Reckless Love

So today on this little blog of mine, I’m going to share with you a story that has framed my life. One that’s told often, but has been missing details for the past twenty years of my life. Isn’t it always true that there is always more to the story. 

This story starts before I even came into existence, or even thought of by good ole Tom & Patti (my parents, also the stunning 90s couple you see in the picture). Everyone loves a good story about how a couple got together. Exhibit A: the hit show How I Met Your Mother. But, this one is a little less glamorous, more human, and a lot messy. 

My parents met at Harvey Lumber Company in Columbus. But before they met, they both already had their own set of baggage and wounds that could fill up a book. They had pretty rough lives before they became man and wife. Lives that were still stained with regret, hurt, abuse, and loss. But to cope, they both ran far from God who seemed to be the one that caused all of this.

So this good looking couple met, dated, and got married, while still carrying the weight of years of hurt and running from God. They started a family, and that’s where I come in. Four kids later, they were living in a trailer in Cusseta, GA  with an unhealthy marriage. They were two hurt people, without God, that ended up hurting each other. I was about two when they divorced, so naturally I don’t remember the days before the papers were signed, but all I know is that they were bad.

So by the age of almost two, my parents were divorced. My oldest sister and I moved in with my mom in Columbus, while my other sister and brother stayed with my dad. We all still got to see each other, just now it was scheduled out and not everyday like normal. I remember living on this schedule for a while.

After starting the routine of bouncing between parent to parent is where my memory gets hazy, and I just know what was told to me.

Not long after the divorce, my dad felt the urgent need to turn his life around and started going to church. And not long after that, he gave up running away from God and started running towards Him. As he carried me down the aisle with him when he gave his life to Jesus, everything began to change for me and our family. 

My dad began taking us to church as the divorced years went on. As we began to love it and became heavily involved, my dad asked my mom to start picking us up from church. She did, and God met her there. She started picking us up, and shortly after she started attending herself. She gave her life to Jesus, and our divorced little family found some form of home and consistency at church. As my mom stayed in church, she began to hear more from the Lord. One night, He told her to get back together with my dad. And so after being divorced for four years, they got remarried to each other. 

Now here is where the blurry house in the background comes into play.

I always thought my dad built our house when they decided to get back together, because I remember my mom spending the night in our rooms the week before they got remarried. But for all of these years, I thought wrong. A couple of weeks ago, my mom corrected me and told me that he built it before. That she had visited the house at a party he had after it was finished, and they were no where near getting back together.

So on the night of my 21st birthday, I asked my dad why he built our house.

And his answer changed the way I looked at him, and how I now look at God. 

He said, “I knew she hated the trailer and always wanted a house. I was giving my life for my kids and never stopped loving her, even though I had lost hope that someday it would workout again.”

So if you’re still with me by now, I told this long story to land here.

If you haven’t heard the song “Reckless Love” by Cory Asbury, you should go listen now or right after. This song declares, “When I was your foe, still your love fought for me.” The blurry house in the picture was how the Lord and my dad fought for us. My dad built this house for us before the option of remarrying my mom was on the table. Each brick in the background was my dad fighting for my mom and us. Each brick was God fighting for my family to be restored and my heart to be His.

That’s the promise of the Gospel. The Good News that Jesus fights for us. He leaves the ninety-nine to run after the one, because He loves us. He so recklessly loves us that He will build a house for a little girl, like me, to have a loving home that would one day show her who Jesus is. Whatever obstacle you have in your life, He will recklessly knock it down. And when I say reckless, I mean there will be a mess and it may not look pretty for a while. But it will be cleaned up in the midst of the mess.

My parents’ story was one big mess! And it wasn’t perfect after they got remarried either. There was still a mess. But it’s in that mess that His love meets us there and makes room for a miracle. 

Remember that the next time you’re sitting in your mess feeling alone and unseen. Remember that the next time you’re wanting a love story like The Notebook. Remember that His reckless love always comes through at the right moment, and maybe even in the messy moments. Trust me, He’s really good at taking what looks dead and breathing new life into it again, just like my parents’ marriage and my life after meeting Him.

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(Also, shoutout to Tom for being the real life Noah from The Notebook before the movie was thought of!! He built my mom and us a house!!! Nicholas Sparks, you’re welcome)

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Tired “Hallelujahs”

Ever had a day, week, or even month where you get a little worn down with what seems like everything?

That sounds like a teenage angst thought, but really….do you ever just feel like nothing is working?

These past couple of weeks, it seems as if every prayer has gone unanswered. It seems like I have been banging on Heaven’s door, and it stays perfectly shut. Isn’t that the worst, when you feel like you’re doing all that you can, and God isn’t saying a peep?

After that phase happens, I usually move into the mood of “Okay God, if you aren’t talking to me, then I’m not talking to you. What’s the point if you aren’t listening.” That sounds really childish to admit. It looks even worse typed out and admitted on the internet, but it’s true.

And when I have these thoughts, I transition into two mindsets.

Mindset 1: “God isn’t listening anyway, so I’m just going to slack on my quiet time and reading my Bible, because I’m a little hurt right now by you God.”

Mindset 2: “I can’t even try to approach God again, because what kind of Christain would have thought that? No one gets fed up with God like that if they really love Him. No one who is really saved asks ‘God are you even there?'”

Both of these leave me outside of the Word and God’s presence. The first one leaves me feeling tapped out and fed up, and the second condemns me for feeling it. Isn’t that just what the devil wants?

This week, I started a new session of classes after fall break. I’m in church accounting (yay), my ministry practicum, and Psalms. One of these requires me to actually read the Bible at the very moment I don’t feel like it. With that being said, this Tuesday, I picked up my Bible and started reading again. Wednesday morning, I ugly cried at Focused Prayer for school and read Psalms 22. And that’s where the Word of God met me in my mess.

We all know Psalm 23, the one where it talks about God being a good shepherd. But Psalm 22 sings a much different tune. David begins it with, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 

That doesn’t sound so hopeful, does it? In fact, it even sounds like some of Jesus’s famous last words.

I realized here in this Psalm, that I’m not the only one who has felt this way. David and others cry out in frustration all throughout the book. Jesus even did on the Cross. But after each voiced hurt, David and Jesus always follow with praise, even if it is a tired hallelujah.

David says right after his cry, in verse 3, “Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. Our ancestors trusted in you, and you rescued them. They cried out to you and were saved. They trusted in you and were never disgraced.”

So, I write all of this to say, if you’re feeling like you’ve got nothing left to give God and fed up with the lack of faithfulness you see…flip your Bible to any old Psalm, give it a read, and look again. Even if it isn’t 100% better after reading, give Him one more tired hallelujah and await the encouragement to come. You are not alone in this mess of emotion. David, Jesus,the other unnamed Psalmist, and a billion other people are there, too. Including this gal writing.

God is good, even when it doesn’t feel good. Trust in the letters He gave to you, before you even saw this emotional current coming. I promise, Jesus will fix this.

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I choose Jesus over my past.

Tonight, I went through all of my old pictures from high school. While looking through these memories, I started to think that my life was way easier pre-Jesus. That I had a lot more fun and had a larger life before Jesus came on the scene and started cutting away those parts of my heart. As I looked through two years of prom pictures, old messages, and videos of sleep overs with past friend groups, I found myself really wondering if I was happy with where I’m at today, and maybe just maybe if I was missing out on the future that my past could have been. But after fifteen minutes and three haircut mistakes into the time spent on memory lane, I remembered the reality of my past and how much I would have missed if I would have settled for an average lifestyle.

I choose Jesus over my past.

Jesus met me where I didn’t even think I needed His help. Jesus met me in the middle of a life that was so close to being in the right direction that it was miles away from a life of righteousness.

What a good God I have. That He meets me in a place of settling to lift me to a place of living abundantly with Him. I say it a lot, but I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for Jesus. I would’ve missed out on my calling and lived a life filled with a misconception of God and the kind of love that we deserve.

I sound pretty grateful in these last two paragraphs. But the last two hours, and even these past two days, I have been feeling like I don’t know where I’m going in life and if I’m in the right place. I’ve fought with the lie that life with Jesus is just too much work and it’s too hard. That if I would have never gotten saved or gotten saved and just coasted, then life would be much easier and maybe even happier. But, happiness is fleeting based on circumstances. Joy withstands everything. And that’s what I have with Jesus–unshakeable joy.

I may be a junior in college working towards a ministry degree, helping lead a summer internship of kids when I have no idea what I’m doing, broker than a broke college student, and looking at the perfect plan I had for my life when I was sixteen and seeing none of it adding up. I may not know where I’m going or what I’m doing. But I know who I’m doing it with, and I know that He’s got good good plans for me (Jeremiah 29:11).

I would rather run this race with Jesus, feeling tired and worn out at times, than walking in life always searching for completion but instead coming up empty and finding love in all the wrong places.

I choose Jesus over my past every day for the rest of my days.

 

 

 

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The God that redeems.

Tonight, I thumbed through an old journal of mine. The leather book was filled with two years of my life. Two impactful, life-changing, and raw years of my life. So, I sat in my bed and read today’s date from last year and the year before. Two years ago today, I was not a Christian. I had yet to have my Damascus Way experience. One year ago today, I began to step out into the unknown with the Lord as I walked with Him by myself. I began to notice that the entirety of those two years bound in leather were a picture painted with grace and redemption.

Sometimes we don’t see redemption in the process. We lose sight of God’s mercy that is poured over us in the midst of the planting season. March 21, 2015 was a day that I was asking for more of God, but not sensing anything real. Day after day I would journal something similar, until June 14, 2015. I couldn’t see the redemption of my soul that day, but the soil and the seed had been planted.

March 21, 2016 was a day that I began to step out of the last chapter of my life and step into the grace and community Jesus was calling me to. I began to step out of bitterness towards failed things and people, even when I felt like things still weren’t looking like what I had pictured for this season. I couldn’t see the journey that would radically change my walk with the Lord then. I didn’t see myself boldly praying outloud, going to ministry school, going on missions to Peru, and running my race with a community so dear to my heart. All I saw was a girl who was insecure about the water God was calling her to walk on.

March 21, 2018 will be a day that I see the fruit of the seeds I have been planting in prayer. It will be the day where I see what this current process is for. But instead of being stuck in today where I am struggling to seek Jesus, I will declare the goodness of the Lord in my tomorrows. The Bible proclaims, “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6). If the Bible says it, then I declare and claim it for my own life.

Because, my God is a god that redeems!! Redemption was done and sealed when His blood spilled out at Calvary, but it also continues to happen as His Spirit moves into every room of my soul. Our Jesus is too kind and loving to leave us where we are. Live expectant of your redemption.

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Let’s be honest.

A lot of times in my Christian walk, it gets so easy to put on this perfect Christian demeanor. To say the right things, but not mean them all of the time. To judge others instead of dealing with the fact that I have my own sin and the fact that I’m not their judge.

So, I’m deciding to get honest. I’m really not the perfect Christian girl.

I don’t cuss, drink, or smoke. I don’t do a lot of the things that are on the “NO” list of Christianity. It’s perfectly fine that I check off all of the good things I do and the bad things that I don’t, but at the end of the day that doesn’t preach the gospel. It preaches religion.

On my blog, I can honestly say I write a lot of truth. But time and time again, the Lord reveals more to me. Like peeling an onion. After each day, there’s more layers, more revelation, and more conviction. I tend to write a lot about girl power, identity, how I’ve been hurt, and words that Jesus has laid on my heart. But, I don’t think I ever write about how I hurt people.

Tonight, I was listening to this amazing podcast about dating. The man who was preaching gave such a rich word. He spoke about how there are two types of relationships between man and woman in the Bible. Brother and sister in Christ and married. That there is no inbetween and one does not get to cross the line of the other. So when you’re dating, you are brother and sister in Christ. You are not married and you do not have ownership over the person, or privileges of a marriage. That when you date someone and it doesn’t work out, you should be able to meet their future spouse one day and be able to say, “I honored him/her.” As I listened to this message, I realized that one day… I won’t be able to say that to someone’s wife. After months of knowing I was wrong in some parts of a past relationship, but really throwing 99% of the blame on him…. It hit me tonight. I’m not this perfect Christian girl.

I think when breakups happen, we end up blaming one person more for the outcome. But really in hindsight, no one is purely innocent. So neither am I. From this situation and this sermon, I’ve learned the lesson that it is wrong to demand that someone text you 24/7. It is wrong to dishonor that person’s purity. It is wrong to hold someone to the responsibilty of completing you, when no one on this earth could possibly ever do that. It is wrong to treat someone as less than a son or daughter of God. And it is a shame that I will not be able to tell his wife that I truly honored him.

But that’s the honest truth. One time, I hurt somebody whether they felt it or not and I’m truly sorry for that. One time, I messed up and I did some things that wouldn’t go well with my “I’m the perfect Christian girl” mask.

I’m not saying that trying to become more like Christ everyday is wrong by any means. In fact, that’s the goal. To look more like Jesus. But there’s a difference in walking in truth and being good at hiding our own faults whilst picking at others. So, here’s to being honest. Here’s to being more authentic, more honoring, and more humble. Here’s to preaching that I am not perfect… that I have done horrible things, but the grace and radical unconditional love that Jesus offers says, “I still love you and I’ve covered that.”

That is the gospel.

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Fearfully & Wonderfully Made. 

“I will praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made” Psalms 139:14

Those words fearfully and wonderfully speak volumes. The word fearful (yare’) in Hebrew means “to be held in awe.” The word wonderfully (palah) in Hebrew means “to be distinct, wonderful, and set apart.” 

If only we looked at this everyday. If only we thought of the process God went through to make us. He fearfully and wonderfully made us. He made me and beheld my creation in awe. The God of this universe made me…. such a small person… And He beheld me in awe. Awe is defined as “an overwhelming feeling of adoration.” Imagine Jesus forming you, already in awe of you and what you are destined to do. 

So if the Lord is in awe of us as His creation, we are not just benchwarmers in this world. We aren’t some humans wandering around trying to stumble upon something we can make a living at. We are wonderfully made. We are distinct as God’s child. He has set us apart just as if He has marked us with His thumbprint or DNA. Jesus created us with a purpose that isn’t the same as the everyday motions of the world we so often get stuck in. As He beheld us with such intense adoration, He deemed us set apart as His family and for something bigger than ourselves. 

I wonder if we began to meditate on those words “fearfully” and “wonderfully” what would actually happen. Would we begin to love ourselves a little more? Would we smile brighter? Would Jesus seem more like a loving Father than a judge waiting for us to get out of line? Would we change our hearts, our lives, our surroundings, and maybe even our nations? For we are fearfully and wonderfully made and called to do all of those things. 

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Not my will, but Yours.

This life is like a maze. There’s so many confusing twist and turns you take. But there is only one route that gets you to where you need to be. I have spent a lot of time avoiding this route. Dodging the right turns and running down some dead end paths trying to make it there on my own. Yet, I know that the only path that will get me to the end is God’s will.

I struggle a lot with allowing Him to have His way and direct me on the path He has set before me. I tend to think that God doesn’t know what’s best, or God’s best is going to be something I won’t like…. When in reality, it’s the opposite. I can honestly say that some of my biggest let downs that happened because of God’s divine intervention were the best moments of my life.

I used to think that my testimony of getting saved just a year ago after living and breathing church for all of my life was embarrassing. Humiliating. That when I came to know Christ I was the biggest pretender of all time and how dumb did I look just now surrendering my life to Him. You may think that sounds awful to say, but it’s the truth. I felt so humbled and knocked off my church going pedistool when someone asked me, “How did you come to know Christ?” For the longest time, I beat myself up for letting down God and being fake. But how great is it that He intervened.  How fantastic is it that what I thought was a let down was the best moment I will ever experience on this Earth.

I know I can write about this topic a lot, but it’s only because it was such a crucial turning point for my life and walk in faith. When a relationship I held dear to my heart came tumbling down before me, I thought God let me down. To say I was angry with God would be an understatement. But because of that, I spent a season totally alone with God. I learned worth, how to love others, forgiveness, and dependence upon Him. But most importantly, I learned my purpose. God wrecked my heart to show me the heart I have for others. While I thought my future was ruined, it was only the biggest set up for me.

When my heart no longer desired to be a teacher, I felt unstable. Honestly, I connected a little with Job in the fact that I felt like God stripped all of what I thought was my identity away from me. Being pushed into the field of psychology and seminary where there isn’t security, left me feeling anxious and discouraged. But now, I’ve never been more at peace knowing if God guides, then He will provide.

Through all of these “let downs”, I came to see that my God’s will for me is best. That maybe sometimes what I want is not always what I need. While I still struggle with trying to grab the wheel and slam on brakes, I know that His will is ultimately where I want to be. So if I don’t end up with the guy I thought I would, the career I planned years for, or even the perfect church girl testimony…then that’s perfectly alright. My Jesus has saved His best for me and if something falls from my hands, I only know that it means something better is coming my way. Not my will, but His be done. On Earth as it is in Heaven.

 

 

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