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.

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. 

 

 

 

 

Please and thank you.

These are, according to our world, the magic words. They just might get the salt passed at the table, they just might make someone feel good about holding that door a beat longer to let you in behind them, they just might be the words every parent conditions into their child wondering endlessly if they’ll ever actually be said back to them without being prompted. I’ve been saying the magic words my entire life (with an exception to a particularly sassy phase in my mid-teens) and despite my usage of the words I must admit, I have never seen any resemblance of a magical outcome. Because really, the waitress is going to bring you your drink whether you say please and she’ll refill it even if you don’t say thank you.

Lately I’ve found myself thinking about thankfulness a lot. I like to think I’m an appreciative person. I know the blessings that fill my life, and as best I can, I give thanks for them. I have always had such a pet-peeve about people who are ungrateful. And honestly, I used to compare myself to them, validating that I’m far more grateful for the things I have than they are. They, are the brat who hardly acknowledges the $200 pair of jeans that just came perfectly wrapped under the christmas tree. I’ll admit, I was a judger. Recently though I’ve come to realize that often people aren’t just “spoiled” or “ungrateful”, rather, they are unaware, and I’m one among them. It’s always been so easy for me to look at someone who clearly has so much and think, they have no idea how good they have it… and their not even thankful for it! And now I think, how many people have been looking at me and saying the same thing?! And worst of all, I think of how God must look into my heart and see the things I’m thankful for and think… is this it?

The other day Clint and I were in the car when we passed a bus shelter. It was a chilly, wind-filled day. The kind that stings just a touch with each deep breath. Your hands feel tight, as if you couldn’t straighten them out or ball them into a fist. You back gets tense as the chills rise up your spine. When I saw the people standing under the sorry excuse for a shelter I was brought back to all those times in college where I stood shivering, shaking, and covered in snow from the top of the pom-pom on my hat to the toes of my insulated boots. I can so vividly remember the cold mornings and even colder nights standing at a bus stop just wanting to scream, cry, and fold in on myself as the winds tumbled into me, and doubting if the bus with the scrolling yellow words POP 105 would ever come to rescue me. As the growing warmth of my seat warmer brought me back to my current reality I thought of how thankful I was to be in the car at that very moment. As we drove on, I found myself thanking God for this car, at that very moment. I was thankful for that warm mode of transportation that took me only to my destination and I could literally feel the thankfulness pouring out of my heart straight up to God. I voiced to Clint my thankfulness for his car, and it felt so nice, to knowingly, vocally, acknowledge something that we’ve been blessed with. Generally speaking I’m thankful we both have cars, it would be a much different lifestyle if we only had one, or even none. But I realized on that particularly cold day, God doesn’t want us to just acknowledge our gifts in a general way, He wants us to acknowledge them every single day, in every single way. I now have prayed, spoken, and written my thankfulness for that one single moment and as my life finds more ways for me to show that thankfulness I shall do just that, be thankful.

You see, I’ve realized, as aforementioned, that most people aren’t truly ungrateful, they are unaware, am unaware. As much as I like to tell myself I know my blessings, I’m so unknowing of all the things God has specifically blessed me with. I doubt I’ll ever truly know how much I have to be thankful for, many of us won’t. But I now know how much I want to be made aware. I want to be aware of all the things I have to be thankful for, from the people to the things themselves.  If I came face to face with Christ today I would thank him for everything I have, from the loving relationship with my husband, to the fan that gently keeps me cool as I sleep each night, and every last thing in between. While I likely will not being coming face to face with Him today, He thankfully is in my heart, which is even closer, even more intimate, and even more important.

So how do I go about actually becoming more thankful, more aware? Well, this was kind of step one. Today I read,

“Oh give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name,
make known his deeds among the peoples!”
-1 Chronicles 16:8

Part of being thankful to the Lord is sharing that thanks with others. Each day I want to sit down with my journal and write something I am thankful for, I’ll force myself to be aware of my blessings. And every so often I’ll share them with you all. In doing this I hope it does two things. One, I hope it pushes me to realize my blessings on a more day-to-day level. Two, I hope it allows others to open their eyes to their surroundings and blessings and create an atmosphere of thankfulness. Today, the Lord also directed me towards this verse,

“Give thanks in all circumstances,
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
-1 Thessalonians 5:18

Life is made of valleys and peaks, and most of us, myself included, live in a state of in-between. It is all too easy to thank God for the promotion when it finally comes. It is too simple to thank God for what you do have while you slowly lose what you’ve always had. The time it’s hardest to say thank you is when you’re just living life, day by day, moment by moment. Not many of us want to say, “Thanks God for this horribly long commute each morning on the way to work.” But I contend that if you thank God for that hour-long drive of time alone He just might use it to your advantage. We’ve all been there before, the moment someone thanks you, truly, genuinely and without any convoluted intentions, and you find yourself wanting to do more, and give more to that person. We were made this way, in a reflection of God. He is faithful, and He is able to give us everything.

Another way I hope to create a more thank-filled lifestyle is to vocalize my thanks more often. When God blesses me with great conversation at dinner with my sweet husband, I want to thank Him for it, and I want to say it. I won’t lie, this is going to be hard for me. While it may be surprising to hear from someone who writes a blog (and has more than once written about my faith) it’s hard for me to vocalize my faith to other people. I didn’t grow up that way and it’s not something that’s been easy for me to develop. There are certain people I feel comfortable discussing my faith with and others where the thought is already making me cringe. But, nobody ever got good as something without trying. While not everyone in my life may share the same beliefs as me I am held in the arms of a God who will equip me with strength and bravery. I’m sure it will offer up a few awkward moments, but Jesus died a sinners death on a cross wrapped in nothing but God’s love, if He could do that for me, then I can risk adding a few more awkward moments to my life for His glory. After all, if I find myself becoming the person who people think of as the “God-thanker” I think I’ll be just fine.

The thing about things is this, we often forget we’re not entitled to them. Everything we have is a gift from God, and we’ve all been caught up in stealing his credit. For me, it’s about time I started doing more than just saying those magic words, it’s time for me to start living them.

Awkward & Awesome.

 

In a nut shell, I never do fashion Friday anymore because I look not cute most days, so we’ll just start seeing the more put-together days as we go.

Today is Tuesday so let’s get straight to A&A.

Awkward.

-Just about being the only person in Target to not have a toddler sitting shotgun in their cart. I guess that’s what you get for going to a Target at 2:00 on a Monday. I received two different kinds of looks. One, from the Mothers who felt pity on me. How sad that little old me didn’t have a Little Me to brighten up my day. To them I say, no thank you. Then we had the Mothers who looked at me with visible envy. As I carelessly walked up and down the aisles tossing things other than diapers and wet wipes into my cart. I could feel the stares as that set of Mothers glared into my shopping cart. I was ready to leave, and that rarely happens in Target.
-As if the Army of aggressive Mothers wasn’t enough, I had one of the strangest encounters of my life. I’ll leave out most of the details because there are many but I found myself being approached by two ladies, most likely my age minus a year or so. In my naive and apparently slightly narcissistic ways, I thought they were going to compliment me on my scarf or something (that particular scarf gets a lot of compliments) but no. I was so far off. These two ladies decided they were going to strike up a conversation with me about the Lord’s bride. When they first brought it up you can’t even imagine the thoughts reeling through my head-are they about to make a comparison? do they think I’m her? why are they standing so close?! oh my gosh they just got even closer! am I about to get lady-napped?!! could anyone hear me if I screamed?!!! but mostly I just thought, ‘what would Jesus do?’ and decided to hear them out. After all it probably wouldn’t be best to spew a lie to get out of a bible-based conversation… but believe me, the wheels were churning on that one. So about 10 minutes into our conversation, countless references to stories in the Bible, a bit of biting my tongue to keep from getting argumentative, a whole lot of attempting to shimmy backwards (seriously, I do not do close talkers, especially not two of them at once) and I was asked to read a piece of scripture out loud off one of the girl’s phone… did I mention I was in the card aisle? You know, the smallest aisle in the whole store. Where there are always without a doubt crowds of people standing just about on top of you. Yep. Right there in the middle of the card aisle, with the crowd of Mothers, I was being pulled into a conversation and desperately trying to climb my way out of it. All the while trying to keep my cart out of the card-reading shoppers way. Everything about it was awkward. The conversation, the people, the location. Once I finally got that exchange wrapped up I all but ran for the check out. I even took a short cut through the little girls clothing, and said a little thanks to the Target Gods for having most of their stores set up the same.

Awesome.

-The Mister was gone over the weekend for a work conference which meant two things. One, I got to fall asleep to Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives each night. Two, I got to cook myself a dinner that came out of a box. Prepared dinner amazingness. Food really does taste better when someone else makes it.. even if it is Betty Crocker.
-I’ve been seriously wanting some Sunflowers lately. They radiate fall beauty and our lil’ apartment needed some brightening up. When I went to Harris Teeter yesterday my Sunflower radar immediately brought my over to the flower/balloon art counter where I spotted the perfect set of sunflowers. They were perfect. So I swooped them up and tossed them in my cart, and guess what you guys… those little bursts of sunshine were half off. Thank you managers special for my $5 flowers, they just got even more awesome.