being engaged that you think other women could benefit from, please feel free to comment below! I know that I for one am desperate for more knowledge. I’m already building my long list of questions for our premarital counselor. Lord have mercy on him and on us. It’s going to be a bumpy ride, but I’m ready.

When You’re in the In-Between

Many of us are in the in-between of life. What do I mean by this?

We are in a season where we are waiting for something to happen. We are in a place that is unlike where we were, yet it’s also not where we want to be or think we should be. I call this place the in-between, and being in it often causes a perception or sensation of floating or not moving. In the in-between, it’s not unusual for us to look at the world around us and wonder why nothing is changing.

I myself am in the in-between.

I am a little over halfway through with my college education, but I still have several semesters of papers, homework, midterms and finals ahead of me before I graduate.

I am in my twenties and becoming an independent adult, but still live at home and am provided for as a child. I am transitioning, but not yet on my own.

I am engaged to the man I want to marry, but we’re not yet married. We still have at least six months to go with a wedding to plan and a joint life to prepare for.

I am working in a ministry I love and am passionate about, but still feeling like there’s something more out there for me. I have yet to solidify my calling, and I keep wondering when I will find that place where I fully belong.

I am nowhere near where I was when I first began following Christ, but in many ways I feel like I have hardly moved at all. I’m still believing many of the same lies and fighting the same battles. I can see the other side on which healing and freedom lie, but sometimes I feel like I’m not moving any closer.

I am in the in-between in almost every area of my life. And I’m realizing that the reason these times and places of in-between feel like the most grueling and challenging is because the in-between is where I most often look more at myself and less at God. I have allowed the in-between to hinder my vision of all things Kingdom-related.

It’s not because God isn’t here with me; it’s because I’ve become so consumed with getting OUT of the in-between that I have been forgetting to look for or acknowledge him.

I have been blind to the divine work happening around me. I’ve been feeling alone, wondering if my prayers are getting anywhere past the ceiling. I’ve been missing the life-changing work the Holy Spirit is doing, and I’ve been unable to identify the favor of God in my life that has been sustaining me and providing for me all along.

I don’t want to miss these things anymore. I’m starting to change my perspective and put my eyes back on the prize, and I’m now realizing that God is not waiting for me to get married, graduate, finish my book, or find my calling to begin doing miraculous work in my life. He wants to do things here and now.

This in-between I am in isn’t just an in-between to God. It’s a place where prayers can be answered, doors can be opened, and true life-changing growth can happen.

This season of waiting in my early twenties is still just as important of a time as my thirties or forties or fifties will be. The things I am investing in now are still worth investing in, even though they’re not the things I imagine myself investing in forever. The woman I am becoming is worth the work, time, and effort that has to be put in, and it’s God who’s crafting me into that woman piece-by-piece, day-by-day.

This realization is freeing. I’m beginning to recognize the fruits of the Holy Spirit being developed in me and I’m seeing the blessings of God that are enabling me to move forward with my dreams.

The same can be true for you today. You might feel like you’re always waiting for something, like you’re constantly in-between, and you’re not getting any closer to where you want to be. But my friend, feelings can be wrong. Your perceptions can be wrong. At the end of the day, you are all-faulty human and God is still all-knowing God.

Your inability to see the movement of God does not negate the movement of God that is happening.

God does not operate on your time schedule or your list of priorities, and he’s not waiting for you to get your life together to begin molding you into the image of his Son, which is his desire for you (Romans 8:29). Your Father is present and active in your life, whether you see it or not. And he still wants to use you for his glory here and now, whether you realize it or not.

You have to choose to look up.

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
    and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
    more than watchmen wait for the morning,
    more than watchmen wait for the morning (Psalm 130:5-6).

Do you know what watchmen do? Watchmen keep watch of a city or fortress throughout the night. They are on a mission to preserve and protect, and they do not let down their guard until morning comes.

How are you waiting for the Lord? Are you remaining faithful and alert, as a watchman is until morning? Or are you letting your guard down, letting distractions consume you until you forget the tasks at hand and what you’re even waiting for?

Now is not the time to stop waiting for the Lord. And waiting for the Lord doesn’t mean looking the other way and being caught by surprise when he comes.

Waiting haphazardly is not God’s desire for you in this place of in-between; you are called to wait expectantly. 

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”

The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress (Psalm 46:10-11).

While you’re in this season of stillness, do you know that God is God and what that means for your life? Do you know that his mission to bring himself glory through your life is true even today?

Look at Psalm 46:11: the God of Jacob is our fortress.

He’s the one we’re waiting for and the one we wait for.

Just as a watchman waits for morning because of the fortress they are charged with protecting, we wait for God because of God, because we know who he is and we desire his active presence in our lives. We are waiting for him to do the work only he can do.

I know the in-between is tough and you want a way out, but if you’re too busy looking for your dreams to come true, you will forget why you’re waiting. You will forget that God is still good and still working and one hundred percent worth waiting for.

The in-between is not an abyss. The in-between is a place like any other place — one in which God is sovereign and on your side. He is still for you. Even if you’re not for the current life you’re living.

I am praying over you and I the very prayer Paul spoke over the church in Ephesus once upon a time.

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come (Ephesians 1:17-21).

In other words:

God, give us your wisdom through the Holy Spirit so we can know you and see you better. We need enlightenment, Lord. We need heart knowledge of who you are and what you’re doing. This hope you’ve called us to is sometimes forgotten. Jesus, I’m asking you to help us remember. In these times of longing and confusion, give us the ability to not only recognize your great power, but to wield that great power in our own lives. The power of your love, grace, and sovereignty is far greater than any circumstances we find ourselves in or any scheme that is set up against us. You are with us now and you will be with us always. Thank you. We love you. Amen.

When You Don’t Feel Good Enough

Photo by Cameron Russell via Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/camkage/5443790466)

Photo by Cameron Russell via Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/camkage/5443790466)

“You’re not a failure,” he reassures me.

“I know I’m not a failure, but I feel like I’m failing.”

There’s a difference, you know.

I know deep down that there’s a reason I’m here. And it’s not to have a simple career with a simple marriage and a simple life. My purpose is more complex than that (with a sprinkle of passion, too).

But what do you do when you feel like you’re so far from reaching that purpose? When it feels like you’re constantly wandering away from what you thought you cared about, when it seems like everyone has something to say about where your life should go?

The truth is I struggle with feeling good enough for anyone and everything. I want to please them all, I do.

Get the help you need, she says. You don’t need that kind of help, another tells me.

Let him be there for you, I’m told. You’re asking for too much, I hear again.

Focus on what’s right in front of you, they say. Don’t wait to chase down that dream, the others say.

All I can think is, I’m letting them down. I’m letting myself down. I’m letting God down.

I know I’m not a failure because I keep showing up to this thing called life. I know I’m not a failure because I keep putting one foot forward. But I feel like I’m failing, or maybe I’m just constantly falling — constantly falling in and out of love of different ideas thrown at me on how my life should look and what I should try to be.

While people are telling me to do this or that, what I’m hearing is, you have to be perfect. Or at least better than this.

And that word — ‘perfect’ — has been haunting me for many years of my life.

 

I have often looked to the one who loves me and surely must know me best, and I have said, I don’t feel good enough. But none of his reassurances have really done it for me. They don’t settle the chaos in my gut. They don’t stop me from searching and fumbling and hurtling and screaming. If anything, they just give me ideas in my head of how much better he is for me than I am for him.

So I’ve been learning, slowly but surely, that I have to stop always looking to that one. He’s ‘my everything’, but he’s not my everything. He holds much of my heart, but he’s not the one who can mend it.

Jesus.

Yes, yes, I need Jesus.

Because even though I come to the Cross with a trail of mistakes, all Jesus sees is me. And the way he sees me is unlike what other people see in me.

The world praises me for my performance and gifts and the good things I’m working towards. Meanwhile, he rejoices in me simply because I am his.

And if that doesn’t sound like the most beautiful of romances to you, let me break it down for you.

I am in Christ, and therefore I am no longer just myself. I am a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). This new creation isn’t an improved version of myself; it’s a version of myself that is unlike myself. It’s like Jesus (Galatians 2:20).

If the idea of no longer being ‘yourself’ and all of a sudden being like Jesus doesn’t sound too pleasant, let’s take a look at who Jesus is.

Jesus is victorious. The conqueror of death. Blameless. Holy. Pure. Perfect life. Perfect love. Perfect.

Why yes, I would love to be more like Jesus. Because have you met me apart from Jesus?

I myself am a hundred thousand miles from being perfect, but in Jesus’ eyes, I am all I need to be because I am his. I am perfectly his. I am perfect in Christ.

All those things he is — victorious, conqueror of death, blameless, holy, pure —  I now have resting in me. He let me in on the mystery of the gospel. And the mystery is this — Jesus came to save the lost and restore the broken. Now that I know, I can’t un-know. Now that I am brought into his kingdom and have been chosen to be his holy and blameless daughter (Ephesians 1:4), I can’t not be that woman.

This is the truth I hold onto when I start to hear those taunting words, you’re not good enough.

They’re right, you know.

I’m not good enough. I’m actually even better than that.

I know that these things I’m saying aren’t particularly profound. They’s actually just foundational truths of Christianity. If you don’t think they are, then maybe you’ve been too picky with your Scripture.

The reason why I’m even sharing these things is because I know that you question if you’re good enough.

And I want to be the voice — no, I want Jesus himself — to tell you, yes, you are.

And for once in your life, I want you to believe it.

Yes, you might feel like you’re failing and falling and every ugly thing in between. But look at WHOSE you are, not just who you are. You might feel overwhelmed and trapped by these varying ideas of how to find that perfect life and be that perfect person, but you can be freed by the knowledge that you are perfect in every way in the heavenly realm already.

It’s a process and a pretty long one at that. I think it’s called sanctification, which I kind of see as a constant, never-ending journey to the dumpster. We always have more to dump. There’s always something to rid ourselves of (and we usually have to rid ourselves of the same things over and over again).

For today, let’s start by dumping these lies that we have to live up to everyone’s expectations and be this perfect person for people just as messy and lost.

If you need help dumping those lies, it might help to imagine you shoving them into Jesus’ scarred hands and screaming, TAKE THIS BECAUSE ONLY YOU CAN. It sounds a little forceful, but I think those lies could use a good shove.

And when you start to make some progress in this whole dumping thing (because I trust that you’re not just going to read this, close your browser, and walk away), take some time to remind yourself that it’s not you making this progress. It’s the Holy Spirit in you. It’s the work that’s already been done on the Cross, the victory that’s already been secured for us.

Don’t dump the pressure to be perfect and then make yourself feel better by thinking that you’re closer to being perfect.

You’re not closer to being perfect, at least not here on earth. You’re closer to being free and you’re closer to looking like Jesus, which are two things infinitely better than getting everyone’s approval (including the approval of your own perfection-seeking self).

And when all of this is said and done, live out the rest of your day and prepare for another fight. It’s okay that there will be another fight because you are a fighter. I know you’re a fighter and not a failure because you keep showing up to this thing called life, as do I.

We need to keep doing this. It might get easier. It might not. But THIS is our purpose, the reason for why we’re here. We are here to live as Jesus calls us to live — free. Free to love. Free to dream. Free to fight. Free to hope. Free to live a godly life. Free to seek the Lord.

We were never meant to be enslaved to approval-seeking. We were always meant to be his.

When You Get Engaged

Grant proposed to me on December 13th and I am officially an engaged woman! Wedding planning has me stoked (probably a tad too stressed, as well), and I know that being engaged is supposed to be an exciting, celebratory time. And I am excited and celebrating.

But I’d be lying if I said that Grant and I are having the time of our lives. I pray to God that this is not all there is.

Because relationships are not easy. They are back-breakingly hard.

And if you are dying to be in my shoes, I want you to know that sometimes I’d really like to be in yours.

This is where everyone scolds me for getting engaged. You’re not ready! Are you sure he’s the right one? This is an awful attitude to have when you’re getting married. 

But is it so awful? To have the realization NOW that love feels almost impossible sometimes than have that realization AFTER we vow to spend the rest of our lives together?

I’m thankful that my eyes are opened continually to the selfishness of my nature and the selfishness of his. I’m perhaps even glad that we fight and raise our voices and feel hurt from the weight of each other’s weaknesses.

Why? Because when I say “I do” to this man, I’ll know that I really mean it. I’ll know that this commitment I am declaring before God and my loved ones hasn’t been made in blind love. It’s been made through tears and anger and fears and some bitterness, too.

I believe that the decision to marry someone is a commitment that should not be made when you’re happy. It should be made when you’re in your lowest of lows, when you’ve seen some of the tough stuff that this commitment will ask of you and bring into your life.

Although I know marriage is not all there is to life, I do believe God designed it to be a beautiful and life-long demonstration of Christ’s love for us. And in case you are unaware, Christ loves us through EVERYTHING. Our good times, our best behavior, and also our weakest and darkest moments. It doesn’t make sense. And Grant and I want to love each other in this nonsensical way, too.

We must be crazy because we are nowhere near ready to be married. We are young and immature and bad at love. Yet we are ready for marriage in the regard of signing up for this ludicrous idea of lifelong love anyway… because that’s the kind of commitment that I know marriage takes.

After watching married couples struggle and fight and divorce and mourn, I know that the ones who remain committed to each other must be crazy. And not crazy in love. They’re so crazy that they plot murder while somehow not acting on it. They’re wrapped up in a terrifying, almost-ridiculous commitment that watches love walk out the door again and again yet still hopes and still stands firm.

I’ve only begun making this commitment to Grant. It’s something you do with an officiant and some witnesses, but it’s also a decision you continue to make and live with for the rest of your life. And I want to take the next step.

Because I know this is one back-breaking, gut-wrenching commitment that will take me places I didn’t want to go and then carry me to places I never want to leave.

The reality is that relationships and marriages will face opposition and bring you some of the worst pain you’ve ever known all while being one of the greatest adventures you could ever ask to be on.

Because even though it’s far from perfect, it’s with him. And even though you will have thoughts of walking away during tough nights and loud fights, you will realize you wouldn’t want it any other way. Easier, maybe. But not if it means a different man at a different time in a different place. You see the beauty in where you are, the holy ground you both have been standing on.

And you realize that this desire to fight for just one chance with this one man is love.

Faithful, tried and true love with room to grow.

This is where Grant and I are at. I know we have so much left to learn. We’ve hardly even started figuring out this whole dating thing, let alone this permanent doing-life-together thing called marriage.

But we’ve figured out that it has to be done together. Join or die.

Are you in this with me?

Yes, I say.

Are you in this with me?

Yes, he replies.

It somehow becomes enough. When you know that you have a God beside you and going before you, you start to see things in a different way.

Thoughts of giving up become prayers of surrender. Signs of failure become opportunities for growth. A growing faithfulness to each other becomes an increased awareness of God’s faithfulness to us.

I’m sharing these things because I want you to know why I am marrying Grant, but I am also sharing these things because I want you to know what it might be like when you’re engaged. If you’re wishing to be in my shoes because you don’t yet have a ring on your finger, I want to emphasize one thing.

Having a ring on my finger has not made a single thing better. It’s just made things more real. 

And I don’t know about you, but I need more of reality. I need to see things as they really are so I can stop standing in one place and wishing for something to magically happen instead of doing the work that I know building a life together requires.

I need constant reminders that love isn’t magic. Love is a beautiful gift from God and of God that we’re still figuring out how to wield. That’s why we need to be on our knees, praying out of desperation for the things only God can do. That’s why we need to be alert, aware of the attacks of satan that have been trying to strangle Grant and I since day one.

When I first got a taste of this reality, I hated love. I hated Grant. I hated the promises I made. I hated this ring. Take it back! I wanted to scream. But after pushing through that hate and that bitterness and that fear and those doubts, I began to figure out that I do love being engaged to this man. Despite the harshness of reality and the lack of magic in this ring, I wouldn’t want it any other way. It’s a conclusion I’ll have to keep coming back to for the rest of my life. That’s marriage.

If some of these things sound like dumb reasons to get married, then I guess we’re getting married for some dumb reasons. But regardless of whether we have the best of reasons or the absolute worst, I know we’ll stay married for beautiful, wise reasons.

Christ is in it for the long haul and so are we.

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The Dead Man’s Mother

Photo by ozgurcakir via Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/6nWHbx)

Photo by ozgurcakir via Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/6nWHbx)

Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out — the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” 

Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to talk and Jesus gave him back to his mother.

They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.” This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.

. . . . . .

I have been this dead man’s mother.

I have carried broken, dead dreams. I have cried alongside coffins containing my hopes and wishes and prayers. Sometimes my heart.

And Jesus has met me on my way to bury these things. He has stopped the funeral procession in progress. Moved with compassion, he has stepped out of the crowd, lifted my chin, and whispered words of relief.

Sometimes when he does this, I look first into his eyes and then back at the coffin and say, “but they’re still dead.” What I have been carrying with me is still unmoving, void of life. I continue on with the funeral procession, desperate to bury these things in the ground and bury myself in sorrow.

But he replies, “You don’t have to bury this at all.” And with one swift motion, he approaches the dead and reverses the damage. He breathes life into what I never thought I’d see breathing again.

And I am reunited with my beloved.

I am rejoiced, overcome with gratitude and awe.

. . . . . .

This is a beautiful story of a mother whose hope was revived as Jesus interrupted a funeral procession and brought her dead son back to life.

And this, too, is my story as Jesus revives my hope and brings my dead things back to life time and time again.

I have been this dead man’s mother, yet I have also often forgotten it.

I have witnessed Jesus interrupt my funeral processions and breathe life back into my hopes and dreams, and then I have thrown accusations at him. Why didn’t you come sooner?

I have seen him change my life. I was even once that dead man. Jesus saved me as crying, praying mothers walked alongside my coffin. And yet I live as though I’m still dead, unable to move or see a future ahead.

I have been given by God what no other could give: revived hopes and dreams, a healing heart that once felt irreparably broken. And then I have felt the call of death come again, rendering me forgetful of His healing hand.

I find myself crying out as if nothing has ever happened. As if I have never seen dead things rise. As if I never was this dead man and never was this dead man’s mother.

. . . . . .

The Spirit inside of me contains the power to move mountains, yet I have been staring at mountains without making a move.

I forget the power that raised this mother’s dead son lives in me. I forget the work that has been done and the promises that have been given.

Most of all, I forget that God is good.

I question his desire to move my mountains because I’ve been staring at nothing but these mountains all my life.

Of course they’re going to seem insurmountable when all I do is gape at their largeness and question God in His faithfulness.

How is He ever going to prove His faithfulness in my life if I’m so quick to forget my once-dead son?

In Scripture, we read of stories where God came to His children’s rescue and they then built an altar to declare and remember what God had done. So where are my altars? Why am I brushing past healing, victories, and resurrections in my life? No wonder I can’t remember. No wonder I’m quick to doubt and fear.

Where is my good Father? I’ve been demanding.

Where is He not? is the better question.

. . . . . .

My declaration over today: I once was dead and now I am alive. My broken heart is being tenderly mended. My hopes and dreams have been renewed.

What has taken place is worthy of remembrance.

So today, God, I remember you.