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.

The King of Heaven wants me.

On Friday, Jordan Lee posted: “Throw your hair up in a messy bun and go do some Kingdom work.” Lorrddd, have mercy. That is exactly what I wanna do for the rest of my life. Psalm 119:73 says: Your hands made me and formed; give me understanding to learn Your commands. That is all I wanna do. Renee Swope said: “We can find the plans God has for us when we surrender our plans to Him.” Proverbs 16:3 says: Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.

My plans have changed so many times over the years. Lisa Bevere said: “If you think you’ve blown God’s plan for your life, rest in this: you, my beautiful friend, are not that powerful.” Boy Howdy. I need that reality check daily. When I was a little kid, I played school with my brother and sister. I was the teacher, the librarian, and administrators. I was a one woman school. In the first grade, my parents took me to a Christian school and I immediately fell in love and told them I wanted to be a missionary. In the seventh grade, I decided I wanted to be like Elle Woods and go to Law School. In twelfth grade, I was back to the beginning with teaching. In college, I changed to Communications. No matter what I wanted to do, the common thread was that I wanted to help people. I wanted to do Your work. I wanted to work for the Kingdom.

I saw this Hallmark movie, Remembering Sunday, and one of them said: “I know it’s not a big dream.” The other one responded: “But it is to you, so show it some respect and get organized.” That’s what I’m doing. I’m getting organized. Lord, my name will probs never be in lights. I will probs never be rich. I’m not concerned with that anymore. I heard it said: “Life is more than money and things. It’s about doing life together and serving each other. With Christ at the center.” What I want is to work for Your kingdom. I don’t want to just work hard to the best of my abilities. I want to work with all of my abilities. I want to give it everything I’ve got. I used to be so concerned with recognition and people seeing the good I do. Lord, I’m working on that. Hannah Brencher said: “No one wins when you only live to please the world. The world doesn’t need to be pleased, it needs to be changed.” She also said: “Your job, at its core is to love people.” I heard someone explain it this way: our job as Christians isn’t seeing flowers bloom. Sometimes our job is to dig the hole for the seed. Other times it is to plant the seed. Sometimes it is to water the seed. Others it is to fertilize the soil. Our job is to be Your hands and feet. Sometimes we don’t get to see the flowers bloom. Sometimes we don’t get a thank you for doing our jobs. Alison Tiemeyer posted a quote saying: “You are planting seeds and fertilizing hearts. It’s Kingdom work and it is most worthy of courage.” When I get to Heaven, I want to see a bunch of Your flowers. I wanna hear Matthew 25:23 which says: His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master!’ I wanna sing: “So this world has lost it’s grip on me.”

So, this is my prayer. Lord, last week, I prayed with Tenth Avenue North’s song: Overflow. I wanna do that again this week. “Out of the dust, you created us. We are the breath of Father, Spirit, and Son. We’re free to breathe. We’re free to move. Life is a gift that we give back to you. Life is our gift we give back to you. You set our hearts in motion. You’re alive inside us. 
Our hands open up. We are made in the image of a perfect union. We receive your love and overflow.” I wanna pray the words from their song: Control too. “God, you don’t need me, but somehow you want me. Oh how you love me, somehow that frees me to take my hands off of my life and the way it should go.” Lord, I pray for understanding. I pray that I commit to you. I pray I surrender to you. I pray that I get organized and get to work. I pray that you are at the center. I pray that I plant seeds. I pray that I do everything for your glory. 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 the one thing I can’t loose when I’ve run to the end of me.

Oh Lord, Oh Lord, Oh Lord. I went to pick up my Easter dress because I had it shipped to the mall so I could try it on before I brought it home. I stopped by Lifeway since I was on that side of town and got the Tenth Avenue North CD because they played: I Have This Hope at Winter Jam and I can’t stop listening to the song now. Lord, the words on that album spoke volumes way down deep.

I had two struggles this weekend. Those dirty mean little lies came creeping in this weekend: I spend every waking second taking care of everyone around me, who is taking care of me? Ohhhhhh Lord. You had an answer. Play track 3: Overflow. And let the Heavens saaaang: Let Your perfect love come and fill us up. Till we can’t help but oh, overflow, oh, oh. Ohhhh Lord have mercy on my soul. That’s just it. I am overflowing. I have so much inside of me that I can’t help but give everything I’ve got to those around me. My faith and my love and my soul is like that basket when You fed the 5000, it just keep giving and giving. Lord, I don’t need someone to take care of me because I have the ultimate life-sustaining, life-giver, I have You, Lord. My basket will never empty because I will always be able to go to You to be filled again.

The second struggle is the one that always comes back around. I have been working in some shape or form since I was 11 years old. From babysitting to little league concessions stands to movie theaters to employment offices to medical offices to restaurants and service organizations. I’m not scared of hard work, but it always seems like there is never enough water in the bucket. I was making my budget for the next few months like I always do and I need new tires before I go back down to Mobile next month. I’ll probably need to get my tag renewed before I go and the list just kept pilling on. I’d love to get my ac fixed before I make that drive and maybe my windshield wiper pump thing fixed too. I’m doing fine, I make the budgets for myself so I don’t have to stress and so I can eliminate some of the unnecessary drama. Sometimes, no matter how good I’ve got it, there’s always something around the corner wanting more from me. Ohhhhhh Lord. You had an answer. Play track 5: One Thing. And let the Heavens saaang: I can see so clearly now. If I’ve got nothing but You, I’ll still have everything I need. Lord, money don’t grow on trees, but money is not all I need. There’s always more money to make, but that is not what defines me or sustains me. You are all I need, everything else is just excess.

So here is my prayer. Lord I pray all of the want and all the plans, I’ve been chasing. All of the dreams in my heart, You can take them. I pray that I lay everything down at your feet. Lord, the one thing I need is you. I’m sorry I forget that sometimes. I’m sorry I listen to the lies sometimes. Lord, you do more than fill my cup, you overflow it. I pray that I give and give and give. I pray that you keep correcting my attitude when I get tired of giving, because Lord, you never get tired of giving to me and you give me so much more than I deserve. I pray that I give with a glad heart. Thank you for answering my prayers. Thank you for listening to my heart. Thank you for setting my heart in motion. Thank you for giving your love to me. I pray that I live in the overflow. Thank you for the reminder that you are all I need. 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 calm the storm when I hear You call my name.

A few weeks ago, I read Sara Evans’ and Rachel Hauck’s Songbird Novel series and it’s about all the relationships in this woman’s life. Between her parents and in-laws and husband, everyone around her. It’s not just another love story, it’s about life and forgiveness and loss and moving forward through the rough patches. The woman in the book is getting married and doesn’t know whether to invite her mom or not. The mom was talking to her friend about it and said there was too much water under the bridge. And this friend with all her wisdom says: “Come to my house tonight. I’ll loan you my canoe.” I burst into tears right there. No matter what water is under all the bridges life has to offer, I’m so glad for the friendships I have and the knowledge that they always have a canoe for me to borrow. They always keep me afloat.

When the people I love are going through a hard time. When they can’t find the light in the tunnel. When all they need is time. When they need peace. When they need what I can’t give. When they have to pull themselves out of the deep places. When they’re drowning and need a canoe. All I can do is encourage and and be there for them. I had to learn the hard way that as much as I would love to do it for them, I cannot live for them. They have to make the decision to pull themselves out. All I can do is offer my canoe. David Ring said: “It’s one thing to show people love. It’s another thing to stick around for the pain.” I’m here and I’m not going anywhere.

Lord, I am not You. I cannot save people. I cannot give them peace. I cannot heal the pain. I cannot do what You do. But I can be Your hands. I can loan them my canoe. Beth Moore said: “God is not afraid of your questions, girlfriend. He wants to stir them up-to send you searching for answers.” I can pray for them and share with them where I find answers, my canoe. Part of Church of the Highlands’ 21 Days of Prayer is the Warfare Prayer and they talked about how in prayer, we can identify the lies so we can quiet those lies and amplify the truth. At the end of the sermon, the pastor said to ask You to: “give us assignments.” Prayer is a two-way conversation. Even when we hear silence, You are working. You are not done with us yet. There’s a quote I found that says: “Having a rough morning? Place your hand over your heart. Feel that? That’s called purpose. You’re alive for a reason.” Lord, sometimes when we feel lost and unloved, the best thing to do is give love. Sam on Touched by an Angel said: “If you can’t find the love, let God love through you.” 

There is purpose for the pain. At Winter Jam, on Friday, we took the youth group and Tenth Avenue North was telling a story about their song: I Have This Hope. They were talking about why we call it Good Friday and how it’s because of what happened on Sunday. That dropped truth way down into the deepest parts of my soul and of my heart. Lord, sometimes we have to go through what we do not understand because we see the world with a limited view point. We see the world around us, but You see the whole world and everything around it. You hold the whole world in Your hands. You hold me in Your hands. You hold them and us and sinners and everyone in Your hands. You call us by name. You created every part of us for a purpose. You never left us.

So, this is my prayer. Thank you for sending your son. Thank you for the cross. Thank you for hope. Thank you for purpose. Thank you for being there in the flood and fire. Thank you for walking with me. Thank you for calling me by name. Thank you for changing my heart. Thank you for lighting the dark. Thank you for canoes. Thank you for your unending love. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for loving through me. Thank you for letting me love others. Thank you for showing me how to stay through the pain. Thank you for questions and answers and two-way communication. Thank you for assignments. Lord, I pray that I keep going, keep moving forward. I pray that I chase after you and loan my canoe to those I love so they can chase you too. 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.

When someone’s running out of places they can run.

I saw this picture posted that said: sometimes I just wanna run away and see who notices. When I was younger, I believed those lies. Every disagreement with a friend or with my family or I got passed over for something at school. Once you let one lie in, they come rushing in. It’s like stepping into a batter’s box with a pitching machine constantly throwing balls at you, but having no bat. When my best friend and I played softball, we sat in the outfield and played with the wildflowers and yelled across the field to each other. There was not much actual softball playing with us, we were just there to have fun and take pictures. For real though, I just wanted to run and land somewhere safe and wanted. That soft place I needed to land was grace.

I think one of the best parts of growing up and growing in my faith and in my relationship with You, Lord, is realizing that running away doesn’t solve problems, it adds to them. For one, there are so many people around that would notice. As I’ve gotten older, I see with a much wider lens. I no longer have a vision that can’t see past my own nose. I can see the world around me the more I walk with You. I can see You in the world around me.

I now step into that batter’s box with confidence, dig my feet in the dirt, line my shoulders up, and bring my bat. The best way to fight lies is with the truth. That bat I’m bringing is Your word. It’s the ultimate, life giving and life sustaining, truth. Psalm 119:73 says: Your hands made me and formed me; give me understanding to learn your commands.

So, that is my prayer today. Lord, keep showing me how to swing for the fences. I pray that I listen to your commands. I pray that I remember you are my safe place. Lord, you are my safety and security. Lord, you are my strong tower. You are my lighthouse. I pray that I come to alter more. I pray that I come to you more. I pray that I lean on you more. I pray that keep looking for you in the world around me. I pray that I humble myself at your feet. I pray that I fall to my knees at the cross. I pray that I remember Sarah Mae’s words in Having a Martha Home the Mary Way: “strive for excellence, but land in the softness of grace.” Lord, I don’t know what your plan is. I don’t know where you are leading me. I don’t know where this path leads, but Lord, I’m going. I pray that I put one foot in front of the other and keep walking with you. I pray that I listen for your directions. I pray that you give me understanding to follow your directions. I pray that I remember that love wins. Lord, you already won the war. 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.

 

We are shaped by the light we let through us.

I feel like Lee Ann Womack every time I drive to work. Like my drive is literally the music video to A Little Past Little Rock. There is hardly anyone on the road, it’s just me and my headlights. And deer, lots of deer. I used to listen to that song every single day. One of the perks to working nights is driving home as the sun rises. When everyone gets up in the morning I make to turn the lights on for them to start their day. When they leave, I run around the house singing Trace Adkins’ Every Light In The House and turn out all the lights. Then before they come home, I run around again turning all the lights back on, so when they come, they’re not coming home to the dark.

There is a reason I like lights and sunshine. It’s all because of my relationship with You, Lord. I see things differently, the more I walk with You. I can’t look around without seeing Your handiwork. Lord, sometimes I’m so busy turning on the lights for others, I forget to leave a light on for myself too. Dumbledore said: “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” Lord, even when I forget, You make the sun rise. You always leave a light on for me. Father in Heaven, You always give me light at the end of the tunnel. You give me a way out. Of my darkness. Of my pain. Of my grief. Of my despair. Of my sin. Of my sin. Of my sin. You give me a way out. I just have to look for the light. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says: No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. Let me say that again so it sinks deep into my soul. He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. Lord, Your grace astounds me. Not only are You with me in my struggles, but You don’t leave me there. I don’t have to live in my sin. You provide a way out.

My Little and I were talking the other day about how we wanted to dance in our kitchens with our husbands one day singing old country songs. Those country songs about leaving the light on and how light shines through are the ones I wanna dance to. Those songs show that a simple act like turning on the lights can show you care.

So, here are my top country songs about light to dance in the kitchen with:

  1. Every Light In The House – Trace Adkins (this one is obvi my fave!)
  2. Glass – Thompson Square
  3. You Light Up My Life – LeAnn Rimes
  4. Shine The Light – Sugarland
  5. You Are My Sunshine – Johnny Cash

We are lights to those we love: friends, family, spouses, kids. We shine brighter because we are loved and because we love them. Lord, You are the ultimate giver of light. You are the lighthouse in the storm. You created the sun. You created light. You guide us home. You show us the path to take. You give us a way out.

So, here is my prayer today. Lord, thank you for all the light in my life. Thank you for your promises. Thank you for the love I have been given. Thank you for giving me so many people to turn the light on for. Thank you for turning on the light for me too. Thank you for giving me a way out. Thank you for teaching me to turn the light on for others and for myself. Thank you for teaching me how important the light is. Thank you for teaching me to let the light in. Thank you for showing me the light around me. Thank you for allowing your light to shine through me. I pray that I continue to shine bright for you. I pray that I continue to look for the ways out. I pray that I am always looking for the ways out of the darkness. I pray for resilience and strength in fighting the darkness. 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.

Slow, like a Sunday morning service back home.

My daddy used to pick on me because I would paint my nails all different colors. I guess he thought I would grow out of it, but some things never change. I’m still that girl, painting each nail a different color, hoping to make the world a little prettier, a little brighter, and a little happier. One itty bitty thing at a time, I’m gonna make this world better. One nail at a time, one cup at a time, and one prayer at a time.

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I didn’t get my accent from my parents. I got my accent from spending every morning singing along to CMT. I talk slow and walk even slower, but I’d walk 100 miles up a hill both ways in the rain to give somebody the shirt right off my back. That right there I got from my mama and daddy.

When I was getting ready to leave high school, a friend told me that I was in for a surprise and the world was going to change that soft heart of mine and make it hard. They thought since my parents tried to shelter me that made me weak and vulnerable, but that shield of protection is exactly what makes me strong. I know that nothing of this world can give me what I need most, and that’s You, Lord. Only You can sustain my heart. Only You can give me peace. Only You can save me. Only You can keep the world from hardening my heart, but it takes me choosing to follow You every single moment of every single day. No matter how lost I get or how many times I head down the wrong path, somehow I’m always standing right back at the foot of the cross. Only the cross can bear it all without breaking.

I’ve lived, loved, and lost. That friend in high school thought when I got some real life experience that it would harden my heart, but loving and losing lines you right up with where you need to be. At the foot of the cross.

I’m not gonna lie or hide the truth, back then, I only saw my own two feet. I had tunnel vision. I didn’t see what was going on in the world around me. I was innocent and far too naive. Sometimes I didn’t even see what was going on right in front of my face. But the older I get, the more I see Your hand in everything. In every moment. Good and bad, beautiful and ugly, heart warming and heart breaking, every life taking and life giving moment. You, God are always there. Always sustaining.

So, here is my prayer. I pray that I remember that my daddy told me the tongue is the window to the soul and Proverbs 13:3 says: The one who guards his mouth preserves his life; The one who opens wide his lips comes to ruin. I pray that I remember all the good my parents taught me and I remember the girl they raised me to be. I pray that I remember to watch my words and watch my life. I pray that I give love and grace and compassion. I pray that I speak life, your life sustaining words. I pray that I don’t shy from the truth. I pray that I continue to see your work in the world around me. I pray the more I open my eyes, the more I see you. I pray your love shines out of this soft heart of mine. Thank you for the cross. Thank you for bearing it all. Thank you for defeating even death. Thank you for all I’ve learned, all I’ve been given, and all I’ve lost. Thank you for sustaining this soft heart through it 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.

Hearts open wide, hands lifted high.

I crave security, of all kinds. Financial, emotional, physical, spiritual, the whole kit and caboodle. It took me reading Sara Evan’s and Rachel Hauck’s The Sweet By & By to realize safety isn’t found in money or a place or another person. I’ve been looking for security in all the wrong ways. Lord, the only way I’m safe is in Your arms. I’ve always been safe with You.

The main character in the book is Jade Freedom Fitzgerald. Jade’s middle name was what she needed most. Maybe I’m the same way. I always thought my middle name was Faith because that’s what my parents needed to have me, but I’m learning maybe it’s what I need most.

When Jade was at her wit’s end, they wrote: “When safe places turned off their cell phones. When safe places ran off with musicians. When safe places moved to Washington, D.C., and never looked back. When safe places chose a sport where men wrestle men instead of loving her.” She was looking for her safe place in the people she loved: her fiance, her mom, her dad, her first love. She didn’t find ultimate and eternal safety until she was sitting alone on a bench swing faced with nothing but the truth. In one of the flashbacks, Jade asked: “If true love doesn’t last, and hearts can be broken over and over, what’s the point? Was Jesus for her?” You had been knocking on her heart and edging her closer and closer to the truth. All she had to do, was finally listen. Later they wrote: “The encounter with Jesus didn’t remove all of Jade’s obstacles. Liking Mama might not happen overnight, but being free compelled her to love. And that had to be a real fine place to start.” (Not gonna lie, when I read that I sang that last line because that’s lyrics from Sara’s song.) Lord, being a Christian and following You certainly doesn’t take all the pain away and it’s some magic cure-all pill that solves all our problems. Following You, gives us perspective. Following You, gives us options and choices. We have the freedom to choose You, to choose love, to choose light, to choose peace. I don’t have to be controlled or trapped by sin, I have a way out. I have choices and I can choose to live with purpose. I can hear Jennifer Nettles in my head singing: “we don’t have to live this way.” 

In the book, they wrote about Harlan (Jade’s dad): “Man was not basically good. There was reality called sin. The world needs redemption. He himself needed redemption. Perhaps Jesus was the only true escape. In his twenty years in Washington, he’d seen what man could do. Dark, evil, selfish. Fed up, Harlan was curious to see what God could do.” Lord, I was taught growing up about the miracles You’ve done. As I grew up, I’ve seen what You can do with my own eyes. Lord, it’s time my heart listens to what my head already knows.

So, this is my prayer today. Lord, forgive for searching so long what you had already given me. Lord, I pray I’m figurin’ out what love really means. I pray givin’ you my heart, is a real fine place to start. I pray you keep callin’. I pray that I know you are stronger than any fear or doubt. Lord, you are changin’ everything I see. I pray that it’s changin’ me. I pray that I never stop looking to see what all you’re doing. I pray I’m always looking for your miracles around me. I pray that I am listening when you’re speaking to my heart. I pray that I am compelled to love. I pray that I take every advantage of your way out of sin. I pray that I remember you gave me options. I pray that I remember you gave me freedom. I pray that I know deep in my heart that I do not have to live that way and I can choose you. I pray that I know you are for me. I pray that I know you are my safe place. I pray that every fiber of my being knows that you will never run away, you’re forever mine, you’re by my side, you forever shine. I pray my life verse keeps changing my heart this month and long after. I pray you keep teaching me that verse. I pray that I apply it to my life. I pray that I trust in your unfailing love. I pray my heart rejoices in your salvation. 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.

Carols comin’ through the radio.

Ok, let’s go ahead and address it. I am still listening to Christmas music. Yes, I am. I even ordered more music after Christmas. Jennifer Nettles has been on repeat for a while now and it’s Chris Young’s turn. I decided I was taking those tidings of comfort and joy into the new year with me and I haven’t let them go.

Ok, now that we got that out of the way, let’s recap the last few days on the 30-Day Challenge for Single Christian Women. Day 4 was taking a selfie-done. Day 5 was joining a bible study-done. Day 6 was dreaming big. This is where I get into trouble. My 10-year plan consisted of:

  1. Graduating college in May 2015-nope.
  2. Getting married on August 20, 2016-nope.
  3. Starting a family two years later-well there’s still time, but it’s not looking likely.
  4. Running a community service organization (preferably for the military, foster kids, or adoptions.)-keeping my fingers crossed on this one!

This is where Day 7 comes into play, which is writing a letter to You, Lord about my hurts, what I’ve learned, and what I like about being single. What I’ve learned is easy: to trust You when my plan fails. What I like is growing in my walk with You and growing as a person. The hurts, I thought was going to be hard to name, because through this challenge, I have felt so blessed. I could handle the never been kissed jokes in middle school, the virgin ones in high school, and the cat/dog lady jokes in college. I am still all of those things, and I can handle the jokes. I can handle my plan not working out or not meeting my timelines. What I can’t handle is the lonely feeling. I moved out of my family home for six years. I have lived alone and with roommates. Now, I’m back with my family and as much as I would loveeeeee my own space, my own kitchen, my own bathroom, a walk-in closet, and maybe some built-in bookcases one day in a house of my own. I cannot live alone again.

I was listening to Chris Young sing Under the Weather tonight and realized that’s what I want. I want someone to bear the weather with. When it’s cold out, I want us to cuddle under blankets watching Christmas movies and drinking hot chocolate. When it’s hot out, I want to roll the windows down and sing country music with him all the way to the lake. When it’s raining, I want him to remind me of Your promises. I want him to teach the kids the same thing my mama taught me about the rain. That it rains when somebody goes to Heaven, and storms are You throwing a party because one more came home. There is a reason for every season. I just want someone to go through the storms and sunshine with.

Day 8 was making time for family. With the “Alabama snow storm” keeping my entire family home all weekend, there was plenty of time for that. All we had was ice, but it was totally worth the six hour game of monopoly we played. I won, of course. Dad made lots of soup too. Day 9 was trying something new. I’m still working on that one, but Day 10 is girl’s night out. My sister, Mom, and I are all going to get dinner and a movie. We’re all pretty excited!

So, here is my prayer. I pray that I remember my life verse from Day 1. I pray that whether I’m standing alone in the rain, I’m driving on ice, or I’m sitting in the sunshine that I think of your unfailing love and rejoice in your salvation. Lord, I pray that I never forget how blessed I am. This challenge has helped me count all my blessings and they are in abundance. And Lord, I have learned how to be content in any situation and any circumstance, no matter how badly my plans fail. Lord, what I’m asking for now is to thrive. I want to do more than just survive. I pray that I find a love so deep that it’s clear to everyone that you were in control. I pray that I succeed and work hard in all I do so that your name is shining bright for all to see. I pray that every breath I take I breathe in and out in your name. I pray that no matter the weather, I praise you. I pray that your love keeps surrounding me. I pray that I sink into your unfailing love. 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.