Asking for Some Faith

“Why”

We start asking that question just about a year from the time we say our very first word. Question after question rolls off our childhood tongues and later from our worried adult hearts.

I never truly stopped questioning things. Part of that is a grasp for a sense of control–the result of thickened skin, of protective walls that I’ve hedged around myself in response to hurt. Trying to map out my future is like a defense mechanism, a way for me to prepare myself for what’s coming, in the hopes that I might dodge hurtful situations.

“What”

What will my life look like?

“How”

God, how will you do it?

And when things don’t go how I expect:

Lord, why is this the direction my life is going? Show me the lesson, teach me the meaning, the point behind this. Because in this moment I can’t find it on my own. It feels like I’ve been hurt so much even when I thought that I was doing the right thing. If I could sum up the book of Job (who in the face of suffering struggles with many of the same questions) in one word, I would choose the word faith.

Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
    Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
    Who stretched a measuring line across it?….Have you ever given orders to the morning,

    or shown the dawn its place,
 that it might take the earth by the edges
    and shake the wicked out of it?”

-Job 38

The Lord powerfully reminds Job who is in control of the universe. He asks Job rest in the fact that the Lord is in control, to remember that He holds Job’s life in His very hands.  How much faith that takes!

God’s plans for us are exactly that.. GOD’s plans. Not my plans. He knows our first breath to our last and every moment in between. If you’ve grown up in the church you’ve been fed this theme, this idea that we should find rest in the fact that God knows our future, many times before. It takes A LOT of faith to sit back, to never question, to wait, and to trust in plans that you cannot see.

Lately, I’ve been pondering the idea of vulnerability. And faith, I think, is vulnerable. Completely giving up all control–dropping all expectations and questions–well that’s a dangerous business! We’re asked to produce these massive amounts of faith out of broken and weak lives. In these lives that have been touched by broken promises, by disappointment, and copious amounts of pain, where is this strong faith supposed to come from? Because Lord knows when I’m struggling through something, there’s times I don’t feel like I have an ounce of strength left in my body.

The faith that trusting in God’s plans requires doesn’t come from our broken lives, it must come from outside of them. This kind of faith is a gift. And it’s a gift that only God can give. The song “Give Me Faith” speaks directly into this,

I need you to soften my heart
And break me apart
I need you to pierce through the dark
And cleanse every part of me
All I am, I surrender
Give me faith to trust what you say
That you’re good and your love is great
I’m broken inside, I give you my life
‘Cause I may be weak
But Your spirit strong in me
My flesh may fail
My God you never will
I may be weak
But Your spirit strong in me
My flesh may fail
My God you never will
-Elevation Worship, Give Me Faith

On our own we could never sum up the amount of faith that God is asking us to have, the kind of faith that we need to fully trust His plans. It’s by being vulnerable, by stepping completely aside, that we receive this strength. So while it might seem radical for me to say that faith is vulnerable, I say it with the realization that it is because faith is vulnerable that faith becomes strength. Our flesh fails. It’s weak and broken. Leaning on the gift of faith we recognize that we do not have to do it on our own. That Jesus Christ who lives in us, empowers us to have the faith necessary to fully lean on all of God’s promises. It’s terrifying to step aside and to surrender. But it is this motion, this response that allows the gift of faith to be enacted in our lives.

I’ve been wrong about what I thought the Lord was doing in my life. There’s times when I’ve been so sure of things, only to find that my assurances were moving in a different direction than God’s. This is the ugly part when vulnerability can hurt. But the beautiful thing about faith is that it is not limited. It starts again and again each day. Giving our lives to Christ means that we must rust what He says continually, not only when we think we know what His plan is. It means that even when we are wrong, when our flesh fails, we do not start questioning our God. Where faith surrenders complete control, assurances of love fill our lives. His Spirit is strong in us, no matter our weakness. Ask God for continual renewal of strength this month. Ask Him for that unending and unfailing faith– the faith that is vulnerable and raw, the faith that can surrender everything over to Him. Ask for these things, and I suspect you’ll start to see your life shaped in ways you never would have before imagined. God has a funny way of expanding our little minds to reveal big things:)

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To Remain

Waking up in an icy cold room, I slip on a robe and walk to the kitchen where I’ll prepare the morning’s breakfast. Once again, I find myself missing the comforts of home. I miss the feeling of soft carpet under my feet when I climb out of bed. I miss the pantry full of breakfast choices. I miss the hustle and bustle of my family rushing to get ready for the day. But most of all, I miss the people I can count on–the ones whose love I know will remain despite any storm. And I cannot wait until I return.

It’s How We’re Wired

While you may not be reflecting on the comforts of home from a dorm room, I’m willing to bet there’s a sense of yearning in you. Because our hearts were wired to yearn for and to lean towards God, it’s ingrained in our very nature. The problem? That’s not always where we reach. These instincts are often projected onto aspects of life that we try to separate from God. Leaning, wishing, hoping, expecting, yearning–these are postures we pass through in the rhythms of life.  Are you constantly awaiting the next moment or hoping for the future? If you’re anything like me, I willing to bet you might be.

Productivity or Preservation?

We spend a lot of time planning. I’m not talking about big plans like jobs, marriage, kids, and houses. I mean the simple planning. The planning that consumes our day with tight schedules. The planning that leads us to look ahead to the events of the upcoming week and worry about them in the present. img_5499I find myself constantly swayed by a balancing act of worry and calm. We’ve been trained by a society that’s oriented towards productivity. Taught to never waste time, to “seize the day,” to make “every moment count,” it’s like we’re gripping onto something that we fear is going to be taken away from us.

“If I don’t study long enough, that grade is going to be lost. I’m going to lose my career and all of my future plans will fail.”

“If I don’t work more, I won’t be paid enough. I won’t earn that promotion. I won’t be able to live the comfortable life that I desire.”

“If I don’t do XYZ in my relationship, he/she won’t like me enough and I might feel alone.”

Any of these sound familiar? We’re all in different stages, all trying to walk through different storms. And you know what? It. is. exhausting. Afraid we might lack something, we suffocate in our desire to preserve it. While we were made to yearn for God who can satisfy, we’ve begun to lean towards and desperately hold on to the things that cannot.

Where You Stay, I’ll Stay

What’s more is we are constantly told to move, and we’re reminded to do it fast. Lines like “God’s got big plans for you. You’re going to be a kingdom-changer if you choose to follow Him” are fed to Christians on a regular basis. And don’t get me wrong, there is much truth to those statements. img_5493We are called to follow in the footsteps of our Savior. But often, I think we can misunderstand what that following looks like. Because following doesn’t always mean moving. It doesn’t always involve looking to where the next footprint is going to be made. In some seasons of life “following” might really mean “remaining.” And it can be just as hard.

 

Withstanding the Storm

In Mark 14 : 22-33 Jesus leaves His disciples on a boat and climbs a mountain where He begins to pray in solitude. While Jesus sat calmly praying in the presence of the Father, no doubt there was increasing worry, fear, and turmoil in the sea below. The passage tells us the boat is being “tossed by the waves” and the wind was “boisterous.” In the middle of the sea, surrounded on all sides by raging waves and enveloped in darkness, there is no question these men were experiencing great fear. In fact, because of their fear and lack of faith these men believed Jesus to be a ghost when they saw Him walking on water towards their vessel. The disciples would have been desperately praying for God to calm the sea, for safety, and for the return of their teacher.

When we hear this story we tend to focus on the miracle that occurs when Jesus walks on the water. But if we look closer, we find there’s a sharp contrast between the despair and chaos these men experience on the sea,  and the peaceful attitude of Jesus who sits calmly on a mountain top amidst the storm. Standing on the mountain top with the wind raging against Him, Jesus–unlike the disciples that night–had no doubt that the windstorm could be calmed.

I think our lives often look like that night. Only we tend to reflect the disciples’ reactions more often than our Savior’s. When a storm hits our life, we pray for it to cease. We are afraid and doubtful, and sometimes our faith falters. Instead of remaining peacefully in the storm, we yearn for the calm. img_3252.jpgWe hope for the next moment, for the future when “all will be well.” But I think, sometimes, we are called to just remain. Let the wind and the waves rage against us. But rather than fearfully struggling to reach safety, we might practice a little of what Jesus did: Stand firmly in our faith and know that amidst the storm, or the moment we do not wish to be in, our Father is there listening to our prayers sustaining us.

It is in this posture, I believe, that we can find rest. When we remain in God, we accept the position He’s placed us in. Instead of yearning for the present to be over–instead of awaiting a ‘better’ future that we have planned for ourselves, we wait and we listen. Perhaps the storm is happening for a reason. If we yearn for God rather than for the calming of the storm, Jesus will walk through the raging sea with us. And when, in His own timing, He climbs “into [our] boat, the wind will cease.” (Matthew 14:32). So friends, I encourage you this week to examine where you’re at in life right now. Is there something you’re yearning for? Examine what it would mean for you to remain in Christ and in the role He has placed you in, rather than reaching for the next moment ahead.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grace to Create

“The Lord is drawing me closer. To be so intimately united with Him that when I create, God is creating. When I form relationships and set goals and feel emotions and discover more about who God is…. all these things God is doing through me. I’m doing this myself creatively yet intimately and dependently entwined with God. Christ is revealing who God is by showing me what it means to be fully human–to be headed towards life and not death–to be fully alive. To redefine life is to live in a world where boundaries and structure constitute true freedom. We are dancers graced with the ability to creatively express ourselves through participation in the organized dance the Lord leads.”

Constantly Priceless

We are created to be relational beings. The trinity itself exists in a constant state of an equal loving relationship between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Created in this image, we are not only called to build a relationship with God, but to build relationships with each other as well. It is my hope that sharing this part of my life will allow us to connect more relationally. And  I just want to encourage you guys to share pieces of your faith with those around you. Even when you stumble, God can use your story to speak volumes for someone else. So let’s get real friends. Gone are the boundaries, gone are the walls. I hope that the Lord speaks to your heart through the work that has been done within my own.

I finished my freshman year of college with an arsenal of hard memories, but feeling closer to the Lord than I ever had before. I faced so many hardships that year, but throughout each of them I could feel the Lord’s hand on my life. The first few weeks of school were extremely lonely. My roommate and I would see groups of people, who had easily made new friends, or had come into school with friends from home. Missing home and everyone that loved us for who we were, we both felt the heavy weight of loneliness. But God is good. In a crazy turn of events (much of which involved morse code, flashlights, and the residence hall across the lawn) that loneliness began to fade.

A month later, I returned home for my first vacation, expecting everything to be familiar, only to find that it all had changed. Life had gone on without me as my family prepared to move from my childhood home. What’s worse, my home church was torn with hardship after hardship. Desperately clinging to all things familiar, I wanted life at home to hit the ‘pause button’ until I returned. Finding that instead it had gone into ‘fast forward’ mode was more than disorienting. Over coffee with a professor, I was reminded of the grounded nature of God. Life is continually changing no matter how much I hope for my own consistency and familiarity. Yet, one thing remains constant amidst it all: the love that God holds for all of us. The truth that He knows our first and last breath, our next move, our next thought reminded me that all of it was in His hands.

I returned home excited to see what God had in store for me that summer, waiting with an expectant heart that was ready to receive His guidance. That was my hope. But my reality was very different.

 Week after week I poured all of myself into my work, which left me emotionally and spiritually exhausted. After the first month and a half, I began to feel as if I had no love left to share when I returned home. My patience had run string thin, and I hated the tired and exhausted person that I was becoming. Throughout it all my Bible remained closed.

That was the first mistake. Another month and my prayer life felt equally as dry. After feeling God’s presence so strongly while at school it seemed as thought He had fallen silent for this season of my life. Church at home felt mechanical and I desperately longed for the presence of God that I had felt so strongly during the months spent in school.

I entered my second year at school with the feeling that I could never measure up. I had spent a summer feeling disconnected from God, and still felt distanced even at school. All I could cling to was the memory of what I knew was true: the work that Christ had done in my life, the growth that had occurred, and the love that He had for me. I knew who I was, but I was still afraid. I was weak. I felt like I was not enough. “This period of stagnation doesn’t happen to real Christians,” I told myself, “I am a failure. How can be a daughter of Christ?”

On the first night of a university chapel conference, which I entered into with low expectations, waves of truth that spoke to exactly where I was washed over me. The speaker focused on something that in church seems so basic, but is so foundational to our very existence: love. The love that God has for us is too abundant to fathom. Those of us who’ve grown up in church, well we’ve all heard that before! But it was the nature of this love that shook my my stagnant ground. The Lord loves us like a Father. Again, a concept that’s simple enough right? But the speaker challenged us to really think about the impact of that statement, to stop and consider what that truly means for our lives. The analogy that was provided was one of a father and his one year old son.

While learning to walk next to his father, the baby falls. The father does not yell at the child “you’re a disappointment. I cannot believe that you represent me in this way. You must not truly be my child. How dare you fall down!”  No. instead he gently picks up his son and encourages him to continue. “Go on,” he says, “I’ve got you. I’m here. When you fall down, remember to look back at me. I’m right behind you and I will pick you up.”  Our Father in heaven loves us in the same way. This summer I convinced myself that I was a failure. I wasn’t as good of a Christian as I should have been. Why would God ever want to claim me as His child? And so, I distanced myself. I covered my ears from hearing His voice by avoiding the scripture, distancing my prayer life, and entering church without an expectant hope of feeling His presence.

At this conference, however, I worshiped alongside men and women who were brought to tears at the the name of Jesus. Bit by bit the wall that I had put up was torn down and I felt the same tears running down my own skin. Each night of the conference reminded me of God’s love. God was there the whole summer. He was there waiting for me to look back and let Him pick me up. Instead of realizing His love, I let the devil convince me that the Lord did not truly love me–that I was a failure. But after the conference I realized that I had been drowning– inflicting my own suffocating without even realizing it. For the first time I was able to take a breath of air, and the relief and waves of love that washed over me were so overwhelming. Every word of the worship songs we sang, every truth that was spoken over us those nights was unbelievably applicable to what I had so desperately needed.

On the final night of the conference, I opened a devotional book that all of the nursing students received at the beginning of the year. It’s a collection of devotions written by the friends and family of the students studying nursing abroad in Zambia. I opened to the first devotion, which I found to full of words that matched my situation so closely. I know God was trying to speak to me.

“A concept that I have always struggled with is God’s love. Sometimes it feels like I’m always falling down with mistake after mistake, and He is always there to pick me up. I’m grateful that He is near, but sometimes I feel immense shame. A sense of failure, a lost cause even. I want to speak truth over all of you hearing or reading this right now that you are not a failure…God’s love is proud to be seen on you. God’s love is PROUD to be seen on you… Let this truth become who you are. There is much thought and theology behind this simple idea, but once you let it become your truth, things start to change… One truth that I know for certain is that as you share struggles and hardships with those around you, the bond in Christ and the pursuit of faith becomes much more strengthened and firm.”

~Conner McGrew, Zambia Semester Abroad  2018 Team Devotional Book

Everything that God does has purpose. I truly believe that He led me to this conference, led the message, and led the writer of this devotion to speak into my life in this way. img_7414-1.jpgI’m living in grace, experiencing the freeing breath of God in my life as I continue to be awed by the continuous love that He pours into my life. My Father has changed my life in these past few weeks in ways that I can never adequately express. And so friends,  if you ever feel like you’re in the same place that I was, I hope that my words can be used to speak some ounce of truth unto your lives. Let us share the many miracles that God’s grace has fed into our lives with each other. Let us love, let us share, let us remember what He has done, and let us never forget who He is and what that means for who we are. You, child of God, are priceless. And that is a constant that will never change. So live fearlessly and turn your eyes onto the savior and you will bloom<3

The journey begins

Thank you for joining me on this new creative chapter in my life! I hope this website inspires you not only to create but to live a grateful and God-filled life. As sons and daughters of God we are created to be living reflections of the one who created us. If God is creative, loving, and gracious, then we also are called to be those things.

On this venture we will explore a variety of room decorations, clothing styles, DIY projects, food, and more; all tied to the theme of  living a creative, grateful, and Godly lifestyle.

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For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” ~Ephesians 2:10 NIV