I sing because I’m free.

I was telling my Jesus friend, I did not like driving in traffic yesterday. Wait, lemme be honest, I was totes complaining. And true Jesus friend capacity, she pointed me right back to You. She told me to put on a sermon when I’m traffic, that it’s just extra time with You. I got up this morning and pulled up the Podcasts app, looked up Transformation Church and clicked play.

Ya girl cried through half the drive, got to work 10 minutes early, and started my day is much better place. It was one of those gooddd, praise cries too. Thank you for reminding me how good You are this morning.

Ok, so let me break down the sermon and apply to my life like usual.

How to have your life not suck:

1. The decisions you make today determine your tomorrow.

2. You might be one step from stepping into God’s abundant blessing.

3. Your end just might be your beginning.

4. Don’t just think about your legacy, build your legacy.”

Bianca Olthoff was the one preaching and she brought the Word. Straight from the book of Ruth. She continually taught that if I am not dead, You are not done. If it has not been redeemed, You are not done. She told us to do the work, spiritually and emotionally. Day by day, decision by decision.

The most important takeaway I got was when Naomi changed her name from Naomi which means sweet and pleasant to Mara which means bitter. Naomi/Mara went back to Bethlehem. She went back to her Life Group, to her community, to her Church, to her house of God. TobyMac posted the other day: “when you are hanging on by a thread, make sure it is the hem of His garment.”

The final point she made was “your purpose is proven when you give your life away.” It wasn’t ours to begin with. Genesis tells us You breathed life into us. You gave us our very lives. Bianca preached: “it’s not what happens to you, or dealt to you. It’s what you do with what you have.” Woah buddy…I immediately saw the connection there to the message I heard from Lysa Terkheurst. About how asking why is the wrong question. We should be asking, what am I going to do with what I have left? I have carried that question for a hot minute.

Lord, only You can do that, take a sermon I heard in 2014 after I lost my best friend and my grandma and build on it in 2019. You changed my whole perspective on life with one sermon and here You are continually adding to it and taking that message and growing it in my life. It was a little seed planted in a time when I thought I wouldn’t be able to grow anything. Now its a flourishing garden with so many flowers growing out of it, all I can see is Your handiwork running wild through my life.

That is your specialty though. Bianca showed us how You took a barren, homeless, trauma filled woman and somehow through her lineage King David is born, and through that Jesus is born. You take what everyone else would have written off and write a life full of love.

That is where freedom is found. When we give our lives away. I read in a devotion my sister sent me that He brings people into our lives we are designed to love. Nothing is random. Nothing is without purpose or meaning. Nothing happens by chance. I did not hear that message in 2014 by accident, nor did I hear the message today by accident. On Wednesday at Church, I heard a message on faith, which is literally my middle name so I was all for it. He taught us that “faith is believing that You can see what I can’t.”

In 2014, I couldn’t see past my grief. In 2016, I couldn’t see past my plans. Now it’s 2019 and I just want to see You, Father.

So, this is my prayer. I pray that I give my life away. I pray I love those you bring to my life. I pray I use what I have, where I am, and listen for your instruction. I pray I utilize these quiet moments to seek you. I pray that my legacy is built in your name. I pray I do the work needed. I pray I keep making those connections and keep growing in your word. Abba, I know you are for my good and your glory. Abba, I know you are watching me, I know your eyes are on me. I know you have never left me. I know you are working even when I cannot see. Thank you for reminding me to just simply praise you today. 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 are the well that never runs dry.

A sweet preacher in Mobile teaches that You love us too much to leave us the way we are. Ever since I heard those words, it has become more and more evident in my life. Last Sunday afternoon, the message was on the Holy Spirit and how we were born with a hole in us and a need for Jesus. I’ve heard before that we have a Jesus sized hole and we try to fill it with everything else and it never fits right. I’ve experienced it too. I know the pain of trying to make myself whole on my own. I can’t do it and no one can do it for me. The only one that can make me whole is You, Lord. I’ve been thinking about the message and rereading my notes all week.

In college, I saw a lot of thriving, but also settling, for relationships, for majors, for jobs. I saw people go out every single week and come back feeling worse than they left. I saw people hold onto any semblance of a relationship, no matter how toxic or wrong for each other they were. I saw people struggling so hard in classes and careers they didn’t even want. I saw people lose or give up on majors and careers they spent their whole lives wanting. I saw a lot of hurt and pain. Taylor Swift’s song Bad Blood was supposed to be about stickin it to the mean girl or whatever. And I jam out pretty hard, every single time it comes on. But when I really sit down and listen to the lyrics, I realize how truly, deeply sad it is. I saw a lot of bad blood in college, and even had some myself. My relationship with You allows me to be set apart from some of that heartache because I deal with it by taking it You, learning from it, and letting it go without it consuming me. I learned in college, that not everyone has that relationship with You and some of them are truly, madly lost and searching for things to fill their God shaped hole and coming up empty. I learned in college that “Band-aids don’t fix bullet holes.”

In the sermon, the pastor told us we have a spiritual hunger that has a voice like a growl and the more we feast on You, the more hungry we become, the more we crave it. He said we can’t stay the way we are, that only You can satisfy us. I just read The Goodbye Bride by Denise Hunter, in literally two days. I mean, from the first page, I was almost in tears and completely captivated. I couldn’t put the book down. The story came down to a couple who didn’t handle things by taking them to You, they tried to handle them on their own. Both fled. Both left. They lived Toby Mac’s lyrics: “I’d be packin’ my bags when I need to stay.” When they found each other again, they learned to take things to You in the process.

When we are kids, we are taught that voice in our head, showing us right from wrong, is our conscience. It is our own little Jiminy Cricket living in our head. I think it’s more than that though. The closer we move to You, the more clearly You speak to us. I believe that You use signs, signals, people, doors, windows, walls, roadblocks, whatever You need to speak to our hearts. Sometimes it’s obvious. Sometimes we have to slow down and be still so we can listen. In The Goodbye Bride, Denise wrote: Help me, God. Something pulled inside. Something she’d never felt before. A hard tug in her spirit, telling her to stay.” That girl had never known anything but running. Running is all she had ever been taught or knew how to do. Later she wrote: “But there was a God who loved her enough to give her courage in the face of her fear. I will never leave you nor forsake you.

So, this is my prayer today. Lord, I was so deep, so incomplete til’ you rescued me. I pray that you are mine and I am Yours. Thank you for rescuing me. I pray that I am yours forever. Thank you for saving me, remaking me. Thank you for changing me. Thank you for loving me too much to leave me as I am. Thank you for healing my heart. Thank you for being the well that never runs dry. Thank you for allowing me to come to you. Thank you for opening your arms for me. Thank you for leading me to you. Thank you for calling me home when I go astray. Thank you for sending people and signs to bring me back to you. Thank you for being deep enough for every soul. Thank you for speaking directly to me and to my life and to my heart. Thank you for never leaving or forsaking me. Thank you for showing me love despite my fear. 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 wanna believe that You got me, Lord.

When something happens to my friends or they need me, my first response is “girlllllll, I got you.” But when it’s me, I fumble for words and don’t know how to fight my own battles. When it’s others, I can help. I can fight. I can do whatever they need. When it’s me, I got nothing. Maybe You just want the chance to say “girl, I got you” or more accurately, “child, I already have you.” 

Lord, we both know I have trust issues. I try to do things on my own. I am as stubborn as a mule. I need to learn how to lean on You. I saw a video on Facebook of Keith Urban and his wife, Nicole Kidman singing in the car to Keith’s new song with Carrie Underwood. Nicole was singing Carrie’s part and the two of them were just as cute as cute could be. They were dancing along and I fell in love with the song instantly. I went out the next day and bought the CD. (#truefan I bought the actual CD, not the digital version) I was listening to the song on repeat and started thinking.

Maybe that’s what my relationship with You needs to be like. My heart these days is singing those lyrics over and over again. What if I fall? What if I cry? And if I get scared? It took this song to remind me that You’re singing along with me. “Child, I already have you.” Cause you’re precious heart is a precious heart. When they’re tryna get to you child I’ll be the fighter. Let me be the one to heal all the pain…

Last week, my week got a jump start on Wednesday when TobyMac posted: “Do you trust me when my answer is wait?-God” Ok, Lord, You have my attention. Then TobyMac posted this yesterday: “At the end of the day you can either focus on what’s tearing you apart or what’s holding you together.” I’ve been focusing on all the wrong things lately. It’s time to readjust my focus.

Sunday, a friend of mine posted: “I’m just curious to know…does anyone turn off their radio when they come to red light? Probably not, right? So why do we do that with God? Why when He says “wait” or we go through a storm do we turn off our prayers and praises? Shouldn’t we continue to dance and sing while we wait? Just as if our favorite song came on at a red light.” I’m not gonna lie. I screenshot that post right then and there. I turned into that lady at church with her hand in the air screaming “preach.” I literally jumped off the couch. When I’m at a red light, I turn the music up louder and start dancing and singing even more. That is exactly what I need to be with my life right now.

This week has been nothing but little reminders of “child, I already have you.” I apparently needed the message drilled in because I didn’t see the neon sign the first time. On Thursday, Proverbs 31 Ministries posted a quote from Lysa TerKeurst: “When I’m afraid, I sometimes resist trusting God. I want to see my circumstances change. But maybe God wants ME to change. To be less fearful. More faith-filled.” Then she ended the post with: “I have to resisting the process…stop being dismayed…and rest assured God is with me.”

So, this is my prayer today. Lord, I need you. I can’t do this on my own. I’m scared. I’m weak. Lord, I pray that you readjust my focus. I pray that you keep getting my attention. I pray that I turn up the prayers and praises. I pray that you keep changing me. I pray that I become more faith-filled. I pray for peace and assurance. I pray that I stop resisting the process. I pray that I am more patient in times of waiting and silence. I pray that I trust you more because you already have me. I pray that I give you all my heart. I believe in you and I pray that I learn to believe you when you speak to my heart. I pray that you keep speaking directly to my heart. I pray that I learn to listen more. 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.

Lights shine bright everywhere we go.

I use Dove’s Revival shampoo and conditioner for my hair, but this weekend my soul is one that needed the revival and that’s exactly what I got Sunday at church. Today someone said that because I still go to church now that I’m on my own it speaks volumes of my character and how my parents raised me. I was beyond touched by the kind words. He said a parents main job is giving their kids every opportunity to get to Heaven. My dad always told me the same thing. It’s my choice to follow You, Lord, but my daddy made sure I had every opportunity to know You. He said that of course he wants his kids to have wonderful lives here on earth and have everything they want and need, but that’s secondary. He said the most important thing is to be able to save them a seat next to him in Heaven. My mama saved a seat at church for me every Sunday growing up. She and I, both, want nothing more her to be able to save me seat around the throne of God too.

Sunday night, they had a guest speaker at church. The speaker was David Ring. He said that it was no mistake our being here tonight, that we were here by divine design. Today, I understood.

The message was about how we shouldn’t stop praying for people. It was about the paralytic that You healed when his friends brought him to Jesus. His friends heard about Jesus so they did everything in their power to get him near Jesus. They lifted their friend to the roof and brought him down to meet Jesus. Mark 2:5 says When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” David gave four takeaways.

  1. They took the time.
  2. They took the effort.
  3. They took the risk. 
  4. They took the love.

David told us his own stories too. He told the story about when he was in the delivery room, they pronounced him dead and put him across the room to take care of his mom. Then someone took the time to hold him. He was dead for 18 minutes, but because someone took the time, he is alive today. It happened again when he was 16, someone took the effort to pray for him and the risk to invite him to church, which led to him finding a relationship with You, Lord. Then someone took the risk and the love to invite him to share his testimony, which led to him starting a ministry and a lifetime of serving You. David said: “It’s one thing to say I love people, it’s another thing to show it.” Then he told stories of his marriage and what he said next near about brought me to tears. He said: “It’s one thing to show people love, it’s another thing to stick around for the pain.” Nothing happens by accident. There is a reason for every single one of those stories, for every single moment, for every single bad thing, for every single good thing. David said: “My God is in the detail business.” Not one part of his testimony is accidental, Lord, You planned out every tiny, little detail, even the parts of our lives that seem insignificant are all part of Your grand design.

When he was talking about taking the effort, he asked us why don’t we get involved in people’s lives anymore and why don’t we go out on a limb? He said if we’re scared of the limb breaking or getting cut off, not to worry because trees are full of limbs, just hang on to another one. There are a million and a half excuses that I could use to get out of church. I’m on my own now so no one would know if I don’t go. I work on some Sundays. I have homework to do. I could use the extra sleep because I’ve been running around between work and school. And the big one lately is that my car is in the shop so I don’t have a way there. Well, my daddy used to say that if excuses were candy and nuts, we’d all have a Merry Christmas. I could have used the past two months without a car as an opportunity to invite someone to go to church with me, instead I blew it. I sat at home on Sundays, missing church. Then when I got the rental car I was able to go, so I went and I heard David Ring’s message. I learned my lesson. I’m gonna start looking for those opportunities more. I heard once that sometimes we’re just supposed to plant seeds. Then someone else comes along and waters the garden. Then God gives the seeds time to grow. Maybe we’re supposed to do that in people’s lives. Maybe we’re just planting seeds and watering the garden.

So, here is my prayer today. I pray for the man and his family he told me about today. I pray that he continues to take the time for his kids and family. I pray that he continues to take the effort for his kids and family. I pray that he continues to take the risk for his kids and family. I pray that he continues to take the love for his kids and family. I pray that you give him the strength and determination and bravery he needs to give his kids those opportunities to know You. Thank you for putting his family on my mind today. I pray that I keep them in my prayers. Thank you for my parents. Thank you for their time, effort, risk, and love. Thank you for the opportunities they gave me. Thank you for the shelter and protection they gave me. Thank you for the details. Thank you for the designed plan you provided for all of us. I pray for David Ring and his family and his ministry. I pray that I shine your light everywhere I go. I pray that I take the time, effort, risk, and love to bring people to you. I pray for those around me. I pray for those that need you. I pray that I start reaching out on that limb for those around me. I pray that I do a better job of taking care of those around me. I pray that I magnify your light. I pray that I reflect the sun. I pray that I show your love. I pray that I stick around for the pain too. I pray that I plant seeds. I pray that I water the garden. I pray that everything I do, reflects your light. 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 I want Your way, Yahweh.

My friend and I were going down the road and she turns to me and says: “Have you heard this new TobyMac song?” (shaking my head no.) “Here, I’ll play it for you!” TobyMac wasn’t even finished with the first verse before I was ready to cry. This was exactly what I needed to hear. This was exactly what I was going through right now. Lord, You amaze me with your timing. Your hand is literally in every part of my life.

I am a backseat driver. I completely, 100% admit it. I have trouble with trust. I want to be in control and I like being in control. Not just in the car, but in every single aspect of my life, I want to be in control. I want to make plans and decisions and have actions reflect those plans. I want to swoop in and fix things. I want my 10-year plan and all my other plans to remain intact. But the moment I remember that 10-year plan, I remember You have an eternity plan. I am learning that I can’t plan life and I control everything. (Go figure!) I can’t control what happens to me or what happens to other people. I can’t stop bad things from happening, no matter how much I would like to. There is a line between giving up and not fighting for things and completely controlling them. The line is drawn when I trust You and let you guide my life and I let You fight for me. If I am not letting You fight for me, then I am fighting against You. That is a battle I will never win. One of the big things I’ve learned this year is that I can control my reaction to those things though. I can look to You, instead of reverting back to my old habits.

My old habits have taught me that my need for control comes from a place of fear. Maybe that lady was right, maybe I am timid and afraid. I am so scared of things going wrong that I need to control every part of it. Lysa TerKeurst posted: “The enemy wants us afraid. Not the healthy kind of fear. No, the horrible kind of fear that whispers worst case scenarios absent of hope and haunted by hurt. With death on his breath Fear says, ‘Dance with me darling. Entertain my entanglements. Linger in my lies. And drink deeply from my darkness.’ All the while it pickpockets our purpose. Cripples our courage. Dismantles our dreams. And blinds us to the beauty of Christ’s powerful love. Refuse Fear access to your heart, mind, and soul with the proclamation above all others – Jesus, Jesus, Jesus! The name of Jesus is Power. Protection. And Perspective that crushes fear.”

Isaiah 54:10 says: Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken. I can barely comprehend what is going on around me, much less the fact that while mountains will be shaken and hills are removed, Your love in unfailing and unshaken. Your love is deeper and more profound than anything I can even understand. Tim Tebow posted Proverbs 3:5-6 which says: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.

The Do You Believe movie Facebook page posted this: “I am not in control, but I am deeply loved by the one who is.” Maybe it’s time I started believing that and trusting You.

So, that is my prayer today. I pray that I trust you. I pray that I take TobyMac’s lyrics and Lysa’s words with me. I pray that I take Isaiah 54:10 and Proverbs 3:5-6 with me. I pray that I let go of the control. I pray that I let you take over the driver’s seat to my life. I pray that I let you fight for me. I pray that I give control to you. I pray that I see your beauty and your hand in everything. I pray that I refuse fear access to my heart, mind, and soul. I pray for your power and protection. I pray that you change my perspective. Thank you for your unfailing love. I pray that I stop leaning on my own understanding. I pray that I trust in you and acknowledge you in all I do. Thank you for reminders to trust 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 keeping my eyes open.

“Holding grudges. Judging others. Hating. Wanting to cause harm. Withholding forgiveness. Gossiping. Ridiculing. Ignoring others. Withholding mercy. Throwing stones. Stop it.” Dieter F Uchtdorf said that. He makes it sound so simple. Just stop. Stop letting others have control over you. Stop letting others affect you. TobyMac posted: “You don’t have to attend every argument you are invited to.” Wow. Why didn’t someone tell me this when I was growing up? Oh wait, my mama did. A rule of being a lady is: “The first to apologize is the bravest. The first to forgive is the strongest. And the first to forget is the happiest.” She tried to tell me over and over to be the bigger person, to let it go. (And boyyy did she try.) I didn’t listen though. When I was growing up, this girl did not like me, no matter what I did. The more she didn’t like me, the more I wanted to be her friend. I had this incessant need for everyone to like me. I tried to find approval where I was never going to get it. One day, I let my friend tell me that I needed to stand up for myself. So, she wrote this awful letter to the girl and I signed it. I knew right then and there that I never should have done it, but I did it anyways. I even felt proud of myself for it. Now looking back, I regret the letter so much. I didn’t understand the person who was always so mean to me. I didn’t see her side. I didn’t handle it the way I should. I stooped to her level. I was just as guilty. “The true mark of maturity is when somebody hurts you and you try to understand their situation instead of trying to hurt them back.” That is a lesson I’ve definitely learned in college. There are always going to be mean people in the world that don’t like you and they will give you a list of why they don’t like you. I probably will never change their minds or their hearts, but I can certainly change mine. I can’t control their actions or thoughts, but I can control mine. I can control my reaction. Luke 6:45 talks about how the words we speak are what fills our hearts. I can control my words and my heart. Colossians 3:13 says: “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” 

“People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway. If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway. If you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway. If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway. The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway. Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway. In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”

It always shocks me when people hurt me and I lash out because I’m not prepared. Elizabeth Gilbert wrote: “You need to learn to select your thoughts just the same way you select your clothes every day. This is a power you can cultivate.” I need to keep my eyes open. I need to learn how to react better. Tony A Gaskins Jr. said: “Never speak from a place of hate, jealously, anger or insecurity. Evaluate your words before you let them leave your lips.” I have the power to decide what kind of person I want to be. I have the power to decide how I react. I hear, all the time, things like: “The less you respond to negative people, the more peaceful your life will become.” “When you can’t forgive someone, pray for them. It may or may not change them, but it will always change you.” “If you spend time praying for people instead of talking about them, you’ll get better results.” “Forgiveness doesn’t excuse their behavior. Forgiveness prevents their behavior from destroying your heart.” Maybe now I’ll learn to listen. I need to learn to how to let things go and how to forgive. I need to learn that my happiness is important and lashing out doesn’t make me a better person or a happier one.

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

So, that is my prayer today. I pray that I stop all those things. I pray that I stop giving others control over my life. I pray that I stop letting them win. I pray I learn from my mistakes. I pray that I stop stooping to their level. I pray that I stop reacting and start praying. I pray that I keep my focus on you. I pray that I keep my eyes open. I pray that I keep my heart open. I pray that I learn to let the past go. 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.