Finding Significance

  • Made for More

    Not too long ago, in a land not so far away, I worked as an on-air radio personality, reporting the local news, weather & traffic every morning on several radio stations. Each night, before I went to bed, I would scan the headlines, and in the morning, I’d check again to catch any of the late-breaking stuff I may have missed while I was sleeping. Sadly, the headlines rarely announced any good news. As the pandemic wore on, and riots rocked many cities, including my own, the majority of the stories I’d find were full of tragedy, crime, or conflict. And after a long day, running in a million directions on too little sleep with no end in sight, my heart and soul would just ache for good news. 

    Have you experienced that feeling? That longing for someone to tell you something good? To tell you that there’s more to this life than the constant struggle and striving, that all the hard stuff you’ve been through wasn’t a waste. To tell you that you were made for more than what this world has to offer and you don’t have to wait until you’re on the other side of heaven to live life abundantly.

    If you’re feeling weary and depleted from the day-to-day fight, my friend, I have good news for you: You’re not alone, and you are made for more. 

    In fact, it’s the whole reason Jesus came. He saw us hurting in our mess and broke through the darkness to rescue us and give us something better. The moment Jesus came, everything was changed forever. That was the beginning of Kingdom life unfolding.  

    We get a sneak peek at the Kingdom of God in Isaiah 61:1-3. It’s no coincidence that Jesus directly quotes this passage in the book of Luke when He reveals His identity as the Son of God and the fulfillment of this very prophecy. 

    “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”

    I love this entire verse. Talk about the ultimate mic drop moment! I wish I could unpack all of its amazing goodness right here, but we would need more time. So over the next few weeks, we’ll be digging into more it as we lead up to the Revive Conference on February 25th! (You are totally invited, by the way, and can find out all about it here)

    Right now I want to focus on the very first little bit. The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord was on Jesus to bring good news. He himself was and is the ultimate good news. 

    When Jesus walked this earth, He literally did all of the things that we see in Isaiah 61:1-3. And He does them for us still today. He gives good news to the poor and provides for them. When we are at the end of ourselves, He always provides exactly what we need right when we need it. He carries us through the lean times and blesses us in ways we can’t even imagine. 

    He comforts the brokenhearted, holding us when we are weak, and crying with us when we weep. 

    Through His death, burial and resurrection, Jesus releases us from the chokehold of sin and redeems pain and our story, for purpose. Through Him, we have a fresh start as a new creation. 

    He gives hope and justice to those who earnestly ask for it, and one day will come again to set things right once and for all. 

    He takes the ashes of our lives, the messes, and the brokenness and gives us a crown of beauty instead. He takes our despair and mourning, holds and heals our hearts, giving us instead a spirit of praise and joy that transcends our circumstances.

    All we have to do is lean in. Rest in the arms of our Savior and give Him the hurt and broken pieces of our hearts and lives. He does all the rest. You don’t have to earn it and you don’t have to compete for it. You don’t have to run yourself ragged doing all the things. God’s love is not something you can lose, and you don’t have to worry about being perfect. There’s nothing that you can do to mess up His plans. God’s Kingdom does not depend on our ability, strength, perfection, or talent. You just have to say, “Ok, Lord, here I am.” It’s the safest and sweetest surrender you’ll ever know. 

    God could have just stopped there. He could have just rescued and restored us, dusted us off, and set us back on the road. Instead, He invites us to join Him, to be a part of what He is doing to bring about the restoration of His creation. Through the Holy Spirit, we are empowered and mobilized to live out the same kind of Kingdom life we have received, with everyone around us. We get to be bearers of the ultimate Good News about Jesus and invite others to be a part of God’s story unfolding.

    That doesn’t mean the rains and winds won’t blow, or that the hard times won’t come. We will still see heartache and pain in the world because God isn’t finished yet. The Kingdom is unfolding now, but the work is also not complete yet. So we will have our share of trouble, but our identity and security rest in the One who has already overcome the world. God gives us strength, hope, and purpose, and sets us apart to be a light radiating out into the darkness of our world. He commissions us to continue the work that He started through Jesus and to participate through His Spirit in His Kingdom come.

    And even when we feel the full force of the storm, and the sting of the rain on our faces, because of Jesus we can stand firm and steadfast. We can be like a mighty oak tree with our roots planted firmly in the bedrock of faith, as a display of God’s splendor.  And we get to be a safe place of refuge for others searching for solid ground and point them directly to the source of true strength, hope, and peace. 

    We get to work alongside our Heavenly Father binding up the brokenhearted, and reminding them that God is near. 

    We can tell them about freedom in Christ, that they no longer have to be stuck in sin, ruled by circumstances, anxiety or stress. They can be free from the lies that tie them up in knots and lean into the truth of who God says we are and the divine purpose He invites us all to. 

    We can remind them that God sees their suffering and that there is a day coming when God will set things right. A day when His justice will prevail, and their cause will shine like the sun. (Psalm 37:4-6)

    We can point to God at work and help them see beauty rising from the ashes. 

    We can comfort them and help them find their joy. 

    One of the beautiful things about God’s Kingdom is that through the Holy Spirit, we can be both comforted, and offer comfort to others. We can find significance, and divine purpose and know our worth in Christ. And we can help others embrace their significance, purpose, and value as well. There will be seasons when you may not feel like a mighty oak. That’s ok. There will also be seasons where others lean on you because when they look at you, they see Jesus at work. 

    So sweet friend, if you find yourself feeling lost in the darkness, consumed by the bad news of the world, or weary from the stress and strain of life’s hard realities, hold on. God’s not done yet. He has more for you. You are made for more. You are made for Kingdom Life.  

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  • After The Empty Tomb

    The last marshmallow peep finally got eaten yesterday. It was the last bit of Easter left in the house except for the tiny shreds of Easter grass I keep finding everywhere, thanks to my 14-month-old son.  

    It’s amazing how quickly holidays can come and go, and then it’s back to the usual packed schedules and hurried rhythms of life. It’s so easy, some 2,000 years later, for the awe and wonder of the resurrection to fade to a comfortable complacency in the familiarity of grace. It can be hard to find a lasting way to relate to the story in a way that connects us intimately to the God of the Universe who gave Himself up for us. 

    But when I think about that very first Easter, I think it would have been impossible to shake the overwhelming experience that the followers of Jesus witnessed so long ago. After walking, talking, and eating with Jesus daily, it would have been so jarring to have Him suddenly gone from the ebb and flow of everyday life together. My mind is especially drawn to Mary Magdalene, grieving in the garden after Jesus died. 

    Here was a woman whose life had been completely transformed by the love of Jesus. She had once been demon-possessed, outcast, and abused by society…until Jesus. He healed her miraculously, restoring her health, her dignity, and her worth. From the moment of her transformation, she followed Him, helping fund His ministry and spreading the good news that the long-awaited Messiah was here to set free the captives and bind up the brokenhearted, just as the prophet Isaiah had foretold. She trusted and loved Jesus with her whole heart, mind, and soul. (Luke 8:1-3, Luke 4:18-19, Isaiah 61:1-3

    I can’t imagine her heartache as she knelt in the garden next to His tomb the day after he had been so cruelly killed. The depth of sorrow she must have felt would be overwhelming. The Lamb of God had been sacrificed for the sin of the world, for all our sin. 

    There would be so much she couldn’t know yet, and I think that would have been the hardest part. Not knowing how to make sense of all she had seen and experienced. Not knowing what the future would hold. Maybe there was part of her still holding her breath, hoping for just one more miracle. 

    As she walked again to His tomb the next day, I imagine she had scarcely begun to allow herself to accept that He was gone, when she discovered that the tomb was empty.

    As she sobs by Jesus’ empty tomb, fearing that His body had been taken and that the only part of Jesus she had left was now truly gone, He appears, risen, alive and radiant! The miracle she had been hoping for had come. In her weariness and grief, she doesn’t recognize Him, until she hears Jesus’ voice calling her by name, “Mary.” (John 20:11-16)

    Doesn’t that just give you chills? I can’t wait to hear Jesus say my name someday. I think it will be the prettiest my name has ever sounded. 

    The moment Mary hears His voice she knows the miracle has come. Jesus is alive and standing before her, comforting her in her grief and dispelling every fear in her heart. 

    What Jesus says next is nothing short of incredible. He commissions Mary to go and tell the disciples that He had risen from the dead–to give testimony of what she had just seen and experienced. 

    He commissions Mary, a woman with a messy past, tear-stained cheeks, and eyes wide and wild with hope, to be the first gospel-bearer.

    Jesus doesn’t stop there. He tells her that she is family now, saying, “I’m going to my Father, and your father, to my God and your God.” She is now a co-heir with Christ in the Kingdom of God. In one moment, Mary goes from despair to laying hold of a hope and a future that is unshakable. (John 20:17)

    I don’t know what else Jesus and Mary may have spoken about between verses 17 and 18. But what we do see is that in the very next verse, Mary sets out on her mission. If I were Mary, my legs wouldn’t be able to carry me fast enough.

    I can only imagine that she burst into the room where the disciples were gathered, out of breath, and overjoyed when she shouted, “I have seen the Lord!” 

    I would love to have witnessed firsthand Mary telling the disciples about seeing the resurrected Jesus. I can almost picture the joy spreading like a sunbeam across the disciples’ faces as the reality sets in that Jesus is alive. Death and sin have been defeated and eternal life with Him is now available to all people, for all time. (John 20:18)

    What Mary had experienced in the garden was incredible, but what was more important was that she shared it. She told everyone about what Jesus had done in her life and in the lives of those around her. She didn’t hold back but leaned into Jesus in her story. And because she was there through it all with Him, we have the benefit of knowing about it today. 

    Maybe you’ve had a moment like Mary, standing before the empty tomb, overwhelmed by despair, hoping for a miracle. Maybe you’re wondering how you’ll be able to pay the bills and buy groceries, or you’re waiting for a breakthrough with a child who is struggling just to get through the day. Perhaps it’s a marriage that is hanging on by a thread and you just can’t see how you’ll survive one more argument, or a health crisis that makes it hard to even get out of bed each day. 

    There are so many things in this life that can threaten to overtake us. But just like in the garden, Jesus always shows up. He never fails to come through. And we have the same divine invitation now that Mary did then: to stand with the empty grave behind us and behold the Risen Savior before us. 

    Every day, Jesus calls us by name and commissions us to tell the Good News that the story did not end at the cross. We too can speak of the places in our hearts that once were dead and are now alive through Him.

    We can have confident hope that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead lives in us and empowers us to live out our purpose in Him. We are co-heirs with Christ, renewed by His love, redeemed, cleansed, and sanctified by His ultimate sacrifice. 

    That means that even if you are waiting for your miracle, praying for Jesus to show up in the middle of your mess, you can have hope. He never leaves us in our brokenness, but rather runs to meet us there, to love us and comfort us, and then calls us forward in faith to new life with Him. 

    So even though the Easter decorations are put away, and the daily hustle and bustle of life has resumed, my calling and commission, my purpose is the same: to be a Gospel Bearer. To tell of Christ crucified and raised again, and to share how He has written and redeemed my story. And like Mary Magdalene, once you’ve experienced the love of Jesus, you can’t help but shout, eyes wide and wild with hope, “I have seen the Lord!”

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  • You Are a Daughter of The King

    As I hold my sweet, 6 week old baby boy, I can’t help but smile and chuckle at the fact that as a boy-mom (now times three) I am completely outnumbered. The only other female in the house is our diva chihuahua Lucy.  My oldest boys are fifteen and eleven so my house is often home base for noisy hang sessions playing Xbox, making reaction videos on YouTube, and eating tons of pizza. Family movie night usually involves an action/adventure or alien movie, so catching a good rom-com happens on my own time. I absolutely love being a boy-mom and look forward to more noisy days with trains, trucks and Legos with our new baby boy.

    Recently though, I got to babysit my 3 year old niece and she LOVES all the girly princess movies. My time had come. She was getting over a cold, so the prescription for the day was to lay low and watch some princess movies, take a nap–totally my kind of day. As a boy-mom, I’ve never seen Frozen, or Moana or Brave or any of the fun princess movies. She showed me all her favorites while we snuggled on the couch. It was so much fun.

    As we watched and talked about our favorite princesses, I realized they all had something in common. While they were all royalty, they also struggled at times to live fully into their identity as princesses. It felt oddly relatable.

    We are children of God, daughters of the Most High King. 1 John 3:1 says “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”  Romans 8:14-17 tells us that God loves us so much he calls us his children and co-heirs with Christ. We are in a sense, princesses. I’m not talking about Disney princesses (although if I can get woodland critters to clean my house while I sing, I will count it as a total win). But like the Disney princesses, it can be hard to live fully into that identity.

    On my best days, I embrace my calling to live in relationship with my Heavenly Father, the King of Kings. I get lost in His grace and love, and marvel that He chooses me, just as I am. He shapes me to be more like him, to represent Him as a member of His family. By the power of the Holy Spirit, I walk and talk like a Daughter of the King.

    It’s harder to live this out when I am feeling tired, busy, hangry or anxious. When I’m hard-pressed for patience, it’s challenging to walk and talk like a daughter of the King. My husband and kids do not always get my best, in fact on my worst days they get the distracted, distant or short-tempered version of me. If I’m not careful, I’ll begin to operate on my own strength and my own discernment. Then I find that I can’t muster grace when it is needed and I carry myself in a manner that is less than what God has invited me to–because I’m trying to do it all on my own.

    But when I intentionally slow down and spend time with the One who made me, I remember the Princess that I am in Him. I remember that I have access to all the resources and power of the Kingdom of God. He fills my heart with peace and wisdom so that I can discern between what seems urgent and what is truly important. By the power of the Holy Spirit, I can speak life to my family and friends. Not only does my outlook change but even my countenance is lifted. Allowing God’s love to permeate my mind, restores my soul and my true identity in Christ. I can once again see the great love that He lavishes on me as his child. And I believe once again, that is who I am.

    As you go once more into the fray, and the day seems to be running you instead of the other way around, when you find you struggling to lean into your identity as God’s princess, stop and reevaluate. Are you leaning on your own strength and wisdom or on the infinite love and wisdom of the Most High King? Are you tapping into Kingdom resources or operating on your own limited supply?

    Dear friend, slow down and let Him care for you. Spend time with Him in prayer and worship and be reminded of who you are in Him. And when your cup is full, share it with others. Let Jesus be seen in your joy, in how you walk and talk, as a co-heir with Christ and daughter of a King.

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  • Experiencing Belovedness

    It had been one of those days. You know when you just feel like you can’t do anything right and everyone is mad, or at best, annoyed with you? One of those days when my insecurity seems to have me firmly by the reigns, controlling my every thought and word. The kind of day when tears sting behind my eyes, blinking with sheer will-power not to lose it completely, at least not before lunchtime. “Let me get through half the day without a meltdown, Lord” I silently pray.

    I would love to blame it all on tiredness and hormones, as nursing mama with young baby, but the truth is I woke up not feeling very beloved that day. And it felt like everything around me was confirming that lie. My husband was running late that morning and barely had time to inhale breakfast and head out the door with a distracted goodbye. The kids with whom I had spent at least two hours the night before doing homework with, were cranky and tired and complaining about more school work ahead today.

    As my cheerfulness faded to irritation, and feelings of being unappreciated surfaced, the tension in the room rose. I sulked at my husband and was short with the kids, because honestly, I felt like they were all sucking the joy out of the room. I barely had any reserves and they were zapping the last of them with all their negativity and distractedness. I got the kids out the door and off to school, all of us a little worse for wear, and as I sat in my now quiet car, the nagging sensation of conviction set in.

    In the stillness, I began to reflect over the truth of how the morning had really unfolded, separate from my tiredness and fragile emotions, and began to see things more clearly. When my husband was in a rush and hollered “bye, love you” on his way out the door, he wasn’t loving me less by neglecting to swoop in and embrace me Gone-with-the-Wind-style, he was just running late. When my kids were frustrated about school and homework, they weren’t unappreciative of the help I had given them, they were sharing their real feelings about school and homework being a drag. It had nothing to do with me, but somehow, I internalized everything hard that day. And just like that, the enemy had me right where he wanted me–feeling invisible and doubting my own belovedness, and neglecting the belovedness of those around me.

    When I start to doubt my own belovedness, my focus turns wholly on me. The temptation is great to stay powerless in that place, feeling pitiful and dangerously justified because, yes, families should appreciate and love one another and show it. But they are also human and ultimately not responsible for my happiness, confidence or sense of belovedness. That, my dear friend, is an inside job.

    I drove slowly home and offered a meek prayer to God. “Lord, I feel small and powerless and discouraged. How can I feel “beloved” when it feels like the enemy and the world around me is trying to strip me of my belovedness at every opportunity? I need you to take care of me and remind me that I am loved and cherished and precious. Help the kids have an okay day today, and help this afternoon to go better. Amen”

    It felt like a selfish prayer, with more uttered on my own behalf, than that of the ones I had been cross with that morning. But there it was, simple and honest.

    I got home and opened my Bible app, only half believing that I would stumble across a verse that would lift my spirits a bit. Ephesians 3:19 jumped up and smacked me right between the eyes. 

    May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.”

    Ephesians 3:19 NLT

    I mouthed the verse softly aloud a few times, thinking about the ways I’ve experienced the love of Christ. His love has been made known to me in so many ways. In the lean times, when money was tight and He provided for us, in the times when blessing seemed to overflow beyond anything I could imagine, through the friend who just “had me on her heart” and thought to reach out, only to discover it’s what I desperately needed in that very moment. He has loved me through His Word, pouring out His words of love.

    As I remembered how Jesus interacted with others in the Bible, I see Him relating to me as well. Tender, patient, kind and cherishing me not as just a person who is loved, but as one of His beloved. Set apart and precious, worthy and treasured. More than liked or tolerated, but worth dying for. A deeper love than I could ever imagine, just like the Bible says, “too great to understand fully”. I was experiencing the love of Christ in that very moment as I reflected on Him, instead of me.

    It was then that I felt my worth return, then that I began to feel truly beloved again, because it is from experiencing the love of Christ that all-sufficient grace flows. It is the place from where I draw my reserves, where I find contentment and peace that passes understanding, and where I find the strength and patience to plod ahead on tough days.

    The love of Christ sustains me when I am weak and restores me when I am weary. And true to God’s promise, it was then that I felt complete and content. Refilled and ready to live in the fullness of life again, instead of the empty place where the enemy would have left me. It was then that the power of the Holy Spirit that comes from God, lifted me out of my funk and set my feet back on solid ground.

    I picked up my kids with a different attitude that afternoon. My circumstances had not changed one bit, but my perspective and the source of my power had shifted dramatically. Instead of feeling small and powerless against my own emotions and the emotions of others, I felt steady and secure. God had reminded me of who I am and that He alone determines my worth and my belovedness. And when I stopped to remember how I have experienced the love of Christ, and who I am because of it, it changed everything.

    We went on to have a lovely day after that and by God’s power, I was able not only to be content in my own belovedness, but I was able to affirm to my family that they are God’s beloved as well. The change in the air was palpable.

    While I have shared about a situation with my family, any of us can find ourselves in the same murky waters in any season or circumstance of life. There are plenty of opportunities out in the great big world that can easily wear on our sense of belovedness. A harsh word from a friend or co-worker, wrestling with loneliness, insecurity or heartache, being overworked and burned out, or just plain waking up on the wrong side of the bed. The devil is always on the lookout for ways to get us stuck feeling less than beloved. But Jesus is ever present, all powerful and faithful to pluck us up out of our despair, and restore us to wholeness in His love.

    Today my dear friend, that is my prayer for you. That you may experience the love of Christ, even though it can feel like a bit of a mystery, so that you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Lean into His love, make your home there and let His joy and peace fill you to overflowing.

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  • “Success-full”

    My heart sank at the scene in front of me. I stared at the pile of dishes, already stacked higher than I wanted them to be. “Don’t think about that right now,” I reminded myself, taking a deep breath. “The dishes can wait. You need to call the doctor, and we have to pick up groceries this afternoon. Also remember the kids have martial arts class later today… Oh no, did I put that wet load of laundry in the dryer yet?!”

    I felt overwhelmed. Full time home-making and homeschooling wasn’t what I’d signed up for this year. I had been chomping at the bit to jump back into the workforce this year after a much-too-long hiatus and career swerve. But there I was. And here we all still are, in many cases feeling stuck or frustrated, spinning in circles just to keep everyone fed, clothed, schooled, and somewhat sane. How could this be OK? How could this factor into God’s big plan? I thought He wanted me to be … successful! 

    Can you relate? Most of our lives look pretty different in this pandemic-focused culture. The façade is gone. No longer do we see ourselves as invincible, nor do we take our health or social lives for granted. Mindsets and habits that we hadn’t taken time to think about before now are being brought into sharp focus as our days shape-shift closer and closer to a stripped down version of our old constructed reality.  

    On this particular day, I was especially frustrated. I found myself peppering God with somewhat accusing questions like, “What’s going on here, God? I feel like I’m spinning in circles. What are you doing? You put all of these dreams and desires in my heart! How am I supposed to execute them and be productive for You in this environment? I love taking care of my family, but when do I get a break from all of this to do something really important and successful?” 

    But on this particular day, God was ready for me. No further had this string of questions left my thoughts then He swooped in with some questions of His own. He (very kindly) responded right back saying, “Well what IS success, Bethany? What exactly does that look like? How are you measuring whether or not you’re being successful?” 

    Me: “oh ………. well ………um…..”

    I suddenly felt very exposed. I realized I had no good response. I was basing my vague idea of success on my own list of accomplishments and gauging how other people saw me. But I was getting the feeling this wasn’t the right answer. 

    My mind jumped back to a verse I’d memorized in my college days:

     “But what does the Lord require of you but to seek justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8.

    Hmm. None of that verse involved attention from other people. None of that sounded flashy or important. It was simple, and quiet, and … well, humble. Was that really it? Where was the part about having a career? Or finally getting the bigger house? Or making enough money to retire? Was living a “successful” life actually a whole lot simpler than I was making it out to be? 

    I was beginning to see it, but as I kept looking I found John 15:4:

    “Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.” 

    Remain in me. Stay connected to the vine. Fruit will come out of your connection.”  

    Ah. And I remembered. This is what Jesus took the time to talk to His followers about. Being with The Father. Staying connected to Him. How had I forgotten this? When had I decided that having an impressive resume and looking successful to others meant I was being a good Christian? 

    I thought about that all day, and then the next. Maybe I’d learned this all backwards. Maybe I’d learned that success looked like attention, and maybe that wasn’t actually true. Maybe all the success and fulfillment I longed for was actually waiting for me on the other side of seeking justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with my God. Or in other words, “remaining on the vine.” Maybe the problem wasn’t in my lack of success, but my very definition of it.

    What if  I could choose to change my definition? What if I could actually reach this kind of success and then celebrate it! What if I could “remain on the vine” while I was finishing the laundry … and cooking … and washing the dishes. I had a feeling this was going to change everything. 

    What’s your definition of success? Is it grounded in remaining on the vine? Let’s adjust our definition of success to include these beautiful God truths! And let’s do it together. 

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  • Loved is the New Perfect

    I walked out the house with a purple finger print on my cheek. I went to the bank to deposit some money. I went to Starbucks and held a whole conversation with a woman who had a Louis Vuitton briefcase on her shoulder. And as I walked to my car, sipping my caramel Frappuccino with the extra-extra caramel drizzle, the sun was at the perfect angle for me to see myself in the reflection of my car and there it was: a smudgy spot the size of a quarter, no doubt placed there by my two year old.

    How in the world did I not notice this before I left the house? How in the world did I not notice this throughout my day?

    “I really need to do better.”

    I’ve whispered this declaration to myself many times. I’ve pondered it in my mind, written out goals in journals about how I would do this differently, or focus on this aspect of my personality more.

    Have you ever thought any of these statements:

    “I need to get my life together.”
    “I need to change.”
    “I need to figure some things out.”

    What are we truly saying when we make these statements? Why do we stress ourselves out with change and effort and reinvention of ourselves? It’s because, deep within our hearts, we struggle with the desire to create perfection for ourselves.

    So frequently, we accept the lie that we have to be at our best in order to thrive. We think we have to be on our best behavior, with lipstick on, fully cloaked in God’s Word, money in the bank, a man at our hip, successful in our affairs, dressed in our cutest outfit with painted nails and at least 50 “likes” on our social media posts in order to feel worthy or valued. Society has conditioned us to believe that our best is what people need from us. Our best is what will keep us special and unique and desired. It’s our best that is required in order to have prayers answered and impact people and receive God’s favor and blessings in our lives…. That’s how it works, right?

    The thing is, God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). The world’s ways and its standards of perfection will never be in alignment with Scripture (1 John 2:6). We cannot perfect, improve or better ourselves by our own measures. If this was possible, there would be no need for Christ to have come to set us free.

    Our sin entangles and entraps us and we need more than ourselves and our personal abilities to set ourselves free. We need Jesus and His perfect love and sacrifice, through a relationship with Him. Once we receive His salvation, it’s His love that transforms our lives, not our works or our efforts.

    And though we desire to be women who don’t mess up, the reality is that we will never see perfection this side of Heaven. And yet, the Holy Spirit is constantly working to make us more like Jesus! This should fill us with hope, because the difficult terrains we will all sojourn through in our lives are truly bestowed upon us in order that God might produce, progress, and perfect us according to His plan for our lives and for His kingdom (James 1: 2-8). That’s the beauty of His perfect work in us — transformation from the inside out!

    Loved is the new perfect. The love we seek from others has been completely, eternally and unconditionally extended to us by God through Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s His perfection that our souls truly crave and it’s this limitless love that covers every sin (1 Peter 4:8). His perfect love is free and abundant with no demands, ultimatums or hidden fees. We demand that others accept us for who we are: “flaws and all”; but we are our worst critics and, sometimes, we are the worst critics towards others. It’s time to stop creating pressure because it doesn’t result in perfection.

    I personally know a lot about self-inflicted pressure to be perfect. Being a Pastor’s daughter, I tended to put pressure on myself to be “on” all the time: big smiles, even when I didn’t want to, free hugs for strangers, memory verse known, wait quietly while Daddy is talking to another person who felt like it was appropriate to pull up a chair to our family table at Olive Garden because they needed some quick spiritual advice and pastors are never off the clock…..

    Even as a little girl, it was so hard to avoid the misconception that perfection is what’s most pleasing. 

    When I began modeling, the pressure to be poised and perfect on the outside, weighed even heavier than the pressure I put on myself to be at my best on the inside. For nine years of my life, I thought looking the part was synonymous with being the part. But God has been re-shaping this mentality in me over the past few years, and I’d like to share these lessons with you.

    #1: Getting my life together, doesn’t require me. It requires God. 

    “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is” {1 John 3:2}

    God is developing us. The fact that we are aware of areas that need mending, improving and fixing should lead us to God, not to ourselves. Listen, let God do the changing! Just show up, willing and ready for whatever He chooses to accomplish in you! He is your best and all you’ll ever need!

    #2: Your flaws are a perfect invitation for God’s presence.

    “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen” {Jude 1: 24-25}

    God’s presence keeps us from falling. His glory opens the door for our growth and advancement. His love over us presents us as faultless, even though there is much fault within each of us. But still, God desires to dwell within us, not for our glory, but for His, simply because He loves us.

    #3: God isn’t interested in our best, He’s interested in HIS best, which is Jesus.

    “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” {2 Corinthians 9:15}

    Jesus is God Himself, made into flesh (John 1:14). So when God offers us Jesus, He is offering Himself. This is His gift to us! He is His best and through Jesus, we can possess the indescribable gift of His love, His purity and His glory, which will ultimately become our own. In Christ, we are always at our best, no matter what!

    You and I, in this present moment, are enough. It’s not because we have perfect lives or perfect intentions. It’s not because we say all the right words while wearing the perfect shade of lipstick. Regardless of our degrees, our accomplishments, our level of influence or our many, many mistakes, God extends His love because He sees us as treasures and He has amazing plans in store for us! We are perfectly loved and that is more than enough to accomplish all that we have been purposed to achieve. Even with rollers in our hair, we are at our best, in Jesus!

    So this is what I am currently learning and leaning into. I am enough because Jesus lives in me! I am loved and so are you. In Jesus, we are always at our best. So smile and be great today because perfect love is always available and new every morning, to me and to you!

    Blessings for your hearts, ladies!

     

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  • Pursuing Our Dreams in God’s Timing

    The hot San Diego air blew against my back as I unloaded my 8-month-old from her car seat. Together we slipped through the doors of the pregnancy support center into the cool, friendly room. I was excited to start my first day of volunteering– something I’d wanted to do for a long time.

    That day the center had an immediate need for help in the clothing closet. My daughter and I headed over, and after brief instructions from the receptionist, we started organizing clothes into the vast wall of bins.

    That’s when everything went sideways.

    The more bins I organized, the more my daughter tried to “un-organize.” She dug into low lying bins and spread clothes all over the floor. While I’d first been excited to help, I suddenly only wanted to get my little one out of there before she caused more chaos.

    That day I left discouraged and frustrated. My dreams and hopes for getting involved went flitting away like a hummingbird from a feeder. Poof. Gone. Not only that, but I knew it could be a long time before I could volunteer in a helpful way again.

    I felt like my child was getting in the way of following God’s call on my heart. However, I soon realized that wasn’t true at all.

    My husband is in the military, and a few months before the above clothes-bin incident, when we were packing to move from Norfolk, VA to San Diego, California, I had found an old journal. As I flipped through the pages, I’d realized a theme that I’d overlooked for years.

    At every duty station we’d been to, I had the desire to volunteer at a crisis pregnancy center. I had looked at websites and mulled it over, but I’d never done it. After this realization, I committed to act on that desire once we got to San Diego.

    In my mind, after all the times I hadn’t gotten involved, I felt like I had to act on that dream NOW. But after that day with my daughter, the door of active volunteering seemed to slam shut in my face.

    I could still donate clothes and supplies, but I wanted to do more.

    But throughout this process, I started to realize something important: Just because things don’t work out NOW, doesn’t mean the desire is not from God or that we have to let go of those dreams.

    It’s easy to doubt God, to doubt if that passion is really from Him or if He wants us to pursue it. And it’s easy to give up on a dream when we realize that something is more important in the moment– for me, like caring for the children God blessed me with.

    But that doesn’t mean those callings will take a back seat forever.

    God formed us with a true identity built into us. He put us here for a reason, equipped with passions and gifts. And I started to see that God has a way of bringing things to fruition in the proper time.

    Seasons change, and as they do, so will our activities.

    Just a month after my crazy volunteer day, I got a huge surprise: I was pregnant with my third daughter. That was a complete miracle since fertility treatments and miscarriages surrounded the births of my older two. Not to mention, due to the timing, we realized my husband would be deployed when the baby was due. Plus, I knew I would need a C-section.

    The next year was a whirlwind. My husband deployed when I was 7 months pregnant, and I was home with two young kids. Two months into deployment, baby number three arrived and I spent a few months recovering from my surgery.

    That year was probably the most crazy, busy, intense year of my entire life. And the Lord knew that I needed to focus on my growing family through it all. Even though I had desperately wanted to help at the pregnancy center, it wasn’t God’s timing in that season. The dream of helping women in challenging situations hasn’t died. I’m finding ways to pursue it now as my kids get older and we’re living in another state.

    I am learning continually that God’s timing is greater than our own. I’m learning to trust His timing and that He gives us our dreams for a reason. And best of all, that He walks with us through every season and brings His peace and purpose into the midst of our normal, everyday existence.

    Whether we think we’re “accomplishing” our dreams or not, we can trust that He is always working out His good and perfect will in our lives. Even when it seems like twists and turns in life keep you from pursuing your dreams in the ways you hope, God’s timing is perfect. He will sustain us and give us purpose and peace in every season, and faithfully fulfill the desires of our hearts.

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  • Believing God Loves Me

    “If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them…We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:15-16,19 (NIV)

    Do you know and believe that God loves you? I know that can be a tough question. It’s one that’s worth asking because it’s where our identity in Christ begins–with us believing in, and relying on His love for us. 

    For a long time, I didn’t really grasp just how much God loves me. I knew it in my head, but somehow I imagined there would have to be part of me that was worthy of it to really experience it. I felt blessed just to be in the room with Him, and rarely felt worthy of a place next to Him at the table. After all, who am I that He should take notice of me, let alone esteem me as a beloved friend? 

    As I grew in my relationship with God, He gave me a sense of belonging with Him. He showed me through his faithfulness that He loves me truly and fiercely. It’s then that I began to see evidence of His love in everyday things, great and small.  Because of Christ, I started to see myself through His eyes and gained confidence as His beloved daughter, redeemed and made whole. 

    I continue to be inspired and encouraged by the story of apostle John in the Bible. He was someone who really embraced his identity as one whom God loved. In fact, John more than once describes himself throughout the gospels as “The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved”. 

    That bold of a statement might seem a little strange and maybe even a bit self-important. But in reality, when John talked about himself as the disciple whom God loved, he was carefully choosing words to describe what was most important about him.

    John’s core identity, how he saw himself and interacted with the world, was completely founded on His relationship with Jesus. We will always surrender our lives to whatever the defining love or influence is in our life, and for John, Jesus was the defining influence in his life. 

    One example of this is in John 13:23, where Jesus is talking with the disciples. We read that John was sitting right next to Jesus, which at a glance could have seemed a bit bold perhaps. But John was confidently sitting at the feet of Jesus because he knows he belongs there. He believes and relies on the love Jesus has for him. John is secure in where his identity is. He picks the seat closest to Jesus because it’s where he belongs as one loved by Jesus. 

    I recently learned something really cool about the phrase “The disciple whom Jesus loved”.  The Greek for loved here can literally be translated as the disciple whom Jesus keeps on loving. His love for us isn’t conditional. It’s not past tense, it is new every morning. It is evergreen and unwavering. 

    Whether we overcommit and underdeliver, whether we say yes or no, if we get it all right or if we get it all wrong, we are the ones that Jesus keeps on loving. We don’t have to wonder everyday, “does he still love me?” The answer will always be, “Yes! Now get on over there and sit next to Jesus because you are someone whom Jesus keeps on loving. There’s nothing we can do to change His love, nothing we can do to lose it. God is love, and we are His beloved. 

    As we begin to see ourselves this way, as one that Jesus keeps on loving, everything changes. When our relationship with Jesus is the defining influence in our lives, every other decision, big or little, all passes through that filter. 

    John 4:19 says “we love because He first loved us.” Our love for God begins with letting Him love us. When we allow God’s love to sink into our very being, it transforms us. When we believe in and rely on His love, we find a peace and joy that transcends our circumstances. It defines and shapes our identity and how we move in the world. It gives us security and confidence. It is a firm foundation upon which to build our lives. When we experience God’s radical love, it changes everything. 

    You are God’s beloved. It is who you are. He created you, He sees you and He loves you so much. Believe in that, spend time with God and learn to trust in His love and rely on it. He will never fail you or abandon you. He has planned ahead every detail of your life and will provide for you. Take your spot at the table next to Him, as one loved by God. He is happy to have you close to Him, right where you will always belong. 

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  • Unstoppable Love

    I had a quiet moment to myself last Saturday, which is a rare gift during these days of living in close quarters with my quaran-team. It was the day after Good Friday and the day before Easter Sunday. It was an “in-between” day that often gets lost in Easter egg hunts and grocery shopping for a big dinner the next day. 

    But this year, in the stillness of the world around me, Saturday tugged at my heart strings in a different way. I pondered how the disciples felt on that “in-between” Saturday so long ago. They had loved Jesus and left everything to follow Him. His crucifixion shook their confidence and understanding of God’s plan as they were surely overwhelmed by grief and disorienting uncertainty. In less than 24 hours their whole world had gone dark. And yet, on the other end of the story, we know the dawn is coming. The Son will rise again. But in between darkness and light, time seems to simultaneously stand still and pass before you like water through your fingers. 

    I can’t help but feel like we are also currently living in the “in-between” time right now. It’s been a few weeks since we had to start staying at home, but we’re not out of the woods yet. We’re hopeful and eagerly awaiting the time when we can all be together again, but we don’t know exactly when that will be. 

    We strain our ears for good news and try to cheer one another with memes and Zoom calls and e-hugs. Our hearts cling to the hope that this will soon be over and that God is near. 

    The story of Jesus’ life, death, burial and resurrection spurs on that hope. It helps us to trust that God is at work and that just as Jesus’ story did not end in the tomb, our story doesn’t end in our present circumstances either. 

    However, I see even more than hope for the future in the story of Jesus. I see a God who loves and pursues us in the here and now. A God who went to greater lengths than I could ever fathom, just to be near to us. A God whose ultimate priority was to make a way for us to be with Him, to right our wrongs and welcome us home like prodigal children. 

    Because of Jesus, our status as God’s beloved children is secure. It cannot be undone. There is nothing that will keep God from loving us. We are adopted into the Kingdom, co-heirs with Christ, a royal priesthood. Not from our own merit, but on the merit of Jesus Christ who redeemed us. 

    It is through Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection, that one of my favorite Bible verses gets it’s awe-inspiring power.

    I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.  No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

    Romans 8:38-39 NLT

    Did you catch that? Nothing can separate us from the love of God! He gives us beautiful contrasting language to describe His love and it’s limitless tenacity. Neither angels nor demons, fears for today or worries for tomorrow, nothing in heaven or below–not even the coronavirus, economic strife or social isolation, can separate us from His love that is revealed in Christ Jesus! Jesus is living proof of God’s unstoppable love for us.

    In one single act on the cross, anything and everything that could have ever separated us from God was defeated. God saw us in our helplessness, in our striving and failing and knew He had to intervene on our behalf. He left His throne to become one of us, a helpless baby, dependent on his parents. He experienced everything we experience, He can relate to our joys and cares, better than anyone. He loves us so much that He willingly gave himself up to die and was raised to life again three days later. And the very same Holy Spirit empowers us to no longer live as victims of our circumstances, but as empowered citizens of God’s Kingdom. If God can do all of that-surely He is able to love us right where we are, in the middle of any mess. 

    The disciples had no idea on Saturday what was coming on Sunday. Just like we can’t see what’s on the other side of our present situation. But we have seen the power and might and goodness of God. We have God’s Word, His character revealed to us through His Son, and the power of The Holy Spirit to comfort and guide us. We have living proof of the lengths to which our Heavenly Father will go to love us. And we can set our watch by this truth: God loves us with a love that never ends and there is nothing that can separate us from His love. He loves us today, tomorrow, and every moment in-between. Sweet friend, rest in that truth, lean on His promises, and let His love wrap you up like a warm blanket. God loves you and He’s not going anywhere.

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  • You Are Worth It

    Easter can be a perplexing time of year. It is both joyful and somber. With springtime in the air, Easter egg hunts, and church worship services, we celebrate the joy and celebration of Jesus’ resurrection and triumph over sin and death. But there is also the week leading up to Easter, Holy Week. It’s a time of reflection and remembrance that before the victory, God chose to sacrifice and Jesus chose to suffer. He took on our sin and paid the price for it. It is the most expensive ransom ever paid, and it begs the question, “Why would he do that for me?”

    Recently, I was sitting in the prayer room at my church with a friend who was wrestling with this very question. She was struggling to understand how God could love her this much, or that He would go to such lengths just to be with her. We were about to take communion together, and as she held in her hand the tiny piece of cracker and little plastic cup of juice that represent Jesus’ physical sacrifice, her sorrow was palpable.

    What she couldn’t see in that moment, is that she is worth it. God loves her so much that He dreamed of her, planned ahead for her, and created her for a purpose. Jesus willingly gave up His life for her because He believes that she is worth it. And He believes that you are too.

    God created you to know Him, love Him and have fellowship with Him. He calls you His daughter, and co-heir with Christ. He is proud to be seen with you and looks forward to time with you. If He had Facebook you’d be in his profile pic. If he had a fridge, your picture would be on it.

    After sin entered this world and separated us from God, His singular focus became to make a way for us to be with Him again. He has been working tirelessly ever since, pursuing you, loving you in every moment, good and bad. He gently whispers his promises and sings over you with love. (Zephaniah 3:17). In every moment, in every circumstance, he keeps on loving you, because you are worth it to Him.

    God’s love is not just lip service. “He demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) This is love beyond comprehension. He himself went to the cross as the ultimate sacrifice, to bear our shame and take our sin. But He didn’t stop there. He rose from the grave, He conquered death and broke sin’s hold on us forever, so we we will never be separated from His love again.

    God’s passion and love for us for us led him to the cross for the purpose of redeeming us. When the ground shook and Jesus conquered death, He declared our worth right then and there, once and for all. Because of Christ, we can lean against the very throne of God as his beloved daughter, redeemed and made whole.

    I imagine the voice of our Heavenly Father, calling out, “I love you! You are my precious daughter and there is nothing I would not do for you. I went to hell and back to save you and I would do it again. There is no height, nor depth that will keep you from my love. There’s nothing in heaven or on earth that can separate you from my love. (Romans 8:31-39) In your darkest moments, when you are at your worst, you are worth it. In your victories and triumphs, you are worth it. I am here with you. I will guide your steps and guard your heart. I love you daughter. You are worth it.”

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