Biblical Community

Last weekend I attended a youth conference where the message centered around “Gospel-Centered Community”. The main verse from the weekend came from Acts 2:42 – “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”

As I sat through the sermons and talked with my girls, I praised God for having had the privilege of leading this young group of Jesus-loving women over the past 3 years. They are in Biblical community, whether they know it or not, and I have not just had the chance to teach them – I’ve been taught by them also. I have learned so much from their little community: kindness, encouragement, conflict resolution, and deep care.

This morning, on my way to work, I was listening to a new EP put out by a couple of friends of mine that I know through college/church. I’m almost certain that the vision of this EP was born out of Biblical community – just a couple of musically inclined guys, living together, who love the Lord enough to write incredible music honoring Him. I thought about these guys, and the friendship I had witnessed between them over the last few years, and then I thought about the women I have lived with in the past and how different I felt it was.

I may be far off in this, but the thought crossed my mind that I have rarely seen Biblical community in female rooming situations done well. Maybe it’s a lack of exposure on my part, but I was saddened thinking about all of the stories I’ve heard of girls living together but not in Biblical community – women desiring depth and closeness and feeling completely discouraged. I know for myself that was a result of pettiness. I took things too personally, was too insecure to pursue depth, and didn’t want to be too pushy in seeking out the type of community I desired. It was once offered to me, and out of a desire for comfort, I chose another option.

I know this isn’t just a female problem (although I believe it might be more prevalent among us) and that the men I’m speaking of aren’t the norm. But, when I think of how beautiful it could be if, while single, we lived intentionally with others and spurred one another along in Biblical community, I wonder why it doesn’t happen more. I feel like it would set us up for healthier marriages and make the lonely times feel less lonely.

“When Christ saved us, He saved us into community not isolation.” This is the message that resonated with me the most from this past weekend. We have a family – as believers we all have something in common – and we should love that family and get to know them. We should join together as a family of believers, break bread and worship our loving Father – the one who brought us together. We should step out of our comfort zones and stand for what really matters in this life. We need to live for the eternal, with our eternal brothers and sisters.

Truth and Glory

I’ve had a bit of an “A-ha!” moment lately – I don’t want to be someone who tries to take the Lord’s glory for myself.

This seems obvious. Of course, as a believer, I shouldn’t be a glory thief – but y’all, it’s a slippery slope. This past week I had the chance to attend two events within the “Christian world” and was honestly blown away by how different they were.

In one, I saw an attempt to lift up women and encourage them to use the giftings the Lord has bestowed upon them, but his Word wasn’t mentioned nearly at all. They had such sweet intentions, but the Lord felt like something that was put on the backburner – an afterthought – not the main focus. There were moments that felt bizarre: time spent celebrating one another without acknowledging that the real reason to celebrate was God, spiritual aerobics that bordered on prosperity messages (but were very joyfully motivating), and music that was a compilation of pop hits rather than a time to worship and reflect on the purpose for being there. Each speaker gave a beautiful, inspiring message but they forgot to support themselves with the Word – the greatest backing one could ever have! I left this event feeling baffled and discouraged; how could they have gone two days without mentioning scripture more than I could count on one hand? The messages I carried away were more about the sponsors of the event than of the Lord himself.

The other event I had the honor of attending was one of the most beautiful, God-glorifying events I have ever witnessed. The women hosting this event were so humble and quick to put the focus where it belonged. They had no desire to be recognized or praised for their stories or their talents – they wanted God to have it all and for HIM to be the main focus. I was brought to tears by the beauty of it: the moments of worship, the reminder that God is constant, the scripture references that both supported and encouraged. All of this made me desire to know the Lord more – to seek Him out and spend time with Him daily so that I might be able to quote His very words to others and have them feel this same encouragement and inspiration.

At the second event I attended, one of the women quoted 2 Timothy 4:3-4 –

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

She was speaking of what she referred to as the “truth-adjacent” – something we hold alongside truth as if it were truth itself, but in reality this something should never be held so highly. In scripture this is referred to as the teaching that soothes our “itching ears” and suits our personal passions. This truth-adjacent is dangerous – it is what we want to hear instead of the solid Word of God. It is our preference and our feeling and us re-writing God’s words, as if we would have made better authors.

I don’t even think that this truth-adjacent is always intentional. It could be like the first event I attended – something beautifully designed and intended to reach women with truth and love, but weighing a little heavier on the love and inspiration than on the truth. I fully believe that none of them intended to mask the Lord’s truth but, in an effort to incite inspiration and to create a sense of hope, that truth was lost.

What if God’s word was our passion instead?

Instead of this desire to “fulfill all He has destined us to be”, what if we just read His word and allowed that to transform us and decide who we are? I think it might solve our glory-thief problem. I have a feeling that if we continuously approach the Lord and take Him at His Word daily, that He will do far more for us than we could have dreamed. And, in doing so, the Lord will glorify himself. He does that, you know.

 

 

The Pursuit of The Lord

I am happy to report that the Lord is GOOD – and after his own.

After my last post, I noticed that my very favorites over at She Reads Truth were starting a new study on Hosea. It’s silly, but I LOVE the books they make and have gotten into this habit of feeling like I have to have one of their books to do their studies. I finally realized, through some strange revelation, that you can TOTALLY study the word of God without an adorable study book to go with it! 🙂

Anyway, this study of Hosea is so beautiful. It’s only been going on for three days and it has been such a sweet reminder that no matter how far I run or what I run to, God is in a sweet pursuit. I have so many created things that I run to instead of the Lord: my husband, food, crafts, books, television – I have many tiny gods and they do not satisfy.

I am really good at convincing myself that these tiny gods are, in fact, tiny; that it doesn’t matter that I go to these things instead of the Lord. But it does. These things are sin in my life, or at least that is what they become when they take the place of God in my heart and in my life.

I loved what the writer for yesterday’s Hosea study said on this: “when I am pursuing sin, I need the Lord to oppose me. I need the Lord to intervene.”

I really do. I need Him to intervene because I am stuck in the snare of these things that I think are comfort. Running to food to make me feel good for a moment but ultimately leads to being stuck in shame over overeating. Running to my husband leads to feeling loved but sometimes dissatisfied that when he doesn’t say exactly what I want to hear all of the time. The list could go on and on.

These things are not my God. And I do not belong to them. I belong to a Creator who cares for me so deeply that he rescues me from my sin and pursues me when I run from him – not to shame me, but to speak tenderly to me and to call me back to him.

I am so thankful for your prayers and encouragement. It has only been three days but the Lord has spoken, and he has done it sweetly. He didn’t shame me and say it was about time I showed up, but reminded me that he’s been here all along and that he’s happy to see me.

God is awesome.

Dry seasons and desperation

It is time that I admitted something.

Despite praising the Lord and recognizing his goodness daily, I am going through one of the driest spiritual times I’ve ever known.

My husband and I have this sweet little bedtime ritual that we refer to as “CPR” – cuddle, pray, read – and we pray together nightly. It was his idea and something I am grateful for; without it, I don’t know when I would set aside time specifically to speak to and meet with God. Every night my husband and I pray for our friends, families, each other and that we would desire to know God more deeply and spend time with him.

And yet, we don’t.

I don’t find myself setting aside time for God. If I’m really being honest I don’t even know where to start. I have been in great biblical community in the past that has gotten me into the Word but even that doesn’t compare to the times that I remember truly ENCOUNTERING the Lord and feeling moved by what I discovered in His word.

This is a hard time. I feel distant. I’m at one of the happiest points in my life, and somehow I can’t figure out how to connect with the Lord.

If you’re reading this, and you’re a believer, would you pray for me? Would you pray that the Lord gives me an idea of how to connect with him? Pray that I would practice the discipline of meeting with God daily and not fill my time with my own things?

It is hard to admit this. I lead a group of high school girls (seniors this year, oh Lord!) and I feel like I have to be this incredible model of what godliness looks like. And, y’all, I’ve felt like I’m falling on my face in setting this example for the past year. I also want to be the wife who spends her mornings in the Word and knows how to encourage her husband in the Lord. I want to be deep in a relationship with God in this beginning of my marriage.

I understand that most of us go through these times. I’m admitting that I’m here so that I can have some love and accountability from my family in Christ. So, will you pray? I’m even open to hearing ideas of how YOU connect with God.

I’m just ready to be out of this desert.

Back To School

Ah, back to school. That glorious time when we rise before the sun, guzzle down our weight in coffee and sit through that ever-wonderful school zone traffic. The days when our nerves are high and the anxiety of getting a grab bag of students we’ve never met leads to pre-school-year nightmares about sending children to the office on the first day (true story) and classes running amok.

But then, the first day comes and goes in a blur, the kids are less scary than you thought they’d be and, before you know it, you’re cataloging good moments in the first four days and looking forward to the next. You retrain your body into what I like to call “grandma hours” (you know, in bed before 9pm, awake before 6am) and get back into the routine of lesson planning and classroom management. You and your classes form tiny little gangs (good gangs) and you all get through the school year together. Okay, some of this may be idealistic – I’m still working on my tiny little gangs, but we’ll get there! I just know it!

Being on day 4 of the first week back is pretty predictable. The kids are starting to let down their “angel guard” and show you how they really behave. You’ve made mental notes of all of your “fidgeters” and little ADHD babies and are getting to know faces enough to get remember who not to sit next to each other on the seating chart. You’re dog tired because you haven’t been awake for this many consecutive hours for the last 3ish months and you’ve scrapped tomorrow’s lesson plan because you’re too hoarse to teach.

Sound familiar to any of my teacher friends?

Y’all. This is my life right now, and I adore it. Teaching 8th grade has it’s challenges, and they mostly involve sassy attitudes, but in my eyes the benefits outweigh any of the bad. These kids are impressionable. They are the “big kids” in school and like to be held to that “upperclassmen” standard. They’re trying to figure out who they are while wading around in a pond full of people who are trying to do the exact same – sometimes at their expense – and they’re awkward as all get out.

Don’t you remember middle school? Doesn’t it make you shudder just thinking about it? For me, middle school was flat out terrible. I was awkward, had a bad haircut, and dressed like a teacher (sometimes kids asked if I was one, Thanks, mom!). And I keep a little reminder of this gloriously terrible and awkward time in my life on my desk, to humble me every day, in the form of my 8th grade picture.

You see, teaching isn’t about having power. It isn’t about lording over children and strong-arming them into doing what you wish – it’s quite the opposite. It’s about humility and dying to yourself a little every day when you have to repeat instructions for the bazillionth time to the kid who swore he was listening to you. It’s about helping them through the relational drama and getting them to learn at the same time. It’s about making them better people who know that in order to be “smart” we have to TRY. We have to remember what it was like to be their age and try to appeal to that kid inside of us.

I also keep that picture on my desk to let the kids know that THINGS CHANGE. IT GETS BETTER. Stormye in 8th grade and Stormye at 27 are two TOTALLY different people (I wasn’t quite the babe I am now – jokes!). But seriously, that picture, to me, symbolizes that we can’t ever keep one version of anyone – especially ourselves – in our minds. My students will change enormously from the start of the year to the end just like they did last year, and the year before and the year before.

Anyway, I’m rambling now – I just care for these little stinkers so dang much and can’t wait to see them flourish this year. I’m overwhelmed by how good the Lord has been to put just the thoughts I need to lead these kids well into my mind at just the right moment. I know this year will be full of challenges, but I’m basking in that ever so blissful beginning-of-the-year optimism that is so easily overlooked.

And looking forward to Friday. 🙂

Courage and Celebration

Y’all.

I am BLOWN AWAY by the Lord’s goodness!

I did something scary this week. I took the big leap and opened an Etsy shop. An Etsy shop!! I swallowed all of those nerves and hushed that inner voice that told me I wasn’t good enough to do it and jumped off that big, scary cliff and just DID IT!!!

And you know what? God has blessed it.

He could have totally not blessed it – and that would have been fine – but he DID. I’ve already had my first sale, I’ve gotten 4 requests in one day AND to top it all off, when I went to go get supplies to ship off my order he did something only he could do.

I dragged my poor husband all over Denton tonight looking for just the right size box for my first sale (it’s kind of a weird size). Anyway, after finding our perfect box I begged him to take me to World Market. You see, they have this paper – maybe you’ve seen it in Easter baskets? It’s the crinkly kind that’s all shredded and colorful and I just knew it would be the perfect “HELLO!” to really make my deliveries pop. But, our World Market in little ol’ Denton is weird. It’s inside a Bed Bath and Beyond and really is more like an exotic foods grocery store than the World Market I know and love. So, I’m looking around this meager little section of BBB and not seeing my perfect, crinkly Easter basket paper. As the words, “Well, I guess they don’t have what I’m looking for” are coming out of my mouth and going into my husband’s ears, I see it. On the clearance rack. The colorful, crinkly stuffer paper of my dreams. It was 99 CENTS A BAG. I yelled at my husband to get me a basket – not the little one, but a cart – and filled that sucker up. I must have put 40 bags in there. I gleefully made my way to the checkout counter where the manager laughed his head off and asked me if I was a “basket maker” and told me that he was glad I was buying so much so that he could restock. They had A TON of this stuff. To top it all off, I had a gift card. That stuff was FREE.

I know it’s silly but, y’all, that whole thing was so the Lord. SO the Lord. I’ve done this big scary thing this week and my Dad has cheered me on every step of the way. I have wanted to do this for FOREVER and haven’t had the courage but when I did, he was there.

We heard this beautiful speaker at our convocation, Liz Murray, who spoke about her experience of being homeless and then making it into Harvard. Her message was a pretty simple one – just do that thing you’re dreaming of. Stop dreaming about it and make it happen – DON’T LET YOUR DREAMS BE DREAMS! (Okay, maybe that last part was Shia Labeouf)

One of my dreams has become a reality this week and I am so grateful. I just had to give a shoutout to the Lord.

 

 

p.s. I do have photographic proof that I tried to buy the store out of its stock of glorious crinkly Easter basket filler paper but for some reason it won’t upload.

I want to be radiant

Ever had one of those days where you wake up and just feel like you’re fighting the enemy – and your own mind – ALL. DAY. LONG?

That’s today for me.

Driving to church this morning I was overcome with this need to reach out to God and ask Him to help. It’s almost like I forgot that was an option and, upon remembering, halted everything to make it happen. So, I turned off my audiobook and tearfully prayed that he would help me be free of this crippling sense of shame and unworthiness that I feel when I think about my weight and eating choices.

Now, let me get something straight. I try really, REALLY hard to eat well most of the time. And, I don’t feel this way every day! What’s that saying? Something about each day bringing its own new battle? But most days I have a little voice in the back of my mind that sits there scrutinizing and condemning even the GOOD choices I make – “Oh, you shouldn’t have added that coconut milk to your coffee, Stormye, you know that’s just adding unnecessary calories.” Or, “Did you just eat all of that, and so quickly? Tisk, tisk.” Y’all. It’s an awful, nasty little person that resides in my mind sometimes.

And, sadly, I’ve realized that person – that condescending voice – is me.

No one else is shaming me for my eating choices because, honestly, they aren’t bad! No one is looking at me in public thinking, “Oh that girl really shouldn’t be wearing that,” because NO ONE CARES. I’ve said this before but no one is as mean to me as I am.

Today, in church, the guest speaker was talking about shame and how it is a result of us placing our hope in things other than the Lord. And you know what I realized? That is exactly what I’ve done for my entire life. I’ve put my hope in losing weight and that making me magically happier with my life, in eating perfectly, in exercising the amount that everyone says you should, in following and being perfect like these little nutritionists I see on Instagram. And all the while, I’ve made myself miserable.

The verse that he focused on today was Psalm 34:5 – “Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.”

It hit me like a ton of bricks. I’ve been walking around with the dullest face on the planet. Instead of meeting with my maker every morning and letting him and his mere presence make me radiant, I’ve been hoping to find it in all of my aforementioned hopeless pursuits. I’ve been walking in shame and speaking so cruelly to myself for TWENTY SEVEN YEARS and I want it to be done.

Here comes the hard part. I can’t say all of this and it just be over. This is a long-term battle that I feel like I have constantly lost. I need help in this – I’ve tried the whole “pulling-myself-up-by-my-bootstraps” deal and it doesn’t work. Why? Because this centers around JESUS – putting my hope in the Lord – and not about what I can do on my own. This is one of those battles that I feel like I’ll never win, it’s on my list of “impossible prayers”, but today I saw that it really is possible. This isn’t me missing an appendage and hoping the Lord will grow it back – this is me aligning my heart to his and learning to hope in him and nothing else. THAT is possible. Is it easy? No. It, too, will take discipline, but it is the most worth-it discipline you can have.

Whew, that was a lot! I’m glad to get it off my mind and into yours. Maybe you’ve felt this way too? It may not be weight – it could be the lack of a significant other or family or even the job you wanted. Whatever it is, I hope that we can both learn how to overcome these insignificant societal woes and put our hope in God.

Hospitality

It was my high school bible study home group host that first modeled hospitality in a way that stuck out to me. We would go over to her house every Wednesday for home group and there would be dinner and baked treats (and most of the time candy) awaiting us upon arrival. It wasn’t until I was leading a high school bible study of my own that I realized how rare it was to be provided for so lavishly each week.

I knew then that I wanted to be just like her.

Last year, I had to complete a “vision” for my life while working my summer job. It had to be something that you could see clearly and a hope you had for your future. Mine was extremely clear – I wanted to be in my home with my husband and a house full of people that we had loved and cared for continuously over the years. I wanted children running around or playing together while we grilled out and shared the warmth of our little home.

I am blessed to have married a man who shares this vision. It is a passion of ours to be hospitable – to have people in our home, cooking meals for them and enjoying rich conversation. We want to bless others with the blessings we have received from the Lord. We also happen to go to a church that encourages hospitality, both locally and corporately, and even heard a sermon on the topic out of 1 Peter 4 last week.

Last night, we had a housewarming party. It was my first chance to host a large group of people in our home and MAN was I nervous. After a trip to the grocery store, and a little bit of prep, our house was ready for guests! We cleaned (and by we, I mean my amazing husband cleaned while I went to the store) and organized and readied our home and then the guests poured in. It was so refreshing having people in our home to love on and care for. The night was full of conversation and laughs and well worth the time spent preparing for it.

Perhaps my favorite part of the evening was the visit from our downstairs neighbors. Last week we introduced ourselves to each of our neighbors in the 3 surrounding apartments. We took cookies and an invitation to come to our little gathering the following weekend. The only ones to take us up on our offer were an older couple that live downstairs. They have been kind to us ever since we moved in and getting to host them in our home and enjoy some conversation with them was such a blessing.

If you know me and have talked to me in the last few weeks, I’ve probably extended an invitation for you to join us for dinner and let me cook you a meal. And I MEAN it! It would bring me no greater joy than to care for you, have you in my home, and listen to you tell me all about the latest happenings in your life.

 

Celiac Disease, Paleo and Change

Man things can change in 6 months! Since I last wrote I have finished my first year of teaching, gotten married and learned a ton in the process!

A few nights ago I was talking with my husband (still weird to say husband!) about the things that I want to accomplish and where I would like to be in the next 5 years. It is definitely a dream of mine to continue writing but the pressure of having a deep, philosophical/theological post every single time I write is a little much for me.

So, I’ve decided to change it up a bit. This blog is just going to be about whatever I want. There will be Jesus mixed in – oh yes, lots of Jesus – but there will just be life, too. I won’t grow as a writer if I don’t practice my hand (no pun intended). And what kind of English teacher would I be if I didn’t practice writing!

A few years ago I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease – or, as I like to call it, the “Most-Annoying-Disease-You-Could-Possibly-Contract” Disease! If you aren’t familiar with this disease, it’s an autoimmune in which your body reacts (or overreacts, if you ask me) to the presence of gluten in its system. Yes, I once scoffed and mocked those who were “gluten sensitive” and now I, too, have joined the ranks of the gluten-free. Life is funny that way.

Anyhow, since I have become gluten free I’ve tried many things, including the Whole30 (three times, only one of which was carried out to completion) and eating Paleo. These particular ways of eating are neither cheap nor easy but, let me tell you, they’re worth it.

I’ve been eating Paleo for about a month now and my body has felt so much better than it ever has: I’m not as tired and I don’t have stomach or headaches. And while I have felt amazing, I’m also SO sick of cooking every single thing I eat. So, in the last few days I’ve tested the boundaries to see if there are things outside of Paleo that I can “get away with” eating.

Uh, no. Terrible idea.

Yesterday was the worst. I had Pei-Wei and their supposed “gluten free” Spicy Chicken left me feeling like I had a rock in my stomach the rest of the day. Then, last night we went to eat Mexican with some friends of ours and I had chips and queso and two brisket tacos – WHY DID I DO THAT?! I was so tired and miserable when I got home that I went to bed at 9, fell asleep reading and had to be tucked in by my poor, concerned husband who didn’t know what was wrong with me.

So, here I am writing. Maybe writing these things will remind me that I should not go eat Mexican food and just assume I’ll feel lovely the next day and will, instead, encourage me to make my own food (it’s usually cheaper anyway). Maybe writing this will help you see the benefits in healthy eating. Maybe no one will read this – who cares! It’s my 5 dollars a month to spend on a domain if I want!

All I know is the blog world needs to look out – there is one more writer coming into your overly-saturated market. And she will be awesome.

Shabbat – REST!

Since I’ve been back from Israel, it feels like life has been busier than ever. I can’t figure out if this is just the perfect storm of appointments and obligations or if life was already like this.

One of the coolest things I saw in Israel was an ENTIRE community of people participating in Shabbat (or sabbath, if you’re unfamiliar with Jewish culture and terms like I was!). Perhaps my favorite scene – the one that made it most real – was a marketplace swarming with Jews who were trying to prepare for the weekend. They were doing their last minute shopping, closing up their shops and getting ready for the siren that rang at 4pm signaling the start of their holy day.

From sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday, they rest. They worship the Lord, put their eyes on Him and anticipate their Messiah. They believe that, according to the Old Testament law, they should not do anything that produces something – cooking, working, even pushing the button on an elevator to go to a different floor! This is a time meant to be spent with your family, reconnecting with friends, with yourself and (most importantly) the Lord!! It was incredibly beautiful to be sitting in the dining room of a hotel in Jerusalem with families all around, enjoying each others company and singing songs to God.

In D-Group, they are challenging us to find our verse and word for the year. I have chosen Jeremiah 29:13, which says:

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

While this verse doesn’t sound much like rest (in fact, I’m pretty sure seeking is the complete opposite of resting), I think that a lot of seeking the Lord comes in resting in him and making it a point to do so. Carving out time every week is not something that just happens – you have to seek it out.

So, I’ll really be pursuing this over the next few weeks. It will be a challenge, don’t get me wrong. I think I’ll end up taking a page from the book of those I saw in Jerusalem rushing to get their groceries before the sirens went off signaling the start of Shabbat. 🙂

BUT… it will so be worth it. I will have Him. I will have rest. There will be repair – not just for me but for my family, my friends and those I love. What a prize! All for just doing what he has commanded of us from the beginning.

Won’t you join me in rest?