Monday, December 31, 2012

Memorable Moments {2012}

Seriously, what did we do before instagram?
I've never had so many of my day-to-day moments preserved forever. Except for that period of time between the ages of 0 and 5 where everything you do is worthy of being photographed by your family.

Here's a look at my year!

Not much activity on my instagram in January. I did get my first ever business cards, though! Pretty exciting.


Blake & Caleb came to live with us for a while. They're like brothers to us, so it was great to have them around for a few months. We also did some outreach projects with our church for an event called Love Week that we put on every year as an outreach push. We had a lot of fun planting and renovating with our small group.


Took one of my favorite personal pictures ever. Hooray ominous storms. Also began spending time with my lovely friend Rebecca! Rebecca is such an amazing friend and woman of God. I love her, and have felt so blessed all year to have our friendship grow the way it has.


I just like that picture of Spricket. She's kind of perfect.
In April, I read one of the best books I've ever read. Worship Matters is such a great book, and I learned a ton about what it means to be a worship leader and what it means to have a heart for Jesus.


My little brother graduated for college! This moment was particularly insane because it meant that I had graduated from college over two years ago. Weird.
We flew to Arizona for Rob's cousin's wedding and spent a weekend in warm, sunny Phoenix. It was such a wonderful vacation.
And I dressed like Paddington Bear one day.


I auditioned for American Idol for the first time. It was a fun experience, but I didn't make it. I picked the wrong song. If it came around to Charlotte again, I'd go back.
We flew to Baltimore for some work training classes. Baltimore is so beautiful.
We also deepened our relationship with my Aunt and Uncle this year. They live in Maryland and we were able to stay with them whenever we traveled there. They've been such a blessing to us, giving us a place to stay and food to eat. I'm grateful we have them.


I turned 24, and my mom finally sold our childhood home. Such a sad thing to let go of the place you grew up in. I'm glad I moved away from the town I grew up in, but I definitely miss it.


I finally visited my mom where she lives in Charleston. I got sunburned so badly, like I always do, no matter what. It was a great trip.


In September, our worship team did a songwriting night where we split up into groups and wrote some songs together. It was really excited to work together to come up with something new.


We visited the Biltmore house for the first time. I loved it! So much history. Asheville in general is really great, and I'm hoping we get to visit more often this year. We actually just got season passes there for our anniversary, so I'm sure we'll be back up there way more often.


My friend Rebecca cut and dyed my hair! It's by far the biggest change I've ever gone through with my hair, and I was a little nervous at first. I really love it. It's actually probably time to get it cut again. It's in that awkward stage where it turns into a triangle if I don't style it perfectly.
I visited my friends Lauren and Max. I had such an amazing weekend just relaxing with them and Pixel. I finished three books (read Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close cover-to-cover in two days) and just enjoyed myself. I'm so thankful I got to go see them.
In general, I had a lot of relaxing and peaceful moments in November. I discovered Kinfolk and spent some days reading through it, decided to start reading through the Bible every year, and Rob and I started praying together a lot more. Definitely an appropriate month for thanksgiving.


Ahh Christmas. We had such a great Christmas this year because we didn't have to travel at all! We just got to relax and spend time with Rob's family. I got that awesome book of cat poems (yes, it is amazing), some new music, and obviously that great sweater. This last picture was after dinner, and I was so hyper. It probably had something to do with the amazing sweet potato casserole my sister-in-law made. It undoubtedly had a ridiculous amount of sugar in it. So I was really happy.

2012 was such a great year. I feel like I really learned a lot about myself and marriage and God this year. I've grown a lot and have seen some of what the next steps are to keep growing. I'm thankful for all God's done in our lives this year. We have our second year of marriage under our belt, and we're learning more every day about love and sacrifice and being like Jesus. I have good days and bad days. Bad days where I can't manage to put a smile on my face for anything, and I wish the world would just leave me alone. Good days where I feel like I can do anything and conquer any problem. I've learned more and more this year that God is good no matter what and there is always something to be thankful.

I hope everyone has had a great year. I can't wait to dig into my word for the year {identity} and see what happens in 2013.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

:: Life Update ::

Holy moly.

There is so much going on right now! This year has been a season of tremendous growth and stretching for me, and I'm so glad for what God is doing in my life right now. I've had some blog post ideas bouncing around in my head, and I'm still working on them. For now, here's a general update:

:: Robert and I are praying and planning for our next step: a house! We are trying to figure out which direction to move in regarding purchasing or building a home and/or land. We own our own business and for the first two years we had an accountant that was not the best, so our income looks different than what it actually is. So far this has been a problem, and we'll find out in the next week or so if that can be resolved or if we'll have to wait another year to move forward on a home. Honestly, either way, I'm so excited because Robert and I have spent so much time in the last few weeks dreaming and wishing and hoping together for something special. It's brought us closer and sparked a lot of good conversation. I didn't realize until we started going through this process that we can do anything we want! I know that statement is partially obvious, but I truly didn't realize it until recently. I don't have to do the things my parents did and buy the same type of home and live the way everyone else does. We can figure out our own dream and make it happen! It was amazing for me to let that sink in.

::  Last year I participated in OneWord365 (and failed miserably by the standards I was hoping to meet). I didn't write much about my word (love) throughout the year, but it was on my mind quite a bit. I know I've grown in my understanding and practice of love throughout the year. God taught me a ton about love and the importance of loving others throughout the year. I'm not great at loving people, and I get easily annoyed. I'm still not the best at it, but He's definitely been working on me. With all that said, I've chosen my word for 2013: Identity. One thing I've struggled with a lot lately is knowing my own identity and knowing my identity in Christ. I've spent my whole life having labels put on me: sensitive, emotional, smart, funny, tomboy, selfish, incapable. We've all had them, and we still label ourselves and others every single day. These labels are not doing anyone any favors. My goal for 2013 is to remember more often that my identity is in Christ. I so often find myself believing my own labels for myself and not remembering that I am a child of God and that He loves me regardless of anything I do. I am His, and my identity is in Him.

:: For some reason this Christmas season, I'm really wanting to get away from my family traditions. I've been very blessed my whole life, and growing up, my brother and I received so many presents from our family. Every year, I expected more and more from them, and I always treated Christmas as a time to get everything I wanted. I have so many wonderful memories from my childhood that I wouldn't trade for anything, but as I grow up and start thinking about the traditions I want to have with my future kids, this tradition of excess and extravagance (in terms of material things) is not the direction I want to go. This year, God has really started speaking to me about getting rid of our stuff, having less, and living with a bigger appreciation for what we do have. I know a lot of people are going through this right now, and I'm excited to see how different people approach it. Rob and I have been talking about what we want to teach our kids and what traditions we want to have, and I'm excited to start some new ones with him.

I feel like there's a lot going on inside of me right now, and it's really awesome. God is so good, and I'm thankful that I've been in the process of truly opening my heart and eyes to all that He's doing around me. When we really dig in and form a relationship with Him, there is never a dull moment!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Hooray!! It finally happened: my blog got a makeover!

Kerry at Throw You a Rose hosted a generous giveaway, and I won :) So she gave my blog a little boost, and you're looking at the finished product!

I absolutely love it. Kerry was so sweet and excited to work with me and got everything done so quickly. You should go check out her business, Spit Image Design.

Thanks again, Kerry!

Friday, November 9, 2012

what i'm reading

I've always been a reader, ever since I was a little girl. I remember moving away from New York at the end of first grade, and my teacher gave me a handful of books and sent me letters encouraging me to keep reading. So sweet. Some seasons of life make it easier to find time to read than others, and I'm really thankful that this year, I've managed to read about 15 books so far. So today I thought I would share some of my favorites this year:

+ One Thousand Gifts :: I've seen this book in blogger circulation for a while. I finally bought it on a whim and devoured it. Sometimes I get so down and negative about life, and I have to really fight to see the good in life. I know people who seem to be naturally positive about everything, and I am not one of them. That being said, this book opened my eyes to how simple, and yet how difficult, it can be to open our eyes to the daily gifts we receive. Ann Voskamp has nailed down the art of eucharisteo and what it means to live a life of thankfulness to a loving, good Father. I've been catching myself lately complaining about trivial things and really searching my heart for the reasons why I'm bothered. Most of the time, there's actually no legitimate reason to be unhappy. If I truly believe that God is good and therefore worth serving (which I do), then I know that each day, each moment, each interaction, each person is a gift and something to be thankful for.

+ The Crowd, the Critic, and the Muse: a book for Creators :: Oh my word, this book. Michael Gungor (of the band, Gungor) has such an amazing grasp on what creating should be. Whether you are a writer, a painter, a singer, or a musician, or if you've ever even had the desire to create something, read. this. book. It's a lot about what music and art has become in the midst of all the technology we're bombarded with, and it made me think about what I'm creating and what my influences are. Am I taking the time to pay attention to the important and beautiful things in life? Am I filling my head with mindless matter, or am I taking the time to empty out all the drivel, really open up my eyes and see what can flow out of me when I am unburdened by the crowd? Am I creating from a place of love or a place of fear?

{art is not a distraction from human meaninglessness, but part of burgeoning newness that gives our existence a hopeful and sacred meaningfulness*}

+ Worship Matters :: I almost find it a little difficult to recommend this book to everyone because Bob Kauflin is specifically addressing those who are worship leaders in churches by career (or at least hobby, like myself), but anyone can read it and gain insight from it. In fact, the thing I love most about this book is that it opened my eyes to the Gospel in a brand new way! I truly did not understand the Gospel of Jesus until I read the second section of this book. I can't even explain why or how, I just know that God gave me a fresh understanding of what Jesus did for us when I read this book. It also gave me a new way of looking at corporate worship and what we do as churches in America. If you've ever been a part of a music ministry or want to be, I highly suggest this book.

+ Out of the Silent Planet, (Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength) :: This is CS Lewis' science fiction series, and it is amazing!! Lewis is my favorite because his fiction always opens my eyes a little bit wider. Chronicles of Narnia is one of the best things that has ever happened to me. I'm not a huge science fiction lover, but this series is definitely worth sticking with, even if it's not your typical read. It follows a man who ends up traveling to several other planets in the solar system and becoming a sort of ambassador for the higher beings that exist on each world. Earth is the "silent planet" whose higher being has become evil. There's way too much to tell in one paragraph, but you should take my word for it and go read it.

Those are my favorites for this year! I wish I read more fiction, and I'm actually in the middle of re-reading the Harry Potter series. And then I want to borrow the movies. I love a good fiction series.

What are your favorite books right now? I'm pretty much always looking for suggestions. Up next on my list is Love Does by Bob Goff, and I'm currently in the middle of reading Unglued by Lysa Terkeurst. Leave your suggestions in the comments!

*Gungor, M. (2012-10-04). The Crowd, The Critic, and the Muse: A Book for Creators (Kindle Locations 1825-1826). Woodsley Press. Kindle Edition. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Process of Faith

I've been calling myself a Christian for about 8 years.
Kind of.
I grew up Catholic, but I never really knew if Catholicism fell inside the realm of Christianity or not, so I just said I was Catholic and left it at that. In high school I went to a summer camp with my friends where I saw other kids my age passionate about something they believed in and responding to it publicly. There was energy and emotion, and I realized I wanted more in my life. So I told my best friend I wanted to pray, walked up to the front of the room with her and let her pray that Jesus would be a part of my life. It was a powerful moment that launched a lot of change and growth. It was a moment that changed my life.

But there is a problem with that.
The problem with giving one moment so much power is that you start to believe that all the change that happens in your life is confined to that one moment.

I hear this all the time from my pastor now, but at the time, I didn't realize that the moment in which you make a decision to move forward with Christ is just a tiny blip on the road map of your faith. It's just a dot. Not a starting point, but the turning of a corner. Heading in a new direction. Or maybe just a speeding up.

When you're 16 and you know something has just drastically shifted but not how to handle it, you expect that so much will change at once. I guess that's true when you're 24, too because I still expect way too much from myself. I wanted so badly to be a good Christian after making that one decision, but I was constantly messing up. I still said mean things to people, I still let friends down, I still made terrible decisions. I was still human.

Lately I've been realizing that whether we say it or not, we all expect big change in a really small amount of time. If something is damaged, we want it fixed right away. If our spouse has a bad habit we hate, he should change it overnight. If we committed a certain sin today, we should be able to recognize it, fix it, and move on. The problem is that it can never be this way. When we want a real, lasting change, the process is slow and steady. We have to hit pause a lot and recalibrate until we can keep moving forward. We fix and change little by little. Because if we don't, we're just slapping a bandage over a hundred broken pieces and expecting them to hold tight.

For all these years I've called myself a Christian, I've never understood how much of a learning experience faith really is. It's something we are never done with. There is no level of accomplishment. There is no prize or finish line. We cannot expect ourselves or anybody else to have it all together. When we assume people should be at a certain place in their life based on their age, sex, years as a Christian, whatever, it is so detrimental and contradictory to the theory that God is always working in us to accomplish something greater for His glory.

Here are some thoughts I've been working through about the road we're on when we choose to have faith in Jesus.


+ You're not any less of a sinner because you love Jesus. When I chose to live my life for different things, I pretty much expected that I would make the decision and things would get better. I would have better friendships, or I would stop making poor dating decisions (in high school, yeah right). Loving Jesus doesn't make you less of a sinner, but it does mean that your sins are forgiven and you don't have to live in condemnation anymore (Romans 8). You will still make mistakes. But Paul also says in Romans that even though we are forgiven and free, that's no excuse to go on sinning recklessly. The beauty of grace is that it should inspire you to be obedient to God.
I'm still learning this now. Every single day, I am still selfish, bitter, jealous, reckless. Every day, I look back on what I thought and how I acted, and I am disappointed. But when I prayed and told Jesus I wanted to follow Him alone, He never promised to make me perfect. He promised to be with me when I struggle (1 Corinthians 10:13). He promised to love me even when I am at my worst (Romans 5:10). He promised that He died to redeem me and would do it again a thousand times over if it was necessary. And because of His promises, I truly want to love, serve and glorify Him.

+ Faith is a process. The verse I mentioned before from Romans 8 says "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." I memorized Romans 8 a few years ago and if I can't remember any of the other verses in the chapter, I will always remember the first one. It's probably a good thing, because I need a constant reminder not to condemn myself every time I make a mistake. But every time I read this verse, I get a little pang of anxiousness. It's the phrase, "for those who are in Christ." What if I'm not in Christ? What if I just think I am, but I've done so many awful things that I'm not anymore? What if I'm not sure what I believe in right now?
In the book Worship Matters, Bob Kauflin says that "God wants us to wrestle hard with apparent contradictions in Scripture and life, not simply...adopt the world's complacent attitude of 'it's all good.'" I'm intrigued by that. God wants us to think hard about what He has said to us in the bible. We shouldn't let one good sweep of emotion cause us to blindly walk through life repeating "god is good god is good god is good" without ever understanding why. He wants us to think and meditate and study and wrestle and discover. Your faith is a process. It's not a moment that you decide you believe everything in the bible and call it a day. You choose to move in a direction and accept that every day you have to think about what you believe and why you believe it. Sometimes you may be unsure, and that's ok. Keep moving. Some days you may not feel forgiven. You are. Be in the Word. Memorize it and store it in your heart. When there's doubt, wrestle with it and beat it. It's all a process.

+ Always be willing to learn something new. I have a confession to make. Up until a few weeks ago, I didn't fully understand or "get" grace. I knew the story of Jesus and the significance of it. I knew the wonderful implications of His sacrifice for us, but I didn't really get it. You can hear something 99 times and even have a good understanding of it, but sometimes it's not until the 100th time that something really sticks in you and gets deep in your heart.
A couple weeks ago I was reading a book on becoming the kind of worship leader that truly glorifies God, and the author does such a great job of pointing to Jesus. No matter what particular point he is trying to make in a sentence or chapter, it always comes back to Jesus. I can't even fully explain why the good news of grace hit me so hard through this one book, but I've been overwhelmed as my eyes have been opened to how good God's love is.
Part of me is so embarrassed that at 24 years old, after spending 8 years calling myself a Christian, I am just now understanding the gospel. But for the most part, I'm just so excited!! My eyes have been opened to a new facet of God's love! There is always something new for you to learn. Believing the lie that you can "make it" or win at life is doing you no favors.

Sometimes we're so determined to get somewhere that we're heartbroken when we don't achieve what we think we deserve. Life can seem long and faith is a process that makes it worthwhile. One segment of sixty seconds is not the only thing that matters in your journey. Trust that Jesus is always with you, and treat Him like He is the most important thing in the world. He truly is. Be open to change and knowledge. Whatever you do, keep moving forward.

Monday, May 28, 2012


This past weekend, Robert's cousin got married in Phoenix, Arizona. I'm so glad that we got to go. The wedding was beautiful, and the vacation was awesome. Here are some pictures!

Cliche sky picture from the plane. So beautiful!!

I probably took close to 10 pictures of us trying to get him to act normal. But then again, that's kind of his normal :)

The view from the balcony of our hotel room.

There were bunnies all around the hotel grounds!! You'd walk outside and see 10 to 20 just chilling, eating some grass. 
First item on the agenda: pool!

Getting ready for the wedding! My mother-in-law generously let me borrow this beautiful Michael Kors dress, but I had some concerns about it being white. I was assured several times it wouldn't be offensive at a wedding with the red and black, so I went for it. My sister-in-law did my hair, and I should have taken a picture of the back of it because it was beautiful.

We took a sickeningly turn-filled road to a town called Jerome. I found some candy coated popcorn I used to eat as a kid, and it was delicious.

We went to Sedona and went for a small hike to get a closer look at the giant red rocks. 

We got lunch at this nice resort outside of town. I had salmon with mango and black beans. Oh my word, it was so good. The bottom right corner of this series is our lunch view.

In Sedona, I found Kinder!! My parents brought this back from a trip overseas when I was younger, and my brother and I were crazy about it. We would ration out the little bars, and I haven't had one since. I was so excited to find these. 

We visited a chapel that's built directly into the rock of the mountains in Sedona. It was incredible. 

Rob freaked out when we got to our terminal on the way home. There's a long hallway that ends with a wall of windows and you can watch planes take off and land. We giggled about it for 5 minutes. We had an hour to kill because, of course, if you're running late to the airport, you'll end up facing the longest lines. If you're an hour early, though, you'll get through in about 3.2 minutes. 

The plan ride home. The white smoke is from forest fires, though I don't know if they were in Arizona or New Mexico. The smoke was serious and I swear it had to stretch multiple hundreds of miles. 

This trip was a much-anticipated and much-needed vacation for us. We spent a lot of time by the pool, relaxing. I don't think I would ever choose to go back and vacation in Arizona (though I do still really want to see the Grand Canyon), but it was definitely a nice trip. I also didn't remember how dang humid it is in North Carolina until we got back. I didn't break a single sweat in Arizona and my makeup stayed perfect even though it was in the high 80's. NC is a completely different story.

I absolutely love flying. I love being in airports and having layovers and the excitement of traveling. I love reading on the plane and watching tiny little towns go by. My ears, however, do not love planes. They'll pop alright on the way up, but on the descent, no matter what I do, there is no relief from the pressure. If anyone has tips other than chewing gum, yawning or holding your nose and violently blowing, please let me know! I still don't have my full hearing back today, and I'm sure it will take another couple of days.

Throughout the trip, I read one of the books from CS Lewis' science fiction trilogy, and I highly recommend reading it. I find that reading his fiction does far more for me spiritually than almost any other kind of book. You should definitely check out Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength.

Well that's it! I'm happy to be home, but Arizona was a lot of fun. Next month, we're going back to Maryland for some business training, and I'm hoping we'll go to Washington DC again. Are you traveling anywhere this summer?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Love and How My Expectations Are Killing Me

Well, we're 4 months into the year and Alece is calling for an update on my One Word.

I've got some bad news...

It turns out I'm really bad at love. I guess that's why I chose it as my word for the year, because I knew it would be a struggle and that I would have to really press into God though it.

I realized this morning in the shower (where all great thoughts are born) that my problem with loving others comes mostly in the process of forming expectations. I'm finding that most of the time, my expectations are wildly unrealistic, which means that my actual reality can be quite disappointing.

I'm a thinker. I spend a lot of time in my own head, working through scenarios and problems, imagining the outcome. Usually, my brain likes to travel with the outcome that is the most outrageously beneficial for me, and my expectations for many situations get set incredibly high. At least now I know I really think I deserve to succeed...
Here are some examples:

Expectation: all my customers at work are nice and patient with me, and they don't ask a thousand questions, and they aren't suspicious of our Christian business.
Reality: people are inquisitive and suspicious of mechanics, therefore they have a lot of questions, and sometimes they can be short, which can cause me to be short in return.

Expectation: when singing a song publicly, I hit all the notes and sing superbly. Pretentious, much?
Reality: I have never in my life sung a song with 100% perfection. If I did, life would be boring and I would never grow.

Expectation: I am super nice to people and good at making friends. You know, the basics of what they taught us in elementary school.
Reality: I am so irritable!! I just can't muster up all of those lovely fruits of the Spirit I should have. I get stuck on the first one, for crying out loud! Love, joy, pea--forget it, I've already lost.

This week I had a mini breakdown when I realized just how bad I am at inherently loving. It just doesn't feel like it's in me. It can feel so unnatural to show love and kindness, especially in the little things. My emotions have always been strong, and I can see that over the years I've become lazy about keeping them in check. I find myself letting anger, irritation and bitterness sweep over me like an ugly, black wave. I haven't even been trying to hang on to the garment that God has offered me, made of love, peace and so much kindness. I just float along in this ugly place filled with garbage and pride.

I know that God is working in me, but I haven't been very receptive to his lessons on love lately. I'm thankful he hasn't given up on me and that he still shapes and molds my heart through little situations every day. There is so much of me that needs major work done. I guess a lesson through all this will be to love myself as well. I will never be perfect at loving others, but I will seek to grow and get better.

As of right now, my word for the year hasn't affected me much because I haven't let it, but I know there are little lessons every day to be learned. The more I pay attention to the way I speak, the way I treat others, the way I react to situations I don't like, the more I will grow and incorporate more love into my life. At least, that's the hope.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Life Update

Oh my gosh, there is so much happening in this little life of mine!

Instead of rambling on about whatever, I'll do one of these:

Obsessing Over: Going on a date tonight with my wonderful husband. We're going to dinner and to see Cabin in the Woods. I have not stopped hearing about this movie for the past 2 weeks, so it's on!

Working On: Reading Worship Matters by Bob Kauflin. I'm only a chapter in, and it's amazing. He is honest about the ever-present struggles of our hearts, and I think this book is going to change the way I see leading worship in general. I'm so blessed to be a part of a small group right now that is spending the next year focusing on being good stewards of our gifts and the church we're a part of. There is a ton of good stuff being crammed into my brain and heart right now. I love it.

Thinking About: How much more discipline I want to have. Can someone come kick me out of bed every morning at 6:15? Rob isn't volunteering for that role, but I really need some motivation.

Anticipating: Travel! We're flying to Arizona in a month to see Rob's cousin get married. That means 3 days of no work, just pure, hot, Phoenix-y goodness. I love flying. I love the smell of the airports and all the people and the excitement of going somewhere new. I've never been to Arizona before. We're going to take a day and go to Sedona and just explore. I can't wait!

Listening To: Just my typing and the dripping of water through a hole in our ceiling. I was listening a few minutes ago to an NPR interview with Hugh Laurie.  Oh and now I'm listening to a Glee version of "Without You." Ohmygosh, so good.

Drinking: Mountain Dew right now, though I know it's terrible. I'm also trying to get through 4 bottles of water today, but we'll see...

Wishing: That the "bold" button didn't just break...
Other than that, I'm not wishing for much. I'm so thankful for where I'm at right now. After a long time of spiritual sleep, I'm finally opening my eyes to God's hand on my life, and He is so good. His presence is good. He is shaping me so much, and I'm finding how much better everything is when I work with Him instead of expecting Him to do it all without me.

Monday, April 2, 2012

On Dreaming


I've been thinking and talking a lot lately about dreams.

I read this e-book by an amazing author. I started reading it right around the time I began facing the fact that for the past several years, I have been shutting down my hopes and my big dreams. I have been fighting my own heart and my desires because I was so sure that I was unworthy and unprepared. Then I realized something so great:

I am unworthy and unprepared, and that is just the way it needs to be. Because every time I think I have things under control, I am quickly reminded that I don't.

Still, I believe that my God has big dreams for me. I believe that he wants me to use my imagination. I believe that he wants me to explore and delight in what I find and to delight in him. I believe he loves me enough for that. I also believe the he and I both know I'm super unqualified for any of his big plans. He's going to have to do most of the work. I'm going to have to do most of the trusting.

Dreams are intense. They can embitter you if you ignore them. They can enrage you if they are not achieved. They can give you a big head if you spend too much time dwelling on them. They can destroy you or they can elevate you, depending on how you treat them.

For a long time, I've treated my dreams like they were too big, too much. They needed to be shoved down, behind practicality and a whole bunch of boring. I was afraid that if they got too much attention, they would be my downfall. What I didn't see was that, in pushing all of the biggest desires of my heart down and away, I wasn't allowing myself to be challenged, pushed or disciplined. By putting my dreams on hold, I was allowing myself to become lazy and disconnected from any purpose or vision I once had for my life.

Now that I'm in the process of waking up and taking stock of my dreams and what I want in life, everything is changing. I feel like I'm up and moving again after sleeping for 3 years. Some things are easier now, because I have a stronger sense of purpose. I am finally admitting that it's possible that I was made for something awesome. Some things are harder now. I feel vulnerable. If I admit that there is a goal I am chasing, there is a risk that I will never reach it. I feel uncertainty. Yes, I know what I want, but is that the same thing that God wants for me? There is much more trust required of me now that I am finally willing to move forward.

One of the hardest parts about realizing I have a big, hard-to-reach dream is being vulnerable and sharing it. On the one hand, sharing a dream is wonderful. If you find the right people to share it with, there are new levels of encouragement and accountability available to you. There are people in your life that want to see you reach your highest potential and who want to help you get where you want to go. On the other hand, the more I focus on my passions and hopes, the more I find myself coming under certain attack. I find that certain little things bother me, and I easily get sidetracked by petty emotions and roadblocks. Here are some things I need to be working on now:

+ I have to stop buying into the lie of competition and comparison. My dream is mine.
In regards to my particular dream and the means of getting to it, there are a couple other people walking through it with me. When you share a similar dream with others, it's so easy to compare the roads that lead to the dream. It's so easy for me to fall into jealousy and bitterness when a friend of mine gets something I want, even if I'm happy for them at the same time. But the more I focus on someone else, the more I am likely to miss great things in my own life. God is doing amazing things in my tiny little heart, and he has been for quite some time. Now that I'm finally realizing that and seeking him and his heart, it only hurts me to focus on what someone else gets to do.

+ My dream is not more or less important than anyone's.
I always find myself in the weirdest balance here. I teeter so quickly from feeling high and mighty about what I'm able to do...straight into feeling so down about what I can't do. What I'm learning is that both of these thoughts are prideful. When I think so highly of myself and take matters into my own hands, that's prideful. When I fall apart because I didn't do or say the right thing, that's prideful. I am not in control. It is not about me.

+ The path to my dream probably won't look the way I want it to.
I try hard to be realistic, but at the end of the day, I'd really love the path to my dream to be easy and free of roadblocks. It just seems like it would be so nice to take each step forward without any interference or interruption until one day, you're there! You've achieved your dream! Every day I am reminded that any dream worth achieving requires courage, strength and perseverance. As much as I would love to have my greatest hopes fulfilled with no pain, I know it is completely worth it to feel the pain, lean deep into God, and come through it stronger and with a great appreciation for his grace.

There are doors open to me now that I never thought would be open again. There will be doors that shut in my face right when I feel like I'm finally getting somewhere. The best part about all this is that I'm not even sure if I could put my "dream" into words. I just know that God has me moving in a direction and walking into a place that is going to stretch me and bring me closer to him. What I consider to be my dream right now may look completely different in 5 years, and that's ok. More than knowing what I'm capable of, more than knowing how much I can do in life, I want to know that through it all, I did my best to listen to God and delight in the journey that he's taken me on.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

My Struggle and How Love Will Fix It

I am struggling.

I'm struggling with the world. With people. With myself. With beliefs and lines drawn and red-faced anger and thrown punches.

I'm struggling.

With love. And grace. Mercy. Faith. Forgiveness.

I'm struggling with the way it feels when everyone sees the world in black and white, but mostly I just see grey.
I'm struggling with the way it feels when hatred is the first and easiest thing to come out of our mouths. When love seems buried so deep and unattainable that it may never come out when it feels like it needs to.

"Love" is my word for the year, and God knows I need it.

I need it because things are more tumultuous than ever. There are the big things. There are wars and famine and rape and poverty and sickness. There are small things. Things that don't seem like they should matter so much, but apparently they do. There are accusations and rumors and jealousy and defensiveness and anger.

It's all driving me mad, and I'm struggling.

In 1 John 3, the author says that our hearts can be at rest in the presence of God when we love.

When I see or hear people arguing semantics and theology and ignoring the simplicity of the call to love, there is a physical reaction in me. I'm so uncomfortable with it that I feel it in my stomach. I feel the heaviness of it on my shoulders. It weighs on me and pushes down until I'm slumped over. I feel my chest get tight, and all of a sudden I realize I've been holding my breath. Nothing about these arguments and debates puts me at rest. None of it. No one ever wins. No one is at rest.

I will never convince anyone of my opinion because I speak eloquently or argue harder than the next person. I will never win anyone over to Christianity or Buddhism or Islam or whatever else I wanted to convert people to by beating them down and forcing my opinions on them. The same way a man can't force a woman to love him by raping her. 

Love is what draws people in. Love is what sets people free. Love is what makes people come alive.


{there is no fear in love. but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment.}
1 John 4:18

Maybe people push their beliefs so hard because they're afraid to be wrong. They're afraid that what they say they believe right now is going to determine what happens to them forever, so they push and push, hoping that others will affirm them.

But perfect love drives out fear.

Maybe when people feel backed into a corner, they're afraid. And fear can quickly turn into anger. And anger lashes out. Anger thinks that it can force people to change, but that wouldn't be real change. It would just cause more anger and more fear.

Perfect love drives out fear.

I don't know all the reasons people fight so hard to get everyone to think like them. I just know that it breaks my heart when real humans with real, breakable hearts are pushed out of the way for the sake of a cause. When love is present, there is no reason to be afraid. There is no reason to fear judgment or criticism or anger or isolation. When love is the most important, most highly prioritized thing, all else can fade away.

I want to strive for that. More than I want to be right, more than I want to be accepted, more than I want to win people over to my side.

I want to love.