On purpose, with purpose.

It’s been so long since I’ve visited this little corner of the internet that I feel about 100 different forms of angst as I’m writing this. I’m not completely sure why that is. Or why I let it keep me from hitting that Publish button for over a year now. Thankfully, I am reminded of great words like these..

“Self doubt. Instead of letting it silence you, force it to work for you.” – Emily Freeman.

Back when I use to write this thing rather regularly I often found myself feeling all sorts of vulnerable as I wrote. Often times, those posts meant the most to me. So I’ll take the nerves in my keystrokes as a sign that I’m on the verge of something good over here.

A few weeks back Clint and I had the honor of standing beside our friend, Chrissy, as she stepped out in obedience and stepped up in a big way. She did something big. She did something bold. She did something that others couldn’t even imagine. And she did it on purpose, with purpose. Chrissy shaved her head.

If you’re like me, those words immediately make you reach up and make sure your own pony tail is still in tact. And now you’re probably wondering how a shaved head and a calling from God end up in the same story. So, let’s bridge the gap.

About a month back Chrissy shared her idea to shave her head with us. With the weight of a worldwide problem on her heart Chrissy felt called to create awareness about the horrifying reality of modern-day slavery.

Did you know that there are more slaves TODAY than any other point in human history?
Did you know that over 27 MILLION people are enslaved across the world?
Did you know that human trafficking affects EVERY country in the world?
Did you know that the average age of someone being enslaved is 12 YEARS OLD?
Did you know that human trafficking is the fastest GROWING criminal industry across the world?
Did you know? Because now you do.

Now you know that human trafficking is a HERE and NOW issue. It’s in our country. It’s in our state. It’s in the heart of our city and the soul of our suburbs.

This is not the kind of problem you want to wait to start caring about until it affects someone you know. This is an issue that demands prevention and is all too often only met with reaction.

When Chrissy shaved her head she did it on purpose.

A shaved head is common in slavery. An action done to break a person down to the core. To make an individual feel exposed. A practice performed to inflict shame. But on Chrissy – a shaved head is a symbol of strength – a shaved head is a platform for a purpose – a shaved head is a beacon to let the beauty of God’s Holy Spirit shine bright.

So, what’s it all for?

Chrissy shaved her head for a purpose.

First of all, to raise awareness. To get people talking… or typing. To help kickstart a conversation that needs to be happening. Between families. Between friends. Between total internet strangers! This is an issue that gets swept under the rug, but you know what.. it’s time for some Spring cleaning. It’s time for some people’s hearts to be set ablaze with a passion for awareness, a passion to end human trafficking.

Secondly, it’s to assist in the effort of the A21 campaign. A21 is an incredible foundation that is actively working to abolish injustice in the 21st century. They do this through what they call the 4 P’s. Prevention (Education + Awareness). Protection (Rescue + Restoration). Prosecution (Enforcement + Legislation). Partnership (Supporters + Partners).  A21 has been an outreach partner of our church for several years now and I’ve been blessed to hear their founder, Christine Cain, preach several times. The work they are doing is nothing short of incredible. Rescuing people ALL OVER the world. (Yes, that means right here in the “land of the free”.) I strongly encourage you to check out their website. Read their blog. Follow their Facebook page. Their updates about rescues and prosecutions will serve as a harrowing reality check I can guarantee it.

So here’s what I’m asking you to do.

Donate. So far Chrissy has raised enough money to send a rescued individual on a flight back home. She’s raised enough to hire a lawyer to prosecute someone responsible for these heinous acts. So far.. she’s raised enough to change a life.. and the best part is.. she’s just getting started.

Go visit her donation page right HERE!

Her goal is to raise $21,000. That’s a lot of money and that’s a LOT of lives changed.  So let’s start small. $21. Donate $21. I promise you won’t miss it. I promise the world will keep spinning if your wallet gets a little lighter. And I know that God can take a small amount, multiply it, and deliver on BIG promises.

A promise to overcome…
“And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.”
– Psalms 50:15

A promise of salvation..
‘And I will deliver thee out of the hand of the wicked,
and I will redeem thee out of the hand of the terrible. “
– Jeremiah 15:21

Let’s stop pretending this issue doesn’t exist and let’s start working intentionally towards ending it. Let’s start doing great things on purpose, with purpose.  

Stirred not shaken.

I’m writing this from a plane. Seat 18B to be exact. Right in the middle. Of my plane. Of my row. Of my flight even. And of course, to be posted later, whenever it just feels right.

From NYC to NC.

To say I don’t enjoy flying would be a touch of an understatement. I fear it. I fear the take off. I fear the flight. I fear the landing. I fear the waves of anxiety that crash over me, holding me down a bit longer each time. I fear that the phone I’m typing this on will run out of power leaving me without the worship music that is currently keeping me from being taken over by the fear of hearing every change in noise that occurs in the cabin.  I’ve sat here, eyes clenched shut tightly for the past 45 minutes with the words of this post circling around in my head, wishing I will be able to recall them when I am home and cuddled up with my laptop. But I’m not letting fear take this one away. Because I know it is not God who places this fear on me. Rather it is He who fills my lungs with air after my fear has pulled it out of me.

You see, I struggle. Horribly. And quite honestly, shamefully. I serve the King of Kings, The Lord of Lords. The creator of all that is and was and ever shall be. And yet I, am filled with fear.

I recently found myself realizing how great victory is often preceded by great struggle. When I am brought down with fear, I have no choice but to look up. I look up to a God that is able. Able to take my fear and turn it into a reminder that I am in His presence. Because while it is always so terribly easy for me to feel shaken with fear, I am finding that my fear can stir me instead; stir my nerves into passion, stir my shaking and sweaty hands into the tools I use to write a message like this, stir my spirit from one of fear to one of praise. They say you can’t control what happens in life, only your reaction to it. And I’m deciding that I want to live a life where fear stirs my spirit alive. I want to quit a life of being shaken. While I’m not quite optimistic that I’ll ever enjoy flying, I am more than optimistic that if I ask God to take my two-hour flight and stir my soul so that I may spend that time in His presence, He will prove to me that I can even find myself being thankful for this time in flight, for this time where my heart is filled with His spirit, and His faithfulness.  Because as only He can do, He can take my troubles and turn them into triumph. He can use every air pocket that we hit as a reminder that even when we fall even just a little (though it may feel like a lot) He is there to catch us, to steady the wings, to calm the fear and to stir my soul with praise and thanks.

I will be stirred, not shaken.

Farewell 2013.

2013

Psssst. You can check out last years farewell here.

When I initially thought of writing my little 2013 farewell I thought I might do a highs and lows recap of sorts – a highlight of the peaks and pits of the year. What I realized as I began listing my moments was that 2013 was the year where each low met its match with an unfailing high. 2013 was a year filled with great optimism, and even greater moments in between the milestones. 

In 2013…

In 2013 we moved… twice. (I, in fact moved three times, if we’re getting real technical and including that month I moved back home with my family to start my job while Clint wrapped up life in Raleigh). And it was unbelievably stressful and hectic and overwhelming, and on one particular weekend there in late February we had a mere seven days left on our lease and no idea where we were packing up our life to go . I cried… a lot. But after packing up all our stuff, unpacking it, then packing it back up 2 months later and unpacking it again, we’ve been blessed to finally have found ourselves in the place we had been yearning for, for so long… home.

In 2013 I finally stopped looking for jobs… because I found one. I started the year exactly how I ended the later half of 2012, searching and applying, searching and applying, searching and applying, and beginning to get awfully good at throwing over the top pity-parties for myself. After many, many months, I found the one, and it found me, and we’ve been pretty darn happy together ever since. It’s kind of like a match made in CareerBuilder heaven. I’ve been blessed to find a job I love.

In 2013 Clint celebrated his two-year work-anniversary in November… and subsequently quit his job. But only because he had an even greater opportunity awaiting him. An opportunity that doesn’t involve being out-of-town 20 out of 30 days of the month, or working until well after-hours the nights he is home, and it even means I can take back that little nook in my family room that’s only ever been the “home office”. He’s been blessed to be able to walk away from one experience and seamlessly into a new one that holds great promise.

In 2013 we celebrated a year of marriage… and I was attacked by yellow jackets to mark the occasion. On our anniversary we truly put “in sickness and in health” to the test (which actually, was not even in our vows) but “I hope others see His heart and love in the way I care for you” is, and boy did I realize on our anniversary, the day after I got stung, and the day Clint was supposed to head out-of-town for work but chose to stay with me instead, that my husband loves me with a love so strong it could only be a love that was gifted from God.

In 2013 we also celebrated eight years of being together… and had ourselves a little photo fun. I had actually wanted to do first anniversary pictures but as fate, and the yellow jackets, would have it, it was a pretty good thing I didn’t schedule to have those pictures taken. Instead we opted for an eight year anniversary shoot. You can (and SHOULD) go check some of those pictures out HERE. Because these photos show exactly how we spent the greater part of 2013. Together, and in love. I’m so grateful for this time of marriage with Clint – the time in between newlywed bliss and parenthood, the time of just the two of us.

2013 was a year filled with blessings and with that,
2014 will be my year of greatest praise. 

Getting Uncomfortable.

It’s that time of year again. The time where people go out searching for comfort in any form they can find it.  Whether it be in those deliciously southern comfort foods, the comfort of going home to be with family, or the comfort of wrapping that scarf around your neck one more time to keep that chill from sneaking its way in. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what brings people comfort, what, for many years was the root of my own comfort. And I have found the wrinkle in the comfort- the very thing that so many people root their comfort in, is the same thing that makes those same people so uncomfortable.

Let me backtrack a little. Recently I was thinking about how much life has changed over the past year. How this time last year I was in such a different place, physically, emotionally, spiritually. So much has changed. If ever I had a shadow of a doubt, this past year showed to me over and over again that my God is a God who answers prayers. He is faithful, He is loving, He is the greatest place of comfort. He is everything, for every moment, that I’ll ever need. For me to truly get to this place it required getting uncomfortable. Seriously uncomfortable. Financially uncomfortable.

I haven’t shared this with anyone- part of me knows why and part of me doesn’t. I’ve lived most of my life with a spirit of humility. I’ve always lived out that sacrifices, offerings, “good deeds” belong between myself and God, and that sharing those things with others makes them less about God and more about myself (and let’s be real, we all know one of those people, the one who does something just to receive praise from others, and we all probably roll our eyes the same way at them). Yet, I occasionally find myself hearing or reading about others sacrifices and being so inspired, so touched, so in awe of how God works in others hearts. I’m hoping that’s how others will read my story. Don’t see the me in it, see the God in it.

Around this time last year God blessed Clint and I with a spirit of generosity. I say he blessed us with the spirit because anyone is blessed with the means to be generous. Anyone, has something to give, but not everyone has the spirit to give. As two newlyweds living off one salary I’d say we learned that God will place the spirit of generosity on even those who appear to have so little.

Without getting too detail oriented (because really, if you’re looking to get an amount out of me, you should probably start this thing over and remember, it’s not about me..) we gave, and we gave, and we gave bigger than either of us had ever given before. I found myself feeling so conflicted. You see, I have faith in God. I will let him take the reigns in every moment of life. Yet, I have pride. I have greed. And only God truly knows the bounds of my envy. Yes. I want what others have. The adorable house, the new car, the really really cute new pair of boots. I want the Christmas with the monogrammed Pottery Barn stockings. I want, I want, I want. On one hand it can feel so vulnerable to share those things, to admit how truly materialistic of a life I can live. To express how frequently I look outward and admire, rather than inward. On the other hand, it can feel so freeing. So liberating. So when it came time to remain obedient to the spirit of generosity God had placed on our hearts, it was especially difficult for me. With every dollar that we chose to give, I found myself slipping further and further away from all those things I looked towards. It was hard, and scary, and I believe that God knows if it were not for Clint being the one to actually send those checks on their way, I never would have given the way we did. I am confident that God created my husband with a heart of unrelenting generosity just for me, He is so intentional.

When all was said and done, and when the new year rolled in and every bit we’d given had been pulled from our account, we had officially given away more than we kept for ourselves. Slightly crazy, probably a bit irresponsible, terribly scary,  but 100% obedient.  I found myself in a place of financial discomfort. Not only had we just given away most of what we had, I was still feeling helplessly unemployed and now our financial safety was almost entirely eliminated. I often think I don’t know how we made it through that season of life financially, but I do. I was always under the impression that when you give, something is taken away. But His word shares the truth,

“And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”Matthew 10:42

We didn’t lose because we gave. Oh, how we gained. I’m not saying God takes one and gives you back ten. But what I am saying is when you’re left with one, you start to appreciate every penny, nickel and dime God does give you. And like I said in my last post, when you can praise him for every little bit, he’ll begin to entrust you with a lot.

This time a year ago we had intentionally left ourselves with very little. We had not much to our names, but oh, how our spirits were full. Oh, how rich our faith became. My comfort had been rooted in finance. My roots had been chopped and they were searching, looking for a place to grow. So I watered them with faith, with fervent prayer. And what do you know? They found themselves a place to grow.

“Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude. See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ…”
Colossians 2:6-8

When you give in faith, nothing is taken away. When I found myself getting farther and farther from all my worldly desires all I had to do was turn around. With each step I’d been getting closer and closer to God all along. I’ll be honest, it took me many months to realize this. Because let’s remember, this is real life we’re talking about people. It’s not like the movies where the results present themselves at the end with the perfect soundtrack and montage. In real life you live out those hard moments of doubt. The difficult moments of feeling like you weren’t a joyful enough giver. You can go on for weeks on end asking yourself if you did it right. You can even end up like me. Where it takes a year and the most golden of all the golden sunsets to open your eyes to see how purposefully God had His hand in it. Because it was when that sun lit up the sky with the most perfect streaks of gold that I thought back to the generosity God called from us last year and I realized how He put me in a place of discomfort so that I would HAVE to turn to Him, so that He could come into my heart and shape it, reshape it rather, to understand what kind of generosity he had blessed me with.

I developed a generosity that is not rooted in the willingness to help others,
but rooted in a faith that God provides. 

 

And truly, I would have given it all away if meant learning that. I have no doubt in my mind that if every heart was filled with that kind of generosity we could change the world. What if all just stopped being generous, but started getting uncomfortable?


Heavy Lifting.

You guys, this song. Is so spot on with me right now, I just have to write about it. And I’m even going to give you the video- I’m opting for the acoustic version tonight, it’s smooth, it’s soft, and I might even love it more than the live version.

You see, this has been one of my favorite worship songs for years now. It just speaks to my little heart, and gets me seriously pumped up about Jesus. (( Kelly from 5 years ago just laughed at me for actually saying the words “pumped up about Jesus”, but hey, out with the old, in with the new, wham bam, thank you mam. ))

Anyways, the other day I was driving home from work, singing this here song, watching the sun sail away into the west and I just had this moment. I got this song in such a different way then I ever got it before, and I became so aware of a stir within my soul.

The song declares,

‘We will hold, we will love
We will fall in surrender
We will rise, we will run
We will live to declare Your Name
Forever to bring You praise
Forever we’ll lift up Your Name”

Lately I’ve been praying that God would make His will my way, that He would prepare my heart to hear from Him and equip me with the obedience and courage to act in His image. I’m humbled daily by His mercy and grace in my life and I’m beginning to feel the weight, the weight of God’s majesty. Because what I realized the other day as I sang this song with new perspective was this, when you lift, you don’t release. When you lift, you keep him close. When you lift, everyone can see that you’re the one holding on to Him.

God has poured tremendous blessings into my life, and I can see now how skillfully He has blessed me. He has only ever blessed with me with exactly what I could lift up to him. The weight of God’s grace can be heavy, and He will never give me more than He believes I can handle, never more than I can lift.  I can see so clearly now how He has increased my blessings as I’ve increased my lifting. The more I lift my praise up to Him for what he pours into my life, the more He sends those blessings right back to me tenfold. Lately I have felt God putting the weight of His mercy and grace on me, I can feel him stacking on the pounds, reassuring me, I can take the weight, because He has prepared me for the heavy lifting.