I’ll say I’m found in You.

Abba. Father. I’m gonna be real honest. Lord, I am not sure if this is coming from a place of defensiveness or a place of vulnerability. I have trust issues for days. I have the spiritual gift of discernment and I am learning to believe You more and to believe the gifts You gave me more. But with discernment, there is room for doubt. Doubting my gift, doubting myself, and doubting You. I am learning to take a second to breathe and talk to You before moving. I am learning to rebuke the doubt. I am learning to trust. Sometimes I feel completely unworthy to be in this job and completely incapable of handling these hearts that have been entrusted into my care. I used to just tell myself that I’m pulling up chairs to the table in Heaven. That’s my job. I forgot somewhere that I have a chair at the table too.

The chores did not get done two weekends ago. No Saturday deep clean. No pm chores last night either. Like at all. The trash spilled over. The sink was full of dishes. I got one sleeping on the couch because she got so upset that Saturday and a different one last night. I always have one still mad at me. I had one defiant at every breath. I had one cry herself to sleep that Saturday because someone pooped in the bathroom before she showered. I had one that Saturday who said I don’t love her because I couldn’t give her the attention she wanted immediately. That Saturday, I had six of my eight who didn’t have privs. I was so tired from that Saturday that I didn’t even make my own bed the next morning.

That Sunday at the end of the service my one that usually runs to the bathroom during the invitation because any kind of spiritual intimacy with God sends her running, that day she came and sat on the ground at my feet, took my hand, and started praying. So I put my other hand on her hands and started praying too. The one sitting next to me looked at me kinda jealous, and I simply said “don’t think I ain’t praying for you too,” and she turned back around.

I usually spend most of my teaching on the negative reactions and don’t celebrate the good behavior enough. So I sent the 6 with no privs to the table to work on homework or read or draw. Then I let one with privs watch the movie she wanted on the big tv with no interruptions. I went in there and watched with her for a little while, talking about the movie, giving her that quality time she craved the day before. I let my other one with privs cook dinner and dessert like she wanted. I told her she could make whatever she wanted. I went in there and helped her cook and spent some quality time with her too.

My job is a roller coaster. It’s a constant up and down. And sometimes the low moments are really low. But Lord, for that brief moment where we’re around the dinner table and they are just simply kids laughing and dancing to Hannah Montana’s Hoedown Throwdown. Or that moment we’re on the van and they’re all singing at the top of their lungs Point To You by The Messengers. It’s more than worth it. Even when my messy ponytail could not get any messier. Even when I’ve got circles under my eyes because what is sleep. Even when I have a kid whose only communication with me is under her breath curse words. Because that same kid that doesn’t take responsibility for anything she does. I still wouldn’t let her off the hook when she tried to shift blame to everyone else, we finally get to the heart of the issue and tears were shed. Then Miss Alyssa starts preaching. Straight from the Holy Spirit. Because Miss Alyssa does not even have words, but my God You do. And when I walk in obedience and listen to that still small voice, Abba Father You speak.

Yes, there is hurt that is unfathomable. But there is also unfailing grace. There is unconditional love. There is endless joy.

Lord, I know those girls are listening with their responses during devotion. I know You are moving and shaking mountains and ant hills. I feel this need to defend my teaching all the time and my assertiveness and my everything. But I don’t have to do that. I am not capable. I am not worthy. I am not qualified. I am not okay sometimes. I am a sinner and I make mistakes. But my God. You are. You are so perfect and so just and so powerful. I am Your vessel and You move in me. Lord, You run this show. Lord, as much as I love my girls, You love them even more. And You love me. They are Your daughters. And so am I.

So, this is my prayer today. Abba. Father. Thank you. For the grace you show. For the joy. For the unconditional love. For the mercy. And yes, for the pain that teaches us. Because nothing is done without your intention and without your purpose. Lord, we have a flesh that wants nothing more that to hurt others because we’ve been hurt. We have a flesh that wants all the worldly things to fill that hole that only you can make whole. Lord, I pray that I trust you, not my flesh. I pray for my girls, your girls. I pray for these giving, loving, teaching, spirit filled, honest, intentional house parents that show me daily how to work as a team and how to not only lead this house but to transform it. Lord, I know that I am here for a purpose, just like every person in this house. We all have something to learn here and I am so thankful for the opportunity and the joy I get to see. Thank you for jam sessions in the car and dance parties in the dinning room and for softball games and for dinner conversations and tears shed in the quiet office and for all the grace shown in this house. I pray that I make Point to You an anthem for my life in this season.  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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Your love is a light that all the world will see.

I am reserved. I am restrained. I am not wild.

I am shy. I am ashamed. I am not proud to be seen with me.

I give my love in pieces. I hide myself.

I am controlled. I am contained. I burn out.

I am fractured. I have a troubled mind.

I am anxious. I am the restless kind.

I am passive.

I am disengaged.

I am not always present. I do not hang on to every word said.

I don’t always keep my promises.

I am broken.

I am insecure.

I am selfish.

I am not pure.

But Lord, my God, You are. You are all of the things I am not and so much more. You are. You are so gentle. You are constantly whispering in my ear, “my daughter, no matter what you’ve done, just come home.” 

I witnessed this child pitching a fit, like a full dramatic meltdown. This child was in a fighting mood. She was ready. And this father simply, gently, said: “hit me if that’s what you need. I can take it.” All I could think is every time I’ve been that child with You, God. When my heart is screaming. When my eyes are burning from tears. When I’m blaming You. When I’m literally putting You back on the cross. You’re just simply, gently telling me: “I can take it, my daughter.” 

When I was little, I saw the movie version of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Men. There was this scene that forever changed me. This foster kid was in trouble, I don’t even remember what for, but he went to the barn to see his foster father. The father gave him this speech and then put the switch or the ruler or whatever it was in the kid’s hand. He told this kid, he would take his punishment. He told this kid, to literally hit him that he would take the punishment. It was the ultimate image of Your love for us, God. Abba. Father. You literally took the punishment for me. You took the death I deserved. You took the pain I deserved. You loved me unconditionally.

So, that is my prayer today. I simply want to say thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Abba. Father. Thank you. Thank you for loving me with such a pure, unconditional love. Thank you for taking the punishment. Thank you for your gentleness. Thank you for letting this prodigal daughter come home. Every single time. No matter what. Lord, thank you. Thank you for true love. Thank you. Thank you. I am in awe of your love. Thank you for surrounding me in your love. Thank you for reminders of your love. Thank you for the cross. 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 couldn’t run, couldn’t run from His presence.

I’m counting on all these worldly things to keep me safe. I talk about stability but I don’t have any of my own.

I’ll be safe as soon as my car is fixed.
I’ll be safe as soon as we’re out of the rental.
I’ll be safe as soon as I’m in my new room.
I’ll be safe as soon as people stop hurting me.
I’ll be safe as soon as I get daily repetitive positive praise.
I’ll be safe as soon as I pay off my student loans.
I’ll be safe as soon as I start saving some money.
I’ll be safe as soon as I get married.
I’ll be safe as soon as start and finish grad school.
I’ll be safe as soon as I move.
I’ll be safe as soon as I do this or that.
I’ll be safe as soon as other people do this or that.
I’ll be safe as soon as my circumstances change.
I’ll be safe as soon as all my ducks are in a row.

I’m looking for stability in quick sand.

Then it gets serious.
I’ll be safe as soon as You carry me Home.

Lord, You are so gentle. You gently bring me to You.

I started building my foundation on You before I could even walk. I built my life on the rock. Father, You let me build it one brick at the time. You revealed just a little at the time and let me build it. You didn’t rush me. You didn’t yell when I did it wrong. You didn’t pressure or force me. You let me come to You. You didn’t want me to be a slave. You let this be my choice. The most beautiful part is that through it all, You never left me. You never abandoned me or forsake me.

I went on the winter retreat again this year. The first night, they took us on a night hike. I knew it was going to be hard. I like to be still out in the woods, not climb mountains. (Those people leading the hike called it a hill, they were wrong. It was a mountain.) Bless that girl leading the end of the hike, she just didn’t have a clue that You and I were doing WORK on that mountain. I was having a Jesus moment. Lord, that ground was solid under me, but I still didn’t trust it. The rocks moved, but they were solid. I was completely fine. Even if I fell, I would be ok, but I didn’t fall. Lord, You let me build my house on the rock. You revealed just a little at the time. You let me build trust with You. You let me have a relationship with You, Lord, God Almighty.

Lord, some of these things are all fine and dandy, as long as I’m not building my house on them. Some of these are even helpful and healthy. But, they are not where I get my identity, You are. You are my security. You are my light in the dark. You are my strong tower. You are my safe place. You are my lighthouse in the storm. You are my hope, my future, my past, my present. You are my everything.

So, here is my prayer today. I pray for peace. I pray for guidance. I pray for ears that listen. I pray for eyes that seek. I pray for feet that walk. I pray for hands that hold. I pray for lips that speak your name, Abba Father. I pray for a heart that heals. I pray for a holy spirit filled soul. I pray for a mind with filled with Truth, Wisdom, and Knowledge that comes from you and you alone. I pray for knees that kneel in worship and awe of you. Lord, my King, I am in awe of you. Thank you for your gentleness. Thank you for your gentleness. Thank you for your gentleness. Thank you for your gentleness. I pray that I trust you. Lord, this past year, I have had extreme lows, but I have also been extremely filled by your goodness. Lord, this past week, I have had extreme lows, but I have also been extremely filled by your presence. Lord, fill my life with you. I want only your love, your kindness, your glory, your gentleness, your goodness, your presence. This world is not my home. Thank you so much for your teaching. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for the rugged cross. Thank you for carrying all 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.

No matter where you are right now remember God’s right there.

OK, Lord, I need You to rein me in here, because I AM LIVID. This southern woman is about to show her redneck side. Ok, so here is what happened. I was driving home, minding my own business, listening to 102.5 The Bull. I am a proud supporter of country music. My daddy makes this joke about how I got my accent from watching CMT growing up, ok? Like it is my jam. But not today. Not 102.5 The Bull. Not Michael J.

I’m not sure if it was an advertisement or whatever it was, but it was tacky. The little clip started with something like: “I want yall to adopt me. And I won’t be like that kid that eats you out of house and home. I won’t be like that kid that has a beer party in your dining room.” That’s obvi not the exact phrasing or even the whole bit, because I was so mad I couldn’t see straight. He was making a joke or whatever, but I work with foster kids. Kids who desperately want and need actual adoptions. Ok, so I might be a little sensitive. I might even need to chill a little. But Lord, that kid that eats everything in the pantry, that kid didn’t eat so their siblings could. That kid that threw a rager in the living room, that kid never got told no because the “parental units” were too strung out to ever say no. Those kids have stories. Those kids are actively trying to sort out right and wrong. Those Paper Angels on the tree at the mall are actual kids. Be still my heart, those kids need You, Lord. And Lord, the people that made this little joke need You too.

Matthew 18: 4- 6 says: So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. “And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me. But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea.

Lord, my love language is words. So I know for a fact, words matter. Period end of discussion. Those kids they were making jokes about, already feel isolated. At home. At school. At the store. And yes, even at church. They get looks every single place they go. They get singled out every where. Now they can’t even turn on the radio without being made fun of or singled out. We just went to this DHR event about “normalizing fostercare.” How can you do that when every where you turn, you are being treated differently? I’ve seen more hurt than I could have even imagined. I’ve seen deeper cuts than I can even fathom. Those kids’ stories will flat out bring me down to my knees.

But, Lord, I have also seen more grace. I have seen Your hand at work in their lives. I have seen them run to You. I have seen people extend so much kindness. If anyone doubts You, they literally just need to have a conversation with one of these kids. They know You are real.

Matthew 18: 10 says: “Beware that you don’t look down on any of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels are always in the presence of my heavenly Father.”

So, this is my prayer today. Abba, Father, I want to be in your presence. I want to hear you. I want to see you. I want to be close to you. I want you to take my heart and use it for you. Lord, I’m praying for sensitivity. I pray for kindness. I pray for gentleness. I pray for consideration. I pray for forgiveness. I pray for goodness. I pray for carefulness. I pray for tenderness. I pray for hope. I pray for grace. I pray for compassion. I pray for open hearts. I pray for courtesy. I pray for thoughtfulness. I pray for tact. I pray for understanding. I pray for decency. I pray for integrity. Lord, I pray for the guy that made the joke. I know he probably did not mean any harm. I pray that you keep my heart in check. I pray that I practice some patience of my own. 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.

Shall I play for You? pa rum pum pum pum on my drum?

for KING & COUNTRY posted their new Christmas song Saturday. I clicked to save it for later because we were in the hospital with my dad and I didn’t wanna play this loud video right then. So, while dad and bubba napped tonight, I watched it. I practically started crying in the first ten seconds. for KING & COUNTRY were just playing their little hearts out and all I could think is they are just like the little drummer boy, playing as loud and much as they can for You, Lord. The video is like the epitome of living with a childlike faith. It may have been grown men on that stage, but all I saw was a bunch of little boys beating their drums for You, God.

My daddy acts that way when he tells stories or brings someone food. It’s like pure, childlike joy that comes across those boy’s faces. For my bubba, he acts like a child when we’re waiting on dad to come back from rehab and he’s bored. He literally took my tennis shoes off. Not only did he untie them, he took the entire lace out. When my dad came back and saw what my bubba was doing, he told him to do it to the other shoe. They literally were grinning ear to ear while I’m just sitting there without shoes on.

Now I don’t know how that childishness relates to serving You like the other two instances. Maybe it’s his generous love for others. Because that boy is the definition of 1 Corinthians 13. We were sitting next to the poster with part of the chapter and when he was taking my shoes off, I told him to replace his name with the word love. He did it and kinda laughed, and joked back that he wasn’t any of those things. But he is. My bubba is patient, he is kind. He does not envy or boast. He might be a little proud sometimes. 18-21 are the unbearable boy years. “The know-it-all years.” I went through my obnoxious know-it-all phase at 18 too, but by 19-20 I grew out of it. My bubba is still rocking this phase. But he does not dishonor others. He is not self-seeking. Now when he was growing up, he was easily angered. But my daddy taught him the measure of a man is the size of things that make him angry. It took them both a hot minute to learn this, but they did. He keeps no records of wrongs. He does not delight in evil and definitely rejoices in truth. He protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres, and never fails. He might be a 21 year old man, but he will always be that little boy jumping on my bed, asking me about You, God and praying with me.

My daddy might be turning 50, he’s still a little boy on the play ground chasing my mama around, throwing dirt on her. Gary Allan has a song about how “when tough little boys grow up to be dads, they turn into big babies again.” Before I was born, my dad bought a book and taught himself how to braid hair. And every time, my daddy braids my hair, I think he cries a little.

So, here is my prayer today. I pray that I learn from these strong men in my life. I pray that I serve you in all I do with a heart of a child. I pray that I beat my drum with all my heart for all my life. I pray that I am patient and kind. I pray that I do not envy or boast. I pray that I am not proud. I pray that I do not dishonor others. I pray that I am not self-seeking or easily angered. I pray I keep no record of wrongs. I pray I do not delight in evil and I rejoice in truth. I pray I protect, trust, hope, persevere, and with you never fail. I pray that I worship with you will all I do. I pray all I do brings glory to your name. I pray that everything I do shines a light 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.

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.

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.