Hope For the Rest of 2018 (& Those Resolutions That Seem Too Far Gone)

Hope For the Rest of 2018 (& Those Resolutions That Seem Too Far Gone)

Well, we are already half-way into 2018! Wow. I know everyone always says, “I just can’t believe how fast the year is going by!” But y’all, I really can’t.

It seems like it was just yesterday that I was making all these New Year’s resolutions and writing on the blog about my word for 2018. But, at the same time, some of those exciting dreams I had in my heart on January 1 are a little fuzzy right now.

I planned on making so many exciting changes to my routine. Now it’s the end of June and I’m sitting here looking back on what I haven’t done and it feels too late to try to play catch-up.

If you have been around for awhile you know “rest” is the word God gave me for this year. Of course, I feel like I have been running around on empty, focused on my own strength, more times in 2018 than I have been resting in Him.

It’s really easy to see an area of your life that needs change, it’s not as easy to continue being intentional in that area when things get chaotic. And that’s just the reality of life. I am far from perfect and have definitely fallen back into old rhythms I was so gung-ho about leaving behind in 2017.

Here’s the thing though, the year isn’t over yet.

Six months have gone by but there are still six whole months left. And those goals and dreams and “2018 words” are just as real today as they were on New Year’s Day.

So I really want to ask you, how does your life look right now? What was your word of the year? How have you been intentional in reaching the exciting goals you set out for yourself?

It’s okay if your real answer is that you don’t feel like you’ve made a ton of progress and can’t seem to remember those January goals. First of all, you are NOT alone. I think most of us feel that way.

If that’s you, just know that because you didn’t start then doesn’t mean you can’t start now. The enemy wants you to believe you are too far gone, that those goals will never be met. But that is a LIE because God is not done with you yet, never has been and never will be.

He doesn’t really care if you take that next step in January or June, all that matters is that you take it. My pastor always says, “It doesn’t matter how you start, all that matters is how you finish.”

Don’t feel like you’ve fallen behind and have to catch up, just make a move today so you can finish well later.

Pick up that Bible and read a chapter, put on your favorite sneakers and go for a walk, look that temptation in the face and choose to say “No.”

Whatever it is that you’ve been wanting to do, just do it (as Mr. Shia LaBeouf would say!) and watch how God redeems 2018 to be your best, most intentional year yet.

And if you do feel like you have stayed focused on your goals and are making progress towards where you want to be- THAT IS SO AWESOME! Take a moment and just appreciate what you and God have accomplished together. I am genuinely praying He continues to give you the energy and motivation to keep running strongly towards His best for your life.

Wherever you are, you are not alone and you are not too far gone. God is all about redemption stories, He is writing one every single day with your life.

It is not too late to get started on reaching those goals you set for 2018 and chasing the dreams God gave you. Maybe you need to pick up that journal you wrote all your “start-of-the-year” goals to remind yourself. Maybe you never really thought about your goals for the year until now.

Go remember, write them down again and trust that no matter what you have or haven’t done God has not given up on you, so don’t give up on yourself.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer, and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

-Hebrews 12:1-3

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Finding Peace in the Backseat

Finding Peace in the Backseat

Lately, my whole life has felt like one big decision. I guess it comes with the territory of being a 20-year-old (almost 21-year-old!) college student who is trying to figure out life and the future one step at a time while simultaneously having no idea what she’s doing…but I also feel like these life decisions will never go away, they will just change with time.

It’s a really sweet season of life (for so many reasons) but it can easily go from wonderful to overwhelming. Of course, I am so thankful to get the option to make decisions like going back to work at Camp WOW, exciting potential internships, stepping into a brand new ministry and even silly, fun decisions like my 21st birthday plans.

When I step back and look at all the possibilities that lie ahead through God’s eyes I am so blessed that I am alive and get to do these things for Him. But it’s in the moments my focus shifts from my Father who is in control to how many decisions I have to make that the enemy overwhelms my mind with uncertainty and sucks all the life out of, well, my life.

That’s the thing about decisions, I get anxious when I’m waiting in the “in-between” part. My flesh doesn’t like the decision part, the waiting because the world tries to tell me I need an answer before I get through the deciding part. And what God has been reminding me is that He is in the in-between, He’s in the waiting and, ultimately, He is the one in the driver’s seat.

It’s like my life is one big road trip and each destination is something brand new and exciting. I know I’m in good hands with God as the One behind the wheel but after awhile I start to ask when we’re getting there or, sometimes, where we’re even going. I can see He is driving and I know He will unfailingly get me where I need to be but the journey can be hard, dark and exhausting.

Even still, I know He is right there beside me on the journey and He can see the destination when all I feel is the waiting.

Now, just because I’ve realized that doesn’t mean it’s the perspective I have every single day. Most days I’m stressed and worried about making the “right” decision (If that even exists?) and trying to understand how everything will all work out. But the beautiful part is, no matter how bumpy the ride is, it does not change the fact that He is still driving.

Whether I think I’m in control or not, He is always taking me where He wants me to be and He always gets me there on time. I know this in my head, it’s my heart that needs the reminding the most because that’s where the true, gritty trust is.

Trusting is not easy but it is the key to unlocking a free, joyful heart that rests peacefully in the backseat.

But, can I be honest? I think worrying has become easier and more comfortable for me. It’s my default, it’s where my mind automatically goes. I already know I can worry and not be sure, it’s in the trusting that I have to give all of my fears to Him and believe He won’t take a wrong turn.

Worrying is easy, trusting is worth it.

So, that’s where my heart has been lately during this crazy season of April. It’s been a beautiful month of business as the final projects and big decisions have lurked closer and closer with each passing day?

There are so many things I can (and do) stress about- my future, my summer, graduating on time, my family, my friends, camp, leaving a comfortable ministry for the unknown, doing the right thing, being in the right place and the list goes on…

And when my mind goes to its default mode of stress, I’ve been praying that God would pull me out of myself long enough to be thankful for the season I am in now instead of worrying about the one I may be in later. I pray to have the boldness to trust Him when it seems like I’m driving off a cliff and I can’t see which way He’s taking me. I pray for a heart that trusts the One who holds my heart in the darkest, loneliest moments on this earth is the same good, good Father I sing praises to on Sunday morning.

To just trust, I know it’s easier to say than to do. It’s harder in the moments when every thought and worry comes crashing down and I’m brought to my knees in fear. But He never fails to remind my heart that He has me right where He wants me, even if where I am is in-between where I have been and where I want to be.

And I know at the end of the day, no matter where we are on the journey to the destination He is there with me and that is truly the only place I really want to be.

As long as He is in the driver’s seat He will get me there and His final destination is always the most perfect and on-time place that only He can get me to- that’s why the full life takes real trust.

He is good, He is faithful and He will come through- He always does.

“Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; He’s the one who will keep you on track.” Proverbs 3:5-6 (MSG)

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”    Hebrews 11:1 (NIV)

“Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” Matthew 6:33-34 (MSG)

I Know How the Story Ends

I Know How the Story Ends

Can you imagine not knowing?

The darkness of the night must have been the only comfort, the only thing to block out the pain and fear. He was gone, He had died.

Light had left, hope had gone.

They must have wondered why He said He was the One? Why didn’t He save Himself? How did He perform the miracles and do the things He did?

Why did they believe Him?

He was it. They must have felt like the one escape they had from this fallen, broken world had just closed in on them. They must have felt like He died and just left them there to die too. It’s was just a matter of time.

How could they not feel hopeless? They had watched him just stand there, taking every word, every spit, every punch. He just took it, He didn’t even fight back.

He let them torture Him, He let them mock. He let them hurt Him, why did he have to give up?

Now it life was complete darkness. No hope. Total pain.

That was what they must have felt, absolute despair.

But can you imagine? The shiver that went down their spine as they saw Him, the One who had been rolled into a grace, breathing in life and walking in power with the holes in hands and feet. Alive.

They must have thought, “He is dead, there is no possible way.”

As their minds tried to come up with an explanation, Heaven showed them the proof-He was alive. He hadn’t given up at all, He had come back undefeated and brought forever life, hope and freedom with Him.

I can only imagine the unexplainable joy that crept into their hearts that had been weighed down with sorrow only moments before.

He was no longer dead, He never had been. He had only walked past death, on His way to unlocking everlasting life for all His brothers and sisters.

He is exactly who He said He was, He came to FREE. The stunned believers of that day didn’t have to wait anymore, they didn’t have to live in their old ways anymore. And neither do we. Everything He said is true, it was then and it is now.

Even when anxiety comes or people disappoint or life seems too much to bear. He is still who He says He is and He keeps His promise.

He is Jesus, the greatest comeback story of all time.

Tonight we don’t have to wonder, we don’t have to sit under the crushing weight of disappointment and sorrow.

We know Sunday morning is coming, we know the end of the story: Jesus wins.

It’s been the story since He walked out of the tomb the world thought He was going to stay in forever. It’s been the story since the beginning of time. And it’s still the story today and every day after.

Jesus wins. Death is defeated. He is alive.

“On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them,’Why do you look for the living among the dead?’ He is not here; he has risen!'” -Luke 24:1-6

Jesus Is Everything // Holy Week Thoughts

Jesus Is Everything // Holy Week Thoughts

My mind has been everywhere this past month, it’s been both restful and restless, chaotic and calm. Since a good chunk of this month was Spring Break, I’ve had a lot of time to do nothing…let me explain. While all my friends seemed to go on fun adventures during the break, I spent mine recovering from wisdom teeth surgery. I know, crazy! No seriously, it was a glamorous week of milkshakes, ice packs, and The Office.

Not that I’m complaining, it was a nice and much-needed break from the whirlwind of homework, deadlines, and commitments but it was also very difficult for me to do nothing (even though I physically had to!) The whole thing just reminded me one more time why God gave me the word “rest” for this new year.

Anyways, all this to say, I’ve had an interesting month of wanting to do both nothing at all and everything at once. It’s a weird place to be.

And since I’ve had necessary downtime, I’ve also thought a lot about what I want to write for this month. Some of my initial ideas came from the things I’ve been struggling with lately- anxiety, restlessness, feeling like I’m not living life fully…but today I realized that there’s only one topic I want to talk about.

Or, I guess I should say, there’s only one person I need to talk about- Jesus.

Maybe it’s because the Easter season has me more excited and aware of His sacrifice for us on the cross or maybe it’s because deep down I know He’s the only One I could write about that matters.

I just know that Jesus is everything. And as we go through this Holy Week and walk through these few days leading up to Easter weekend with hearts weighed down by the heaviness of the crucifixion but expectant of His resurrection, I am desiring to truly be aware of His power and presence.

Even sitting here typing out these words, I realize I’m not even sure what that means, to be fully aware of His power and presence. Jesus is so much better than anything my tiny, human brain can conjure up. But I know my soul longs in ways it can’t express to get even just a glimpse of the glory of Jesus, of the true life He gave me when He gave up His on the cross.

I need that resurrection life. I need that hope. I need that overpowering light. I desperately need Jesus.

And the greatest thing is He desires to be with me too, with all of us. I think that is just insane. I mean, really thinking about it is just too much.

Jesus is everything, yet He wants me. He wants me, the one who forgets Him and what He’s done more than I remember. It’s in the brief moments of His glory when my heart overtakes my mind when I get a glimpse of how overwhelming His desire for me is, how real it is.

He is everything. And I want to be aware of how true that is, not just in the days leading up to Easter Sunday but every day of my life. I don’t want to miss Him, I want to be in awe of Him especially in the normal parts of life.

I want to be in awe of His grace when I wake up to a new day, even if I’m snoozing my alarm clock for the third time. I want to be in awe of His protection over my life when I pass hundreds of cars on I-35 to commute to school. I want to be in awe of His creation in every blade of grass and beam of light that stretches before me as I walk across campus.

He is everything and He is in everything.

I want to be in awe because to be alive, to have these in-between, beautiful moments where His love lives is awe-inspiring in itself.

But He doesn’t stop there. He gives us beauty and joy and hope and dreams, He gives us Himself- He gives us everything.

Even though we don’t deserve it, He gives. Even when we aren’t aware of Him, He gives. Even when we forget He is everything, He gives. It’s a no-strings-attached, genuine and pure kind of love. What a beautiful reality, the love of Jesus.

I am so grateful He picks me up every morning, looks at my heart, gives me a purpose and leads me by the hand into the life He died to give me. I am so thankful He went to the cross on the ultimate rescue mission for my soul, that’s my Jesus- my Savior, my Rescuer, my Everything.

It’s too much, to think about every detailed way He lavishes love on my heart every day just simply because He can and desires to. It makes all the struggles and hardships of this world melt away, knowing I am loved by Jesus, the One who conquered death and darkness forever.

I am loved by Love Himself and He is worthy of celebration. He is everything and He deserves everything we can offer.

Thank You, Jesus, we love You and remember who You are and what You did. You won.

“Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.” -Isaiah 53:4-5

“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” -1 John 4:9

“And walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” -Ephesians 5:2

“The ground began to shake
The stone was rolled away
His perfect love could not be overcome
Now death where is your sting?
Our resurrected King
Has rendered you defeated

Forever He is glorified
Forever He is lifted high
Forever He is risen
He is alive, He is alive!” -Forever, Kari Jobe

Heavenly Expectation

Heavenly Expectation

ex·pec·ta·tion·it·is
noun
  1. a fake disease I made up to describe my crippling desire for things to be exactly the way I expect and want them to be.

I have a bad case of “expectationitis” and I get it really bad during the holidays because I LOVE traditions and the holidays are full of them.

Every year, around Christmastime I have to intentionally pray that God will give me the patience and open mind to experience His season the way He wants me to, instead of the way I want me to. And, if I’m being really honest it’s hard…and most times, I end up trying to control things. I don’t want to, but it still happens.

I’m convinced this is how the enemy gets me, he makes me feel like everything has to feel and happen a certain way- when in reality everything that will happen has already been orchestrated by God to happen that way and is usually unexpected.

God’s plans are always greater than my expectations. It’s a truth we all know, but “expectationitis” can still sneak up. This Christmas was no exception, but I really do believe God taught me a valuable lesson during this holiday season that He will use to shape me throughout the rest of the year- because this is something I really struggle with year round.

As I have gotten older, God has started to open my eyes to why He placed the feeling of expectation in our hearts during this time of year in the first place. It isn’t so that we can eagerly expect to hang certain ornaments with certain people on a certain day or watch that one movie we love to watch on Christmas Eve.

The feelings of expectation are not for what and how we celebrate, they are for Who and why we celebrate- Jesus.

I always have to remind myself that we may know the ending of Jesus’ birth story, but the people who lived in the story didn’t have this same knowledge. They were desperately waiting in expectation for the Prince of Peace to be born and save them from themselves. I can only imagine the joy they experienced when they heard the Savior was born and their promised hope had come.

Even though I already know this part of His story, I still desire to have that same expectation for Him every year.

My prayer for all of us is to not let the enemy get us hung up on our own fleeting expectations, but instead for God to guide us into Heavenly expectation and adoration for Him on December 25th and every day after.

Our reason for expectation isn’t always easy to remember during the chaos of our everyday lives but it is always true- whether we choose to realize it or not- because He is always constant.

“I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or death.” -Philippians 1:20

Photography by Ashley Linch
 

A Year Full of Revival

A Year Full of Revival

re·vive (rəˈvīv/ verb)- to restore to life or consciousness; regain life, consciousness, or strength; give new strength or energy to.

This is the word God has given me for this fresh, new year: revival. What a sweet promise from the One who holds my heart in His hands. 

For something to be brought back to life, it must not be living in the first place. I guess, I can’t say all of my heart is in need of revival because there are certainly pieces of it that are pumping along just fine. But our hearts are not meant to desperately survive in separate pieces. God created our hearts to beat in a unified rhythm only He can orchestrate. So lately I’ve been alive but I haven’t been fully living and, if you ask me, that’s worse than death.

Revival. It’s the nights when the enemy attacks hardest that I cling to this promise the most. The darkness is scared of the light. I know in my heart that if satan is threatened this badly then that means God has bold & mighty revival in store for the days to come. 

The roars of the enemy are nothing compared to the whispers of my King.

As I have become awakened to His whisper during the first month of this new year, God has told me this is a word for all His children & I believe Him. We are being brought back to life, I can feel it.

In this very moment God is reviving relationships, hearts, circumstances- He is reviving you & me. He is bringing hope to that dark situation that seems hopeless. He is releasing breakthrough to that person, prayer and pain that seems unbreakable. 

Nothing is impossible for God- this is the Heavenly promise we must hold on to as His sons & daughters. 

I am believing that God will shatter the walls that the enemy has attempted to build up within my home, my loved ones & myself. I am proclaiming in faith that God- our ultimate Healer, Protecter & Father- is going to burst through every hurt, pain, demon & fear that the world is trying to use against us.

The world will try to convince you that the resolutions & goals you made at the beginning of the year are what’s most important to remember & pursue. But as those fleshly goals begin to fade into memories, God’s Heavenly promise of revival remains constant & true. 

I am so thankful that my Father never breaks a pinky promise.

Revival will come.

Revival is coming.

Revival is here. 

“Your promise revives me; it comforts me in all my troubles.”                            -‭‭Psalms‬ ‭119:50‬

Here Comes The Sun

Here Comes The Sun

Bright. 

Gloomy. 

Joyful. 

Numb. 

Refreshing. 

Beautiful.

Our lives and memories are overflowing with these tangible feelings. They make us who we have been, who we are and who we will be.

I am generally a very outgoing and joyful person. I believe in optimism and in loving and encouraging those around me. But- every now and then- I am overcome by a storm which clouds my heart and head, making it difficult to see the sun that shines so brightly in my life. I am not given a warning or time to prepare- the dark clouds just come.

And it may not be a fun and cheerful topic, but it is reality: we all experience these stormy seasons at some point during our lives. I want to remind anyone out there who may be weathering through a storm that every person has had a few gloomy clouds. Because we are exactly that: people. 

We are human. 

Life is messy. 

The weather changes, but the sun does not. 

See, that’s the thing about gray skies: they only stay around for a little while. And even though we can’t always see the sun, it never truly leaves our atmosphere.

You are not a person without sunshine. Actually, you are the sunshine. 

We carry the bright warmth of the sun with us wherever we go- with or without the dark clouds. 

It’s in your genuine smile as you walk down the street and wave to a perfect stranger. 

It’s in your uncontrollably contagious laughter. 

It’s in the light-hearted conversations you have with your friends and family. 

It’s in the moments you forget the world is watching and you get lost in the beauty of life.

I could go on and on- because your radiance is everywhereBeing the light in someone else’s day does not have to be a big gesture, but it does involve you to beBy being who you are and sharing your joy with another person, you get the opportunity to break through those few gloomy clouds hovering over them for a moment. You get to remind them what sunshine looks like because your light brings out the light in others.

So. If you are walking through a season of gloominess and gray skies, I want you to know: you are not alone & that everyday you are being used to help brighten someone else’s life (whether you realize it or not). I challenge you to embrace this season. I challenge you to find a way to get some sunshine to break through your clouds. I challenge you to realize that experiencing light again is possible.

Gloomy days come and go but the sun is always there. Waiting. Hoping. Being bright and bold for you when you need it most.

Do not lose hope. Here comes the sun.