Author Archive

Change is Often Bittersweet

We have a bit of change in the air over in the Clem household. Our second son Harper James was born on May 22nd! We are so happy to welcome him and his pure newborn sweetness into our lives!

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While we were in the hospital with Harper, we received a call from the pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, TN (both mine and my husband’s HOMETOWN) to offer Tyler the position of youth minister. He was, of course, going through the interview process, but we couldn’t believe our ears when we received the call. Especially considering our current circumstances. On June 12th, we said our goodbyes to our Calvary family in South Carolina, packed up the U-Haul, and made our way to Tennessee with a 2 year old and a 3 week old. Talk about craziness! Of course, all of this has been bittersweet. We have been overwhelmed with the love we have received from both churches. If it were not hard to say goodbye, we would not have been doing the job God set out for us in South Carolina. We are so grateful for our ministry there. And now, we are thrilled to serve at our new home church, and we are loving them all already! While the past couple of months have been seeped with change, I cannot get over the fact that the past two YEARS have had change written throughout them. The birth of our first son, walking through Postpartum Depression, going through another pregnancy, the birth of our second son, and moving to Tennessee after almost 4 years (5 for my husband) serving there.

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The opportunity to become a contributor for GLOW came to me at a time of hopefulness. I was very freshly pregnant with Liam…bright eyed at the thought of sweet motherhood. When he came in June, my world felt like it was falling apart as I dealt with Postpartum Depression. I know you all have read many of my posts mentioning this time in my life, and I thank you for all your words of encouragement. Time and time again I did not feel like praying or reading the Scriptures. I did not have energy or passion for seeking the Lord because of this deep darkness I was walking through. As I look back on this time, GLOW was a way for the Lord to push me forward. When I did not have the drive, He kept nudging my heart to search for Him because I had GLOW to write for weekly. This is the reason I look at GLOW with such sincere thankfulness. The Lord was gracious to give me this community as I walked through the darkness. I was encouraged by posts, comments, and even HAD to force myself to keep going. When all I wanted to do was lie in bed and accomplish nothing, I HAD to press on. I am forever grateful for this sweet community of encouragement. It is so nice to know I am not alone in this crazy life!

As Kelsey mentioned in her post Wednesday, we are taking a 6-month sabbatical because of all the changes all of us are walking through. We want to write with fresh and rejuvenated hearts. Thank you, ladies, for pushing me to pursue the Lord through this GLOW community even in the darkest time of my life. You do not even know how much I have been blessed by y’all.

Over these next few months, Tyler and I will continue to pursue building deep relationships with people in our new church family. We are also looking for a home to purchase and hope to be moving once again in the next several months. We are certainly adjusting to life with TWO precious boys now! We are so grateful for both of them (and very tired)! If you had asked me what life would look like two years from GLOW’s beginning, I would have never guessed this would be my life. But boy, am I grateful!

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If there’s anything I would like to leave you with it is this…You are CHOSEN by God. You are LOVED by God. You are CHERISHED by God. Claim it day in and day out! I pray each of you continues to grow to have an intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. I urge you to continue on your faith journey, no matter what you are facing. Find women to encourage you. Find women you can encourage. Build your homes firmly on Jesus. Find your identity in Him. And TRUST, breathe, and remember you are His BELOVED.

Be blessed, sisters!

The Vine and the Branches

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I was reading John 15 this week and stumbled upon a passage I’ve heard a thousand times over. I even know a song I learned in middle school that has some of this scripture in it, and I can sing it to you word for word! But this particular day, these words hit me in a different way. A way I understood more than ever before. You are probably familiar with this passage too…. the vine and the branches. Take a look with me at John 15:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (verses 1-5).

This is Jesus talking to His disciples at the last supper. Jesus is the vine. God the Father is the vinedresser; the one who prunes, trains, and cultivates the vine. We are the branches Jesus is talking about in this passage. If we don’t bear fruit, we are taken away, but if we do bear fruit, God continues to prune us to get rid of all the dead places in us that we may become healthy fruit-bearing branches once again. So how in the world do we go about bearing fruit? We must abide in the vine-Jesus Christ. He says,” the branch cannot bear fruit by itself.” He doesn’t say “it WILL not” bear fruit, as if it had a choice. He says, it literally CANNOT. The branch has no capability of bearing fruit on its’ own. Therefore, we cannot bear good fruits apart from Christ. Apart from Him we can do nothing, the Scripture tells us. We are worthless!

The passage continues:

“If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (verses 6-11).

How do people know we are followers of Jesus? They know by our fruits! So, this “fruit talk” is pretty important, after all! Our mission here on earth is to take the Gospel to the nations and show Christ’s love to the whole world. So, I say bearing fruit is absolutely vital! This is the way others know we love Christ! Not to mention, these verses say God is glorified when we bear much fruit. Our purpose is to BRING God GLORY!

Matthew Henry’s commentary says this about bearing fruit:

“We must be fruitful. From a vine we look for grapes and from a Christian we look for Christianity; this is the fruit, a Christian temper and disposition, a Christian life and conversation, Christian devotions and Christian designs. We must honour God, and do good, and exemplify the purity and power of the religion we profess; and this is bearing fruit.”

When we bear fruit, we bear the image and disposition of Christ. We begin to look more like Him!

As I thought about all this throughout my day, I tried to evaluate myself a bit. How am I doing bearing fruit? If I’m honest, I’ve felt like a slacker lately. I can make excuses all I want…toward the end of both my pregnancies so far, I’ve gotten super lazy, So I haven’t been abiding in God’s word. I’ve noticed myself losing patience with Liam more quickly than I normally do. Not to mention, I’ve been snapping at my husband lately. So, how’s my fruit production? I’m going to go with pretty lousy! Moody, losing patience, being lazy…none of these sound like Christ.

So, here I am at a crossroads. I can remain complacent or fight this urge to be lazy with all that’s in me. I can pray through the seeming silence. And I can accept the grace God pours over me. I can place myself in the vine and rely on Him to produce the fruit through me. Who’s with me sisters? How’s your fruit production?

Gratefulness in the Change

As I was heading to my OB appointment the other day to check on our newest little guy, I glanced down at my cup holder to spot a couple of little Hot Wheels cars taking up one of the holders. I sat in my car and just chuckled to myself. My coffee in one cup holder, Hot Wheels cars in the other. I had to thank God in that moment for this phase of life. During the day I constantly feel like I am trying to keep up with my toddler… especially being 8 months pregnant. Some days I prop my feet up at 8 when he goes to sleep and drift off myself. I ice my painful abdomen and feel like I ran a marathon most days. But I remind myself to be thankful.

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In that moment as I looked down at my cup holders, I thought about how much life has changed. In high school, concert tickets and a fake poppy flower from our Wizard of Oz musical graced my cup holders. Reminders of the lightheartedness and fun I got to experience during those four years. In college, Starbucks gift cards and lip gloss remained there. Reminders of study sessions and my active social life. But now? Now I have a cup full of coffee and Hot Wheels cars. These are reminders of the exhaustion I feel but also the sheer delight I get from being my boys’ mommy. Just the thought of how rapidly life has changed within even 10 years blows me away!

With all the changes we face in this life, how are we supposed to handle it? I am a huge fan of knowing what is coming my way. I like predictability, a schedule, and a nice little routine. Change gives me a sense of anxiety I never desire to feel so I’ve been thinking through how to remain thankful during each stage of life we find ourselves in. Here’s a short list I came up with:

  1. Keep a gratitude journal. This was something I start several months ago. I try to write down three different things I am thankful for at the end of each day. This is where you find extraordinary in your ordinary circumstances. This will help you establish a theme of gratefulness in each day.
  2. Recall God’s goodness in each season. The Lord is faithful… always. As we recall how He’s been good to us in past seasons, we can expect goodness in our current one.
  3. Begin watching your speech. How do you talk about your day and circumstances? Are you the person everyone dreads because you are a “Negative Nancy?” Try to speak about things positively and shed some light in dark situations.
  4. Do not allow negative thoughts about yourself to consume your mind. I don’t know about you ladies, but I have had seasons where nothing but negative self-talk happens in my head. I’m too dumb to do that, no one thinks I’m funny, I’m extremely fat, etc. When thoughts like these rule my mind, my negativity is out the roof, and there is not any room left for an attitude of gratefulness.
  5. Develop a healthy lifestyle. This is not always easy for me! Getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, getting exercise daily. These aren’t always easy to incorporate but they are important! I always feel more thankful and like I have a better quality of life when I take care of myself.
  6. Serve other people. When your life is consumed with you and you alone, you tend to think your problems are bigger than everyone else’s and the world should revolve around you. But when you look for the needs of others, just as Jesus did, you begin to live with more of an attitude of gratefulness. There are so many hurting people in our world, and getting outside of ourselves to actually serve them is what we are called to do as followers of Jesus. If we aren’t the hands and feet of Jesus, who will be?
  7. Spend time in the Word and prayer. This is essential for being thankful in each stage of life. When we are far from Jesus, we will not be able to see our circumstances through His eyes… in light of eternity. As we walk more closely with our God, the way we see things changes.
  8. Remember there will be bad days, but also remember there is good in those days. Each stage has good and bad days. When you have a bad one, continue to remind yourself of the good you can find in the day. Some days I look at Liam with nothing but frustration…his fits and moodiness can get the best of me! But I try to look for the good during those hard days. Lord, you gave us both another day of life, and for that I am grateful.

Some of these are practical changes, some of them requiring training of the mind. Whatever changes you need to make, do it! As I look at my life so far, I see the times when I’m most grateful as the best times, no matter the circumstances. Through all the changes, it is good to know that we have a relationship with God who remains constant and unchanging. His fullness, goodness, and steadfast love remain constant… if nothing else, we can be grateful for His constant presence in our lives.

What about you? How do you remain grateful during our ever-changing stages of life?

When What Ifs Don’t Matter

I experienced one of the scariest moments of my life last week. I know I’m usually a dramatic person, but this experience literally was the scariest! We have a large IKEA dresser in our bedroom. This dresser is brand new to us. I’ve had my eye on this furniture set for four years, and when my sister and her husband moved to Saudi Arabia they gave us a steal of a deal, and my dream furniture was ours! YES! I just love our furniture! Liam enjoys pulling out all our dresser drawers so he can push them back in again. He’s never tried to climb them or anything, so I’ve only ever told him, “Don’t smash your little fingers, buddy!”

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One day last week he was engaged in his usual routine of pulling the drawers out and pushing them back in because…toddlerhood! Simple things are so much fun! I had just seen him up against the dresser pulling the last drawer out when I turned for two seconds to put my shirt on. The moment I turned, I heard a loud crash of something very large falling over. Would you believe it was the dresser falling forward? The entire IKEA dresser fell frontward toward Liam. To my surprise, he was up against the foot of our bed in a little space between it and the fallen dresser. He looked up at me with his beautiful (but scared) blue eyes and said his classic, “uh oh!” I picked him up, both of our hearts racing. We both started crying! I called Tyler to ask him to come get the dresser because I couldn’t lift this heavy furniture on my own, especially with all the drawers in the shape they were in. The face of the drawer closest to where Liam was standing was split. And I just kept thinking…that was supposed to be Liam. He should have been under there. Soon after this happened, Liam was back to himself…playing with his trucks and balls, like nothing ever happened. I, however, was in shambles.

My carefree, joyful little Liam.

Liam

Liam should have been CRUSHED. I’m not kidding you. There’s no way he should have known to move out of the way or had the reflexes to move that quickly. That dresser toppled over in an instant. The Lord clearly sent one of His angels to protect my sweet baby boy! I was not supposed to see this all play out, but I cannot tell you the miracle this was! At the very least, Liam’s toes should have been crushed.

I was reminded of a greater lesson that day. From the very beginning of parenthood Tyler and I prayed that we would always have open palms, never grasping our children tightly. We want the Lord to use them how HE desires. We want to always know in our hearts and minds that they belong to Him, not to us. Yes, He’s allowing us to shepherd, teach, disciple, and train them, but they are ultimately His. He has the most capable hands, and we HAVE to trust Him with them.

As moms, it can be a struggle to let go of our kids. Worry can consume us until we are almost paralyzed. I struggled on this day with all kinds of “what if” thoughts. What if that dresser had crushed him? What if he died that day? What if he couldn’t ever be the big brother we imagined him being because he was taken from this earth? What if we didn’t have his quirky, funny spirit in our lives anymore? What if what if what if? I have a vivid imagination, and I could see him lying under that dresser in my mind. These crazy thoughts HAUNTED me for a few days. But I knew they were from Satan, and they were unhealthy to allow in my mind. I knew God wanted me to focus on Him and His protection of Liam. I knew God wanted me to remember that I don’t have control, and that’s okay! Because HE is GOD. HE does the impossible. HE is our protector.

I know I’m not the only woman out there who worries. Worrying is my crutch for everything. It takes over my heart and mind at times, and I cannot always shake it. Crippling fear takes over, and the enemy distracts me from my focus on our good good Father. That is why I hold Proverbs 3:5-6 very close to my heart.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.”

I don’t know what situations you are facing that stir up worry and fear, but I pray that you can find scripture to focus on when temptation to give in to those things arises. I pray you will be able to fix your eyes on Christ, who is in control of all things. Life is hard. It’s hard to train our mind to focus on God instead of the circumstances we face, but it is vital. We cannot always understand the “whys” of what we face, but we can always acknowledge the One who knows the “whys.” He is a good good Father, and He is working everything out for His purposes. Thank you, Jesus!

I Don’t Want to Miss It

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I had the most beautiful time of worship recently. It had to be one of the most authentic times of worship that I’ve had in a very long time. It was a beautiful Palm Sunday. My alarm rang at 7:30, beckoning me to GET UP. I’m not a fan of mornings, so I desperately wanted to silence it and sleep another 45 minutes before the “getting ready grind” HAD to commence. I drug my lazy self out of bed because I smelled coffee brewing in the kitchen (thanks to my handsome hubby). I poured myself a cup of joe, grabbed my Bible and favorite cozy blanket, and I nestled into the couch, ready to prepare my heart for a Sunday of worship. I spent some time in prayer and read through a chapter in the Gospel of Luke. Then I heard a pitter patter of tiny footsteps coming my way. My baby boy came in, and he was saying “Mommy! Bible!” Smart boy. I WAS reading my Bible! So we grabbed up his Jesus Storybook Bible, and lo and behold the child who never sits still sat there with me, allowing me to read TWO Bible stories to him. It was a miracle! He and I prayed, and then it was time to get ready! Let me tell you something ladies… this is not an every day ritual for me because like I said… I hate mornings. BUT this set my heart up for some authentic worship I was about to have during our service. THAT is worth getting up for. Meeting with our sweet Jesus sets us up for our day, sets our hearts on worship, and refocuses our minds on what is truly important. That is seriously worth the maddening alarm every morning.

SO back to this day… service was focused on the death of Jesus, His sacrifice, and His love for us. It was great, but I can guarantee our church service was not the reason I was able to encounter Jesus quite like I did this morning. As my heart and mind were already focused, the words of the songs were especially meaningful. The focus on the cross and Jesus’ huge love for us was clearer to me. I wept as I thought about Jesus looking over Jerusalem, knowing He had come and the people were MISSING it. They didn’t understand who He was. They didn’t care. They were quick to chastise Him. They were more interested in the entertainment of His miracles rather than the message of them. They were face to face with the Messiah, and most of them missed it. I wept because I think we miss it so often. I miss it so often. I cried out to Jesus, “I DON’T WANT TO MISS IT. I don’t want to be part of the crowd that MISSES IT.” We don’t always understand that we are truly able to have daily encounters with Jesus, before His face, watching His power unfold in our lives. We don’t take His call to “love the widow, the sick, the poor” seriously. We don’t love God and love our neighbor. We continually step into church, looking for a “fill me up” service, only to never pour out on others. We don’t serve with our brothers and sisters. We get caught up in meetings, dirty diapers, sporting events, cooking, cleaning, laundry, studying, and we don’t even bat an eye toward those who need Jesus… or even toward Jesus Himself. I’m GUILTY.

We have gotten caught up in the machine. The machine of selfishness. We prayed a prayer to “become Christians” but we don’t really feel the need to take up our cross daily and follow Christ. Surely, He didn’t REALLY mean everything He said in the scriptures. Surely it isn’t true when He says, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:25). Surely I can continue in this sin, in this negative relationship, in this partying lifestyle because “God’s grace will cover me.” This is cheapening and taking advantage of His sacrifice and grace. Are these really marks of a believer?

Maybe Jesus was serious when He said we must give EVERYTHING we have to follow Him. Maybe He really meant all those things He said in the Gospels about grace and love and service. Maybe He really meant we must give Him our whole entire lives. Maybe He meant it when He said, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few,” (Matthew 7:13-14).

Oh, how my heart has been burdened lately. I don’t want to miss it. I want to take Jesus’ words seriously. I don’t know how exactly my life needs to change to better love my neighbors quite yet, but I do know that I need to do the next right thing. As soon as God reveals to me how to better love my neighbor like Jesus did, I need to be obedient. Let me tell you… I’m so far from perfect. I don’t have it together. I don’t heed Jesus’ instructions like I should. My life sometimes looks like I’m all about me. But as I continue to discover what a true follower of Jesus looks like, I pray He gives me the ability to follow Him boldly and fiercely.

And if you feel this same war inside yourself that I feel, let me share some words from the book “7″ by Jen Hatmaker with you:

“I don’t think God wants you at war with yourself. He sent the Prince of peace to soothe those tumultuous waters already. Self-deprecation is a cruel response to Jesus, who died and made us righteous. Guilt is not Jesus’ medium. He is battling for global redemption right now; His objective hardly includes huddling in the corner with us, rehashing our shame again. He finished that discussion on the cross. Plus, there’s no time for that. We’re so conditioned to being a problem that we’ve forgotten we’re actually the answer.”

So, now’s the time. Time to step up and be the Church Christ calls us to be. We’ve got to lay aside our guilt and move forward. Let’s serve the least of these together.

Life Should Be Interruptible

Oh, the Lord is trying to get a hold of my heart in new, exciting, and terrifying ways, ladies! I began a journey at the beginning of this year. I started reading about the life of Jesus in the Gospels more and more, and I can’t get over His LOVE for people. His compassion, His care, His deep devotion to service. I’ve been reading at least a book a month so far this year, and in February the Lord kept telling me, “READ ‘INTERRUPTED’” (by Jen Hatmaker). I started this book a few years ago and never finished it. I now know that my heart was NOT ready for the message God wanted me to hear at that time.

So, you’re probably wondering what in the world I’m talking about — WHAT message? Jesus is starting to WRECK my comfortable Christianity. You all know what I mean by “comfortable Christianity”… the Christianity where we attend church 3 times a week, the one where we sing our worship songs, read our Bibles, sing in the choir, serve in the nursery and youth group, and try to be kind to others, BUT also the one where I’m doing NOTHING radical. I’m not reaching out to the poor, the sick, the lonely, the homeless, the abused. I’m staying in my comfortable bubble where I hardly interact with anyone outside of our church. I sort of like it that way. Comfort is safety.

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While serving dinner to the homeless in Southern California, this woman’s T-shirt serves as a testimony to the reason behind the time, love and salad dressing she has donated to this forgotten community. Her relationship with Jesus — the ultimate Servant to us all — has spurred her on to interrupt her comfortable life and love on those outside her own church community. 

Photo by Lauren Koski 

Let’s be honest… Jesus didn’t just stay with His disciples or in the confines of the church. When you look at His ministry, He is literally reaching out to the outcasts. He’s healing lepers, the demon-possessed, the blind, the lame, and the deaf. He didn’t stay within the confines of COMFORTABILITY. I never intended to find myself here — comfortable and complacent, going through the motions of Christianity. I THOUGHT I loved like Jesus loves… and sometimes I do. To those in my family or those people who bless us or those who have the same beliefs or those who are clean. Yeah, I love them. But am I truly loving everyone? There’s so much more to this radical love than I knew. There’s a whole big world out there who needs Jesus, and we aren’t going to convince them of that through arguments or strangers appearing for a second to tell them of Jesus to never be seen again or even through ignoring them. Love, service, and relationships speak the loudest volumes.

I love that Jen Hatmaker speaks truth and challenges our complacency through sharing her story in Interrupted. She says, “Until we are all compelled and contributing, we’re settling for an anemic faith and a church that robs Christ followers of their vitality and repels the rest of the world.” I CAN’T AGREE MORE. The legalism has got to go. The unkindness has got to go. The selfishness has got to go. We need to be restored to what the Church should TRULY look like. Church isn’t a service… Sunday, Wednesday, whatever day. Church is supposed to be PEOPLE. People loving like and looking like Jesus. The Church should be the greatest aid to this hurting world, yet we seem to continually hurt it more instead of helping. Or we just remain complacent, flying under the radar while blessing only those people already part of our churches… pouring into ourselves alone.

It is the Church’s job to take care of those in need. The single moms, the orphans, the homeless, the sick, the elderly, the tired and weary. Our call in Matthew 25 to take care of those in need isn’t just a suggestion. CHRIST MEANS IT. Look at the severity of this call!

“At the final judgment: “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’”

Matthew 25:34-45

Doesn’t this BLOW YOUR MIND?! It is of utmost importance that we take care of those with need. Jesus’ life illustrates this beautifully, and as Christ followers our lives should be a reflection of His.

So where does this leave us? Where do we start? The needs of the world are so overwhelming when we think about the sum of them. We just have to START. Start in your homes. Collect change to donate to adoption agencies. Sponsor a child and write him or her letters regularly. Serve at a soup kitchen as a family. Simplify life in the home. Then broaden your horizons. Look at the needs of your community. How can your specific part of the Body reach your community? How can we make real change happen?

Jen says, “Transformation came in the form of dirty homeless men and abandoned kids. It came through abused women and foster children. It came through neighbors crying at my kitchen table. Transformation began with humility, even humiliation. It started with conviction and discipline. It increased through loss, not gain. It grew through global exposure and uncomfortable questions. It was born out of rejection, replanted in new soil. It was not found in my Christian subculture but in the eyes of my neighbors, the needs of my city, the cries of the nations. It was through subtraction, not addition, that transformation engulfed me, and I’ll tell you something: I am not the same… If an endless array of Bible studies, programs, church events, and sermons have left you dry, please hear this: living on mission where you’ve been sent will transform your faith journey.”

We’ve got to stop creating programs upon programs, trying to get the people to come to us. We’ve got to start meeting them where they are and actually start BEING the Church. I love that last quotation: “Living on mission where you’ve been sent will transform your faith journey.” We have to start where God has placed us. We have to start now.

Do You Have Stability?

Last week was a crazy one for the Clem’s. Tyler’s uncle passed away, so we had his visitation and funeral over the weekend. On top of that, Tyler was in the wedding of one of his best friend’s from high school. So we went straight from funeral happenings to celebrating a new union in Christ through marriage. Tyler’s cousin’s 9-year-old daughter said it best: ”Weddings and funerals are such opposite occasions!” (She’s basically a grown up in a 9-year-old’s body). Not to mention, we were asked many times over about our new baby… our sweet, little boy we will welcome into this world in May. So, his life and birth were on my mind, as well. Three very different, emotional occasions have been bombarding my thoughts.

The birth of a child is one of the most joyous events I’ve experienced on this earth. The freshness of life. The hope. The beauty of the Lord literally forming every bit of this tiny human — his physical body, his personality, everything about our precious peanut. God breathes every single breath into us. Amazing.

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The wedding we attended was beautiful. These two people from different backgrounds came together before the Lord and us. They chose a life together. They both love the Lord, and that was apparent throughout all the wedding festivities. Their union refreshed and reminded both Tyler and I of our vows we took three and a half years ago. Their wedding also reminded me of the church being the bride of Christ… we will have our union with the Father for all eternity in that great Wedding Day. It will be a day of great celebration when He sends Jesus to gather all of His people! What a day of REJOICING that will be.

And then death. Death is so final. I thought about that as we viewed the body last weekend. There’s no coming back, and when it’s so sudden, it’s hard to grasp that fact. There’s no more making wrongs right. No more chances to be kind or serve or live your life for Jesus. You’re gone, and you cannot come back. This was a reminder that our time here is limited. God has numbered each of our days, so what are we going to do with that time? Of course, if you know Him as your Savior, there’s no fear in death — great rejoicing, in fact! But for those who don’t know Him, there’s no comfort in the loss of their life. I had several thoughts throughout the funeral… some questions were raised in my mind such as, “What am I doing to share Christ with others? Am I bearing fruit, so that no one can even question whether or not I’m a believer? Am I living like a truly DEVOTED follower of Christ? Am I making the time count?”

All throughout this life we deal with many different emotions. Life is a roller coaster, and I was reminded of that this week. So, where do you find stability? Do you ride on the waves of circumstances and emotions or do you find stability somewhere? As much as people search, there’s only ONE source of stability in this life… Jesus Christ is our stability. He stays the same yesterday, today, and forever. His promises are always there. He is faithful. His love is steadfast. If we rely on other people or our circumstances to provide stability, we will be let down. We will fall on our faces. But if Christ is our stability, we will have a firm foundation. The winds and the storms of life may roar and threaten to rip us to shreds, but I’m telling you, you will stand firm.

rock

As I’ve dealt with all of these emotions this week, the Lord has brought some beautiful verses I want to share with you ladies. May God be your stability, your solid rock. May you not ride on waves of emotions but find your strength in Him instead.

“He only is my rock and my salvation, My stronghold; I shall not be greatly shaken.” Psalm 62:2

“When the whirlwind passes, the wicked is no more, But the righteous has an everlasting foundation.”
Proverbs 10:25

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.”
1 Corinthians 15:58

Clean Hands and a Pure Heart

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Purity. Purity is not necessarily valued in our world. Everywhere we look there is something prying your attention away from the things of God. Several shows on Netflix. Pornography. Social media. Even walking through the mall we’re tempted to overindulge in Great American Cookies (oh my… yum), and Victoria’s Secret screams in our faces, “You are not enough. Your body is completely undesirable.” The world tells us to give ourselves over to the flesh. “If it makes you feel good, DO IT.”

This could not be further from the truth. 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 has such a powerful message for us,

“Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.”

Purity is guiltless, blameless, innocent behavior. Our aim should be for PURITY! These verses tell us whoever disregards impurity doesn’t disregard man but GOD. Therefore, rejecting purity is rejecting the things of God. Purity is created and commanded by God. Our bodies belong to God and we should use them to glorify Him.

Jesus exemplified a life of purity. He offers us a relationship with Him, and when we begin that relationship, He wipes us clean. He makes us pure as snow. So are we pure once and for all and never have to really watch ourselves again? No. We continually have to be ON GUARD against Satan’s schemes. He wants us to overindulge and continually satisfy ourselves, seeking nothing but pleasure. When we see warning signs, we must flee as 1 Corinthians 6:18-20 says,

“Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

It’s amazing to me the grace Jesus offers us. When we mess up and indulge in impurity, His grace covers us. But that never means we should take advantage of His grace. We have to continually strive to set our hearts on Him. Seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness will be worth it.

Purity begins with making Christ our Savior — truly worshipping Him as the ONE and ONLY God. We cannot offer our souls up to idols of this world and have a pure heart at the same time. We daily have to examine our lives and see where we are falling short, praying for God to help us value the things HE values.

How are you reflecting Christ in your social media? How are you reflecting Christ in your homes? Does your family value purity? Do YOU value purity? Do you strive to exemplify Christ in all areas of your life?

For myself, I pray for clean hands and a pure heart (Psalm 24). We were bought with the blood of Jesus — that’s a MAJOR price to pay. Therefore, we must honor Him with the bodies, hearts, souls, and minds He’s given us. Think about this: What should you change today to become more pure like Christ? Find some accountability and work at it today.

We Are Daughters

Have you ever thought about how beautiful it is that we are adopted DAUGHTERS of Christ when we begin a relationship with Him? I’ve always thought this was awesome, but I got to see this in reality even more this week, and I’m overwhelmed!

One of my roommates and best friends from college, Anna, and her husband adopted a baby girl this month. She is 100% a beautiful, healthy miracle in so many ways. The timing of this adoption and seeing God’s hand all over it has been truly remarkable. My other roommate and best friend from college, Shelbi, and I got to visit with Anna, David, and baby Isla this past weekend. We got to hold this tiny precious girl… I studied her sweet little features and marveled at the miracle of her life. I watched as both her mom and dad fed her, changed her, and kissed her a thousand times over. They are CLEARLY over the moon in love with Isla. Anna may not have physically given birth to Isla, but I could see the intense momma-love pouring out of her. I could see how WILD they are for her. I could see that they would do anything for their baby girl because she is THEIRS. God gave her to them as a special gift, and they know that. They would never think to not treat her with such love, care, and tenderness. She belongs to THEM. She’s their DAUGHTER.

I1

I2

As I watched them with their new baby girl, I thought about this quotation by David Platt that is powerful to me,

“It’s important to realize that we adopt not because we are rescuers. No. We adopt because we are rescued.”

Even before Anna and David began dating, I knew Anna’s heart bled for orphans. I knew of her heart and desire to adopt. This passion for orphan care comes out of her realization that GOD has rescued HER. He has commanded us all to care for the orphans, and this is one of the ways He has led her to care for them. It was amazing to know her heart several years ago and to see this all play out. To see God’s hand over the entire process. I saw Anna’s unconditional love flowing freely for her baby girl, and I thought about God’s intense love for us. We become His daughters. That’s huge! He loves us even more deeply than we could ever love our own kids. We absolutely don’t deserve this kind of love. We are born into sin and deserve eternity in Hell, separated from God. But Galatians 4:4-7 explains this perfectly,

“But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba,Father.’ So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.”

This ‘sonship” includes that beautiful, gracious, unconditional love God so richly lavishes on us. He rescued us from an eternity separated from Him. And not only that, but He has also made us heirs. Heirs of eternity with Him in paradise. Heirs of this forever love. He’s no longer our master of slaves but our Father.

I just reminisce on Anna kissing sweet Isla’s lips over and over again, soaking her up, loving her to pieces…. and I begin to see all over again that love and adoration our sweet Father in Heaven has for us… His children. And with tears in my eyes, I’m beyond amazed at the beauty of adoption. We are daughters of the King.

I3

The King is Wild for You

Last week was the week of LOVE with Valentine’s Day on Sunday. We’ve been doing a series called “Happily Ever After” with our youth on Wednesday nights. My husband took the guys the first week while I took the girls. Then we flip-flopped last week. We talked about things ranging from purity to sex to relationships to their worth in Christ. I want to share a bit of what I wrote for the girls’ session because there may be some young girls out there who need to read it.

So, I want you to think. What does LOVE make you think of? Do you have an image that pops into your mind? Is it the Cinderella and her prince charming kind of love or do you possibly see your grandparents’ love that’s withstood time or do you possibly think of Jesus and His ultimate sacrificial love?

When I was a teenage girl, I associated love with Disney movies, for sure. I thought love was the be all and end all in this world. I thought the ultimate goal was to fall in love with a guy, marry him, and have tons of babies. I thought it would be ALL HAPPY ALL THE TIME. I took “happily ever after” very seriously! I didn’t expect love and relationships to be hard work. As much as I LOVE Tyler, Liam, and our new baby, it’s not all happily ever after. Life is hard. It just is. Therefore, relationships are hard. And even when you walk through life with people you love and would do anything for, relationships still take a lot of hard work.

It has been a journey even getting to a place where I felt like I could be loved. I was painfully insecure in middle school. For your treat… middle school Andi:

I felt like I had ZERO worth. So, if I knew a guy liked me or paid attention to me, it made me feel validated. I felt like I was finally worth something. Someone wanted me, and that felt good. I had a boyfriend my 7th and 8th grade years. He was all the girls’ crush in our youth group. He was the IT guy. He played soccer and was tall, dark, and handsome. He had a great family and seemed like he had a good head on his shoulders. So we dated, and he would tell me I was pretty and stuff. He would sweet talk me and tell me what I wanted to hear. I thought I LOVED him. I would doodle my first name with his last name on my notes in biology class. I thought he was the greatest thing God ever made. As we were dating, I accepted Christ as my Savior and began a sweet relationship with Him. I began realizing HE was the reason I had any worth. This guy and I ended up breaking up, and I was a mess. Because I had given this guy my heart and was so wrapped up and invested in him, it CRUSHED me. I thought my world was destroyed. I had put all my security in this guy. I thought I was WORTH something because he liked ME. I was so blind to his manipulation and how he took advantage of my fragile emotions because I thought I LOVED him so much. I chose not to see any of the red flags that alerted me that I shouldn’t date him. Because of my heartbreak, I had to continue on this path of realizing my worth in Jesus Christ, not in guys and their attention.

Ladies, when we put our faith, hope, trust, and worth in guys, we will ALWAYS be let down. When we don’t see ourselves as valuable, we give ourselves away… even to scumbags! I’ve seen many girls give their entire selves away… purity and sexuality, emotions, and their whole hearts to guys who got what they wanted and ditched them afterward. This leaves the girls completely heartbroken and feeling crazy amounts of shame. This isn’t RIGHT. We should not allow for this to happen. We are WORTH something because of Jesus; not because of any guy. Jesus’ love is REAL TRUE LOVE. Jesus Christ looks at you with so much LOVE. True, genuine, wholehearted LOVE. He thinks of you with great value. He died on a cross to allow for a relationship with you because He loves you that much. He would never manipulate you, give you a false sense of hope, or take your heart and smash it to the ground. NO. He thinks of you as His precious treasured daughter. If we know Jesus as our Savior, then He is our king. We are part of His body and kingdom. He desires you! I love Psalm 45:10-11 in the Message:

“Now listen, daughter, don’t miss a word:

forget your country, put your home behind you.

Be here — the king is wild for you.

Since he’s your lord, adore him.”

The King is WILD FOR YOU. If we truly found our worth in Him, that would be enough. He would be enough. And if He were enough, we wouldn’t feel like we had to give ourselves away to any guy who gives us attention. Our standards would be high, and we wouldn’t fly on the sails of guys’ attention. We would truly know our worth because of Jesus Christ. We are a PRIZED POSSESSION. Just think about the thought and care God put into creating us. And His depth of knowledge about us! Go read Psalm 139! Here’s a snippet:

“For you created my inmost being;

you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

your works are wonderful,

I know that full well.”

Psalm 139:13-14

You are fearfully and wonderfully made! I clung to these verses throughout middle and high school. I HAD to be reminded of the love God has for me. So, I urge you… abide in God’s love, my sweet sisters. He is so good. He wants the best for you. He wants your heart and deserves it more than any guy does. In Christ alone you’ll find the greatest satisfaction and the ONLY true and lasting satisfaction. No relationship is worth compromising your devotion and commitment to Christ. Dump that guy who takes advantage of you, get some accountability, and grow in sweet relationship with Christ. I promise it’s worth it!

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