How can I build Your kingdom if I’m building my own?

When I start dyeing my hair I think it’s to prove I’m over some dumb boy drama. In reality, it proves the opposite. I dye my hair because I need some change without a total life change. I want to change something without changing who I am. I dye my hair to turn something negative into a positive. The real reason I dye my hair to have some control over things out of my control. And I keep dyeing my hair until I forget why I started dyeing it in the first place, until I really am over it.

I’m usually over it by the first time my roots start to show, but then I keep dyeing it for a few more months. It’s not even about the boy, it’s about the plans I made with that boy (or sometimes without the guy…oops). Because it’s like starting a new chapter. Because when writing the story of my life, I break it down by boys. Each chapter is a different crush and most likely a different hair color. There’s a couple pages in-between boys but that’s not even really part of the story. A majority of my life stories revolve around what I learned by liking some guy. Saying it out loud, it sounds so dumb! I mean, my life doesn’t revolve around boys. I have a full life, filled with intention and purpose. But for some reason, there’s a little voice in my head saying: “yea, but girl, do you have a man?” There’s this little voice in my head that says no matter what I accomplish or do, it means nothing because I don’t have someone to share it with.

I’m scoring the winning 4th quarter touch down with no team. I got a head coach though, Lord. You direct my path. You gave me the play book and taught me the plays. I have some assistant coaches called family. Defensive coordinator is my mama. My mama teaches me to protect the home-front. Offense coordinator is my daddy. He teaches me to take what I’ve got and run the dang ball. Special teams coordinator is definitely my bubba. He shows up to get me to that extra point. The strength and conditioning coach is most certainly my sister. She challenges me every step of the way. The wide receiver coaches are my extended family: the aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins. They’re teaching me how to pass when we’re spread out. They’re the ones teaching me how to be the fastest on the field when there’s trouble.

I even have cheerleaders who are the friends that cheer you on win or lose. I got people in the stands filled with church family that show up on the good days and the bad, most likely with food. I got a band filled with co-workers that want me to succeed and that depend on me. The viewers at home are all the people I influence, sometimes without even knowing it. I have all these beautiful and wonderful people around me helping me win and picking me up when I lose. Still, I feel incomplete sometimes. Like I’m missing this big part to life, that everyone seems to have figured out except for me. I’ve been trying to be the whole team all at once. Some days I’m the quarter back. Some days I’m the running back or wide receiver or tail back or kicker. Whatever everyone else needs from me, I’ll be. I adapt. I change. I move. I run. I pass. I jump. I kick. I tackle. I guard. I block. I am a one woman show. I literally do it all. But some days, I wouldn’t mind just being part of the team, and not the star of the show.

Some days, I soak in all that You coach me. Some days, I’m stubborn and don’t listen at all. Some days, I completely rely on the coach’s decisions. Some days, I make a fool out of myself thinking I’ve figured it all out on my own. Some days, I thrive on the support from the coaching staff, fans, cheerleaders, and band. Some days, my ego is so big it literally takes all the air out of the stadium. Some days, I’m full of grace. Some days, my end zone dance is so obnoxious it distracts from the whole game. Some days, I take the loss like a champ, learn from it, and get em next time. Some days, I’m crying into my helmet on the side lines over a big loss. Some days, I’m playing no matter the weather; rain, snow or shine. Some days, I’m riding the bench when the depression hits and the game is literally played without me. Some days, I’m writing bible verses on my cleats and cheeks. Some days, I’m a hot mess getting in all kinds of hot water. Some days, I use my fame to help those around me. Some days I use it to show my ignorance.

So, here is my prayer. Lord, help me to have more good days than bad. Help me to learn from the bad days. Lord, help me learn how to be appreciative of the game. Help me to appreciate the people in my life. Help me to see what your teaching me. Help me to see what you’re preparing me for. Lord, help me to keep from getting burnt out. I pray that I remember why I play. I pray I remember to find joy in playing. I pray that I think about all those people counting on me and rooting for me. Father, I pray I give it all to you. I pray I lift up all those people in my life. I pray I give you all my failed plans and all my successes. I pray I give you all the glory. I pray that I consult that playbook daily. And as always I pray for my family and sorority sisters. I pray for my university. I pray for guidance for our government, church, and school leaders. I pray for protection for our troops. I pray for all of those that need you now and for those that haven’t met you yet. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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And I thank You, God, that You love a broken woman.

The devil was working hard this week. I mean he kept packing punches. I was tired. And I failed, multiple times. I didn’t get up when I got knocked down near quick enough. I laid down and tried to retreat, hoping I wouldn’t get hit again, but boyyyy was I hit again. And again. I dropped the ball more times than I can count. I complained over nothing. I was ungrateful. Instead of paying attention to those around me and taking care of them, I held a pity party and then shared my pity party with others inviting them to my pity party. I could list all the manyyyyy things I did wrong this week. In fact, someone did list them for me. This child legit looked me straight in the eye and said I was irrelevant. No one was going to change. No one was going to be better because of this. No one was being helped. Shesh-a-mighty, she spent half an hour telling me how completely useless I was. There was a lot of hurt and a lot of pain carried. I simply said: “well, I ain’t giving up.” That child’s rant may have been directed at me but it wasn’t about me in the slightest, I know that. Nevertheless, my God, You, don’t make irrelevant things. You are in the detail business. Your plan never fails.

“Their eyes are watching, oh, I don’t wanna mess this up.”

They prayed at the end of devotion a couple of weeks ago and said “the enemy don’t get tired of going after us or them because we get tired.” Ohhhhh, it got me fired up. You, my God, are greater. You, my God are stronger. You, my God, already won the war. I can rest in Your sweet victory, but I cannot stop fighting back. Lord, You are faithful, even when my faith is weak. I think You knew what You were doing when my mama named me Alyssa FAITH O’Steen. My mama always tells the story that she and my daddy had a lot of faith to have me and it’s this real cute story. But I think it’s carried on. I think You knew I would need a reminder daily. My faith is right there in the middle of everything, reminding me of Your faithfulness. Lord, You are so true and so reliable, every single time I fail. You don’t fail. You never leave me alone. That child might be right. I might never make a difference to anyone in this world, and that is ok. But You, my God, will make all the difference.

Hebrews 4:12 says: For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 

Romans 8:28 says: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. 

Psalm 143:8 says: Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love, for I have my trust in You. Show me the way I should go, for to You I entrust my life. 

So, here is my prayer today. Lord, fill my life with your word. I know your word is alive and active. I pray that keeps warming my soul. I pray that I am filled by your word. I pray that I continue to seek you. I pray that I am resilient. I pray that you are working. I pray that let these lazy bones of mine become active. I pray that I am reminded daily of your faithfulness and love and grace and mercy. I pray that this is all about you. Lord, I pray that your name is remembered above all names. I pray that you are the focus. I pray that you are the center of everything. I pray that your word surrounds everything I do. I pray that I give my life to you. I pray for your control, I’m done fighting for control. Lord, take over. I pray I give you the reigns. Thank you Lord for loving a broken woman. Thank you for finding me when I get lost. Thank you for changing me. Thank you for loving me too much to leave me the way I am. And as always I pray for my family and sorority sisters. I pray for my university. I pray for guidance for our government, church, and school leaders. I pray for protection for our troops. I pray for all of those that need you now and for those that haven’t met you yet. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

It’s nothing He ain’t seen before.

I’ve started reading all these books on kids and teenagers since that is who 99% of my day is spent with and/or praying for lately. One of the books I’m reading said: “The greatest gift we can give our children is a sense of belonging, a place in the family and from there a place in the world.” Ohhhhh sweet Lord, Jesus. We spend our whole lives looking to belong. In friendships, in our families, in our classrooms, in our workplaces, in our churches, literally in every function of our daily lives. We’re all searching for what You already gave us. A seat at the table.

The house we grew up in as kids is temporary. My college dorm was short-lived. Living in the sorority house ends too. That first apartment where I finally got to start feeling like an adult and buy some actual furniture of my own is gone in the blink of an eye. My house right now is temporary. And the hotel I moved into last night for the next few months is most certainly temporary. Eventually I’ll get married, move to another place and that will be temporary too. I’ll start a family, look for a bigger place, again that’s temporary. If all goes well, I’ll retire and go back to a smaller place, still temporary. Life is full of these temporary homes. In reading these parenting books, I keep learning what I can do to help these kids but I also get this overwhelming understanding of Your love as our Abba Father that I didn’t have before. Thank You, my good Lord Almighty, Heaven is not temporary. It is eternal. My name is written in the book. I’ve got a permanent seat at the table. And those things are not temporary. They cannot be taken. They do not fade away. They do not change. Father, You gave me a deeper sense of belonging than I’ll ever even know and I don’t lean on that enough. Lord, You take my brokenness and make it whole.

I read it in my devotion book and I’ve been praying it for like two weeks now since I started my new position at work. “Just use what you have, do the best you can, and trust Him to fill in the gaps.” That’s been my motto working with these kids. I’m trying to use what I have, grow as much as possible, and do the best I can. I already read Praying Circles Around the Lives of Your Children. I’m reading every book I can get my hands on from devotion books: Girls with Swords to parenting books: Be The Best Mom You Can Be to Shepherding a Child’s Heart to working with kids: Boundaries with Teens to Gospel-Centered Kids Ministry. I got actual textbooks like Teaching Social Skills to Youth. I’m trying to find scriptures to back up everything I’m learning and teaching. Lord, You fill the gaps that I didn’t even know were empty. Lord, in loving these kids, You are showing me how much deeper Your love goes. My love fails every single day. No matter much I study and try to prepare, my humanity, my sin, is gonna still be there. But You, Lord, Your love never fails.

I’ve been putting a “verse of the day” on the dry erase board before each shift starts. This weekend one of the verses I put was Matthew 11:28-30 which says: Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Chris Tomlin also has a song about coming to the table and he sings this verse in it.

So, here is my prayer today. I pray for these kids. I pray for these youth. Lord, I’m lifting them up to you. I pray that you teach me, guide me, help me. Lord, I need you. I’m coming to you. I’m bringing it all to you. I’m laying myself down at the cross. Lord, prepare my heart for battle. Prepare me to do your work. Lord, prepare my heart for Kingdom work. Abba Father, thank you for inviting me to the table. Thank you for accepting me as I am, but loving me enough to not leave me the way I came. Lord, I pray that you keep revealing your love and your heart to me. I wanna know you more. God, I pray, I wanna go deeper. I wanna strengthen my relationship with you. Thank you for doing the heavy lifting. Thank you for preparing a feast for me. Thank you for not turning me away. Thank you for restoring me. Thank you for filling my gaps. Thank you for filling my empty places. Thank you for temporary homes and for the eternal place at the table waiting on me. Thank you for sending the Savior to save us all. And as always I pray for my family and sorority sisters. I pray for my university. I pray for guidance for our government, church, and school leaders. I pray for protection for our troops. I pray for all of those that need you now and for those that haven’t met you yet. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

You’re faithful in provision.

Oh sweet Jesus. The house caught on fire Sunday right in the middle of the Church BBQ. I literally got a sunburn standing outside my house watching this all happen. The Construction, Cleanup, and Insurance people all kept saying: “It’s worse than you think it is,” every time they walked through the house. There’s damage we can clearly see and things like the electrical that we can’t see yet. They also said we would be out of the house 2-3 months or like 6 maybe, they won’t know for sure until they get started demoing. I got diagnosed with walking pnemonia Tuesday, and Wednesday we had to cancel the Youth and Children’s services at Church because of everything going on. Abba. Abba. Abba, Father. 

I am refusing to count those things or anything else going wrong. Completely refusing. I am counting Your love this week. Every single time something negative happens, I am immediately looking for the good in it. I have labeled them #smallvictories. I have said #smallvictories out loud in actual conversations, in messages to friends and family, and in my prayers with You, Lord.

Here are some of the glorious thank you’s for those #smallvictories:

  1. No one was hurt.
  2. For all the help offered by loved ones.
  3. For friends that washed the smoke out of my Church clothes and the two outfits I grabbed leaving the house Sunday and for letting me stay the night.
  4. And for her laughing with me when I grabbed my bathing suit from the house because hopefully the hotel we get has a pool. #priorities
  5. For Walmart having Star Wars pajamas pants to buy for our first night.
  6. For the insurance company that got us a hotel immediately and that is taking care of us.
  7. For the family friend taking care of our dog while we’re in a hotel.
  8. For starting a new position at work Monday.
  9. For the Nurse that prayed with me when I started crying in the Doctor’s office.
  10. For when she put her forehead on mine, held my face, and shared some of her “happy emotions” with me. That sweet woman literally gave me some of her happiness.
  11. For the sales ladies that hugged us when we cried at literally every store we went to on Wednesday trying to buy some clothes to get us through the next week or two.
  12. For books at Lifeway.
  13. For the 911 Operator, Police Department, Fire Department, ServPro, Certified Restoration Dry Cleaning Network, Geico, and all the people trying to get my family back into our home and the care and consideration they’ve shown.
  14. For the understanding and patience when my parents cried walking all over the house for the picture I drew in high school that was broken in the kitchen or my mama’s teddy bear that was covered in debris she got from her grandma and all the other memories associated with literally every little thing.
  15. For when I stood there surrounded by people I didn’t know, crying, looking at my grandma’s pink dish that was now black, but it wasn’t broken.
  16. For Sprite and cough syrup and shots from the Doctor.
  17. For a firm pillow from the Walmart.
  18. For my new Lily Planner I got for work that I hadn’t taken out of the car this weekend so it wasn’t in the house and back-to-school sales on colored pens at Walmart.
  19. For comfort food: Jim N Nicks’ cheese biscuits.
  20. For the staff at the Hampton Inn we’re at now and for the staff at the Marriott Residence Inn we’ll be moving to Friday.
  21. For the kindness shown to me by friends, family, and complete strangers this week.
  22. For prayers.

So, here is my prayer today. I just wanna say thank you. Abba, Father. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I’m praying Matthew 6:9–13 which says: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Thank you for every little thing and thank you for all the things I don’t even know yet. Lord, I’m singing Your praises. Father have Your will, Your way in me. Completely. We wholly trust. And as always I pray for my family and sorority sisters. I pray for my university. I pray for guidance for our government, church, and school leaders. I pray for protection for our troops. I pray for all of those that need you now and for those that haven’t met you yet. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

You don’t need me at all but You couldn’t love me more.

I went to GoTell, this past week. I got my batteries recharged. I have been struggling lately with setting up the appropriate boundaries. I have heard like a hundred times what Tim Hawkins, Kristina Kuzmic, and so many more have said: “I don’t want to be your friend, I have friends, I am your parent.” I believe it 100%. I am not a parent, but I work with kids and youth. It’s hard for me understand where the lines end and begin of parenting and teaching. Though I mean to, sometimes, I do not set up strict enough boundaries. It’s not because I want them to like me. I learned that as President in my sorority, that I do not need everyone to like me. What I struggle with, is learning where my service to others ends and where everything else begins.

I have never had a problem setting up boundaries with boys. I never dated much, but every time I did, it just showed me more and more to give my heart to You, Lord, because You will put it in the right hands. Every time I tried to take my heart back and give it away myself, I put it in the wrong hands. Ever single time. But that’s a topic for another day.

At GoTell, the Benham Brothers spoke. They had this whole spiel, which was fab. But one line stuck out the most for me. “Boundaries bring blessings. Removing them bring burdens.” Ohhhhh Lord have mercy. Your timing. Just as boundaries was a topic at the forefront of my mind. Now they were addressing them back to the boy thing, but I heard You, Lord.

Then You hit the nail on the head, the last day. Brother Algernon Tennyson talked about how love is a sacrifice. It’s service. Sometimes we have to be tough enough to soften hard hearts. Boy howdy. That’s exactly what I needed to hear. I have always believed that love is service, but what I still need to learn is that sometimes, I have to be tough. I needed someone to point out that service is love and the tough stuff. I am not scared of the tough stuff, I just need to learn to be tougher. I am so concerned with learning to be in service that I forget sometimes that service sometimes requires me to be tough, because otherwise I am doing a dis-service. He was almost in tears preaching about how if someone wants to get to his kids, they are gonna have to go through him. I mean he was dancing and getting pumped up and like completely a dad. I started crying too because if he gets so emotionally invested in his kids, then I am in complete awe of You, my Heavenly Father, because how much You must love us.

So, here is my prayer today. Father, teach me to set up the appropriate boundaries. Lord, I want to share your love. I want to do your work. I want to work for the kingdom. I want to be your hands and feet. I pray you mold me, change me, move me. Lord, whatever the cost, whatever your will. Lord, I pray you guide me. I pray you surround me. I pray you interrupt my comfort zone. I pray you interrupt my life. I pray that I am like the friends of the paralytic we learned about in Bible study. Lord, heal and help those around me because of my faith. I pray that my faith grows and that I go deeper in my walk with you. Lord, I am a mess. I am not qualified to work for you. I got issues. I am so thankful that is not where my story ends. You are the Almighty, you don’t need me, but you want me. Lord, I am in awe of you. Thank you so much for allowing me to serve you. While my love is not perfect and needs work often, Lord, your love is never failing. Thank you for that. And as always I pray for my family and sorority sisters. I pray for my university. I pray for guidance for our government, church, and school leaders. I pray for protection for our troops. I pray for all of those that need you now and for those that haven’t met you yet. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

But if it’s true You use broken things then here I am Lord, I am all Yours.

The devil is packing punches and for a few days I laid on the floor in the corner with my feet curled up, hiding. But that looks like I’m hiding in fear. When we fear something it has a hold of us. It consumes us. We not only start to believe the lies, we start buying the lies. We go out and seek the lies. We put it first, above all else. Now, hang on, wait a second. The only thing I have to fear is You, Lord. You alone have authority over me. Satan doesn’t have me. I do not worship him. Sin doesn’t own me. Death can’t even hold me. You defeated all those things that I have been letting reign over me. You already won the war.

Today, I had enough. I put my hair in a messy bun, opened up my Bible, and started seeking the capital T, Truth. This place holder fell out from a previous Bible study with 2 Corinthians 5:17 written on it, which says: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come. It was this small cut up piece of paper that I saved and it fell into my lap just when I needed to reminded that You have control. You’re timing Lord. Ohhhhh, how You love us. You, my God, are in the detail business. Nothing is without You. Nothing is by accident. Every single little detail was created and designed by You with intention for Your purpose.

My whole problem is that I keep picking up what I already put down. Lord, I gave this hot mess to You and I keep running back to the sin and my old way of stinkin thinkin. My daddy used to tell us that without You, we are like pigs in the pig pen. We don’t realize we’re living in mud and filth. It’s all we know and we don’t know any better. Ohhhhh, but Lord, You made us new. We can leave behind all that mud and muck. We don’t have to clean ourselves up to come to You. We don’t have to worry about things like: I’ll come to God when I stop doing this thing or I’ll come back to God when I get this thing done. We don’t have to clean all the mud off to come to You, but You love us too much to leave us there. You are leading us out of the pig pen and out of our mess.

There is a quote on my cup that matches my Bible cover, which says: “she believed in His plan, even when she couldn’t see His path.” 

So, that is my prayer today. I pray I follow you and you alone. I pray that I believe in your plan. I pray that I use the word as a lamp to my feet. Lord, I’m praying for forgiveness. I’m praying for my unbelief, my doubt, my fear, my selfishness, my angry and confused heart. I pray that I stop giving power to fear. I pray that I fear you and you, alone. I pray that I put you back in a place of authority over me. I pray that I remember you are first and I am second. You come before all else. I pray that I put that verse way down deep into my soul. I pray that I remember you have a spot at the table for me even though I do not even deserve to be in your presence. Father, I belong to you and you alone. I pray that this prodigal heart comes home daily. I pray that I bind my wandering rebel heart to you. I pray that I believe in your plan and follow your path. I pray that I leave the pig pen and leave my filth behind. And as always I pray for my family and sorority sisters. I pray for my university. I pray for guidance for our government, church, and school leaders. I pray for protection for our troops. I pray for all of those that need you now and for those that haven’t met you yet. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

So breathe, oh breath of God, Now breathe.

In children’s church, we’re doing The Gospel Project. Today we finished our Prophets and Kings books. In the last four weeks, our big picture question has been: “Why should we obey God? We obey God because He loves us.” The last few weeks got so deep in my soul. I can’t even begin to explain it.

In the leader bible study, the book shares a quote from Ravi Zacharias which says: “Jesus did not come into this world to make bad people good. He came into this world to make dead people alive.” Ohhhhh, how I got the chills.

The last story in the book is in Ezekiel 37. The story said: “In one vision, God led Ezekiel through a valley filled with old, dry bones. God asked Ezekiel, ‘Can these bones come to life?’ Ezekiel replied, ‘Lord God, only You know the answer to that question.'” Ohhhhh, Lord. Ezekiel’s response got me good. I got a never ending list of questions that end with that response. Lord, I do not understand this world or anything in it, as a matter of fact. Lord, sometimes I’m so lost, I can’t even find myself. But ohhhhh how You’ve got me. You know exactly where I am and exactly where I’ve been hiding. You see that deep valley. You see my old, dry bones. You told Ezekiel to tell those bones that You said to breathe and come to life. Those bones came together: “bones to bones, tendons to bones, flesh over bones, skin over flesh.” Then breath entered the bones. Lord, You take our sin filled lives and our dry bones and literally breathe life into us.

We asked some questions at the end of the story and one kid was answering. He said something along the lines of belief didn’t matter because we still go home sinnin, that we ain’t going to Heaven still sinnin. This right here is where a lot of people get confused. I stood up out my chair and walked right to the middle of the room and said no, no, no, no, hang on, wait a minute. Then I pointed at that Bible verse we’ve been working on the last four weeks: Ezekiel 11:19-20, which says: And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, so they may follow My statutes, keep My ordinances, and practice them. Then they will be My people, and I will be their God. I explained that we don’t get to Heaven because of the good we do because we would never be able to do enough to earn Heaven and pay for all our selfishness and greed and sin. He get Heaven because we believe and because we believe we get that new heart. We no longer have those hearts of stone, we are dry bones no more. We obey because You love us. We have a new spirit within us. We have been changed. We do good because of that belief. We ain’t livin for us anymore, we’re living for You.

Lauren Daigle has a song about this very story. She and Michael Farren explained in a interview she wanted the song to be about those prodigals that went away for whatever reason and specifically for the people praying for You to bring them back home. Michael pointed out the next verse after Ezekiel’s response of “only You know.” Verse 4 says: He said to me, “Prophesy concerning these bones and say to them: Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! Michael said that invites us in and there is an action required. Lord, we are Your hands and feet. We not only have to leave behind our old lives and our dry bones. We have to use that new heart and we have to get moving, That army of dry bones rises when we speak Your words.

So, here is my prayer today. Lord, breathe in my dry bones. Lord, I know that I don’t have to clean myself up to come to you and I know that you love me too much to leave me that way. Lord, sometimes, I’m so far into my mess that I don’t even realize I’m in the valley. Lord, help me to look for those ways out that you provide. Lord, I pray that I keep moving. I pray that I remember I do have your breath in my dry bones. I pray I remember I have a new heart and a new spirit. I do not have to live that way anymore. I do not have to stay lost and defeated in that valley. Father, I pray that I take that new heart and put it to work. I pray that I get moving. I pray that I take that invitation and pick up my cross. I pray that I go tell that army about your words. I pray that I stop living for me and start living for you. And as always I pray for my family and sorority sisters. I pray for my university. I pray for guidance for our government, church, and school leaders. I pray for protection for our troops. I pray for all of those that need you now and for those that haven’t met you yet. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

I’m just a girl talking to God, praying for rain.

I might be short on sleep. I might be short on money. I might be short on time. I might be literally short. I might be short on sanity. I might quite frankly be short on everything. But one thing is for sure, I’m not short on love and truth. I’ve got an abundance of unfailing love and unending truth. My cup is overflowing. Everything in this world can and will come up short. People will come up short. Places will come up short. Things will most definitely come up short. I will come up short. But You, my God, never will.

I struggle with depression, often. I’ve learned how to maintain most of my anxiety and panic attacks, but they still happen. Sometimes, the whole world thinks I’m fine, but You know I’m not. My friend sent me this Facebook post from a girl who struggles with depression. The girl said she was having a real bad go of it this time and couldn’t even function enough to shower for a week. She posted from this heartbreakingly vulnerable place to tell her family and friends that she was trying. Because on that day, she brushed her hair. She showered and brushed her hair. It seems silly because that’s something we do every single day. We get up, we shower, we brush our hair. Sometimes like a routine, without even thinking about for a minute, just doing it. But when you’re in the deep deep dark places, those everyday things can become hard. Like there’s not a point to even trying. You can lay down and stay in that dark place for days without pulling yourself out. I. Have. Been. There. More times than I care to admit. The lies talk fast and keep coming. Last Fall, I did a Bible study with Stronger by Angela Thomas-Pharr. In the study I learned that the truth is: “this life is harder than what we signed up for.” I also learned “it takes an effort to hide from people.” Angela told us about running the race and how sometimes you have to run through that cramp in your side, sometimes you have to run through the pain.

I’ve also heard previously that: “prayer is a bridge from your mess to God’s rest.” During the 21 Days of Prayer, we learned the warfare prayer in Ephesians 6:11-12 which says: Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Priscilla Shirer has preached time and time again to know who the real enemy is. Another thing I’ve heard is we have to: “put on Christ the same way we put on clothes.” Every. Single. Day.

It’s way too easy to let those bad days become weeks and those weeks become months. The darkness doesn’t even seem appealing. Like I don’t like it there, but once the lies creep in, it gets harder and harder to push them out. I heard once in a sermon that the devil is still telling the same lies he told Eve in the Garden, he doesn’t need new lies because we’re still falling for the old ones. “The devil baits the hook, it harms me, it hurts me.” Ohhh but Father, You give us a way out. Out of the darkness. Out of the hook. Out of the lies. Out of the deep places. Out of sin. Out of temptation. Out of evil. Out of despair. Out of hell. Out of it all. You are the only way out. Lysa Terkeurst says we have to filter our thoughts through Your love, through Your Biblical truth. In that 21 Days of Prayer, we learned that: “truth has to constantly come in.”

The way I pull myself out is looking up. I literally just have to find the strength to look up. Lord, Your word is living and breathing in us. All I have to do is look at Your creations to remember Your truths. The sunshine reminds me of Your perfect light, of Your perfect goodness. The stars remind me of Your perfect love, of Your perfect majesty. The storms remind me of Your perfect grace, of Your perfect mercy. The rain reminds me of Your perfect promises, of Your perfect hope. No matter the weather, I can find You there. No matter my emotions. No matter my shortcomings. No matter my surroundings. No matter my battles. No matter the weather, I can find You there.

Prince Charming on Once Upon A Time said: “Darkness never wins. It just fools you into thinking it does.” Ohhhh Lord. Let that sink into my soul. Say that again. “Darkness never wins. It just fools you into thinking it does.” Ohhhh my sweet Savior. That alone is because of You. Because You already won the war. You already gave Your life. You already defeated death. You already saved the whole world. You already defeated the enemy. You already conquered. During the 21 Days of Prayer we also learned not to put our trust in ourselves. I am not the encourager. I have to take my hands off. You and I cannot carry it at the same time. I cannot raise the dead. I cannot do the impossible.

I heard a message by Allison Wilks, where she told us to stop remembering our sin or our fear or our pain or our loss or our illness or our betrayal more than we remember our Savior. She said that was the devil and his lies. She told us to remember Your character and who You are. To remember You are kind. You are loving. You are merciful. You are just. You are all powerful, all knowing, and all compassionate. To remember Your works. Allison said to remember and move to act, to trust the One who is above all those other things.

So, here is my prayer. Lord, I’m praying for rain. I pray that your truth consumes me. I pray that I remember that life isn’t a race, it’s a marathon. I pray that I run through the pain. I pray I remember who you are. I pray that I remember you are God and I am not. I pray I remember I am yours. I pray that stop feeding the lies. I pray that I stop hiding from people, from you. I pray I remember you are all knowing. Lord, you knew my pain, before I even felt it. You already conquered the war. I pray that I stop fighting a war that’s already been won. I pray that I filter my thoughts through your love and your truth. I pray that I constantly let your truth change me, shape me, form me, move me, guide me. I pray I put my trust in you. Lord, remind me of who you are when it seems like I forget. And as always I pray for my family and sorority sisters. I pray for my university. I pray for guidance for our government, church, and school leaders. I pray for protection for our troops. I pray for all of those that need you now and for those that haven’t met you yet. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Child there is freedom from all of it.

Wednesday night, we did a lesson on Hosea through The Gospel Project with the kids. The new big picture question was: what is God like? For the opener, we asked the kids what they thought. Their answers were: holy, alive, faithful, peaceful, the savior, powerful, wonderful, awesome, slow to anger, amazing, mighty, and the creator. Literally floored at the list they came up with. The more they get to know You, Lord, and the deeper they go, literally leaves me shouting for joy sometimes. You do not call the qualified, You qualify the called. Lord, if You called the qualified I wouldn’t be anywhere near leading a group of kids. I would be that back row Baptist they sing country songs about or I would probs not even be allowed in the building. Thank You, God, for placing me here and allowing me to plant seeds because seeing You through their eyes and getting to know You more with them is one of my greatest joys.

The book’s answer was: “slow to anger, merciful, and loving.” My sister pointed out that as Christians, we are supposed to strive to be like You so we should try to do these things as well. First off, being slow to anger, doesn’t mean we don’t get angry. It just means we try to be more purposeful with that anger. We’re gonna get mad, but as Christians, we need to practice what we preach. We teach kids to count to five when they’re mad, and we should do that as adults too. Taking a minute to pause, clears our head and we can think more rationally. We’re going to get mad, but we have to learn to think first, and react second. We have to think, through the madness.

The main point of the story was that You love us when we do not deserve it. You told Hosea to find an unfaithful wife and love her. Hosea’s life was to be an example of how You love us even when we do not deserve it. Hosea’s wife left him many times and he went after her every time. Being slow to anger, merciful, and loving is a building process. One leads to another. Being slow to anger is the first step, then comes the mercy. With mercy comes forgiveness and grace. Then comes the love, the compassion, the kindness. I never said any of this was easy. I told those kids, it was gonna be hard. Love is easy when it’s alone. When we put the other two in front, it gets hard, but true unfailing love like You give us, puts things in order for us. Being slow to anger and merciful are not products of love, they are the stepping stones to love. They are how we show love. They come first, not after.

The verse of the day that demonstrated the answer to the big picture question was Joel 2:13 which said: Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead. Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He is eager to relent and not punish. That word grief gets me every time, because I know what it means now, because I’ve felt it. My first response in grief was to ask why. That question came so naturally, it’s scary. The first time I experienced grief, it came all at once and hit hard. I lost one person, then two, then three, all right there in a matter of months. When it rains, it pours. I wanted to know why they were taken, why they left the way they did, why they couldn’t stay just a little longer, why they all left at once. I know that everything happens for a reason and I wanted to know what that reason was. I didn’t want to see with my limited human perspective. There were a lot of why’s, but I learned to spell why differently. In taking away that y and adding You where I’m AT, I changed my why to what. I had to put You back on the seat of throne and remember that I am not You. What am I gonna do? What am I gonna do with what I’ve been given? What am I gonna do now? What is gonna change? What is moving forward and what is staying behind? There were a lot of what questions when I added You where I’m AT. Changing my why to what, gave me someplace to go.

I read 13 Reasons Why in high school and watched the Netflix series a couple of weeks ago. There has been a whole bunch of debate over whether it’s more helpful or harmful. When my friend and I talked about it, we both noticed there was a lack of Christians. Maybe we had it wrong though, maybe there were believers, maybe they just stayed silent. When I read and watched, the most basic lesson I got was to do better. Now while I believe that I am not responsible for anyone else and I cannot chose life for someone else, I can do better. There was plenty of blame to go around from the kids to adults and everyone in-between. I believe we can be better teachers, friends, acquaintances, administrators, parents, peers, co-workers, family, authority figures, human beings, Christians. I don’t want to stay silent. They can go ahead and label me a Jesus freak. If I have unshakable joy, isn’t it my job to share that? The whole reason I started praying more was because I wanted answers to my why’s. Instead I got new questions. Lord, You don’t always always answer the way we think You will, but You always answer.

Tonight, I heard that You don’t always calm the storm, sometimes You calm us in the storm. Lord, I heard Crowder on the radio again singing: “I’m the one who held the nail. It was cold between my fingertips. I’ve hidden in the garden. I’ve denied You with my very lips. God, I fall down to my knees with a hammer in my hand. You look at me, arms open.” Ohhhhhh, Lord have mercy. Got me right there in the feels.

So, here is my prayer. Lord, I pray that I do not stay silent. I pray that I shout your name with every breath I have. Lord, even when I’m the one with the hammer and the nails, putting you on that cross, your arms are stretched open for me. Lord, I pray that I do better, that I do more. I pray that I share your love with everyone I come in contact with. I pray that your love radiates out of my soul like sunshine. Thank you for changing my why to what. Thank you for knocking on my heart. Thank you for never giving up on me. Thank you for qualifying the called. Thank you for showing me how to love. Thank you for loving me when I do not deserve it. Thank you for showing us unfailing love. Thank you for showing me what kind of God you are. Thank you for calming me in the storm. I could’ve been lost forever. Yeah I should be in that fire. But now there’s fire inside of me. And as always I pray for my family and sorority sisters. I pray for my university. I pray for guidance for our government, church, and school leaders. I pray for protection for our troops. I pray for all of those that need you now and for those that haven’t met you yet. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

And I’m loved by You, it’s who I am.

And is a three letter word but in my house it was a way of life. My daddy taught us not to do anything half way, ever. Whether it’s work, school, community service, sports, anything and everything. If we’re doing something we’re doing it as if it were for You, God. With everything we have AND all that we are.

My daddy lives in the AND. When my siblings played sports, he drove them to every single game, practice, tournament AND made sure they had everything they needed. He cheered AND coached. He always told us that when the Bible says it is the father’s responsibility to provide for his family, that it means spiritually. He said that when he gets to Heaven, You’re gonna ask about his wife AND his kids AND his own faith. He took that and ran with it. He made sure we each had our own personal relationships with You, Lord, our Heavenly Father AND that we lived our lives for You. AND. AND. AND.


So for Easter when my sister said we were having an egg hunt AND tye-dying eggs for the kids at Church it didn’t shock me. Just like it didn’t shock her when I said I was making cupcakes AND fruit kabobs. It did shock me when my daddy got put into the hospital on Thursday AND still made it to church on Sunday. Hospital stays are never fun and cue Francesca Battistelli lyrics: “in the middle of my little mess, I forget how big I’m blessed.” This weekend had all of us sleep deprived, our gas tanks emptied, banks drained, and house a wreck. Everything was running on fumes: cars, hearts, piggy banks, my hair… AND I still had joy. Because I was knew we do everything with an AND. Because we believe in You AND know You, Lord. You died for us AND You rose again. AND. AND. AND.
So this is my prayer today. Ohhhh Lord, thank you for all the AND’s in my life and thank you for giving us the ultimate AND. Thank you for sending your son. Thank you for the ultimate sacrifice. Thank you for saving me when I give you every reason not to. Thank you for the most beautiful Easter this year. Thank you for light in the darkness. Thank you unending love and unshakable joy. Thank you for rolling the stone away. Thank you for the empty tomb and full hearts. Thank you for forgiveness and healing. Lord, Thank you for making your love my identity, my purpose, my freedom, my home. Thank you for letting your love wash over us and completely change us. And Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for calling us deeper still. And as always I pray for my family and sorority sisters. I pray for my university. I pray for guidance for our government, church, and school leaders. I pray for protection for our troops. I pray for all of those that need you now and for those that haven’t met you yet. In Jesus’ name, Amen.