As I spent time on social media, I began to feel a weight of expectations for my own life to match the life I was seeing of others. The more I strived to have the life I was seeing on social media, the less content I became and I began to question everything about myself. Finally, my husband called me out and I decided to fast social media take my discontentment to the Gospel. Within a few days, I quickly realized that the content I was seeing seemed so scripted. Where was the authenticity? The more I prayed through my struggles, I felt the challenge to, in fact, live more "scripted", which brought me back to this blog I had created months prior. Except the “scripted” life I desire is one that is less scripted for likes and followers and more rooted in the Scripture—the Gospel, so that what I share with the world reflects the hope I profess, the grace I’m dependent on, and the glory of the Lord. As I prayed, I realized I wasn't the only person out there who desired this authenticity. I desire for this blog to be a safe place where others can come, just as they are, for genuine connection. I don't have it all together and I am tired of trying to. There is beauty in the simple, yet purpose-filled life. Grab a cup of coffee and stay a while. I pray that the Lord uses the words He gives me to encourage and give you hope along your path.
We recently moved into a new house—the excitement was real, as was the exhaustion. It is as if you go into overdrive to just get it all in. Once you lose the mover high, you are face to face with boxes…LOTS OF BOXES. The house we moved from is significantly smaller than the house we moved into, therefore, I worried I would not have enough décor to fill my space. I had big dreams for this space. I felt like the kids you imagine when reading “The Night Before Christmas”. Visions of décor danced in my head. When I heard that story as a kid, I always pictured the thought bubbles above the children’s heads filled with what I imagined a sugar plum must look like (REEAALLY sparkly, in case you are wondering). Almost as soon as those though bubbles appeared above my head, they were popped with a pin called COVID-19. TJ MAXX WAS CLOSED. In the months that it took our home to sell, I had spent many an afternoon walking the aisles of TJ Maxx mentally decorating my new space. In all my dreams of moving into my new home, TJ Maxx being closed simultaneously with Hobby Lobby would have been the nightmare. (I know that sounds very spoiled but bear with me).
Once we were moved, I began to wade through the sea of boxes that were my living room. Piece by piece, I organized our belongings into place. Sorting through all the pieces brought back memories of all the spaces that I have always loved--Mama’s, Grandmother’s, my best friend’s parents’ home. As I reminisced those spaces I realized I was not thinking about the décor, I really couldn’t recall any piece of décor in detail, but rather I recalled how the space felt to me. The spaces were functional, not just nice to gaze upon. Nowadays you do not have to look very far to see images of beautiful spaces perfectly decorated and arranged to be aesthetically pleasing to the eye. I am Fixer Upper fan through and through. I love following blogs or Instagram accounts with aesthetically appealing snapshots of room after room. People work hard to create for their spaces, but for who?
These thoughts led me to the realization that my desire to fill my space with a bunch of new things has decreased. I did not want my new home to be consumed by image. I wanted my space to be consumed with things I love or that remind me of the people I love. I want to see faces. I want remember moments of great joy or deep pains when the Lord did a great work as He walked me through the valley. I want to see toys, where there is not supposed to be toys. I want the rooms to be filled with pieces that mean something to me not just pieces that will create a nice aesthetic flow. I want my space to tell a story of love and grace and God.
While these notions ran through my mind, I thought about myself. How often am I so concerned with the appearance of my soul, that I forget it needs to be functional. Some spaces, within my soul, I just leave empty and shut the door, so no one can see them. While other spaces I make sure will be appealing to the eye, but they are very uncomfortable to be in. I fill the spaces with a social media feed or the news or gossip or discontentment or pride or striving to be a boss. All these things I choose to fill my soul with make me appealing to the world. The place we are all striving so desperately to fit into. We are even warned of such by Jesus in the book of Matthew, “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?” (Matthew 16:26). Prior to this statement Jesus also tells us that, “whoever would save his life would lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (v. 25).
We have become so focused about saving our earthly life that we are forfeiting our life in Christ. Jesus does not care how well we can string together words for a social media post about Him if we do not take the time to sit with and abide in Him. To allow him to truly search us and know us. The rest of the world might not be able to see your soul condition, but He can. He wants us to allow Him to use the spaces of our soul we close off to the world for His glory instead of pretending that we have it all together. He is not concerned with how much we look like a Christian in appearance, but if our spirit is truly found in Him. We mean more to Jesus than just looking the part, He created us to be functional for Christ. But He cannot use an empty shell, even though it might look beautiful on the outside. I want to spend more time providing my spirit what it needs to do more than just look the part, but to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which I have been called” (Ephesians 4:1).
I knowSeveral days ago I came across a quote from Tony Evans that said, “To miss your kingdom assignment because you have become too caught up in your personal kingdom itself is the greatest tragedy you could ever face”. I have not been able to get the quote out of head. Every time it comes to mind, one-word bounces around in my spirit—known.
I remember days before social media. I remember Facebook when you had to have a valid college email address to sign up. And, I remember the day that all changed. My friend Whitney and I were sitting in our dorm room when she received a friend request from young person that went to our high school. The world as we know it had changed, but we had no idea just how much change would come.
The world would become consumed with what others were doing. More so, the world would become consumed with telling the world what they were doing—consumed with being known. We want people to know what we have for dinner or when we get our nails done or how we dressed our kids that day. We want to tell people how frustrated we are in the checkout line at Wal-Mart or how the sunset looks or make sure we share this quote or that meme.
Before I continue, I am NOT insinuating that any of these things are bad. People have used social media for a type of connection with others (even though I believe it has taken away the art of conversation, but that is another post for another day). Social media shares parts of the lives of others that we might not know if we still only had a landline or AOL instant messenger (AOL profiles did not glamorize our lives quite enough—if you know, you know).
We want to be known to someone, anyone. We want to feel validated. Something inside us shouts more, more, more with every ding of a like or comment or share. Yet, we still go to bed feeling empty and we wake up anticipating what news feed activity we missed while we were sleeping. Our days begin with searching to know what others are doing or seeking to be known by others and our days end in either a sense of completion or failure based on the same.
I am not sure that are brains, or our spirits were created for constant input. There are so many articles about how people are more unhappy now than ever before. I truly believe that part of this unhappiness is because we are worn slap out from striving. Even those with the purest intentions of social media have experienced a sting or two at the expense of its constant known ness.
Today I waited in line for 30 minutes-HALF AN HOUR-for my husband, a Mata’s pizza. He’s asked for one since, well, the first day they closed down because of COVID and it being the week of Father’s Day and the week they opened back up, it felt like a good gift to him. As I sat in the drive thru, I could not stop hearing the word.
Known. KNOWN. K N O W N. Then the whisper, “But you are known. I know how many hairs are on your head. I have searched you and know you. I even know the parts you don't want to share and still desire to know you more. I died so that you could be known by my Father in Heaven”.
I miss it every day. The fact that this place is not my home. I spend more hours than I care to admit concerned with being here for the sake of being here. Which is not why I am here at all. I want to be known more for how I lived and loved as it concerns the cause of Christ. As heard in a Kari Jobe song, “The only thing I want in life is to be known for loving Christ. To build his church, to love his bride. To make his name known far and wide”. I will not take my list of likes or followers with me when I meet Jesus face to face. He will see my life beyond the screen. Did my life beyond my profile follow him? Did I carry Jesus around like an accessory?
I am challenged to operate more from a place rooted in the truth that God knows me rather than the earthly desire to be known by others. I believe it will change my mindset in the mornings and my interactions with others as I seek to make Him known through the life, He has entrusted me with. This life is more than being known to the world by your words or actions, its making Him known to the world by your words and actions.
Last night Whitleigh Jo woke us up around 2am. She bantered back and forth between Mama and Dada before pulling out all the stops, screaming for Baba (what she calls the cat) to come rescue her from her crib. We took turns trying to calm her, but it was evident that we were not going to succeed. Around 3:45am Michael said, “Could she be hungry?”
I forged downstairs (without contacts or glasses) and rumbled around in the kitchen until I felt out a couple graham crackers and her milk cup. Finally, that appeased her. She downed one cup of milk quickly and I asked Michael to go grab her more since I couldn’t see anything other than the shape of objects.
“Oh, no”, I heard from Michael downstairs. Seriously, why are all the things happening at almost 4am? “What’s wrong?”, I yelled down as tiny lady baby quite joyfully ate her graham crackers (does she realize they taste real good during normal operating hours, too, and will be here for her to eat in the morning?) “Well, there are ants—lots of ants. As I poured her milk I was trying to figure out what was so dark that you put in a Ziplock bag. Then I realized it was cheddar bunnies completely covered in ants”.
Michael brings us the milk and heads back downstairs to seek and destroy our late night guests. About as soon as this happens, I decide to change Whitleigh Jo’s diaper, at which time she remains completely still and closes her eyes. Was she really about to fall asleep?! I slowly pick her up, take her in her room, and place her in her bed. She reaches for her lovie and paci—not another peep. Once downstairs Michael says, “I’m thankful that she wouldn’t go back to sleep 2 hours ago because there is no telling what the ant scene would have been later in the morning.”
Today, while on the phone with a friend, she asked me what we were doing with our day. I told her I was cleaning house and hoping to get Whitleigh Jo back on schedule so that maybe she would sleep better tonight, at which point I told her the above story and as I told the story I suddenly realized a bigger picture.
Sometimes God shakes up our surroundings to reveal something deeper to us. We get so consumed with the storm and questioning why rather than saying, “Okay, Lord. I’m up. What do you need me to see?” He makes us uncomfortable and in our discomfort is when He does some of His best works, because it’s when we are at the end of ourselves and His strength is made manifest through our weakness.
I’d prefer never to be uncomfortable, but the discomfort brings me closer to Jesus—the greatest comfort of all.
Forgive them for they know not what they do. I’d like to think that I would have been one of the people who loved Jesus when he walked the Earth. However, when I think back on my past, it tells me that would have most likely not been true. In my past, it wasn’t that I didn’t want to love Jesus—I did. But, I didn’t know how to love Him, more specifically, I didn’t understand how He could and was going to love me with a dark past such as mine.
Reailty is I’d probably have fallen somewhere between loving him in secret and yelling crucify him with the crowds. Knowing my personality, I would have said nothing about the injustice. I wouldn’t have spoken up for fear of what someone would think. I would try to avoid the conflict. So, I’d watch silently as they led him through the streets and silent as they nailed him to the cross. My spirit would have probably ached as I sat “nicely” while letting others speak up on his behalf.
And, then I think on those words, from Jesus on the cross, that I mentioned above, “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). I’ve always thought this scripture to reference only those who were openly persecuting him.
Today, I feel differently. Today I see him asking forgiveness for all those who persecuted and all those who said nothing in opposition, out of fear or to walk the nice line or to not ruffle feathers or worse to ensure people still liked them. I believe the forgiveness Christ asked for was for Judas who with sin in his heart turned Jesus in and I believe the forgiveness was for Peter who continued to deny Jesus out of fear, to simply save face with others.
I love Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and there are so many questions I’d love to ask him. I could listen to his sermons or speeches over and over because not only do his words stir hope in my spirit but his voice fills me with peace. Sometimes I look up his sermons or speeches just to listen and reflect. I normally do a Google search for images and while I listen I look through pictures trying to imagine him in person. I picture his braveness and strength that I know came from the Lord alone. He wasn’t afraid of an honest word or persecution or being disliked, but he had the gift of conveying a tough message with such grace.
In many of his pictures I will see a few white people. Some are linked in arms with him while others are sprinkled in the crowd. Just like I wonder if I would have spoken up when Jesus was crucified, I wonder whether I would have stood publicly for justice with him or would I have nicely slinked back in fear and be more concerned about who approved of me.
Jesus approves of me. An audience of one and that audience of one called me to speak up for wrong, to put on my armor and stand strong in my faith. Because there is no question what we are fighting is evil. The enemy thrives in division and the longer he can maintain the division, the longer he has a foothold.
What I realize today is that my lack of stepping forward in support of racial justice is a contribution to the division. I no longer want to be apart of the problem, by remaining silent, but to be a part of the solution.
Up until now, I don’t say anything because nothing I say can take away the YEARS of endlessly racism, persecution, and hate so many I love and those that came before them have faced. I don’t say anything because no words from a woman who has lived her life under the umbrella of white privilege seems to matter. My voice doesn’t have to matter to all those afflicted and it doesn’t have to change anything, but as a follower of Christ, it must be lifted in support of justice of those oppressed.
If I’d been a bystander as Jesus was led to be crucified, would my words of disgust and opposition at the injustice have mattered? Most certainly not. My words wouldn’t have changed the situation or made the people reconsider the hate in their heart. But, my words would have been spoken in support and against the injustice.
I’ve allowed fear of what others would think and the reality that my words won’t change anything to keep me from being brave. I’m sickened that many of my school babies have to endure ignorance of racism and I hate that they have to live in a world of persecution and injustice due to the color of their skin—still. When I read “Dear Martin” by Nic Stone with my school kids several years ago, I was heartbroken by the conversations we had of how careful they must be when out—“do nothing that could make someone assume your doing anything wrong”, “take off that hoodie”, “keep your hands out of your pockets”. Those are conversations some parents must have everyday with their children and it shouldn’t have to happen. No parent should have to even question, on any given day, if their child will be profiled or attacked because of the color of their skin. The worry and fear that some parents have to endure everyday while their children go into the world alone is appalling.
I imagine Dr. King rising up to fight for justice while harboring forgiveness in his heart for all those who “know not what they do”, like me, who haven’t spoken up for justice, and also for the ones who most assuredly act in hate. I’m sorry for my lack of bravery and hiding behind Christian niceness for the sake of self. Because I do not think being silent is what Jesus called me to. He calls our words to be “seasoned with salt, SO THAT you know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:6). The time is now, enough is enough. The suffocation of oppression was made manifest with George Floyd. Let’s remove the ties that bind, breathe in justice and breathe out hate.
A couple nights ago I had to make a call to Wayfair customer service. My husband and I are building a home and we close next week (I know, perfect timing). When we sold our home and moved in with my father in law, we gave our headboard to him and decided to get a new one. I found a great one and ordered it—in the wrong size. The customer service representative worked diligently to try to cancel the order with no such luck, so she graciously extended a paid return once the bed is delivered. As she worked, she commented on how much she loved the headboard I chose and I explained our situation which led to a discussion about how she was doing amid the COVID-19 new normal and how much she loved southern hospitality. Her words, “I wish everyone across the country had a little more of that. You can’t beat it”. After I ended the call, my husband commented on how long I had talked to her. It felt good. I wasn’t in such a hurry to get the problem fixed that I missed the person on the other end of the line. Because of weeks of staying home, my spirit has settled in the reality that I have nothing but time. Time to ask the Wayfair representative about her dog and care what she says in return, not just to make small talk because those calls can sometimes be so awkward.
Several months ago, I had a tough conversation with a friend. Our relationship had become unintentionally strained and she confronted me about the way things had become. One of her text messages read, “You’ve changed”. Normally, these words would sting and feel harsh, but when I read them a peace settled in. I had changed, but not in a bad way. My priorities and viewpoint had shifted because of many circumstances I had experienced in 2019. I had my first child. My husband and I had decided I would stay home for a year with her, which was scary because I have had a job since I was 16. My husband took a new job and we put our home on the market. I walked through suffering with close friends and I lost my Grandmother, which rocked the foundation of who I am.
“When things change inside you, things change around you”. I saw this quote Pinterest and it weighed heavy on my heart. I had changed and without notice my world around me began to shift with that change. As I pondered this quote, I thought about the world’s new normal due to COVID-19 and my conversation with the Wayfair representative. Things around us have changed, so things inside us have changed. Quarantine is either making people crazy or more content. We numb our daily lives with busy. We are constantly on the go in an instant gratification society, never in need of much because a few clicks can make sure we have it in two days—at the minimum. We strive and hustle and then wrap it up in a nicely in a social media post. If our lives are not constantly going, we feel lost because we can’t hide behind our busy. We have lost the beauty of just making do.
I read many tweets about how COVID-19 has brought chaos. But I feel the opposite. Yesterday, I had to run to the grocery store, so I loaded up my Lysol wipes, soap, and bottle of water so I could wash my hands before getting in my car. As I packed it, I missed the lack of worry and preparation I use to feel when going to the store, part of me wondered if that would be my normal again. But this new slower pace has brought an awareness of the beauty in the simple things. I have read more books, taken more walks, and played more board games. I’ve cared less about frivolous things and seen how much I have. I’ve seen people be more generous and support one another out of sincere empathy and compassion. Most importantly, I’ve seen God and understood His nature much more clearly.
The COVID-19 normal has made me grateful and learn to make do, finding so much more joy in that process than instant gratification. I also know how this new normal has affected people’s jobs. I want to life to go back to normal in that sense, to not affect the well-being of most people. But I want the mentality to remain. I don’t want to watch people so quickly go back to their busy, striving, desire for more and instant gratification. My hope is that the grace, humanity, and gratitude remain.
The angst amongst the population is heavy as a fear seems to have settled in all around us. The fears are endless but with the same root—the unknown. Several weeks ago, I was driving along the interstate when the traffic was shifted to one lane due to some trees being cut along the edge. I settled in behind an 18-wheeler, running late, and frustrated. There were cones blocking the closed lane and with each cone I passed I anxiously anticipated the last cone so I could go around this truck. But the truck blocked my view. I had no idea if the cone I just passed was the last because I couldn’t see ahead of me or around the side. I just had to keep moving forward and even though I couldn’t see what was ahead.
The Israelites felt somewhat the same way when they were in the wilderness. So much so that they would make idols in hopes of gaining some control over the situation. The closed interstate lane was drivable, the tree cutters were just along the side. What if I would have just taken my chances to make my own path because I was in a hurry and frustrated that I couldn’t see what was ahead. I would have most likely plowed over a cone resulting in damage to my car or possibly received a ticket. Similarly, we have watched in the past weeks as people have hoarded toilet paper, soap, hand sanitizer, and really anything else that could be hoarded. I read an article by a psychologist that stated the response showed our human nature to control. I couldn’t agree more. Our human nature seeks control. We can’t stop the coronavirus, honestly, we can follow all the medical guidelines, but we cannot 100% keep ourselves from getting the virus. And, that drives humans bonkers. So, what do we do? We hoard items that might help in hopes of feeling that we are gaining control of the situation. The harsh truth—we can buy all the toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and soap but it will not be our provision during this time. God is. He is it.
Today instead of resting my mind in the unknown, I allowed myself to recall all the things the Lord has done even when I couldn’t see what might be ahead. Then I allowed my mind to wander to all that He might do through this coronavirus situation. Often, we are so consumed with the wilderness around us that we don’t allow ourselves to consider all He is actively working on even while we remain in that wilderness. He never stops working, even when we can’t see what He is doing. There is no doubt that what is happening as a result of the coronavirus outbreak is a scheme of the enemy. I’m not sure what the enemy had in mind, but I do know that the Lord promises to be working for our good and His glory. I chose to rest in His promise when He assures us through His word that “His thoughts are not our thoughts” and “His ways are far beyond anything you could imagine”. The Lord allowed this, but He did not cause this. The virus did not take Him by surprise, even though that might not be how the situation feels.
Moses instructed the Israelites, “You shall not be in dread of them, for the Lord you God is in your midst, a great and awesome God” (Deuteronomy 7:21). The great news for today, God is the same today for us and He was for the Israelites, He hasn’t lost His awesomeness. So, leaning on these truths from scripture we should not dread the virus, but rather trust that God is with us. There is no doubt that the enemy meant it for evil, but in remembering God’s past faithfulness, He turned around Joseph’s situation when his brothers sold him in Genesis. The circumstance is different, but I believe the purpose is the same throughout the ages, the enemy intends to harm, while God intends it all for good (Genesis 50:20).
The first few days that the virus consumed the news and social media posts, I was certain the Lord was coming back within minutes. I’m still not completely unconvinced and find myself looking up—just in case. In the days that followed the initial “the virus is here” came an escalating since of panic and then the actual panic. Growing up in Alabama, I thought I would be prepared for how quickly can empty a store shelf in response to panic. Even the slightest mention of a snowflake and you won’t find milk or bread for days in most parts of the state. Yet, no snow day panic could have prepared me for countless pictures of empty store aisles. Every aisle. No items were spared. As I thought about the countless out of stock items, I could feel the anxiety rising within me until the sweet spirit whispered to me one word, distraction. The enemy is the author of distraction desiring to cause chaos while stealing peace. All the lack of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, diapers, and milk are distracting me from the truth that the Lord is my provision.
Do you know who else spent time in the wilderness and had to look to God? Jesus. During his time in the wilderness, Jesus was tempted by the enemy. The enemy tried to distract Jesus from his purpose, but Jesus remembered God and quoted from the book of Deuteronomy. Moses instructed the Israelites, in the book of Deuteronomy, to reflect on the past faithfulness of God during the time in the wilderness for encouragement that hope for what God will do in the future is rooted in what God has done in the past. A lack of faith during challenging times isn’t something new for humans and the Bible is our guide for how to navigate our faith when we find ourselves challenged. Moses told the Israelites, “And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart” (Deuteronomy 8:2). God chose to humble the people in the wilderness SO THAT the people would learn to depend on him and walk in his ways. The scripture challenged me to examine my own heart and what I found in my heart during this time is much more fear than faith.
I love the Lord so much that this hurt me. I don’t want to give in to the distraction of the enemy and lean towards fear. No toilet paper is worth doubting my Savior. So, I’ve challenged myself to write down each time I remember a past faithfulness. Also, I’m journaling prayers for what I believe God might do during this time. I think of my friends who have been infertile but have decided to keep the faith and keep trying. Many of those friends are always busy but are now stuck at home—God can use their time at home to create new life. I write it down and I pray. I think of friends who have a broken marriage who are now forced to be together more—God can bring the miracle of restoration. I write it down and I pray. There are so many other areas that I love to sit and imagine how God could move through this “shut down”. What new doors can He open with the ones that have been forced closed by the outbreak? When my heart imagines these outcomes I am reminded of His truth, “immeasurably more than all you think or imagine”, and I find peace (Ephesians 3:20).
I didn’t want to be in our current house on Christmas. In August when we listed it, I dreamed of Christmas in a different house. One with more space and maybe an actual closet for my clothes. Yesterday we took communion as a family and sang praises to the King at a candlelight service, but I was on edge all morning. I snapped at Michael to “hurry and get ready—please”. It was that delayed kind of please that really means right now, better yet, five minutes ago or preferably before my head spins around.
And then I woke up this morning. Thank I had a roof over my head and who really cares where my clothes are stored, I have clothes, lots of them. I woke up to people I prayed (and a cat) that I prayed for. This has been the simplest Christmas and by far the best. I didn’t get caught up in all the things that I normally do, because I honestly couldn’t. Not working this year has shifted our lifestyle while opening my eyes to what matters the most.
As a Christian, I know the meaning of Christmas. I sing the songs and read the Bible verses. But, this year. This is the first year of experiencing the wonder in the truth of the season. Maybe it’s because we couldn’t afford to get wrapped up in all the fluff or maybe it’s because I know I’m responsible for the understanding my daughter will have of Christmas—I don’t know. I just know that this Christmas has changed me. There wasn’t anything in the manger. God allowed the inn to be full, because He needed the surroundings to be simple so that the glory of the moment would not be missed. His glory. That’s what I’ve learned, sometimes God minimizes our surroundings to maximize His presence.
I hate surprises. I like to know what’s going on and when it’s going on. I like to be prepared. For most of my life, that’s exactly how I lived. I learned to observe all things around me and read people so that I could prepare myself for any and every situation to try to avoid disappointing anyone. Every move I ever made or word I ever said had to be calculated as to not rock any boats, I needed to be whatever each person wanted me to be. As a child, my anxiety levels soared because I stayed in a constant state of preparation or planning or calculation of mine and everyone else’s next move. Needless to say, if a surprise came my way, I crumbled.
When I was kid we didn’t go out to eat a lot. It had to be a birthday or some other special occasion. When we did venture out, one of the restaurants we loved was O’Charley’s. Every time I would eagerly anticipate the end of the meal. Not that the food wasn’t good, but I had my sights set on a balloon. As you left the restaurant the hostess always gave you a balloon. Once I received it I’d hold it all the way to the car and then look to my Mama. She nod her head and say, “Go ahead”. I wanted the balloon only so I could let it go. It was the highlight of every trip to O’Charleys. I can remember my Mama always saying, “Most kids cry when they lose their balloon, you can’t wait to let yours go”. That was true. I would stand with my neck tilted, remaining in that position even when it started to hurt, to watch the balloon drift away until it was out of my sight. That balloon was free. It drifted in the breeze and could go any direction it chose. It wasn’t afraid of everything or anything. It didn’t have to plan for the direction it was going. It very well might get wrapped around a power line or stuck in a tree or even burst. But, it didn’t stop it from going.
My anxiety has been on a high the last several months. The majority stems from all the changes that have come in the last year. I became a Mama, a stay-at-home Mama, and Michael took a new job. Then, we put our house on the market—it hasn’t sold. And, that was my plan. So, my norm is to begin questioning EVERYTHING and analyzing it six ways from Sunday until my stomach is twisted in knots, my hands hurt from wringing them, and my head hurts from all the possibilities.
When I ran across this quote on a Pinterest and recalled that about my childhood self, my spirit felt drawn to read in Luke 1:28-38(TPT) about Mary. I have read the story many times, but when I read it today a verse stuck out to me that never has before. So, Gabriel appears and says to Mary, “Grace to you, young woman, for the Lord is with you and so you are anointed with great favor” (v. 28). Now, reading that and not knowing what comes next, that sounds like great news! Since that’s all he initially said to Mary, her reaction should be overjoyed. I mean, the Lord is anointing her with great favor. YES! Isn’t that what we all desire? Yet, the very next verse states, “Mary was deeply troubled over the words of the angel and bewildered over what this may mean for her” (v. 29).
Huh? Did you hear Gabriel, Mary? He said you were being anointed with great favor. Why the long face? She doesn’t even know about the baby yet. The baby that she isn’t suppose to have since she is a virgin. All she knows is that Gabriel has come to her with a surprise and it was not in her plans. Her plan was to marry Joseph and probably have kids, but not right now.
She was scared. Her face must have looked something like the big eyed emoji because the next verse states, “But the angel reassured her, saying, “Do not yield to your fear, Mary, for the Lord has found delight in you and has chosen to surprise you with a wonderful gift” (v. 30). She is already fearful and she still has no clue about a baby. Her fear is simply rooted in the unknown. The unplanned.
Then Gabriel drops the bomb. Mary questions him at first because after all, she knows where babies come from—not St. Vincent’s—and she is a virgin. But, that’s her only question before he delivers his explanation. Gabriel completely rocks her world. And, Mary’s final response, “This is amazing! As his servant, I accept whatever he has for me” (v. 38).
Sometimes even the great things the Lord has for us come in scary, unknown, and unplanned packages. The favor and blessings come in form of surprises. God gives us good things, that at first might scare us. Naturally so, because “his thoughts are higher than our thoughts, and his ways higher than our ways” (Isaiah 55:8-9). You aren’t prepared. You didn’t have time to plan. It wasn’t your idea.
Even so, what I learned from Mary encouraged me. She was looking in the face of an angel who was promising her the anointing of favor from the Lord, and her first reaction was still fear. But, it was okay to be scared in the face of the unknown—as long as she didn’t remain there. She chose to surrender her fear and find her peace in the Lord. She was his servant and so she would trust in whatever he had planned for her.
This year my only goal is to look more to the gospel in my fear, to look toward the light when I can’t see through the darkness of the unknown. To hopefully, like Mary, find delight and peace in being a servant to the Most High—whatever he has for me.
I spent the better part of the day looking at a view similar to this. We went from this mess, to the one in the living room, more times than I can count. She crawled all over the place and I repeated, “Whitleigh. No, no”. I washed dishes. She threw up morning bottle all over us, as it went down the wrong way—completely scared me. I addressed Christmas cards.
Then I stopped for a moment and looked up from loading the dishwasher. All of this is mine. All the dirt on the floor, the piled dishes, the baby who won’t take her paci out because new teeth are cutting in. All the mess is mine. Is it Pinterest worthy? Not in the least.
It’s the life God so graciously led me to after running from him. After thinking I knew best. I thought I knew my dreams. In high school, my ambition was to get a degree, so I could get a fancy job and be able to buy all the fancy business clothes from the Victoria’s Secret catalog—I know, real concrete goals. So, I went to the University of Alabama with wrong intentions. Thus leading me to leaving the University of Alabama to come home to get a my cosmetology license. I married way to young, with no understanding of love, so that I prove everyone wrong only to end up 21 and divorced. After that was a sting of one poor decision after another until the day I met Jesus. Not halfway met him. Not scared from the sermon met him. Not I know all the right things to say and a couple scriptures out of context met him. But, new direction, new person, didn’t recognize myself in the mirror anymore met him.
Then everything changed. He began to give me different dreams and take me down roads that I never saw myself traveling down. He gave me a man to love me and share Christmas Tree cakes with on our anniversary. He would use that love to teach me about prayer and waiting and grace. He gave me a desire for kids. He walked me through a miscarriage and allowed me to understand his goodness differently, then so graciously gave me our girl. He opened my heart to young people and burdened me to make a difference in their lives, to show them the love of Jesus by loving and supporting them. Then he walked me down a path to a degree so that I could.
I have surrendered to the Lord and his plans, but I have also wrestled with him over his plans. I have been angry at him and ignored him and even yelled at him sometimes. He allows me to be broken, but he never leaves me that way. Knowing this truth doesn’t always mean I reach for it in tough seasons. Sometimes it’s as though I don’t know how to open my Bible, and even when I get it open, it’s as if the words don’t make sense. Because I’m seeing it through the lens of my feelings or circumstances or other people’s blessings compared to blessings I’m not receiving. I wallow in that. In my current season there’s anxiety and frustration and questions. But, he is big enough to handle it. He is big enough to handle my honesty in my feelings towards him and his ways. He is big enough to overcome it, if I’ll let the light in. It’s a process. Sometimes it feels like ripping off a bandaid, and dripping a little a little alcohol on that wound. And then, it starts to heal.
I have no idea why I felt compelled to be this transparent. Other than lately I have been consumed with the desire to hide for one reason or another. I’ve been consumed with being worried about what others think and allowing their opinions of me to be my truth. The truth is I know who I am in Christ and that’s enough. That’s my truth. I am more than the sum of every single one of my mistakes. I am more than the enemy lies. I am more than cowering to manipulation. I am more than self hate. I am more than a discouraged heart. I am more than the past. I am more because of the work of the cross. I have been made confident in Christ.
For whatever reason, the Lord laid these words on my heart and continued to move me to share. So here it is. Every raw word and truth on display in hopes that someone else finds hope.
This is cinnamon squares and burnt parchment paper in a trash bag. It was never intended to be in a trash bag, yet there it was.
I had a plan. We were going to a 4th of July breakfast and there was a Magnolia Table cookbook recipe I wanted to try. I made my dough the night before to save time the morning of and I went to sleep eager to see how to turned out.
Expect when I woke up on the 4th, my headache from the night before had worsened. See, on the 3rd I somehow forgot to make my coffee. I realized it as I was cleaning the kitchen and wondered as to why the Keurig handle was lifted. It was past 9:00 and I knew I’d never get to sleep if I drank it then. But now, the pounding headache that I had all day made since. No caffeine.
Up at 6:00 am to set out the dough to warm up—head still hurting. Up again at 7:00 am to start the cinnamon squares—head still hurting. As I got out all my ingredients I realized I didn’t feel like attempting these. My head hurt and I was tired. What I wanted to do was send Michael to the store to grab some cinnamon rolls that I could pop in the oven real fast. But, is that what I did? Of course not.
Which landed me staring at trash bag full of cinnamon squares.
My spirit told me to rest, to send Michael to buy the cinnamon rolls. Because the dough would keep until the next day and I would feel better to try again. My need for approval told me to push through, forget how I felt, and take the homemade cinnamon squares. Truth—not one person would have disapproved of me. That’s the lie I chose to believe.
Long story short, the parchment paper—that the recipe called for—ended up catching on fire and burning in the oven. Smoke filled the house and I quickly removed the squares from the oven. I put the squares on a different pan with no parchment paper and popped them back in the oven. Only to quickly realize part of the paper had burned and fell into the oven. More smoke in the house. By the time I got most of the smoke out the breakfast had started, Whitleigh Jo had peed on the bed and then she fell asleep—not in the pee.
What was my next course of action? To sit on the bed and cry—ugly cry. During this moment I thought, “You just mess up everything”. Once I came out of my pity party, my thoughts bothered me. I felt like a failure because of burnt parchment paper. But, it was more than that. It was because I was mad at myself for not just sending Michael to the store.
That’s when I realized how far out of control my need for approval and lack of surrender to God telling me to quit had become. Those moments when I’m so frustrated because things don’t go as planned—I didn’t surrender to God. Those moments when I work really hard on something so I can hear that ‘Atta girl’ but I never get it, only leaving me feeling like a failure—I didn’t surrender to God.
Every time I don’t surrender to God, this is what I’m causing—a trash bag full of potential with the wrong kind of follow through.
God has been asking me to surrender my need for approval for a couple weeks now. But, that place feels safe. It’s how I’ve always validated myself—by becoming whatever and whoever I thought everyone else wanted. Even though I have freedom from my past, this process became an unconscious unhealthy habit and motivation (Galatians 1:10). Once again, my thoughts sounded something like, “What’s wrong with you? Quit doing this”.
Once the smoke had cleared (pun intended) my phone buzzed with a daily bible verse, “Create in my a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” Psalm 51:10. The word renew stood out the most because you don’t need to renew something unless it can run out. If you know anything about David, you know that he, like us, didn’t always make the best choices. He leaned to his own understanding a good bit. In fact, this particular Psalm is part of his confession after his sin with Bathsheba.
David had failed. He had not surrendered his unhealthy choice to God. For it says in 2 Samuel 11:27 that “the thing David had done displeased the Lord”. David knew this and called upon the Lord to be renewed.
God doesn’t need us to be perfect. But, He does need us to surrender those imperfections to Him so that his power can be made perfect (2 Corinthians 12:9). We don’t have to live for approval, because we live from it (Ephesians 1:4). God’s been moving in me lately, in a way I have trouble putting into words. I feel like he is unraveling me—one situation at a time—and I’m not holding the needle or the new thread. He is and I’m here for it.
“One moment in your presence changes everything. Here I am abandoned, You are all I seek. Have your way in me. Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom and there is healing.” -Highlands Worship