Simply Book Love :: The Heart of a King

You guys. I have developed a new love. This love is deep and I don’t think it will be waning any time soon. It is a love for Christian fiction; particularly Christian Biblical Fiction.

Before you ex out of this stay with me a minute. I have dabbled in this world a little bit in the past, but like many Christian women, I think I decided somewhere along the way that it was not as God honoring to read fiction as it is to read non-fiction. I just need to tell you that I was denying myself a really beautiful opportunity to connect with God more deeply. I was denying my imagination the opportunity to dream about spaces and places the people, not just characters, the real flesh and blood people of scripture walked. Is everyone in the book a historical person? Not always. However, many of their pages are filled with the words straight from Scripture and the dialogue is often laced with the memories of history.

Through a Divine string of events, I literally stumbled upon author Jill Eileen Smith via our local library. I LOVE how Jill takes stories that we may think we know and then breaths life into their bones so that we may be able to more fully appreciate their narrative and the activity of God in their life. It is fiction in the fact that we have no way to know every detail of who these people were and how they lived, but the God they served was the most real thing that has ever been and ever will be.

Her newest book, The Heart of a King: The Loves of Solomon is a fascinating look into who this mysterious man may have been and it gives an opportunity for us to wrap ourselves in the garments of the women who were part of his colorful life.

Solomon was the son of King David, he was known in history as the wisest man in the world, and he was ordained by God to build His temple in Jerusalem. And yet, at the end of Solomon’s life, he declared in the book of Ecclesiastes that so many things in this life are “Meaningless.” How did he get there? How did he fall so far from the place the appointment the Lord had placed on his life? We can hear the longing in his voice as he penned the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, but what filled his heart in the days before? Jill takes a beautiful approach at trying to process his journey as well as the journeys of the women who were part of his life. In each of Jill’s books, she brings the places that matter so much to our Christian history and splashes paint onto them so we might find ourselves standing in the Temple, or at the entrance to the Tabernacle. I am so grateful that the Lord led me to her work and that He has illuminated my faith in a whole new way through her gifts she is sharing with the world.

Her beautiful book debuted on April 30th and is available on Amazon other re-sellers! I cannot suggest this one enough.

Y’all, get used to these sort of posts… my repressed book/history nerd is LOVING this.

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Undo Your Knots

Hi dear one, I know because of algorithms and all the things you may or may not read this, but I’ve got to tell you something. It’s been a minute because we have been IN IT. The days leading up to Easter this year had me in knots. Knots that were born out of attempting to lash myself to a lifeboat in stormy soul seas. A battle for my mind and heart, particularly about what I can and cannot control in this broken body, this broken world and what feels like constant invasion of my family’s little city, has been raging. Anxiety is like being stuck on a Groundhog Day Saturday between the cross and the empty tomb, an ever present loop of lies that He is finished, that faith was a liar and every word He ever spoke vanishes under a layer of fear. 


Listen to me, dear ones: we were not made for this. We were made for the days that follow Him down the Road to Emmaus as He tells broken and confused hearts every story concerning Himself (Luke 24). And then when our broken hearts begin to burn as we are kindled again by the Light of His words, we find freedom and victory in the breakthrough. 


But then another day comes. Another lie. Another that seeks to destroy. Another illness. Another unexpected interruption. Another burden that feels to heavy for anyone to bear. Following Jesus is costly. Scary even. But facing this life without Him and the Hope of the freedom found under bearing His family name is far more expensive. It costs the weight of the world and hopelessness of the soul. 


So come close, friends, I need you to hear me. He is not here. He is risen. He is not too far. He is so close He breaths life in you. He is not finished with the work. He is only getting started. The lies, the anxiety, the questions, the sickness, the hard season, the loneliness, the inadequacies, the broken relationships, the confusing kids, the prodigals, the whores, the All seems lost, they are dead. But He is not. And He is making all things new. He will not leave them dead, He will raise them to life with Him. Restored. Whole. Not just once, but over and over and over again until the work He began is completed on the day of redemption. (Phil 1:3)


Undo your knots, love. He is calling you. He will not let you sink, even when you start to. He will call the wind by name, He will speak to the storm, and He will hold you, scar to scar, purging the unbelief, until your knees find the strength to stand on this side of the empty tomb in His Name. 


"But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells—even though you still experience all the limitations of sin—you yourself experience life on God’s terms. It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s! So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go! This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are.” Romans 8:10-17- The Message



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Even though I’ve known about Lent for most of my life, actively engaging in it is relatively new to me. I know I’ve had seasons where I’ve given something up in the 40 days leading up to Easter, but this year has felt different. Maybe it’s the weight of the sin and loss ever before us on a global scale as well as in our own neighborhoods. Maybe it’s the little voices in my home asking questions about Jesus, God’s goodness and hard things. Maybe it’s the whisper welling up from my soul saying “this is not good for you,” and knowing there is much inside me that needs to die so that there is more space to be filled with the Spirit.

I don’t know where you are this Ash Wednesday. There is so much pressure that surrounds this sort of thing these days. I think we’ve got to make the choice to quiet our hearts before the Lord even if we are still moving through our full seasons, and ask God to reveal something that is a barrier in our lives. Not a barrier to what we feel should be in our days, but a barrier that is breaking our fellowship with Him.

Fasting for Lent may not look like giving up something like sugar or how you spend your money, maybe it is fasting from your doubt. Maybe it’s choosing to engage a conversation you have been running from and starving your fear. Maybe it’s a commitment to face the hard things and wrestle with the Lord, and instead of ignoring the pain, pursuing the healing. During a time that’s designed to remind us of who we were without Him and to point us to the life He gave so we could live with Him forever, I think an offering of a willing heart, no matter what state it’s in, will be tended to by the Father.

No question is too hard for Him, but how will we ask the questions if we’re pushing it down with distractions? No hurt is too deep for Him to redeem, but how will we heal if we continue to harm ourselves by simply coping? I’m with you in this journey, Dear One. I know that the Lord is practically shoving Himself into hidden spaces of my attempts to comfort myself and control my life. Nothing is too hard for Him. You are not too much for Him. If you don’t even know where to begin, I’ve made a playlist for our hearts in an attempt to get quiet on the inside. You can find it

He does not want to keep you from your life, He wants to lead you into the life you were made for. It is worth the risk. He is worthy.

The Lord Alone Knows


Our Christmas season has started off a bit rocky, to say the least. What felt like a literal plague swept through our home and knocked us all out. As we've been recovering, I've thought a lot about the Valley of Dry Bones in Ezekiel 37. The Lord asked Ezekiel to walk around a valley full of lifeless, dry bones and then asks Ezekiel “can these bones live?” Ezekiel's answer in verse 3 is so striking to me. He says “Sovereign Lord, You alone know.” Has there ever been anything more true? From the deepest place of what appears to be ruined, He alone knows how the story ends. When we are up to our eyes in the wait, the illness, the fall out, the toxic relationship, the longing, whatever it is that seems impossible to live through or appears to be dead and can never live again, the Lord alone knows.

The scripture goes on to say that the Lord gives Ezekiel the words to speak to the bones to give them life and fill them with breath, and as Ezekiel speaks out those words, the dry bones rise, take on muscle and flesh and ultimately are filled with living breath. The Lord says, “I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.” (37:6 and 14). Coming out of our plague, and honestly our differed Christmas spirit, I desperately needed us to feel whole and alive again on every level. I also needed a new breath in my lungs in order for me to feel alive from the inside. To remind me that the Lord knows how the story ends, even on the smallest level, and that He does care about bringing life to our dry bones and our empty or hurting souls. He cares so much, that He invaded our world, took on bones and skin of His own, and came to bring us back to life.

As I stare at the lights on our lopsided Christmas tree and think on these things, I also think on His knowing, His invasion and His life giving word is nothing but good. We are often so quick to put human motives on the Lord, but what human would risk so much for those He knows will doubt His goodness, His love and His miraculous restoration again and again? None, but the God Man. The one in the manger, He alone knows and He is worth knowing. He will speak to your dry valley and He will make those bones whole. He will pour out His Spirit on You and call you by Name, and His breath will enter you and you will be alive. He is trustworthy. He is near. He is Emmanuel.



I've been thinking a lot about Noah. It probably started when I was working an outdoor wedding during the massive outpouring of rain began, but after the jokes about the ark have passed, I'm left looking at a family who lived through a risky 'yes.' When we look at the account of what Noah and his family lived through we see that the Lord actually gave them a lot of information up front. God was incredibly specific about the ark itself, who and what was supposed to be on the ark, food provision for Noah's family and it would seem for the animals as well. He also was very specific about what Noah would get hit with: 40 days and nights of unrelenting rain and a total wrecking of life as he knew it. (You can find all this in the pages of Genesis 7.) What the Lord did not tell Noah was how long he would be living within the walls and waves of his obedience. As I read the timeline of life on the ark through chapter 7 and into chapter 9, all told, it took a YEAR before the Lord let Noah, his family and all of the animals back out into the new version of life on earth.

I have to wonder what that must have been like for Noah and his family. Even though they knew the Lord had rescued them, I am sure they had very real feelings, very real questions, and they experienced a redefinition of what it meant to have peace in the One who was wrecking everything they knew in His rescue. Even though they knew He had provided everything they and the animals needed to live through the ordeal, I am sure they had very real feelings, and very real questions, about what Hope in the One who can see what the end of it all really looks like.

If I said to you, that 6 weeks ago life as we know it was wrecked, I would know that sounds incredibly dramatic, but I do believe that would be incredibly true. What has transpired, has been a series of events that I can only describe as one of the wildest storms I've lived through thus far. My children and I were in a car wreck that is still sending ripples through my body and impacting our days. The limits of the human body and how it keeps the score of emotional and physical trauma are ever before me. We have entered the stage with my toddler where being healthy is more rare than being sick. Kindergarten has blessed my daughter and kicked this Momma's tail. The hearts of my family have been broken by the realities and unrelenting and bullying brokenness of cancer. We have seen hard rain, breathtaking grief, asked hard questions, and prayed prayers in groans, sobs and whispers.

However, through those same days, we have seen the wonders of the Lord in His rescue of us, His incredible gift of time, His making all things new in baptism, how He tells a story, and the redemption He will do with a 'yes'. We have seen Him raise up the sun and bring it down again with a glorious and breathtaking brush stroke of His creative hand, we have seen Him call people by Name and declare them His, we have seen Him beat back the darkness with the His Light of life dwelling in the redeemed, and we have been on the receiving end of the love of the Body of Christ in a way that I would never have known how to ask for.

I don't know how long these waters will rise and fall, but I know that He will not leave us here. I know that His peace has nothing to do with how we feel or how things appear, but it is a wave of physical and emotional provision to not be crushed by what seeks to overwhelm. I know that His hope means that He has seen the waters after they dry up, and He prepares that place for us even now, here and in Heaven. I know that He is near. I know that He is good. I know now more than ever it is not about Him trusting me with what I can handle, but that I literally cannot handle anything without trust in Him.

You Matter


Friends, I wish I could see your faces. I need us to circle up and have a very real conversation. We need to be able to see one another for who we are, human to human. This week has scrubbed many of us raw. Countless people are reeling from the choice that two prominent culture icons made to end their lives. For many, its not about the people themselves, but what it stirs up in them. For others, it is the total disbelief that success does not protect you from pain. However this news has hit you, we have to talk about the heart of the matter. Depression knows no boundaries. It does not matter where you are from, your family of origin, the color of your skin or the amount of money in the bank, we are all broken human beings with souls that desperately need help fighting the lies that threaten in the darkest places of the mind. More people than you can even fathom have battled and are currently battling for their very lives, I know, because I was one of them.

I remember what it felt like to long for release from my pain that was so dark and all-encompassing I couldn't see even a sliver of light. I remember the feeling of my fingers digging into the steering wheel as my body willed itself not to drive off the road even though my mind was screaming for it to do so. I remember how badly I scared my friends. I remember how much I hurt my parents. I remember how much I didn't really care that I was doing that. It was like the pain inside of me had numbed my ability to feel anything outside of the lies that played in my mind over and over again, undaunted, relentless to my pleas for them to stop. I remember that I had all the answers. I remember praying the prayers and saying all the things that were supposed to make it go away. I remember shaming myself with the good girl in the pictures on the wall and the expectations and “shoulds” that surrounded her. I remember when someone finally told me that I was sick and that there were people and medicine that could help me. I remember when someone told me it was OK for me to be sick and still be loved by Jesus. I remember knowing that God had provided people with skills to battle demons I couldn't even name. I remember the day that I realized I spent more time thinking about living and not about dying.

Does that mean that I have never struggled again? No. But hope and healing have buried themselves in my soul and I have surrounded myself with people who go to war with me against the dark. They see my trigger points. They know the warning signs. They hear the tremor in my voice or the sweet lie I tell them to try and get past the point. Some, I pay to be there because it is their calling and their profession to do the dirty work of battling the anxiety and depression demon. I need them. I will most likely always need them. I'm OK with that. The others in my life, they look the ugly dead in the eye, call it for what it is and call me back into the light in my day in and day out.

Friend, if you can relate to anything I said, I wish I were holding your hand. I want you to hear me: You are not alone. You are loved. You are wanted. You matter. You were created for this life and I know it hurts but I PROMISE that this is not how the story ends. If you are hurting, say it. Call it out. And then, beloved, you cannot do this alone. The narrative in your mind, as palpable as it is to you, it is singing you a toxic song. It is crippling you, just like it crippled me. I remember the cold tiles of the floor where I lay there in the dark, unable to move. It makes me think of another man, bound to a stretcher, his friends were determined to do whatever they could to help him. They heard of a Healer, a Teacher. They tried to get near Him, but the crowd was too much. Too loud. Not welcoming. Too much to bear. Instead of giving up, they climbed up to the roof of the building where the Healer was teaching and they tore the roof off and lowered their friend down until he was at the feet of Jesus. When we let them, when we tell someone that we need help, those stretcher bearers will stop at nothing to get us to help and healing. I'm not saying its easy. I'm not saying its instant, but I am saying there is more for you than this. Your pain is real, but so is hope.

If you a person who was like me, and loves Jesus, but felt like His love would somehow be taken from you or be changed because of this battle, let me speak into that right now. THAT IS A LIE. You are loved as you are. He weeps with us in our pain. He draws near to the broken hearted and the crushed in spirit. He said that He knows in this world we will have trouble. He knows that you are sick. He knows there are days you cannot make yourself get out of bed. He has given people knowledge and insight to come alongside you and provide healing for your mind and for your soul. Yes, praying is powerful. Yes, scripture is needed. Getting additional professional help is not shameful, nor is it sinful. You are not a lost cause. You are not a screw up. You are not alone. You are loved. You are wanted. You matter.

The people who love you want to fight for you and with you, let them carry you to help and healing. If its too scary to tell someone you know how you are feeling, call 1-800-273-8255. If you are someone who is battling the lies in the dark, but you somehow feel your struggle is less because you do want to live, but you can't seem to find your way, tell someone. Your struggle is NOT less. Your struggle is real and I know for a fact if you told someone, they would come lay in the floor with you. If you don't know what to say, but you just need to take the next step of saying it out loud, please feel free to message me. It would be an honor to encourage you and help you know that your heart has been heard. I hope and pray that if anything comes out of this very long post at all, it is that one person feels seen, and in that a sliver of light is slowly appearing across the floor you are laying on. I also hope, one person feels the courage to approach someone they know and just pick up their stretcher. Look around this circle, friend. We need each other. You are loved. You are wanted. You matter.

Letters and Big Feels

A few days after Easter, I was sitting at the kitchen table with my 5-year-old daughter. We were revisiting the things we had enjoyed the most about our days recently and she started telling me about how we had celebrated Easter and what she had learned. She recalled how she and I had gone through a process together each of the 12 nights leading up to Easter Sunday called the Resurrection Eggs, where an egg is opened and a small object that points to a piece of Jesus' story is inside. We read a little blurb and a scripture from a book that accompanied it, and while I thought it was a great conversation starter, if I'm totally honest, when I was in it, I thought "what am I doing? How can a 5-year-old process these BIG words and these BIG and SAD things like spears in His side and His body going in a tomb?!" Fast forward back to our mentioned conversation, and she says to me something to the effect of "Mommy, I want to write Jesus a letter," and she just starts spilling out ALL the words that she absorbed from our conversation, from her school, and from her class at our church. I finally, in my shock, realize I should write this down, and I get her to go back and start over. And this is what came out:


If you can't read my awful handwriting, please allow me to translate:

"Dear Jesus,
You rose from the dead because You died on the cross. All the people put your body in the tomb, Joseph wrapped Your body with a quilt. Then the ladies wanted to come wash Your body, but the tomb was empty! Behind Mary said a voice, 'Mary!' and Mary looked behind her and said 'Jesus!' I'm so happy that You're alive!
Love, Nora Beth"
(and then she signed it herself and said 'Now Jesus will know who sent it to Him.)

As I look at these words my girl stored up in her heart this Easter, I think what stands out to me the most was two things:
1) That Jesus called Mary by her name and that's when she knew His face.
2) Her statement "I'm so happy that You're alive!" I wish you could have seen her face when she said it. She stood up on her chair, she threw her arms out, and she declared it.

The experience of Holy Week was an emotional experience for me (as you can tell from my most recent blog). It marked the passing of my dear friend, and gave me a whole new appreciation for Christ's choice of the Cross, the Deliverer He truly is, and His ability to handle my confusion, my grief, and all my raw feelings. 

Today is the actual calendar date that marks one year without her here. One year of new Johnnyswim music that I'm stupid behind on appreciating. One year of getting better at being on time and her not being able to appreciate it or experience it. One year of having a little boy she doesn't know. One year of Krystals consumed without her participation. One year of holidays. One year of parties and showers and celebrations. One year of life here. One year of her life in Heaven.

As I sit here, on this day that holds such weight, on this day on the other side of the resurrection, I have got to turn away from the tomb and turn around because He is calling my name.

That does not suggest that death doesn't still hurt us because it DOES. It is sad and stupid and hard. My feelings, and all the feelings of those affected by the loss of her, are raw and real and matter to the Lord. But. He is ALIVE, and so is my friend. She is alive because the tomb was empty. Because the tomb was empty, He was able to call her by name and she could see His face forevermore. Today, He is calling me by name to tell you this story, to meet my heart that longs to see His face, and hers.

Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this?
— John 11:25-26
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying: ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the former things have passed away.’ And the One seated on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” Then He said, “Write this down, for these words are faithful and true.” And He told me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty, I will give freely from the spring of the water of life. The one who is victorious will inherit all things, and I will be his God, and He will be My son.
— Revelation 21:3-7

After the Palm Leaves

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It must have been quite a sight that day outside the wall of Jerusalem. Seeing Jesus, on a donkey, no less, a ride reserved for Kings, coming towards the city. I wonder what started the palm-waving or who was the first to lay down their coat? With the laying down and the raising up, how many visions of victory were laid and raised from inside the hearts of the people? Visions of Jesus' deliverance from the oppression of Rome, healing for their afflictions, restoration of their broken city must have swirled amongst the shouts of “Hosanna!” I wonder how long after the people's hope began to soar for deliverance did they realize that Jesus had a different kind of deliverance in mind? That He would indeed deliver, heal and restore, but in a way no one saw coming? I wonder how long it took for the hope in the raised palms to come down?

Last year on Palm Sunday, I sat with this same computer in my lap and wrote about hope and palm leaves. My friend who had been on the road to recovery in her journey with leukemia had taken a sudden and uncertain turn. I had spoken to her two days before and she told me she was scared, she was ready to fight, she loved me and she'd see me for lunch on Monday. That afternoon, while I was writing, I found out that she had experienced a very scary night, but was stable now. Her husband told me later that evening, that they didn't need anything for now but they would definitely see me in the morning. What I woke up to the next morning was a text from her husband saying to get to the hospital immediately.

Being there at the hospital that day was one of the hardest and holiest moments I've ever been a part of. Her small group from her church, her pastor, her family, pockets of her beloved friends, we all stood there, and we sang. We sang hymns, we listened to her pastor read the words of Romans 8 and we wept when he read about “when we don't know what to pray, the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings we can't understand.” (v 26) Two hours after I walked off the elevator, and within the hour that we had arranged to meet for lunch, she was gone.

I think sitting in that room, helping her Mom and her husband pack up her overnight bag, listening to her best friend from college try to help wade through what comes next; that was about the time my palm leaf came down. This was not the deliverance that we wanted. This was not the healing that we asked for. This was not the restoration we had in mind. And yet, here we were, with socks to pick up and unfinished journal entries, and undelivered birthday gifts in my purse.

Palm Sunday, and the day that follows, now represents something so tragic and beautiful to me. When Jesus came riding in, over the coats and expectations laid before Him and under the hopes raised up all around Him among the waving leaves, the expectations I have on what kind of a Savior He really is dies. Instead, the heart of the God-Man is revealed. He has come to not just conquer what seems to rule us, He has come to conquer death itself. He has come not to just heal what causes suffering here, but to bring a healing that can never be shaken. He comes not just to restore our broken hearts, but to restore our broken souls.

In our grief, then and now, I don't have the ability to say “but this makes it OK.” That's not what is happening here. What is happening, is the only One who can bring peace to the suffering that still exists this side of Heaven has made His way into the City. He grieves before the Temple. He eats and drinks with His friends that will break His heart. He weeps and prays in the Garden. He bleeds. He knows that this side of Heaven will be hard for us. (Mark 11, John 13, 16-17, 19)

And yet, He promises us a peace that surpasses all understanding. (Philippians 4:7) A peace that is just one piece of that healing His death and resurrection brings to those who call upon His name. A peace that when grief is all too tangible, He gently reminds the heart that cancer did not win. A peace that when life feels that it will never be the same, we are assured that it most certainly will not be, but that this is not how the story ends. A peace He knew we would need for our lives after the palm leaves would come down, but also for us to place our hope in on the darkest of days.

You see, He did deliver us. He did heal us. He did restore us. He will never stop doing so.

For though the mountains should depart and the hills be shaken or removed, yet My love and kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace and completeness by removed, says the Lord, Who has compassion on you.
— Isaiah 54:10 (AMP)


I can't decide how to get started on what I want to say. Between the dresses and the holes and the time being up, there are just a LOT of words flying around about really big things and I just can't seem to keep up with what my heart really thinks about it all. I think I'm still processing about the dresses and the time being up because, well, #metoo, but I think I may have to save that for another day.

This week we celebrate the birth of a man who knew how you to use his words courageously. A man who used his words as weapons against the heart condition that has convinced people that there are somehow humans that are less than. One of my favorite quotes from Dr. King is this one:

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Here's the deal: It does not matter you live, what color your skin is, how much money is in your bank account, who your parents are, your marital status or what “hole” you came from, the truth about you is declared by the One who made you.

I have been justified (Romans 5:1).
I am Christ’s friend (John 15:15).
I belong to God (1 Corinthians 6:20).
I am a member of Christ’s Body (1 Corinthians 12:27).
I am assured all things work together for good (Romans 8:28) .
I have been established, anointed and sealed by God (2 Corinthians 1:21-22)
I am a citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20).
I am hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3)
I am holy and blameless (Ephesians 1:4)
I am adopted as his child (Ephesians 1:5)
I am forgiven (Ephesians 1:8)
I have purpose (Ephesians 1:9)
I am sealed with the promised Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13)
I am God’s workmanship (Ephesians 2:10)
I am a holy temple (Ephesians 2:21)
I am a dwelling for the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 2:22).
I am accepted in the beloved (Ephesians 1:6)
I am part of God’s kingdom (Revelation 1:6)
I am no longer condemned (Romans 8:1)
I am not helpless (Philippians 4:13).
I am overcoming (I John 4:4).
I am persevering (Philippians 3:14).
I am protected (John 10:28).
I am born again (I Peter 1:23).
I am a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).
I am delivered (Colossians 1:13).
I am redeemed from the curse of the law (Galatians 3:13)
I am qualified to share in His inheritance (Colossians 1:12)
I am victorious (1 Corinthians 15:57)

(Bless you, Christine Caine for the above compilation).

God's Word is the only standard that exists that does not shift based on circumstance, another person's opinion of you, or even how you feel about you. Dr. King knew that Truth deep within his soul. He knew that his Maker's Truth about him, about all of creation, was the Truth that mattered most of all. I believe its the Truth he spoke from when he dreamed big dreams about the future and talked about love and hate and light and dark. However, we have to be willing to take this a step further. These promises from God's Word, and even these words from Dr. King, are not only true about you, they are true about every other person on this planet.

Here's what I have been wrestling with in light of that: No matter how much another person, in your past or in your present, has hurt you, how do we live with them in light of the pain that has been sewed into our hearts? I honestly don't know how to reconcile all those scriptures with my pain. It is a struggle to believe that God says those things about me, but the man who robbed me of my innocence? The woman who sewed a lie in my heart that still wrecks me? The people of influence who use their words to belittle and sew discourse into the hearts of anyone who would listen? No, no, no, Lord that cannot be true about them. If You're good, God, surely You are only that good to me?

Ugh. That was gross to say out loud.

But you get me, right? Are you with me in that wrestling? Day after day, tweet after tweet, we are surrounded by voices that add to our bitterness and anger at one another. I wonder if Dr. King didn't wrestle with these things as well. Surely in his humanity he had to. And like, Dr. King, we have to do something with this narrative. I know that's hard to reconcile because we live in a time where our culture is saturated with finger pointing and yelling about who is wrong and who is right even in the Church. There is no filter from anyone in power about what they think about another human being. There is no limit on what we say about others if it gets our point across. But as Dr. King shared "I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear."

But how?

At least for me, on this tiny little scale of influence in which I dwell, I am coming to realize that the longer I participate in the fueling the fire of my pain and their (whoever “they” are, at the moment) wrong doing, the longer I miss out on what the Lord can do with my healing and transformative vision for how He sees His creation.

I'm wondering, maybe in order for the words that can bring about healing to make their way out, we have to start with what we dwell on. Maybe the next right step has to do with processing what Paul shared in his letter to the Philippians:

Finally, believers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable and worthy of respect, whatever is right and confirmed by God’s word, whatever is pure and wholesome, whatever is lovely and brings peace, whatever is admirable and of good repute; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think continually on these things [center your mind on them, and implant them in your heart]. The things which you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things [in daily life], and the God [who is the source] of peace and well-being will be with you.
— Philippians 4:8-9, AMP

I pray that all of us can soak in these words about who we are. I pray that we can choose to live in light of them and not just survive the roar of voices coming from all around us. I also pray that we can pursue God's vision for how He sees every other person around us, no matter who they are, or what they've done. Maybe, just maybe, this will lead us to a whole new way of engaging each other. There will ALWAYS be someone who wants to restore the dark, until the Lord comes to make all things right (Isaiah 61, Revelation 21). but maybe our words can keep the light on, engaging another light, and another, until He Comes.

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Glory in the Weird


This week has been weird. After weeks and weeks of wind up and anticipation, you wake up one morning and there's holiday carnage everywhere, but the celebration is over. All that's left is a gigantic mess left to address and this weird feeling in your heart of “now what?” According to every email that's come in my inbox and almost every social media post that's run through my varying feeds, the now what should be full of putting everything away, getting organized, quitting all my vices, getting my life in general in check. Oh, and don't forget the resolutions, nay, goal setting, and reflective processing.

In the weird, my head has attempted to make some sense of all this. Its not that those things are bad, I know that they have a positive place and the calendar lends us this space for a reason... I just think for me, I got so immersed in the manger, I've struggled to leave. But that's the thing, we have to, because at some point, they did too. At some point, after all the shepherds visiting, the heart pondering, the tiny newborn King and his parents had to get up and move on from that Holy scene. They had to get about the business of living on the other side of Christmas.

We really know next to nothing about what happened next for them. There were logistics to be managed, I'm sure. According to Luke 2: 21-40, we know they had Jesus circumcised in accordance to Jewish custom on the 8th day, He officially received the Name that is above all Names, Jesus. However, the first 7 days of Jesus' life on Earth go by unrecorded. I wonder if it was made up of a lot of clean up and strategizing. I mean, for the love, Mary and Joseph still needed to get married! And bless her heart, she had some recovering to do, and preferably not among the animals, who probably wanted their food trough back. Who knows if they had been able to be counted in the census yet, the very reason for the trip to Bethlehem in the first place. They needed a place to go. They had things to attend to. They were the caretakers of the Messiah.

In that very first “now what” after Christmas, there was a lot to do, and there was a lot to think and pray on. Jesus' birth changed everything, but there was still life to live. His life, for that matter. Its hard to believe that the Son of Man's life was made up of days of mundane, but for Him to be truly human, that has to be true. Days that would fill up the pages of scripture and shift the heavenlies were lived amongst days of everyday traditions, ordinary decisions, and unremarkable moments of people trying to take their next right step. Maybe that's why the calendar gives us this weird week from glory to glory, the glory of His birth to the glory of His naming, to take stock of what needs to be done. I do think our culture has gone to a bit of an extreme with this, but as for me, I think following this family out of the silent night and into the days ahead, makes me feel a little more normal, and honestly, a little more hopeful. In the middle of them finding their next steps, there was infectious glory to behold:

When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord... Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took Him in his arms and praised God, saying:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
or my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”

The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about Him.
— Luke 2:22, 25-33, NIV

As you walk through the weird in front of you, no matter how you choose to engage it, I pray that the glory of the Lord is revealed to you there.

Happy New Year, y'all.

Lyrics & Wondering - A Thought on Advent


Oh Advent, how I struggle with thee. Between the Hallmark movies telling me I just need someone to help me find my Christmas cheer, the to do list that I truly do love fulfilling, the gifting, the parties, the traditions we're trying to begin and maintain with our children, the keeping Christ in Christmas, I mean, pick your typical mantra and what ails you at the holidays and insert it here. Oh, and don't forget to rest in there somewhere, right next to the partridge in a pear tree and my Grandmother's coffee cake recipe. I just... love this time of year, and equally dread its arrival. Now that its here, I think I've finally figured out what I need in order to make it through all this holi-drama... I need those people in that manger scene in my home to be real. I need them to take on flesh and bone and faith and be real to me.

I think what's frustrating about this scene from a Biblical sense, is we know so little about it. Literally, all we have from scripture are these words from Luke:

So Joseph also went up to the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem....He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
— Luke 2:4-7

The angels that appear to the shaking shepherds also make mention of a birth and say in verse 12 “This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

The shepherds then seek them out, and they find this little family in verse sixteen, just as they were told they would; together in a stable with a baby in a food trough.

If you know me in real life or online, its pretty hard to miss that I love music. This year, I have had an album by an artist named Andrew Peterson on repeat called “Behold the Lamb of God.” The songs on the album are like a musical storybook that bring the foretelling and coming of Jesus to life from Genesis until His birth and offers such a vulnerable perspective of the ancient texts that guide us into Advent. One of my absolute favorite songs on the album is called “Labor of Love,” and it serves as a narrative for Mary that is beautiful and breathtaking. It reminds the listener about how raw that Christmas night in a barn must have been for her and for her loyal Joseph. The first lyrics go like this:

“It was not a silent night; there was blood on the ground.
You could hear a woman crying in the alleyway that night on the streets of David's town.
And the stable was not clean, and the cobblestones were cold.
Little Mary full of grace, with the tears upon her face, and no mother's hand to hold
It was a labor of pain, it was a cold sky above.
For the girl on the ground in the dark
Every beat of her beautiful heart was a labor of love.”

I don't know about you, but the first time I understood what that lyric conveyed, I was transfixed. It made that simple Nativity scene come alive to me in a whole new way. It put flesh on bone and brought the simple faith of a young, scared Jewish couple into whirling technicolor. As I've stared at Mary in a whole new light, it has also moved my eyes to the baby in her arms. Fully God. Fully man. A baby in a barn. Then, I stopped, and this thought came to me: Why do we believe that baby Jesus didn't cry?

I look back in the frustratingly detail limited ancient text and see nothing about what baby Jesus was doing and all I see is that he was born, and that he lay in manger. Now, maybe its the fact that I have an almost 6 month old talking, but no matter how I've tried, I can't shake the question. I've been able to bring Mary and Joseph to life (thank you, Mr. Peterson), I can weep with them, I can breathe the sigh of relief in afterbirth with them, but I cannot get my head around a silent baby Jesus. Where did that come from? Am I navigating some sort of weird sacrilegious bunny trail down the road of Advent? Unbidden, I hear the old hymn “Away in a Manger” in the back of my mind.

“Away in a manger
No crib for His bed
The little Lord Jesus
Lay down His sweet head....

The cattle are lowing
The Baby wakes
But little Lord Jesus
No crying He makes...”

A-ha! There it is. No crying he makes. But is that real? I think according to scripture... we just don't know. But here's what I'm wondering. Maybe its because I have an almost 6 month old and I'm fresh from the birth experience, but if that baby in that scene is going to be real to me this Christmas, I need Him to be alive. And what is the sign of life from a baby that every Mother who has ever labored has longed to hear in order to ease her pain and relieve her longing for relief? Their baby's cry. Its a sign of life. Its a sign that this baby that has been given to them is with tangibly with them on this earthen sod and wonderfully alive. I just wonder what that must have been like for Mary and Joseph. To know who He was on the inside, but to hear Him, in a mess of hay and fabric, Immanuel, God with us, miraculously and wonderfully alive on the outside. That brings that little scene to life to me. This little family relishing in the mess the great gift that has been given, and I can ache with all of creation as life as this Earth knew it shifted. He is here. He has come. He is alive.

So now, as I still stare down that list, as I plan for gathering with my family, as I intentionally plan out gifting, as I read the ancient story to my children, its just a little brighter. The echo of the chorus that must have come from within the barn rings in my ears. And the cry that shattered hundreds of years of longing reminds me that one day, another sound, perhaps even a cry, will serve as a sign that all of life on Earth will shift again. You see, He did not just come to cause a ruckus and then leave us behind, He came to rescue us, to deliver us and to make way for us to live in Hope with Him forever and ever. That baby in my Nativity Mary's arms; He is alive. Hallelujah.

Ten Years: From Me to You

Dear Em,

Today you are getting married. I would say at this exact time you are waking up as early as I am up now because the Lord is calling you to go sit outside and watch the sun come up. You'll have to sneak out of bed and tip toe over about fifteen of your friends that are sleeping in every nook and cranny of Mom and Dad's house in Knoxville. Once you make it to the porch, you'll hear the Lord speak some truths over you that will still be so fresh in your mind ten years later that you'll be brought to tears as you recall them. Truths like:

“I have called you by name, you are mine.”

“You are my Bride in white.”

“I have loved you with a redeeming love”

“I have chosen this man for you, and you for him. I will not leave either of you”

Your story, babygirl, is just getting started. You are SO young. You don't feel it because in the last four years, you have seen a lot of life. A significant piece of your story has been written in a number of ways, but its not what will define you and it is most definitely not the last chapter. The pain that you still battle with, even on this beautiful misty morning, will not only fade with time, the Lord will use your story of how your husband met you in one of your darkest places, pulled you out and loved you as you were, over and over again.

Photos by Hope Photography

Photos by Hope Photography

However, I must tell you. He will not live on that white horse for long. He is a GOOD man. He is a man who will exhibit incredible character, courage, steadfastness, and integrity over the years, but your husband is not your savior. He is not perfect; only Jesus is perfect. You will learn this the hard way many times over. Then, once you realize he is not perfect, you will try to change him. You will try to talk circles around him to make him understand what you need and what you think he needs. You will wear yourself out because you are not his savior either. You are not perfect, only Jesus is perfect.

You don't have any idea about what your life is about to look like. You will be what some people in the industry refer to as “a road widow.” You will not be good at it for a very long time. You will call it a season instead of his dream. You will be an unhappy person for him to come home to. You will be incredibly unfair and un-supportive. You will selfishly only see the bad and refuse to see the good. In an effort to try and communicate how much you miss him and need him, you will push him so far away that it makes you incredibly hard to love.

One day, however, you will stop seeing yourself as the industry, and many, many, other people around you have labeled you, and you will start to see yourself as part of a team. You will see the many adventures you have been able to have together in the midst of his travel. You will see how incredible he is at his job, how he is living his dream and you are part of that. You will see how his choice to work so hard is because he works hard for you. You will see the gem that he is in a hard industry to remain a man of steadfastness to his integrity, his family and to his faith. You will still miss him and need him, but you will begin to present a more welcoming place for him to be who he was made to be where he is wanted, as he is.

Marriage is nothing like you are expecting it to be. You will not like how much the Lord uses it to reveal your own brokenness and selfishness. But you will see Him so vividly and feel His presence so intensely in how He continually grows, changes, heals and redeems you both over and over again. The joy that comes from the Lord answering sewn prayers are unlike anything you can even imagine.

And then you will become parents. He will be the most incredible father and it will make you fall so much more deeply in love with him. You will have TWO children (which currently, you are still getting used to saying that); a girl and a boy. They will both have names that you treasure because they are ones that tell your story. You will hear his voice read/sing the book Snuggle Puppy and you will melt. You will watch him struggle with the crying (as you will you), and you will both rejoice in the years of more sleep but more words. You will have a Sneech in your family. You will forget car seats, and lunches and learn how to discipline together when you're in two different cities and he will fight for you. He will stand by you and trust you while you hold the fort, and when you feel like his choice to let you handle things is some sort of slight, you will realize its because he values your decision making. He trusts you with his team in his absence. You will learn the need to communicate effectively on a whole other level. You will both learn how to celebrate small victories and how to sturdy yourselves during the long days and short years of hard.

Photos by Olimb Photography

Photos by Olimb Photography

Ten years later, he is not the same man up on that white horse you perched him on, but he is the man that the Lord made to ride alongside you. I wish I could tell you these things so you could be better at loving him and spend less time pointing fingers at him. But you will have a lot of growing up to do, and that process will make you into me. We don't have it all figured out, by any meaI still get it wrong so much, but I'm not you, and I couldn't be more grateful the Lord was not content to leave me as I was that misty morning on the porch.

Today is going to be a good day, babygirl, but just you wait.

Happy anniversary, beloved.


Elsa, Little Carts, and Evaluations

Tonight, I took Elsa with a little cart to the grocery store.

If you have never taken a small child to the grocery store where they have, what our family calls “little carts” (grocery carts that are replicas of the real thing, only pre-schooler sized) its a little like an installment of the Hunger Games, the parent edition, where there can only be one victor. Now in the past 2 years of my daughter's life, I've been able to bypass the “little carts” by either allowing her to “help me” by pushing the big cart, or by allowing her to sit in the big basket to sort and stack the groceries. However, 7 weeks ago, her little brother entered our world, and now grocery shopping is a whole new adventure. His car seat sits in the big basket and much to the confusion of the cashiers and baggers at the check out, he tends to sometimes hold the groceries or they are strategically placed all around his car seat in the basket.

Tonight, I needed to go to the grocery store but I knew what all I needed to get wouldn't fit in the remaining real estate allocated by Baby Brother's place in the cart. My daughter is 4 and very good at it. Today, she put on what she calls her “Elsa” costume (a blue costume dress my Mother scored from TJ Maxx) and refused to take it off. So not only are we walking into Kroger in full “Let it Go” mode, I glance off to the left of the front doors and spy the dreaded “little carts,” and I know in my heart its my turn to “let it go” and let her do her thing on our grocery journey while also providing the extra space we need for the groceries in her cart.

An hour later, we emerged from the store with stickers (for her), caramel M&M's (for me) and most of our needed items, relatively unscathed and only one of us is crying (Baby Brother). As I sit here in the quiet of bed time, it dawned on me that this time last year, I was having dinner with a dear friend in the gorgeous Gilmore Girls-esque hamlet that is The Highlands, NC. We had arrived a day early for the Cultivate Retreat where we both would be presenting as break out session speakers, and we were taking the night to relax and have some fun before the hard work began the following morning.

As I sit here and remember that dinner, I also remember what I was in The Highlands to talk about. “Balance,” the creator of the conference had said. “I think it'd be great for you to talk to us about work-life balance.” Which, in light of my current situation is hilarious, but at the time, I feel like the Lord gave me some insight into a process that I desperately need to revisit. And maybe it can be helpful for you too.

You see, I actually don't know that I believe in “balance.” Jen Hatmaker writes in her book For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards, “Balance. It’s like a unicorn; we’ve heard about it, everyone talks about it and makes airbrushed T-shirts celebrating it, it seems super rad, but we haven’t actually seen one. I’m beginning to think it doesn't actually exist.”

I presented to my fellow attendees at Cultivate (who decided that it would be best to sit/lay on the floor and get comfy during my talk-- God love them-- ) that maybe instead of creating a formula for keeping the ever changing scales “balanced” in order for them to define us, there has to be an honest evaluation of what matters to us and what makes us who we are in the season we are in. Once that has been established, then we can make decisions about what's realistic, how we define things like success and failure, and create accurate measurements for what is enough here and now.

If you want to know the Mary Poppins reference... you have to take me out to coffee. ;)

If you want to know the Mary Poppins reference... you have to take me out to coffee. ;)

Man, I need that reminder now more than ever before. Its amazing how much can change in a year. If you had told me that evening in the Highlands that I would be sitting here recovering from a day with Elsa and her little cart, an almost 8 week baby boy, and trying to get back to work after taking a maternity leave... I definitely would not have believed you. It was such a different season, I felt the Lord telling me to be obedient to the next right steps in my personal and my professional life. Things were shifting and I felt more compelled than ever to buckle down in my calling and to dive into more things like what I was there in The Highlands to do, speak, encourage, write, and more. I was walking with a one of my dearest friends who had recently been diagnosed with cancer, and as on the 10th of this month, she will have been cancer free in Heaven for 5 months. Things were busy, things were full, but even if much of it was new territory, it was familiar enough to me that small adjustments made significant improvement in how things were handled.

Seen above with my bouquet I created in my friend Em Kennedy's bouquet making break out session at Cultivate Retreat. Photo by Alex Thornton Photography

Seen above with my bouquet I created in my friend Em Kennedy's bouquet making break out session at Cultivate Retreat. Photo by Alex Thornton Photography

Flash forward to now, where it seems like a whole new world has cracked open and presented an entirely different Earth and its overwhelming mostly because I haven't been able to figure out why its so overwhelming. (There's some fellow over-thinker out there that can totally nod their head with me and 'amen' to that, am I right?) An Earth where suddenly a grocery run is enough to make me want to crawl in bed before 9pm with my bag of caramel M&M's. An Earth where I can't tell my friend that that there could possibly truly be another season of Gilmore Girls. An Earth where just knocking 4 things off my two page to do list feels like I should have won a medal.

I think the truth is, I'm overwhelming myself in expectations that made sense a year ago. The same measurements just don't apply. Its time for a brand new evaluation about who I am, what matters, what I'm capable of and what is possible inside of those parameters. That doesn't mean you throw it all out and start from scratch, but it does mean that I've got to... dare I say... "let it go" in certain areas. (You're welcome -- Double Disney reference #ftw). That I've got to press in to the pockets of time the Lord provides, and also rest. That I can't do as many things in one day as I did before, but that there is a new way to get things accomplished. That I need to ask for help and take it when its offered. That I need to believe the Lord isn't surprised by any of this, and He will equip me for the good work He is doing. (Hebrews 13:21)

Photo of me working a wedding with my two week old son by  Courtney Davidson Photography.

Photo of me working a wedding with my two week old son by Courtney Davidson Photography.

What about you? Have you been pushing yourself to do “all the things” based on what was working for you before? Your life may not look like mine, but I can almost bet that you are not the same person you were this time last year. What's changed in your world, for better or for worse? Where can you give yourself some grace? Where can you make adjustments in order to have better focus? Be honest, be real and be kind to yourself. This season isn't better or worse than the last, its unique to you now. Don't wish it away, don't shame yourself in perceived failure, open your eyes and be willing to see it as it is. It may not be perfect, but its part of your story. Stop and give yourself the gift of evaluation and allow margin for the new.

And when you are overwhelmed, I highly recommend the caramel M&M's.

Battlefields and Beaches

When I was in 8th grade, our school went on an overnight field trip to Gettysburg, PA. If you're not familiar with that particular portion of American history, Gettysburg is the site of the bloodiest battle of the Civil War. I'm a history nerd through and through, which wasn't (and probably still isn't) exactly a quality that would get a 14 year old adolescent girl any points in the perpetual popularity pursuit that is middle school, but standing on the battlefield that day, I didn't care. I was hanging on to every word our guide shared with us about what had happened on those green fields. I could practically hear the guns cracking as they fired. I looked around and drank in the mist as it began to envelope the hillside we stood on. It felt so real to me, I was genuinely worried that the mist would pull back and reveal hundred year old bodies of young boys frozen in death. There was something about standing in the exact spot, on the same grass, under the same trees that bore witness to such life altering events that absolutely captivated me.

This week, I walked out onto another patch of grass in a field far from Gettysburg, with my 4 year old daughter watching a storm blow in off the ocean off the Florida coast. Neither one of us are very good at remembering to wear shoes, and our bare feet were being tickled by the grass as we made our way to the large staircase that led to the beach. This is the place where, up until about ten years ago, my family and I spent almost every summer of my life. While much of its surrounding geography has changed due to weather, time and developing tourism, the vast majority of it has remained relatively preserved. As I walked with my daughter, a thought came to me: “the grass is the same.” Its a kind of grass I've never felt anywhere else. It almost pushes your feet as you walk, practically propelling you into the next step.

Something in that moment, being on the grounds where so much of my story unfolded, sucked me into memories so vivid they could practically cast a shadow. I could see myself marching in the 4th of July parade as a girl, not much older than my daughter is now. I could feel the splash of the water and the endless hours in the pool and in the ocean. I could taste the meal we were having here when I told my parents I had accepted Christ as my Savior at summer camp. I could hear the conversation with my friends that came with me on this trip over the years, expressing dreams and the “I can't wait to be older” wishes.

Unfortunately, in the getting older, the memories became more vivid and more painful. The heartbreak that I brought to these shores. The angst of hormones, body shaming, unanswered questions, and change. The confrontation from my parents that happened here because of a toxic relationship unraveling back home. The confusion I wrestled with on the porch about who I was and what God wanted from me. Or the last time I was here prior to this trip, the uncertainty of a newlywed who didn't know how to walk through her expectations clashing head first into reality. It was almost too much to bear, having my feet stand in that grass, my own personal battlefield, and I shut my eyes, braced for impact, again fearing I would look up and find evidence of what had been lost scattered across the lawn.

When I reluctantly opened my eyes, instead of carnage, a little hand appeared and a voice followed it that said “Mommy, can we hold hands?” My daughter is in a fiercely independent stage of her growing up and so I hurried to take her hand before she changed her mind. Hand in hand we stood there overlooking the beach, talking about how we could see the storm coming and our trip down to the sand may have to wait a little longer. How easy it is in that moment to tell explain to a child how a storm will indeed pass, and things will be right again, but to live that out is painful and time is sluggish.

What would I have said to all those versions of a younger me running around on that springy grass, crying on the porch, or praying on the beach? How could I have ever foreseen God's faithfulness to carry me through, to meet me where I was and to redeem the broken pieces? With the same simple certainty that I can promise my tearful, blonde headed girl that the sun will come back after this storm passes, my Heavenly Father saw me in all the seasons and storms I brought to this shore. He knew what I would look like today, tired in motherhood, but joyful in heart. He knew what storms would pass, the damage they'd leave in their wake, and how He would redeem it all.

It seems so ridiculously simple and almost trite, but walking it out in this moment is anything but. To stand in a place where I once felt unfixable, unlovable and unwanted in a new season that is anything but perfect, but is ripe with answered prayer, feels nothing short of miraculous. To know that He didn't leave me in the carnage of battle, to know that He was that trustworthy all along, that He was always on my side, and to know that He can see even beyond the season of now brings a lump to my throat. The sweetest part of it? To know He isn't finished and He will never stop seeing me. And the same is true for you:

“When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit. Then Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to Him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.” - Ephesians 3:14-21 (NLT)

The Road to Palm Leaves & Extraordinary Days

Last Sunday, my daughter and I were pulling into the parking lot of our church and I thought to myself, “OK, palm Sunday is next week, Easter follows... so what is this week?” Then, the answer came to me: “Nothing. Its just an ordinary day.” I pulled into a parking space while my daughter chittered away about who she would see in her class and a thought came to me unbidden “It wasn't an ordinary day to Jesus. In fact every day was extraordinary to Him.”

When I got home, I decided to crack open the Gospels and search for what Jesus was up to the week before what we would refer to as “Holy Week;” the week that begins with Palm Sunday, today, and runs through Easter. If you're not familiar with the books of the Bible, in the New Testament there are 4 books referred to as “The Gospels,” they are Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These books contain four different accounts of Jesus' life here on Earth. They each carry unique perspectives based on who the authors were and where their information came from. Only one of them is a truly eye-witness account, the book of John, one of Jesus' twelve disciples, His closest friends and partners in ministry on Earth. The others are written from the pens of second-hand sources who took down eye-witness accounts who saw and heard Jesus in the flesh. Some Gospels share the same account almost verbatim, others leave details and pieces out or focus more on certain teachings and happenings of Jesus. All of them, however, share the essentials of Jesus' message, how He lived and moved amongst the people of Ancient Israel, and most importantly how He died and was raised again from the dead.

The week before Easter, is no exception in the varied account of the days leading up to what many called Jesus' “Triumphant Entry” into Jerusalem, what we now know as Palm Sunday. It earned its name because Jesus came into Jerusalem for the final time before His death to the sound of praise and the waving of palm branches (John 12:13). People lined the streets like a parade, screaming “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” They laid down their coats on the dusty ground in front of the donkey Jesus was riding on (Mark 11:8), and they accented their shouts of praise with the first thing at their disposal, palm leaves.

But what about before all that? What about the days leading up to that moment? What made each day extraordinary to Jesus?

When I looked through each of the Gospels, I searched for a marker in time, a place to start to know I might be in the vicinity of the road to dusty coats and palm leaves. I found Him in Matthew 25 teaching hard lessons in the form of parables to His followers, which led to Him dining in a house only known as “the home of Simon the Leper,” in chapter 26 , where a woman brought a jar of expensive oil, cracked it open, anointed His feet, and wiped the oil with her hair, tears streaming down her face and splashing onto Jesus' feet. Over her head there was mocking of her sacrificial act, Judas, one of His disciples, runs off to make a deal with the Devil and Jesus predicts that another one of His disciples, Peter, would betray Him.

In Mark, I found Jesus teaching about hard things. Things like divorce, predicting His own death and settling ridiculous squabbles amongst His disciples about who is first and last. We also see Him honor and bless a group of hushed children and heal a blind man with a simple word of “Go, your faith has healed you.”

In Luke, I saw glimpses of similarities in the teachings and hard conversations of the other Gospels. We also see Him honor and esteem a poor widow who brings her very last penny to the temple as her offering. He then bursts the disciples' bubbles about how the seemingly strong Temple they are standing in awe of will be destroyed, which leads into a discussion of prophecy, and a promise of how things will go from bad to worse, but in that same promise, that the Son of Man will bring redemption, once and for all.

And in John, I can practically smell the dust of the road as John details the movements of Jesus on His way to Jerusalem. I see a similar, but more detailed, telling of the healing of a blind man, I hear a sermon on spiritual blindness, and the relationship between the Good Shepherd and His ever wandering sheep. Then, I arrive at the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus, three of Jesus' beloved friends and followers, and Lazarus has died. Mary and Martha are heartbroken, the disciples are full of questions and Jesus weeps.

I wonder if Jesus felt there, at the home of his friends, where things have gone from bad to the absolute worst, the weight of each choice He made to be obedient to His Father that made even the most ordinary day, truly an extraordinary day. Just walking distance from the city where He would enter as a victor but be put to death by the same voices that shouted “Hosanna” over the fringe of the palms, did He weep in that moment because He knew? He knew what was to come? The gravity, the necessity, the temptation to bolt back to Heaven into the safety of His own skin? Here, is where I see the weight of what Jesus is carrying, what He has always carried, break through the surface of His donned humanity. That without choosing the road ahead of Him, without taking each day as its own in its potential for the extraordinary, without choosing to watch the faces of those He loved change from elation to murderous, without being betrayed by a friend's kiss and the sound of the rest as they hit the ground running, without choosing to see the back side of His Father and choosing to bear the weight of the sin that entangles all of us, all that would be left was what He saw in front of Him that day with Mary and Martha: Weeping at tombs.

In John's account of this experience, Jesus asks to be taken to the tomb of his friend, who has now been dead for days. He even goes as far as to ask those in attendance to roll away the stone that has sealed up Lazarus' grave. Then, amongst the confused and frankly appalled crowd, the most amazing conversation takes place:

Then Jesus said, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe You sent Me.’ When He had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go.’
— John 11:40-44

I wonder what kind of experience this would have been if Jesus had spent His days on Earth differently? I wonder at the power of the words “but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe You sent me.” (v42) I think the days that led Him here, and would ultimately lead Him to the cross, were spent in such a way that we would not be able to miss the reality of Him. The reality of His words, His work, His passion and His love, that's what makes the cross and ultimately the resurrection such a scandalous mystery.

No matter where you are in your life, whether Jesus is nothing but a fantastical idea, a story, a good person in history or in mysticism, or maybe even a bad word in your vocabulary because He has not met your expectations of a Savior, I just want to say this to you:

He knows you.
He sees you.
He hears your wailing on whatever side of the tomb you are on.

Whether that's an internal cry because you have deadened your heart to the cruelty of feeling and it is safer to stay in the hole you've created for yourself, or if that's a literal wailing outside the tomb of something or someone that has been ripped from your reality, reeling at the lack of control, the lack of understanding, and full of all the whys and where were yous.

He knows you
He sees you.
He hears you.
He loves you.

How do I know that? Because He still loved the ones who saw Him walk in each extraordinary day of His ministry on Earth. The same ones who welcomed Him with praise and expectation because they thought they were going to give them the deliverance they sought, but when He didn't, they turned on Him. He still chose the cross. He still died. But on that third day, He was called by the name of His Creator and came out of that grave. Just like Lazarus. When He appeared to more and more people, He made the same offer to every single one of those who had hurt Him, and with no hesitation, to love them, to call them by name, and to not leave them in the tomb of their own making. He became the Savior they desperately needed, not just the one the believed they wanted. Because now, for those who believe Him, they will see the glory of God, here on Earth or one day face to face in Heaven.

Jesus altered our destiny by His choice to let no day remain ordinary. He had a mission, to be among us, to know us from the inside out by taking on our very likeness and to not leave us here hopeless. Hope knows no boundaries this side of the cross.

I once heard someone say “At the end of the worst thing that can happen to me is Jesus.” There are days that that feels enough, there are days that it doesn't. That's the beauty of Him, He can handle you on all the days. Because His days here on Earth were extraordinary, He can meet us in our ordinary, our depths of despair and the heights of our anger. He has hope for you in all the seasons, on any day, because His love for you is one He chose, each day and His hope is one that lasts beyond the turmoil of what we can see.

One day in the midst of His hope, is better than any day weeping at tombs.

Birth Stories

Four year ago yesterday, I knew something was wrong. It was the day after my daughter's due date, and I had spent the entire due date laboring at home, just to wake up the next day feeling totally normal physically but with a tug on my heart that I couldn't shake.

My friend Lauren was coming to meet me for lunch that day, I asked her if we could possibly make a pit stop first, you know, to the hospital. In my mind, I knew the doctors would think I was nuts and send me home, but in my gut, I knew we had to go.

Cut to a few hours later, sitting in triage and the doctor, whom I had never met until that day says "I mean you're all ready late, and you're here, let's induce you." At that point you think to yourself, "oh my word, this is happening! I'm going to give birth today!" Due to hospital politics, bed room and that sort of thing, my first (and yes I emphasize first) induction didn't begin until later that night, which led to another day, and another day, and by this point, my parent panic meter was off the charts.

-This isn't how this was supposed to happen.
-Am I wrong? Why do I feel so strongly that something isn't right and why are people not taking me seriously?
-Is my child going to be OK or is something out of my control going to harm her?
-Maybe I need to ask other Moms/Medical experts for their thoughts.
-I'm failing.

These are all thoughts that didn't just replay over in my mind like a tape recorder those long days in the hospital, those are thoughts I battled with yesterday.

You see that whole crazy ride of waiting and wondering and not eating and more inducing and ultimately having an emergency c-section wasn't a mistake, it's just our story. I really believe my daughter's unpredictable and unplanned entrance into the world really began to lay a ground work for me to grasp some huge realities about being a parent. And not just any parent, her parent.

I'll start with the most important one: You are not in control, but you are not alone.

This world is completely unpredictable. I mean, for the love, it's 33 degrees outside today in Tennessee and we're a week out from Spring's official due date. If we live in a world where the seasons can't even arrive on their scheduled time, why would all the rest of life follow our plans? Kids get the flu, they fall, they don't listen, they say no, others say no to them, they get their hearts broken, and the truth is, we can only control our response to it. But. (And that's a big but) I believe without a shadow of a doubt that we are known and loved by a God who is not surprised by His creation.

Whether it's the creation that we are surrounded by in nature, or the creation He grows within us and births in their perfect time, He does not see any of this as chaos. He sees how it was all made to be, and how it will all turn out.

You were made to be their parent. Trust your God-given instincts.

The reason we ultimately had to have a c-section was because no one thought to check and see how big my daughter was measuring from the inside. Three days and three different doctors later, a wonderful man said "let's do an ultrasound" and realized her head was too large to move through the birth canal.

I remember at one point during my c-section, a nurse said to me "you would never have pushed this baby out." Honestly, in that moment, I was encouraged. There was something wrong all along, I wasn't crazy. There had been something in me, perhaps the Lord preparing my heart for what was about to happen and how it would happen, that knew things weren't going to go down the way everyone said it should.

Now that I know my daughter, that couldn't be more true in how we've made decisions for her. I've had to consciously make the effort to lean into the voice of the Holy Spirit and the instincts He gave me to make decisions for her. Not what a book said, not what was always the most popular opinion, not what social media suggests, but what is best for her based on who she is.

The same is true for you, friend. The main voice that matters when you parent is the voice of the One who made you AND your child.

Every child is different, and that makes them a beautiful part of a bigger story.

My daughter made her entrance into this world in an unexpected fashion that didn't meet my timing or agenda. The truth is, raising little humans is similar. You can provide structure, you can have strong wishes and desires for their lives, you can have an idea of exactly how your days and weeks are going to play out. I have tried to parent from my agenda, but in the end it has left me just as frustrated as I was laying in that hospital room knowing the plan needed to change but feeling defeated that it wasn't happening how I had imagined it.

Ultimately, parenting is about getting to know our children for who they are, for how God made them, and leaning into His plans for your family. They are a part of the story God is telling with your life and you are a part of theirs, and it's beautiful.

You are not a failure.

Just because things aren't going like you expected, just because your child doesn't respond like you want them to all the time, just because there are days where there's more TV than perfectly Pinterest-able crafts and games, just because there are dishes in the sink and bags under your eyes, none of that labels you a failure. Do you love your child no matter how much they challenge you or make you crazy (and sometimes make you feel like you don't like them very much?) Do you get up every morning and care for them day in and day out?  Do you keep moving through a problem on their behalf until there ultimately is a solution? Then, my friend, you are not a failure.

Just like an unplanned and seemingly imperfect birth story doesn't label me as a failure, you doing what is best for your child no matter how hard it is or how it makes you feel about yourself or your plans and going about it imperfectly, but willingly, doesn't make you a failure; it makes you a parent.

Beloved, one of the greatest gifts my daughter has given to me is helping me see that we have to define for ourselves and our families, through the Creator's perspective, what we were made for and to engage the journey to get there, no matter how it looks. Is it messy? Yes. Is it what I always pictured? Heavens, no. But does it bring me an indescribable joy and a whole new perspective of the Father's love for us? Absolutely. I am praying you give yourself the grace to allow that to be true for you too.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to get back to our little Snow White's last day of being a 3 year old. =)

20,000 Words

Last week, I had the pleasure of being a guest on April McKinney's podcast "20,000 Words." April and I first met about 7 years ago when we planned her, and her sweet husband's, wedding together. Working with the soon-to-be McKinneys was one of those first experiences where I felt the Lord meeting me in my work. They wanted to have a fun and beautiful wedding, but more than anything, they wanted their relationship with each other, and with the Lord, to grow in the process.

I also got to see the first glimpses of the cool things God was going to do with April's life as she tried to take the next steps of obedience with her giftings. She has a beautiful story and I love that she's sharing it and encouraging other women to share theirs through her podcast. You should DEFINITELY hit the subscribe button here, so you can follow along on this journey. You can also find our conversation there, or here on her blog.

If you had a chance to listen to our convo, April asked me questions that hit topics across the board: owning and running a business, wedding planning and how to start that process well, marriage, motherhood, and trying to be in the Word in the midst of it all. I struggle to see myself as an expert at ANY of those things, but I can definitely speak authentically from my own experiences and what God has taught me in the process. I listed off quite a few resources and such that have helped me along the way, or that are available now, to perhaps help you where you are. I have listed all of them below (if I missed one you are looking for, shoot me an email!) and I hope that they are helpful to you in your journey.


*Resources to look in to for next steps in your business that we mentioned (and some extra ones too!)
The Propel Series
-Megan Martin (Branding and Coaching, also leading the Propel Series)
-Ashlee Proffitt (Branding)
-Kristin Kaplan (Business Coaching, particularly in pricing strategy)
-Sage Wedding Pros (For those of us who know NOTHING about business and marketing, this changed my life.)
-Kristen McCall (Social Media Consulting)

*Resources we mentioned for Time/Balance/Boundary/Life Support Shenanigans: (and some I thought of later!)
-The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands by Lysa Terkeurst
-Lysa's Time Tracker
-She Reads Truth (Online Bible Study and App)
-First 5 (Online Bible Study and App)
-Beth Moore and Living Proof Ministries (there are a million Bible Studies... Truly, any of them would be a great place to start!)
- Armor of God by Priscilla Shirer
-Boundaries: When to say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life -by Henry Cloud & John Townsend
-Our worship Spotify playlist(s)
-"Marvelous Light"- Ellie Holcomb

*Scripture References:
-"While the people of Israel were still at Rephidim, the warriors of Amalek attacked them. Moses commanded Joshua, “Choose some men to go out and fight the army of Amalek for us. Tomorrow, I will stand at the top of the hill, holding the staff of God in my hand.”
So Joshua did what Moses had commanded and fought the army of Amalek. Meanwhile, Moses, Aaron, and Hur climbed to the top of a nearby hill. As long as Moses held up the staff in his hand, the Israelites had the advantage. But whenever he dropped his hand, the Amalekites gained the advantage. Moses’ arms soon became so tired he could no longer hold them up. So Aaron and Hur found a stone for him to sit on. Then they stood on each side of Moses, holding up his hands. So his hands held steady until sunset. As a result, Joshua overwhelmed the army of Amalek in battle." - Exodus 17:8-13
-"He has made everything beautiful in its time." - Ecclesiastes 3:11
-"The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance," - Psalm 16:6
-"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, to proclaim the virtues of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." - 1 Peter 2:9
- "He will restore the years the locusts have eaten." - Joel 2:25
- "Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord." - Lamentations 3:21-26

The full quote I mentioned from Jen Hatmaker's book For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards, is worth listing out in its fullness for two reasons. 1) Its so true and is worth repeating. 2) It makes me giggle:

"Balance, its like a unicorn; we've heard about it, everyone talks about it and makes airbrushed T-shirts celebrating it, it seems super rad, but we haven't actually seen one. I'm beginning to think this isn't a thing."

For kicks and giggles, because there are many of you who have no idea what MySpace is, this is for you!

Annnnnd finally, remember that one time I mis-quoted my own instagram handle on a podcast? Whoops. I'm definitely not simplyyoursem, My personal/writing/essentially anything not business or wedding related instagram is simplyemhumph. I'm blaming that on the lack of caffeine in my life. Or something.


*Photo featured in the 20,000 words graphic is by my dear friend Courtney Davidson Photography

Listening for the Light

In my mind, the last 8 weeks have felt a bit like instruments in an orchestra that all had something to play. However, every instrument was playing all at once. A grouping, that is designed to create something beautiful sounds anything but. It sounds disjointed, dissonant, and deafening. Its been a rough few weeks; no, months. Not just in the obvious, but hidden amongst the lives of others. I have had thoughts, I just couldn't make all the noise stop long enough to say anything.

I have experienced so many emotions, so many words flying around inside my mind and heart, the persistent pecking of noise, that it has actually left me awake at night and some days unable to think clearly or function. Now. I am positive much of this has been exacerbated by the fact that I am pregnant with our second child. Nothing like throwing up at the smell of... well... anything to really keep your spirits up. I wasn't sleeping. I was scared to eat. What I was eating wasn't staying with me. But still all the words and sounds came. The struggle raged on.

My birthday is the day after New Year's, so while the first week of January is always an interesting time of introspection for all people, its always been even more so for me. Another year of my life has come and gone, and another is in front of me. This year, I had the pleasure of getting to spend my birthday and the following days at the Passion Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. After weeks and week of unrelenting internal struggle, the days after Christmas started to feel... different. The noise wasn't gone, but it had at least dulled to a low roar. Then, on January 2nd, I walked into the Georgia Dome, and some of the first words that were flashed in front my eyes were this:

You called my name and I walked out of that grave. Out of the darkness, into Your glorious day.

Suddenly, it seemed like a great conductor walked in to the hall of my mind and first of all put an end to the noise, but also, with one raise of His arm, brought all the instruments together and led them to what they were created to be; a symphony. A symphony of clear thought, true emotions, and compelled conversation.

Not only did I hear that with the tender ears surrounded by 55,000 young people yelling out their desire for the Light of Life, I heard it with a heart that had been watching and longing for the morning. (Psalm 130:6)

The next three days went on like that. Message after message, song after song, I heard the same theme being echoed over and over again:

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.
— John 1:5 (NLT)

Hope still exists. It can be hard to find, it often has to be fought for, but it is worth the fight. We are surrounded by hard things, from the smallest scale to the global sphere, BUT this is not how the story ends, friends.

It is OK to be sad. It is OK to have questions. It is GOOD to look around you and evaluate the brokenness of your circumstances or that which affects your community. It is good to weigh what is passing before your eyes and find that something is off. Because it is. This world is broken. This world is hurting. We are broken. We are hurting. But that's not all there is to it. There's more.

We are called by name by the God of the universe. He knows you. He loves you. He wants you just as you are. Just as I am. There is life to be found outside of the darkness that seems to overwhelm; abundant life. (John 10:10) Its not a life that promises things will always be OK, the world is broken, but it does promise we will NEVER be alone in it. (Deuteronomy 31:6-8, Matthew 28:20) Its a life that promises that there is a love for you that is so vast that it cannot even be measured. (Ephesians 3:18).

Friends, its time to come out of hiding. Its time to take that first shaking step out into the Light. There is nothing for you in the dark but fear, anger and a fire of bitterness that will only keep you warm for so long. I know it seems scarier outside, but I promise, out here, there is so much more to see than we can ever even imagine (Ephesians 3:20). Hope is here. There is a part for you in it. It doesn't have to be earth-shattering action to matter to someone, its the heart behind it.

We are all struggling against the urge to hide, to drown in the hard around us, and let our confusion and clamor rule us, but let's stand firm together, friends. One step at a time.

So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.
— Hebrews 12:12-13 (NLT)

*Update as of January 9th, 2017-- Here are some resources I'd love to share with y'all. First, links to the various talks from the Passion Conference that just rocked my soul.
Christine Caine
Beth Moore
Francis Chan
Levi Lusko
"I Ran Out of that Grave" - Kristian Stanfill (the song I mention earlier in my blog)
"From the Darkness (How Great is Your Love)"- Passion Worship Band(my second favorite song =))
"Worthy"- Bellarive (my tie for second favorite. AND the favorite for my dear friend that came to Passion with me, I had to include it =))

Additionally, I've started my first Spotify Playlist of the year. I'm calling it Awake. That's the best word I can think of through all of this. In addition to recapping these amazing worship songs and sessions via you tube, I am determined to wall paper my mind with Truth by being in God's word, which for me, includes filling our home, my car, my mind with Truth in song. I hope it encourages you right where you are. xo

But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said: ‘Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’
— Ephesians 5:13-14

Lessons from Looking for Lovely

Are you a reader? I sure am. I don't ever a remember a time in my life when I didn't have a stack of books on my nightstand. The problem for me with books is that I don't just read them, I DEVOUR them. I struggle to get focused on anything else other than a good book. However, I'm trying to train myself to enjoy books a little at a time and not to let my stack get so high because I've been waiting for all that "time off" to read.

Recently, I read a book that I loved so much, I actually sat down and immediately needed to write down all of my thoughts I gleaned from the experience. Its called Looking for Lovely: Collecting the Moments that Matter by Annie F. Downs. It felt (and still feels) like a significant touch point in the journey I've been on the last eighteen months or so for the Lord to help me re-name and re-identify so many parts of my life through a filter of Truth, not what I had pieced together to be true about myself with the scraps of various opinions and experiences of my life.

From the use of caps locks when she speaks when she's trying to make a point, to the poignant ache I feel from her brutal honesty, I felt at the end of this book that someone I knew had just caught me up on a season of their life.

She put words on thoughts I've had my whole life and didn't even know they mattered. Particularly when it comes to embracing what happened to us as girls in a world where Satan hates our beauty and went after it before we even knew it was something that was ours. Then later in life as we hit 30 and things significantly begin to shift, we have no idea what to do but cling to the belief that maybe I'm lovable, maybe I'm tolerable, but definitely not beautiful. What crap. The Truth is (and always has been) "The King is enthralled by your beauty." (Psalm 45:11). We were created to be His crowning glory. Maybe part of the perseverance is believing in such a way where we can take away the maybes and the justs. That I'm just Emily. Just a Mom. Just a woman who is maybe tolerably pretty or unique or lovable sometimes. Maybe it's about declarations that the Lord says it's true, bigger and more, and that is more than enough. This book left me wanting to dive deep into something that at first I found myself saying "oh this is what I was in the thick of last year!" It helped me to see that there's more. That its a journey woven between the every day steps and not just the hills and valleys.  

"If you don't believe the way you are is God-made and God-loved, the good and the bad, the tight and the flabby, the old and the new, the strengths and the weaknesses, you are missing out on connecting with God on a level that only comes to those who embrace and love His creations. (And that includes you.)" -AFD (p43)

It also reminded me that it's OK to feel. I know that, but I think I needed a reminder that it's OK for ME to feel. I feel big things. When a woman shushes me in a restaurant because she believes I'm talking too loudly for her taste in a public place, I feel that in a big way. But big feelings also need big truth from a big God. Who is not confused about how He made me, who my family is made up of,
Who I married or what I do for a living. The more deeply I allow myself to feel, the more Truth I weigh against my feelings, the more I get to experience the presence of the Holy Spirit.

"Darkness makes us appreciate the beauty of the light. If you aren't allowing yourself to feel the hurt, sadness, loneliness, and disappointments this fallen world has to offer, you probably aren't feeling the fullness of the joy and beauty the redeemed moments have to offer." -(p76)

"Maybe that's what it means to rejoice in our sufferings as Paul says in Romans 5? Maybe when we make our hearts available to the hard moments and allow ourselves to experience God's love in new ways, we are also increasing our capacity to love others." (P148)

More than anything, this book left me feeling spurred on to the work I know Jesus is doing in me. She shares that she's unfinished and her struggle to finish a book while she feels unfinished. I wish I could hug her and high five to that. We are not finished and by golly we won't be until we look Jesus face to face and begin to walk with Him in the life we were made for on eternity. So I want to walk in my unfinished, not become paralyzed by it. I want to do the work in order to grow and reap the harvest I have sewn with tears, and I want to continue to do the work to unearth the lies that have taken root in my life and sew in more truth.

"What God will do with my seeds, when I return with songs of joy, is grow them into somethingfull of color and health and variety and joy and blessing for others.." (P84)

So why post about this book on my blog?
1) I cannot recommend this book enough. It was fun and I laughed out loud a ton, but it also was filled with such tenderness that I wanted to call all of my people and tell them all about it right then.
2) I think this is a new thing I want to explore. I want to share about what I read so that I can retain it better, but also look back and see how it touched me in the future.
3) I think this book is timely for women. It is filled with such honesty and truth during a time about what it means to be a woman feels like it changes DAILY. One minute we are angry because of how someone in the public eye talks about women (and rightfully so), the next a million people (literally)have liked another half naked photo of a reality star on Instagram. If that's not one heck of a confusing message for a gender to wade through, I don't know what is.
4) All of us go through really dark and hard seasons of our life; maybe you're even in one right now. This book shares Annie's process of how she walked through that season for her and its a really precious (and practical) concept for all of us no matter where we are.

You are so loved, friend. I hope you feel encouraged and that your Thursday can only get better from here. Remember: This is not how the story ends.




Humanity and Hope

A friend of mine sent me a text last night and asked me how I am.

I asked her if she wanted the truth.

The truth is: I'm sad. No, I'm heartbroken. Devastated.

I actually am struggling to find words to even consider the level of devastation that I am currently experiencing.

I have always loved my country. I remember saluting the flag every single day that I was in school from Kindergarten until 12th grade. I remember being the leader in the patriotic parade. I fell in love with American history when my teachers first took us to Williamsburg, VA. I felt the pulse of the excitement and passion that our forefathers were fueled by as they dreamed up a country that could be so different from what they'd known. I remember the first time I understood slavery and what racism really was and feeling grateful (at the time) that our country had grown up since then and shut down those ugly voices. I remember learning the real words to the star spangled banner so that I could audition to sing it before the basketball games at my high school.

I remember where I was sitting in my professor's class when I realized that American history was more complicated than I had ever understood it to be before. I remember learning about women's right to vote being less than a 100 years old, about the Triangle Shirt Factory fire, about how my Mother's high school wasn't integrated until almost a decade after Brown vs. Board. I remember learning about Medgar Evers who was assassinated in my parents' youth and his murderer was finally convicted in mine. I remember where I was when the Towers fell, I remember where I was when shots were fired at Columbine, Virginia Tech, Charleston, Chattanooga and more.

Do you know what I don't remember?

Someone neglected to mention how devastating it is to believe in something that could let you down so hard.

Here's the thing. I still think that there is something really special about being an American. But that's not my identity. It never has been.

My identity is a human being created in the image of God. No better than any other human being that lives or has ever lived. I was made from the same dust that you were. I was made by the same hands that molded me, shaped me, loved me and then allowed my selfish nature to nail His Son to the cross because He wasn't the Savior I wanted.

America is not our savior; Jesus is.

There is heartbreak across the world tonight. A Mother in the hills of East Tennessee who won't get to tuck her youngest son into bed tonight because he died tragically this morning. Another Mother in Haiti who has also buried her child, has no bed at all because the hurricane swept it away. We are HURTING. We are bleeding out in our hurt. And all I can hear is the cries of an angry mob with pitch forks about how we need a savior, when we all ready have one.

This country will let you down. The people in it will hurt you. Because we are broken, sinful people. And because this world is broken and in it there is disease, hurricanes and car accidents.

Now what?

Maybe... its as simple as a kind voice in the darkness. Maybe its turning off the computer and running in the leaves with your children. Maybe its a donation to a local place that can get clean water to that Mother in Haiti. Maybe its a gift card to a heartbroken friend. Maybe its a laugh you needed, maybe its a cry you've been stifling.

I know what its not though, its not all this noise. Your contribution to the noise won't make this brokenness go away, but it will send a ripple of hurt that your fellow humans and heartbeats could live without.

Its not about making a temporary kingdom great so we can hope for the best, its about fixing our eyes on the One who brings Hope to the Hopeless.

And so Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in You.
— Psalm 39:7 (NLT)