Weight

On the heels of my last post, which focused on the chains and masters we bind ourselves to apart from Jesus, I wanted to discuss one of mine.

One of the constant struggles of my life has been my weight. Overeating and shaming myself, over-monitoring and starving myself in the name of dieting – its a tiring and seemingly endless cycle; my own personal little hamster-wheel-of-the-mind. And you know what? I’m exhausted.

For years I have let weight, or my perception of my weight, determine my value. I let it hold me back from being fully known by those around me because I couldn’t really wrap my head around the fact that maybe people didn’t define me by the thing I used to define myself. I couldn’t believe that people would like me for me, for who the Lord had created me to be, and not for what I looked like.

In Psalm 139, we are so beautifully reminded of the Lord’s sovereignty not only in our life but from our beginning –  “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.”

I used to look at this verse and only apply it to the things about me that I like. Surely the Lord had not created the things I deemed “bad” or that weren’t in line with my vision of the perfect Stormye. God was sovereign and omnipotent but I felt I still needed to work towards the me that he created me to be.

I’m not sure that it hit me what it truly meant for him to be over every detail and everything until I was meeting with my mentor, Tara-Leigh, a few weeks back. In trying to be as transparent as possible and “lead with my junk” as she calls it, I admitted to Tara-Leigh that I had really been wrestling with shame – both over my eating decisions (which, honestly, were not awful) and my body. She reminded me that if we truly believe that God is omnipotent and omniscient (all-knowing and all-powerful) then we should trust that he has a hand in every detail of our lives, including the things we eat. She challenged me to pray over my meal decisions for the week and noted that we can’t find shame in something that the Lord ordains.

That simple reminder, that the Lord IS over all, was what I needed. Of course I knew and believed that about God, but I don’t know if I believed that about God in my life. I’m not sure if it was pride or past hurts that clouded my vision to that fact, but to be reminded of the Lord’s presence and care for my life – that I have a Great High Priest in Jesus and a caring and very present father in God – has started to change the way I view myself.

I love Hebrews 4:14-16 for its description of Jesus as the Great High Priest: “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

The power of Jesus in these verses alone is so sweet to me. He knows our hurts and can understand our weaknesses – how beautiful to have a King that experienced life as we know it.

The battle of weight weighs heavily on being kind to myself and remembering that the Lord purposely created me just as I am. He isn’t waiting for me to get it together and work out 2 hours every day so that I am the fitter, faster version of me. He isn’t withholding his love until I reach a certain point in my walk or my mindset – Romans 5:8 says that, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Friends, I am ready to have some victory here. I want to be kind to me and walk in the Stormye that God has created – not the Stormye I think I should be. I want to be able to encourage the teenage girls that I lead to love themselves well because the Lord has loved them in ways they can’t imagine. My heart breaks over and over again when I hear these sweet little ones tearing themselves apart because they don’t feel adequate or like they fit the mold. I want to be able to direct them to put faith in the Lord for creating them wonderfully and to show them that they are the mold. Teenage years are hard enough without us having ourselves as our number one enemies. LIFE is hard enough without us having ourselves as our number one enemies.

Sin is a battle. Every day is filled with wins and losses. I know that I am weak but I put my faith in Jesus, who is mighty and powerful, to help me make the wins more than the losses while I still walk this Earth. I know that I can and will have victory with Him.

 

If you have a few minutes and this struggle resonates with you, I encourage you to check out this beautiful spoken word that my mama shared with me a few weeks back. It is powerful and may just awaken the desire to fight for yourself more than against yourself.

Freedom

Lately I’ve been wrestling with this idea of freedom verses slavery. I attribute this partly to the realization of my own personal slavery and bondage but also largely because of the chains I’ve seen enslaving those I love. And you know what I think I’ve realized?

I am ready to be free.

The last few weeks and months I have been taking a closer look at my life and the things that I am enslaved to and the list was much longer than I care to admit. As a believer, the thought I kept having was, “Stormye, you have SO MUCH freedom in Christ – where is this coming from? Why can’t you just let go?”

I think the thing I’ve finally realized is that I don’t know my life without these chains. I have gone years letting my sins and my struggles define me – even as a believer in Christ!

I don’t know who I am without a constant struggle with food and body image. I don’t know who I am without constantly worrying if I am following the right path for my life or pursuing the right things. I don’t know who I am if I’m not afraid that I will make the same mistakes I have seen my loved ones make or how that will affect the way people view me. I have let these things define me.

And its not only that I don’t know me without these things, I don’t know my walk with the Lord without them either. I have found comfort in having these as my reoccurring confession – almost as if I can control my struggles by just chaining myself to the same ones over and over again. It’s like I fear letting go of these things because I don’t know what I will have to work through next on my path to sanctification if I conquer them – I have surrendered myself to these battles I cannot win and refuse to move forward because I have grown familiar with the losses.

I have made these chains for myself – they are no one else’s doing. I have spent years strengthening and meticulously building these chains – every feeling of shame (that no one inflicted on me but me), every doubt, every fear, every self-depricating thought. These things are my workmanship and although they only bring me pain, they are hard to tear apart – they are mine. I’ve let my sins and my struggles and my shame define me – not my Savior. I have run to the Lord again and again, eyes full of tears, mouth full of woe and heartache and hands full of these chains that I have built – too busy telling him all of the things I wasn’t to hear who He says I am.

I am a child of God. I am a slave no longer.

He has called me his own. He is stronger than any of my feeble chains. He has told me time and time again that I am his and that he will bear the yoke for me, but being my headstrong, stubborn self I’ve always just waved him off and gone back to laboring more hurt and pain – afraid of what true freedom would mean.

Friends, what are you laboring for? Are you navel-gazing and laboring for yourself – building those chains of pride and shame? I think if we were honest with ourselves, more of us are in this place than care to admit. GIVE YOUR BURDENS TO JESUS. LET HIM BREAK YOUR CHAINS. This is what he died for and those chains are not bringing you any closer to righteousness.

I don’t know about you but I am ready to be free. I know who I am – I am a daughter of the King. I am ready to bravely walk in freedom (because freedom really isn’t always easy) and I am ready to face whatever new battles are ahead. I choose to rid myself of the chains of slavery I have been bound in for years and, instead, choose to tie myself to One who is stronger than any fear or weakness or man-made shame. I give up these burdens I have made for myself and willingly surrender them to Christ.

Will this be an easy, overnight transition? Probably not. Like I said, I have spent years giving power to these cruel masters. But, I will continue to take these things to the cross daily now that I have recognized them and the power I have allowed them to hold over me. I will trust in Jesus to break every chain and believe in the freedom that he purchased for me by his blood.

 

As usual, the Lord has spoken to me through song and I would be remiss if I didn’t share it with you. Bethel Music recently put out a new album and one of the tracks featured on it is titled “No Longer Slaves” – I’ve included a link to the song here. A couple of other songs that have been powerful messages of truth and sweet relief from the Lord are “Break Every Chain” (I like the Tasha Cobbs version) and “Come to Me” by The Village Church (Lauren Chandler’s version is my favorite). If you get some time, I strongly encourage giving all of these a listen. They all have a different feel to them, but the messages in all three are so powerful.

 

Also, happy birthday, Mama. This one was for you. I love you dearly and am so proud of the woman you are. You mean more to me than you’ll ever know and I am so thankful to be yours.

Puzzles

I love this time of year.

I love the Christmas songs in the stores. I love sequin dresses and sweaters and glittered EVERYTHING (glitter is my favorite color). I love Peppermint White Mochas and my Santa coffee mug.

But you know what I often forget in this time? My Jesus.

One of the things that I love about my church and that I haven’t fully taken advantage of in the past is that we celebrate Advent. Sadly enough, I only just realized that I had no idea what advent meant, and if you’re unfamiliar, like I was, advent means arrival or coming.

Do you know what normally accompanies advent? Waiting.

The waiting part is hard. As we were talking about the Israelites waiting thousands of years for their Savior, I could feel the weight of it on my own heart – the faith that they had to have had in the Lord to fulfill all of his promises. It seems ridiculous to question the Lord. I mean, he is obviously going to be faithful. Ask little Stormye at any stage of her life if God has come through for her and you’ll get a resounding, “yes!” But for whatever reason, in a season of waiting there always seems to be a little doubt.

Am I alone in this?

I don’t think so. I think this is something we all deal with. Doubt is normal, but we need to remember who our God is.

I don’t know about you but puzzles always sound like a great idea when we start out. I remember the many times my mom and I would pick one up at Walmart and think of how much fun it was going to be only to be completely overwhelmed once we got it home and spread it out on the table – all of those tiny, little pieces just staring up at us.  Most of the time we got the outline done and didn’t have the perseverance to finish the middle. We’d pack up our pieces and put it away hoping to pull it out another time when either our perseverance or boredom won out.

We need to remember that while we are desperately hoarding whatever pieces of the puzzle we can find for the grand picture of our life and His plan, that God can see the box and has already done this one – he knows what the puzzle looks like and hasn’t lost or misplaced a single piece.

Friend, I don’t know what you’re going through in life but I would bet that, in some capacity, you’re experiencing a time of waiting like I am. It could be waiting to graduate. It could be waiting for your next job. It could be waiting for that test score. Can I challenge you to make this most of this time? To learn the lesson now that, as my friends at SheReadsTruth have so eloquently put, sometimes waiting is the season and endurance is the lesson. Can I challenge you to actively wait? To ask God what he’s doing in this time but not be so enamored with whatever is next that you miss out on this lesson in endurance?

The really beautiful thing that I’m noticing about the Lord especially in this time of Advent is that He will usually give us little pieces of the puzzle. He does it all throughout scripture with prophecies and promises of a Savior and He does it in your life.

I love this season not only for the tidings of good cheer and hopefulness of good will towards man but I love it because it is a heavy and unavoidable reminder of the hope I have in Jesus. This Advent season reminds me that whatever small thing I’m obsessing over and hoping to get on to next pales in comparison to Jesus and what he has done. It allows me to see all of the puzzle pieces God laid out for his people to tell them of the coming Christ and how beautiful that picture is and reminds me of his faithfulness in all things.

Maybe this week, in this time of waiting, look at all of the times that God has been faithful to you. Look at all of the puzzle pieces that you didn’t know were going to fit and how they came together so beautifully. Be grateful for the slow reveal and TRUST Him.

Ultimate

When the same idea presents itself in conversation enough times in a week, I usually take notice. In the past I’ve been amazed at what I thought was mere coincidence but recently I’ve started to realize that, really, its the Holy Spirit interceding.

Well, friends, I’ve heard the Spirit this week and tonight I can’t ignore it any longer.

This morning in our weekly ladies’ Bible study, we were talking about finding that thing in our lives that hinders us from listening to the Spirit. On Sunday, I challenged my high school students to think about those things that stir their affections for the Lord and those things that squelch them. At church, our pastor tasked us to find our “ultimate” in life and that in doing so we would see what is ultimately controlling us. I think the common denominator here is the idea that something is ruling us and that we can, and should, fight it.

If you ever read my blog (which could be difficult since I post so sporadically) you know that the past few months have been some trying times but that overall I have this sense of discontentment where I am. I want to be a blogger, but I never post. I want to start a ministry, but can’t find the time to take the big first steps. I want to be more of a Bible scholar but don’t sit down and read the Word.

And I think I’ve discovered… my ultimate is me. I am in the way.

And you know what me wants? More me. To be lazy. To watch all of the critically-acclaimed television in the world and just set her mind on auto-pilot. To have all of the wisdom with none of the work.

James 1:14-15 says:

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

If I look back on the past few weeks or months of sin in my life, I can see that it all really centers around this idea or desire to promote myself – to “find my path.” Were I God, I might grow tired of watching me on this continuous back-and-forth of wanting to be sanctified and then purposely entering into sin and temptation.

But thankfully, I’m not God.

Thankfully the Spirit gives me a chance EVERY TIME to choose differently.

And thankfully Jesus died to make up for when I choose wrong.

We have been memorizing Romans 8 in my D-Group over the past several months and I think its really starting to resonate with me. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. God knew you couldn’t do this on your own so he stepped in and made a way and he gives you every chance to walk by the Spirit and not your own flesh. He is there to help you conquer you.

One of my favorite passages in Romans 8 is this:

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not received the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided that we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Man it would be easy to leave that last part out, right? Who wants to suffer? But, friends, this suffering is not something the God puts on us – no – this suffering is something we do to ourselves. The beauty is that Christ understands and has won the battle for us. HE’S WALKED IN OUR SHOES. How can we appreciate all he’s done if we never have to endure? We already have a promise that God will work all things together for our good as his children – it’s time to act like his child.

So I hear you, Spirit, loud and clear. And let me tell you, I really want you to be my ultimate. I’m tired of being all about me. In the weeks to come I will be taking active steps to chase after your heart – to partake in those things that stir my affections for you – to actually listen when you speak and not write it off as coincidence.

And oh, I hope you speak. I want to hear you and become very familiar with your voice.

Haze

Driving home from a friend’s house tonight I noticed the moon – full, bright and beautiful – behind this haze of clouds. It was all warped-looking, almost as if it were being reflected on the water. At every stoplight I couldn’t help but stare at this unique view of the moon – almost as if it were behind a curtain and certainly recognizable as the moon, just not in clear focus – and I realized, this has been my life lately.

I’ve hit a point in my life where I’m a little restless and feeling like I’m in limbo. At 25, I’m certainly not old but realizing that my chances to go out and be young and free are diminishing by the year. I have no ties – no spouse, no pets, no home that I own. I’ve been in the same job for three years and, while I love it, am not quite sure where its heading. If things were ever going to change, now would be the time.

So, as you can see, my future has looked a little like the moon tonight. I know its there and I can kind of make out its shape, but its a little hazy and not as clear as its been in the past. I keep praying that the Lord would help me clear up these fuzzy lines – just give me a picture or shadow of whats ahead but just keeps asking me to trust Him. The sweetest part of it is that in that trust and in that not knowing, the only comfort and consistency I have is Him.

He has gone before and is already in the moments ahead. He will be my guide and my strength no matter the situation. He already has a handle on whatever will inevitably be thrown my way and I can take comfort in knowing that he is in control. HE IS IN CONTROL.

Reading through my Bible tonight I was reminded of a verse that is often used in Christian culture but so much more beautiful in context:

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13)

What a powerful reminder to find contentment in any situation knowing that our circumstances are ultimately gifted to us by God and that we can draw on Christ for any strength we need while living through them.

Whether the next chapter of my life is abundance or need, I know that I can trust the one who is already there. Even when I can’t see the moon for the clouds, he can and is guiding me along.

Fireflies

I like to run right before sunset. It’s a beautiful time of day and whether or not it really is cooler, the Texas heat feels much more bearable. There is a wooded area right next to my running path that I normally see adorable white-tailed bunnies jumping in and out of but the other night I saw something that really caught my eye – I saw fireflies.

Something about them was so entrancing. They only light up for a few milliseconds at a time but it is so mesmerizing. I wanted to chase them or at least just stand in the area where I thought they were to be surrounded by them. I wanted to capture them. I wanted to put them in a jar, run home and show them off to anyone I could find.

Out of curiosity, I looked up these magical little bugs. Did you know that they glow from the beginning? They start out as little glow worms  that devote 100% of their energy to producing this light – its not something that they just develop. At times, they just look like regular old beetles but then their wings open up and they shine. This hypnotizing light has a purpose – to attract.

That’s when it occurred to me. If we follow Christ, we should be like fireflies.

As those that have joined Jesus in his death, through baptism, and raised to walk in new life (Romans 6:3-4) we are like little glow worms burning bright with all of our energy working to produce the light that is Christ. I know we’ve all heard that we should be a light to those around us, but have you ever imagined the light like this? Christ should shine in us so brightly that people are drawn to us because of it – they should want to find that same light to carry with them and show off to the world.

Jesus has that effect on people. All throughout the Bible the most unexpected people were drawn to him, entranced by him. They didn’t look at Jesus and think he was unapproachable or above them, and he was the king of the universe. Sometimes when I’m reading the gospels I like to close my eyes and picture myself in the story. I imagine myself as a girl in the crowd just mesmerized by Christ – the beauty of his character, his kindness and wisdom, the overwhelming peace. I would follow him anywhere. Just thinking about him brings tears to my eyes and makes me so incredibly thankful that I didn’t miss out on him just because I wasn’t alive in the first century. I get to carry him with me always. I get to share him with other people.

Now there are times when I’m just that regular looking beetle. My sin masks the beauty and the light that is the Lord and unfortunately sin is not very attractive. I veer off course and become prideful or even judgmental. My sin has broken relationships and wounded many people I love and care for. But in the times that I have humbled myself and my soul to Jesus – in the times when I am achieving the goal of making much more of his name than my own – those are the times that Christ steps in and shines. He reminds me that he died to free me of my terrible sin and to make me what I am not naturally – more like him.

I pray to let my light shine every day longer than just a few milliseconds. That I would be able to stand in the freedom from sin that Christ died for and let his overwhelming beauty be what is seen. I pray that his light would shine so brightly that they would not even see me, but see the true light within – the light that is Jesus. And I pray that I would have the boldness and the courage to share Jesus with those who don’t know him. Will you join me in this?

Let’s all be fireflies.

Stumbling

As I sneakily (or not so sneakily) mentioned in my last post, I’ve taken up running. To say “taken up” feels like the wrong wording – it’s not really something that comes easy, I’ve definitely had to work at it, so maybe you could say I’m attempting the discipline. I’ve successfully made it through four weeks of 5k training (thats ONE MONTH!! squee!) and am a little in awe of how it has worked its way into different aspects of my life.

Discipline was, and is, my word and my prayer for 2014. Discipline isn’t really something you see overnight, but I knew that it was something I wanted work to incorporate into my life. I didn’t just want discipline for the sake of discipline, I wanted it to grow from a place of love – love for Jesus, love for myself, love for people around me – because without love, discipline really feels more like begrudging submission. When I originally chose this word, running was not in the picture. I was thinking more along the lines of reading my bible, having quiet times, eating better, etc. But, now that I’ve started running, I can see that not only takes an extreme amount of commitment but also acts as a great physical depiction of other disciplines in my life.

For example, Saturday was a terrible run. I wish I were exaggerating or could fully depict just how awful it was. I went in the morning, around 10 or 10:30 and it was probably 90 degrees outside which, in Texas, may as well be 150. It was the first day I was supposed to run an interval of 5 minutes max and I was already a little nervous.

I failed. Miserably.

Not only could I barely run the 5 minutes but I couldn’t even FINISH the running portion and had to walk the rest of the way. I was wracking my brain on the way home thinking of what I could have done wrong. Did I eat poorly? Was it the weather? Was this just too hard? I kept telling myself on the way up the stairs what my training app said under the FAQ’s: bad runs will happen – even MICHAEL JORDAN had days where he could barely make it though. I mean, I’m no 23, so I take comfort in knowing I’m not alone and that even the world’s best athletes have struggle days.

I only run about 3 times a week so Monday was my second chance to make it happen. I was not going to let Saturday’s run completely defeat me. I got out on the trail and was less than a minute in to my first interval… and literally fell flat on my face. I’m talking skinned hands, bruised knee and complete embarrassment (wouldn’t you know I fell the ONE day people were actually on the trail). I laid there for just a second, not sure what to do and somewhat tempted to just stay on the ground. Then, I pulled myself up, full of embarrassed giggles, waved to the 8 or so people staring at me and pressed on to finished out the interval. Like some beat up, bloodied action hero, I finished my run and finished with pride.

Haven’t we all experience something like this in our fight with sin and discipline? I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve felt like I failed and vowed to do better the next time just to immediately stumble at the very start of my more valiant attempt.

But you can’t just lie there. You have to get up.

It’s all about the getting up. If you just stay there paralyzed in your sin and your mistakes you’ll go nowhere. As Paul says in Philippians, we have to keep “straining towards the goal.” That goal is righteousness. We have to pick ourselves up, acknowledge the stumble, and press on toward the goal of being like Christ.

“But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 3:13b-14

It’s been a day or two since my embarrassing tumble, and I’m still feeling the repercussions of it – sore shoulder, bruised knee, scrapes on my hand – and I can’t help but think how similar it is to our sin and confession. Sometimes even when we repent we have to deal with the effects of our sin. But, just like with the bumps and bruises that come with a physical fall, there will be healing. It may not come in ways you expect it, but we can take heart in knowing that we have the most creative and loving God that works in ways that are far beyond our comprehension or imagination.

I’ve certainly stumbled in more ways than just on the jogging trail and I know I will continue to do so – the important thing is to keep that stumble from becoming a full stop. I know that I’m not alone in this. I have Christ and I have my brothers and sisters running alongside me, encouraging me to get back up and to keep straining towards the goal ahead.

Part of the beauty of the stumble is the recovery. I hope you’ll remember and be encouraged by that the next time you find yourself on your face. All is not lost. The goal is to get back up and keep pursuing righteousness.

 

 

 

 

 

p.s. Did you know you can SUBSCRIBE to this blog? If you ever think “Man! I’d really like to just get these in my e-mail” then I’ve got great news for you! All you have to do is enter your e-mail address in the box on the left and hit ‘go!’ Then, every time I put up one of these sweet little posts, you’ll get it sent straight to your inbox. Peace and blessings, friends!

-Stormye

 

Goodness and Glory

Have you ever done things for yourself that just make you feel good? Those things that put you in the sweet spot of life where you know things aren’t perfect and you certainly aren’t perfect, but things are just GOOD?

Friends, after my last post, I hope you’ll be relieved to hear that I am in that place.

I’ve started running (well, run/walking if we’re being real here) which, if you know me at all, is kind of astonishing. I’ve never been a runner and used to take pride in the ‘C’ I earned in phys. ed. back in the day when I refused to run my mile around the track in the 8th grade. Funny how things change. For the last three weeks I’ve gone at least 3 times a week and even signed up for a “goal 5K” in October. Some days the run is harder than I expected but inevitably, I feel good when I’m done. I can look back on the 30 minutes or so I spent out in the Texas heat and know that I’ve made a good choice and done something great for myself – even if the step is small.

I’ve started respecting myself and aiming to view and treat myself like the daughter of Christ that I am. If I’m being totally honest, I struggle with wanting approval – from everyone. I want it from my coworkers, from my friends and especially from men and most of the time, I feel like I don’t get it from anyone. But lately, I just don’t care. I feel confident in who I am and the decisions I make. I’m learning to trust my gift of discernment and to approach situations with wisdom rather than feeling. I trust that the Spirit will lead me and that if I meet with the Lord every morning, I can take heart knowing that he’s leading me through every day.

I’ve gotten involved in my d-group – a group of women that meet every Thursday just to learn more about and grow deeper in the Word – and have learned that I can bring my real self to them. Even if that self is in shambles and hasn’t done her reading for the week. They’ve taught me to be honest about my sin and, lately, how to set time aside for rest. I’m learning to be vulnerable and real and committed. This is not just a good thing, but a beautiful thing.

All of these things that I have done, these good things, have just been little steps towards the greater goal of being like Christ. They’re goals that I’ve set for myself because I just want to feel a small sense of accomplishment and achievement, but they also come with a sense of freedom. Its not always easy creating new habits or learning to treat yourself with respect; oftentimes those changes are accompanied with the painful denial of self and reality of your depravity. But, if you keep in mind that this is all a part of your sanctification – that Christ is glorified in your victories and your failures – it makes it easier to push through to the end.

God has been faithful and pulled me out of the dreariness I was in. As much as I’d like to take credit for where I am in life and for these self-improving things that I have done in myself, I know that I would be nowhere without the sweetness and faithfulness of Jesus. I also know that sometimes it is easier to focus on the failures over the victories and that the hard times will still be there – I’m not perfect. But He is.

No matter where you find yourself today, I hope you can take rest and comfort in the goodness of the Lord. You can and will have victories, but they will most likely be accompanied by a few failures. Know you that you can take as many steps towards self-improvement as you like, but at the end of the day, Christ will be glorified how he chooses. And that’s the end goal, after all – Christ’s glory in you.

Comfort

This past month has been filled with some of the hardest and most trying experiences of my entire life. For as well as I think I have handled this time, can I be frank with you? It’s painful and I hate it. I want my joy back. I want to be out of this heaviness that I feel like I’m wading through daily.

However, in the pain and in the sadness, I find comfort in the Lord.

If you don’t know Jesus, and even if you do, this may sound cliche. But its in these times – in the difficult, can’t-hold-it-together-on-the-airplane times when you have no tears left to cry – that you become more acquainted with the reality of Jesus and his comfort and eternity. Its the times that you feel alone that scripture like Psalm 139 comes alive to you and the idea of never being able to escape the presence of God is suddenly the sweetest and most precious gift you could have ever received.

I can’t say that I have many wise or optimistic words for you today. I do, however, want to be honest with you in the difficult times because the reality is that we will all encounter them. I also want to point out that through it all, He is GOOD. He is not responsible for this hurt. He truly is my refuge and strength and ever-present in times of trouble and I stand on Psalm 46.

So, in all of this, I have to say thank you. Even though it hurts and even though I’m weary – thank you Lord for again, making your word come alive to me and for never leaving me. Thank you for reminding me of your faithfulness and thank you for the pain. I know that one day I will feel it no longer, but while I’m here on Earth, it makes the good oh so much sweeter and what is good that has not come from you?

Whatever time your going through, friends, I hope you can find that same comfort.

Family

Family is an amazing thing. The older I get, the more I realize that family isn’t just something that follows bloodlines – it’s about relationships and choosing each other.

Earlier this year, I found out that my grandpa on my biological father’s side was diagnosed with stomach cancer. The news rocked me. My grandpa Milton is very dear to me, but someone that has only been in my life for the past 10 years; he’s still a very new presence in my life, but not one that I’m willing to give up just yet.

If you read my post on fathers, you know that I’ve never met my biological father; yet Milton, his dad, has played a pretty large role in my life since I was 15. The thing I’ve grown to admire most about Milton is his bravery in the pursuit of my heart. When he first called me up 10 years ago, I had no interest in knowing him, but he was willing to work through the barriers I put up and love me even at the risk that I might not return the feelings.

One of the most amazing things about our relationship, to me, is that we’re not even blood-related; he adopted my biological father. I’m going to step out on a limb here and say that it might be difficult for some people to appreciate being adopted as a son or daughter of God unless you’ve experienced some form of adoption in your life. I’ve been lucky enough to have two great men, that had no obligation to love me or care for me do just that – and Milton is one of them.

About a week ago I received news that things were not going well, or even as hoped for my grandpa Milton. The chemo has stopped working and the outlook is not very bright. I was so devastated by this news that I left work in a fit of tears and spent the afternoon on the phone with my mom trying to figure out a way to make it to Georgia to see him. I was blown away when my mom not only offered to come with me, but to bring the whole family and pay for the trip.

Last Saturday we flew to Georgia to see him, and can I just tell you? I love that man. It amazes me how much I love and adore him. I was sitting in the hospital room with him just soaking in all of the things that I love about him – his deep southern voice, the way he cares for his wife, the fact that he still somehow has this handsome air about him despite the fact that he’s in pain – and in that moment the Lord whispered so sweetly to me. Sitting in that hospital room surrounded by my unexpected, almost hodgepodge little family I saw how the Lord has worked so much pain together to form good.

Romans 8:15b-16 says, “but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” They say that our fathers largely impact our view of the Lord, but Milton made the idea of adoption and being loved unconditionally despite your bloodline a reality to me – for that I am so grateful. He showed me that family can overcome difficulty and challenge if those challenges are approached in selfless love and pursuit. He opened my eyes to the God of the universe wooing my broken and fatherless heart.

Friends, I encourage you to take a look at your family on this holiday weekend and thank God for all the ways he has blessed you with their love. Maybe challenge yourself to see if you can be a little more selfless in your love for them and find ways to encourage and model Christ to them. I’ll be right there with you, thanking God for the people he has placed in my life that I am lucky enough to call my family, challenging myself to love them as I have been loved by Christ.