Paint & Passion

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If you walked into my parent’s house, the first thing you would notice would be an entryway table that was made to hold the pictures of maybe three grandkids but is actually holding the pictures of eleven. Then you would notice that no place in the world smells better than this one filled with the scent of food cooking and twenty different candles burning and then, you might turn your head just to the right and notice a hutch full of tea sets.

These are the things that my mom collects. Her people, her candles, and her tea sets. Her love of candles was passed down to me and my sisters by osmosis. Scent is an addicting thing and when your childhood home smells as wonderful as mine did, you want to keep that good thing going for your kids. And as far as her people go, well they’re my people too and we tend to that collection together.

The tea sets were a little different though. I can pinpoint when she passed that appreciation on.

I was thirteen and smack dab in the middle of misery.

My seventh grade basketball picture should come up when you google “awkward phase.” I was skinny as a stick, had braces, a unibrow, and a super short haircut that would have been cute on a grown woman with confidence and sass but just made me look like a boy.

I think my mom knew just how bad things had gotten and any girl can tell you that the way to cure a bad day is with some girl time. So, one day, my mom let me skip school for the afternoon and took me to a pottery painting shop that had just opened.

“Let’s paint a tea set!” she said to me, eyes smiling. And we did.

For weeks, we would go to the shop for an hour or so and paint one tea cup, one saucer, one sugar dish at a time. We decided to do it in Mary Engelbreit fashion — a bright yellow base with black polka dots and hot pink swirls. It became our project and every time we finished a piece of the set, we would paint our initials on the bottom in solid black paint.

I would watch my mom swirl on her “SDF” and thought that there had never been prettier letters anywhere. I would try to match my “KEF” with her letters and I could swear that each cup’s initials looked better than the last. I wanted them too anyway. I wanted my handwriting to look like her’s, my painting to look like her’s, my life to look like her’s because there we were in a bright little pottery shop surrounded by paint and dirty brushes and she was choosing to stay. She wanted to be with me, an awkward nobody who had to safety pin my pants because I was tall enough to shop in the junior’s section but certainly not curvy enough.

We visited that shop for weeks until our tea set was done. We brought it home and I helped my mom put it into her tea set hutch. We stacked our bright polka dotted cups and tea pot right next to her fine Austrian China. She let our oversized pottery edge out the delicate, floral patterns and gold leaf swirling that had been her’s for decades.

She let the set that we made take center stage. All because it was ours.

That tea set isn’t valuable. It certainly shouldn’t even be in the same category as some of her beautiful pieces, but it’s still there in that hutch, our loud, swirly, polka dotted set is what grabs your attention.

That set is the product of a bunch of ordinary afternoons where my confidence was built and my self worth was affirmed. That set says, “My Mom chose me and she wants you to know it.”

That time that she spent with me, sharing her stories and her art and her moments, resulted in a shared love. She invested the time in our relationship and because of that, a passion was passed on to me.

Of course, I’m not crafty like she is but I certainly love and appreciate the beauty in the swirl of a teacup and the joy that comes from holding something so pretty in your hands. She gave me that by investing in our relationship, just like she passed on her love for prayer and for studying the Bible, her love of worshiping and her love of investing in people.

You see, that tea set taught me more than how pretty a tea cup can look or how relaxing painting can be. It taught me the key to passing along passion and love; it’s time, consistency, and relationship.

This is important. Pastor and commentator R. Kent Hughes says, “While [Genesis 2:18] relates directly to the creation of Eve, it is also a primary ontological statement about the nature of man, who is, whether he admits it or not, a relational being. His growth and significance are worked out in relationships.”

As Christians, our growth and significance comes through investing in and building God’s Kingdom by investing in and building people. Look at how the early church did this in the book of Acts.

“Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” Acts 2:46-47 NIV

They spent quality time with each other consistently, and together, through relationships, they built the Kingdom of God.

Just like my mom was always consistent in sharing her love and her passions with us, the early church did the same. And the results were the same; the passing on of passion. The building of relationships between both people and those people and God.

Sometimes, a lot of times, passing on our passion for our faith and love for the Lord can be boiled down to investing time, love, and energy in a relationship. Whether it’s through shared interests, shared situations, or some tea in a pretty little cup, let your relationships dig deep and long and let the moments add up. Whether it’s through painting or praying, let that passion travel.

This Is Your Story

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You are broken.

 You are powerless.

 You are sinful.

You are hopeless.

You are dirty.

You are undeserving.

You deserve death. Eternal death.

Your sins should separate you from your Father. They should stop Him from loving you. They should define you. They should lead to condemnation and death.

But they don’t.

You see, you were perfectly crafted by the King. The Creator of the Universe knit you together, perfectly piecing together every detail that makes up you. With hands so mighty, a heart so loving, and a mind so creative, you were made. And then, the King decided you were worthy enough to behold His image. His perfect and most sovereign image was to dwell in you — His beloved child.

With a flawless plan written for you, He sent you out into His world. His plan for you was full of blessings and magnificent moments. He knew your hearts inmost desires and eagerly awaited to fulfill them.

Unfortunately, falling captive to temptation, you took a bite of the apple and were no longer clean. No longer pure. No longer deserving. 

That moment of weakness was enough to separate you from the King, your Father, because your flawed self could no longer be in His perfect presence.

You were now a prisoner chained to sin. Only a life of misery and destruction lay before you.

And so it was over. The hope offered. The love freely given. It was all gone.

Or so you thought.

For the barrier that was put up between you and your Father was about to be torn down in the most extravagant of ways. 

Your Father saw you in your desperate state. His love for you was so deep and so wide; He simply couldn’t let you go.

And so He sent His son. His one and only son. His perfect and spotless son down to this rotten and wicked earth.

In the form of a tender, fragile, and beautiful baby, our freedom was delivered.

Jesus.

Our Savior.

He came and radically changed the way people thought. He challenged the current beliefs and ways of life.

With every touch of His hands and every word spoken another person was healed. Another person experienced the love of Jesus. Another person accepted the freedom that was offered through a life lived with Him.

He was perfect, this Jesus. Walking blamelessly and loving unconditionally. There had never been a man like Him before.

But sin still held you captive. 

And so your Father did the unthinkable. With His intention set from the beginning, your Father told His Son to bear the weight of your sins. To endure death so you didn’t have to. To take on your punishment.

For you. For me. For all of us.

The weight of the world on His shoulders.

Eventually, the time came. The world jeered and heckled, cheering for the crucifixion of their Savior.

Whips penetrated His flesh until His skin was raw. A crown of thorns was dug deep into his scalp until beads of blood began to run down His face. He was forced to carry His wooden cross while the weight of it pulled Him further to the ground and closer to His death. Nails were hammered into His ankles and wrists tearing through skin and muscle. A spear pierced His side guaranteeing His death.

All of this happening to Him, your perfect and blameless Savior, instead of you.

And with His final breath, hell thought it had won.

The Savior of the world dead. Our hope gone. Life shattered. A future of imprisonment and death guaranteed for you. 

For all of us.

But then. In His mighty and most wondrous ways, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the Creator of the Universe breathed life back into His Son, and raised your Savior up from the grave.

And with that breath of life, the empty tomb, your resurrected King, your life began.

Your chains were broken.

Your freedom was returned.

Forgiveness, mercy, and grace could now flow freely from the hands of your Father into your heart.

A life of dancing in the rain, basking in the sun, and running freely through the wildflowers was given to you.

Because your Father loves you so much, because His love is unconditional and extravagant, and because you are His child — He did whatever it took to save you.

You are healed.

You are powerful. 

You are forgiven.

You are made clean.

You are loved.

You are made new.

You are free.

Your Father’s love for you holds no boundaries. Nothing can separate you from His love. No matter your past or present, your sin is washed white by His blood.

No mistake or lifestyle is too big for Him to forgive, too bad to stop Him from loving you, or too powerful to overcome.

You are not defined by your past mistakes. You are not held captive any longer to the chains put on you.

Your Father created you with the inmost desire to do life with you forever, and He went as far as sacrificing His son to make this possible. 

Invite Him into your life and let this be your story.

Do not continue to live captive to your sinful self. Instead, accept His love and forgiveness. Bask in the story of redemption being offered to you.

Believe the truth: You are a child of the King and you are free.


About the Author

IMG_5862MORGAN COLANDER

Hi! My name is Morgan Colander. I am a senior at Lee University in Tennessee studying to be an elementary teacher. I am attempting to survive these college years as I learn to rely more on God and less on myself while being surrounded by new opportunities and decisions. College has presented itself with its difficulties- college budget, college dorms, college food, an endless list of things to do, and plenty of homesickness- but through it all, I have never been more dependent on God and realized how incapable I am to do life without Him. God, family, and friends are all I need to survive in life but some junior mints, a hike up a mountain, laughter, and some sarcasm definitely add some joy to the journey.

Live for Today

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The one thing that God wants from us is to trust Him, day by day. Us women are dreamers and we so easily think about what will come. I think about getting married and having babies and starting my life. That’s good! God gave me those dreams and he wants me to pursue them in full confidence of the things he is able to do in the midst, but no matter what stage of life I am in, I am called to live for today.

“Seek the kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need. So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring it’s own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” Matthew 6:33-34

This verse reminds me not to worry because my future is in the hands of the one who created the universe, but it also reminds me not to be anxious for the future. I don’t want to be so caught up in what God will do later that I miss what God is doing now. At this point of my life, I find myself thinking about what WILL come so often. I am in a time of transition and to be honest, I’m not doing a whole lot right now. I have a lot of time to spend daydreaming about what will come later, but that isn’t where I am. I’m only at the beginning of my journey and it’s time for me to live in the fullness and live as light wherever my feet are walking each day.

James 5 talks about not being caught up in the worries of where we will be tomorrow but trusting in what God is doing before my very eyes. He is doing huge things in my life and He is blessing me beyond what I could have thought, so why am I spending so much time thinking about what will happen later.

In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6, when Jesus teaches the Lord’s prayer, He reminds us that He will give us our DAILY bread. He didn’t give the Israelites manna to last a week. He gives us what we need as we live. We are meant to live day by day and the Lord promises to meet us right where we are in each day. I need to trust in his ability to provide for me today and I need to remember that He will continue to provide every day after today.

As I sit at the kitchen table writing this, I realize that even though my mind so easily drifts to a different place, where I am right now is preparing me for it and God is meeting me here and now. He reminds me of His sufficiency and He reminds me that He is working all things together in His timing. I can rest in the fact that He has something specifically for me today and I don’t want to miss that.

“O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. You go before me and follow me. You place your blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!” Psalm 139:1-6


About the Author

ME!REBEKAH RALPH

My name is Bekah. I am 18 years old and I live in beautiful Colorado. I love people and I love my Jesus and this incredibly blessed life He has given me.

Fear of Man

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I remember as a little kid, my brother and I learned how to make a squirrel trap for our backyard. To be honest, it was never going to catch anything, but it kept us entertained for hours. It was a cardboard box with a rope attached to a stick that propped the box up on one side. Once the unsuspecting animal went under the box, we yanked the rope and the box collapsed on our prey. Rudimentary, yes. But, in our eyes, it held the potential to catch something big and we were all about the hunt. Looking back, I’m not sure why the thrill of catching a squirrel was so exciting. I have no idea what we were going to do once we caught one, but the adventure of trapping something was fun.

I’ve thought back to that trap and ones like it several times in my life. The truth is that while I never caught anything of my own, I’ve often found myself locked into various other traps in life. If we’re honest with ourselves, I’m pretty sure all of us at different points in time have been caught in a trap or two as well. And while there many type of traps that can catch us, I’ve often found myself tangled up over and over again in the same kind of trap. Apparently, my variety of trap is the “fear of man” type.

Maybe you’re like me and you’ve occasionally spent too much time worrying about what other people think. You’ve overanalyzed your decisions. You’ve lived in fear of disappointing someone you love. You’ve held yourself back from saying something that you knew needed to be said. You’ve basically been paralyzed. You’ve been a slave to fear.

Recently, I was having a conversation with someone and they said to me: “you worry too much about what other people think.” I tried to defend myself, but I realized that what she said was true. I am often a slave to other people’s thoughts and opinions of me. I often find myself in a trap of what I perceive other people will think, and many times that has held me back from doing what God has or is calling me to do. I think we often find ourselves cowering in fear because that is where we feel the safest, but the wise words of Proverbs tell us the exact opposite. Proverbs 29:25 says, “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.” In this verse, we are clearly told that our fear of other people is a trap. Plainly stated – it is sin. The only place we are truly safe is when we are trusting in the Lord.

Throughout scripture, we see many men and women who sinned against God because their fear of someone else got the better of them. Let’s look at the story of Jonah and how his fear of the wicked people of Nineveh made him literally run from God (Jonah 1). That did not turn out for him so well. A few days in the belly of a big fish doesn’t sound too fun to me! Or let’s look at the story of grumbling Israelites, who after being led by God to the Promised Land became so afraid of the people who were there (because of their height and strength) that they grumbled against Moses and refused to enter. In fact, they were so afraid that they began thinking it would be better for them to go back to Egypt – back to their slavery! (Number 13:25-14:4). Their fear and refusal to trust God cost them forty years of wandering in the wilderness. Many of them were never able to enter Canaan, the Promised Land. It’s sad to think that their lack of trust and their fear of other people cost them so much.

I don’t know if this is an area where you struggle, like I have, but most of us have a trap and are ensnared by something. A verse that I’ve memorized that has helped me and given me hope is Hebrews 12:1:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

The writer of Hebrews knew that we would be trapped by sin in our lives, but he gives us hope. He says in verse 2:

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Because of Jesus, we don’t have to wallow in the traps of life. We don’t have to cower down to the fear of other people. We don’t have even have to live in shame that our past fear of others, or other traps, has caused us to be disobedient. We can move forward trusting God. We do not have to give into the alluring sin that tells us our fear is the best place for us to be. We are called to be free. God gave us Jesus and because of that, we are safe and not ensnared in a trap.

“The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.” Proverbs 18:10.

Today, let us remember that we can boldly trust in God. He is our safe and strong tower.


About the Author

profileKAREN TAYLOR

Hi, I’m Karen Taylor. I live in Jackson, Tennessee and for the past 11 years, I’ve had the incredible privilege of working in Student Life at Union University. I enjoy working with college students and teaching in women’s ministry at my church. In my free time, you would most likely find me reading, checking out local antique stores, traveling or hanging out (and laughing!) with friends. And, fair warning: I can’t be trusted in front of a bowl of chips and salsa. I love discovering all of the new things that God is teaching me. It is my desire to teach and encourage others in their walk with the Lord and to live out Proverbs 27:17: As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.

But I had hoped…

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This weekend, I gathered with a small group of women on mission here in Zambia and we reflected on the lives God has called us to, other women’s testimonies we can relate to, and passages in God’s Word, all the while eating delicious food and enjoying one another’s company. We had gathered to go through retreat material created by an online community for women living overseas called Velvet Ashes. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting to get too much out of this half day of activities, other than some extended girl time, but God certainly met us there. Our morning retreat was a powerful time set aside to reflect on the most important thing in life, our relationship with Jesus. After coming away from our time feeling so refreshed, I didn’t realize how much I had needed this time.

One of the most powerful parts for me was going through Luke 24, where Jesus appears after his death to a couple of believers on the road to Emmaus. If you are familiar with this passage, you will remember that the pair walking together were discussing Jesus’ death with a stranger on the journey with them, but the whole time they were kept from knowing the stranger that was with them was actually Jesus himself. It’s a unique picture of how God is always with us, even when we aren’t aware of His presence. He longs to hear the deepest cries of our heart when we think no one important is listening, He is there.

In verse 21, they lament about how the chief priests and rules sentenced Jesus to death, and they go on,

“But we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place.”

Stop here.

Now, if we jump ahead, we know that Jesus actually rose again on the third day, he was walking among them, and not only did He redeem Israel, but his death redeemed all mankind. He had to die so that we might have life, but this was not yet revealed to them, they didn’t yet know the bigger picture. They didn’t yet know Who was listening to them as they walked.

But we had hoped…

I want to invite you, like the authors of my retreat study invited me, to think back to a time when you were as disappointed and distraught as those walking together on the road toward Emmaus looking for answers. What were the disappointments you were (or are currently) carrying? Take some time to just list them out.

But I had hoped (fill in the blank for yourself)…

Go ahead and list as many things as you would like.

This was so powerful for me to admit the things that I had hoped God would have done for me, the ways I had hoped I would have reacted, and the things I had hoped to feel. For me, to admit that I was disappointed about certain ways things had turned out lifted a huge burden. I knew that some of these disappointments were in the back of my mind frustrating my everyday life, but I was afraid to give voice to them.

Confession, even if first just to myself and God, is powerful. Life often doesn’t pan out the way that we expect it to, and as much as I wish I could just go with the flow and trust God in it all, often I don’t. It’s hard to admit it. I’m so worried about coming face to face with the not so great ways I am feeling and reacting, that I rob myself of the freedom I experience when I consciously confess my disappointments to Jesus. The truth is, he already knows, why am I so afraid?

Next, we were asked to take a look at our list of disappointments, and ask ourselves which of these God may be asking us to offer back to him. This is kind of a strange concept, and I don’t think it was meant to say when we exchange our disappointments to God He gives us what we want in return. Rather it’s the act of acknowledging our disappointments and opening ourselves up to Him that puts us in a position for true peace.

I invite you to also ask God what he wants you to do with that disappointment. Is he calling you to trust him with that disappointment? Is he calling you to let go of that disappointment? Is he calling you to just be still and wait?

For me, the answer was TRUST. Such a simple word and idea, but a deep concept to embody. I must trust, even though a lot of my disappointments were for good things, He is God, His ways are higher than my ways. He may fulfill the missing things my heart is longing for in a different season or in a different way, or I may never get an answer. But I found so much power in just confessing what I was longing for or sad about, and then laying it at his feet. He cares about how I feel, but He knows what I truly need, and he promises he has given it to me.

The other passage we went through at the retreat was Psalm 23, and as I sat there thinking about God’s provision co-existing with my disappointments, the first verse of the Psalm came to mind.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.” Psalm 23:1

I lack nothing.

Though I am disappointed, though I fall short, though some things may never get answered, I lack nothing. As the Psalm proclaims, my Good Shepherd knows all that I need, he is leading me to green pastures and quiet waters.

This doesn’t mean that I won’t face difficult seasons or moments where my pastures feel anything but green and it seems the waters are far from quite. In fact, the Psalmist calls where he is at “the valley of the shadow of death.” However, even in my lowest of lows, God is with me, He is with all of us.

He is a God that comforts, guides, anoints and restores us. There is such peace in that. God is God, He is the one orchestrating all of the good and wonderful things around us.

May we find Him in our valleys and our disappointments, but instead of letting those things take center stage, may we conclude with finding fulfillment in our Maker.

May we find ways to stop running around and worrying about the things that haven’t turned out the ways we had hoped, but instead lay down in the green pastures He offers within the storm. Join me in finding peace this week, in pouring out our true hearts, but still fixing our eyes on the hope that comes only from Him.

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?

Power of Marriage

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Confession time. This week, I had a moment. Now, if you don’t know what I mean by “a moment,” you might once I’m done describing it. You know, those times when logic gets the boot and we just let emotion run the show. Where the tears seem to flow freely even when we don’t want them to and the reasons for it are as lost to you as a needle in a haystack.

Well, actually, when my “moment” came over me this week, the reason was not very hard to find. It was all over the bathtub and the carpet outside of the bathroom. It was all over the bath toys and the porcelain and the smell of it was all up in my nose. If you haven’t guessed it, it was poop.

My daughter, who we have finished potty training and who has pretty much mastered the art of using the porcelain throne had some tummy troubles, threw caution to the wind and pooped all over the tub during bath time. And then she had the same troubles again right outside the bathroom door while she waited for me to clean out the tub. It was terrible. It was nasty. It was apocalypse now all up in the bathroom. And all this came after a day that had been spent fighting the typical battles that come from the terrible two’s and my own frustrations.

I held it together for the most part, cleaning and sanitizing everything and then drawing a new bath for the kids. The rest of the day went on and bedtime came as usual and then, when we were lying in bed, my sweet, unsuspecting husband opened the door for the freak out.

“Are you ok babe?” he asked me.

“Sure. What do you mean?” I said.

“Well, you just seem a little overwhelmed today. Not completely your self.”

That was it. He had opened the hatch and the crazy, cuckoo birds were free. Cue the hysterical “moment” I’ve been leading up to. Declarations of how my day was, “Nothing but poop!” and how, “Everything is a battle.” Tears came over a day that, in my head, had seemed so awful and my wonderful husband offered solution after solution, and encouragement after encouragement all while I shot them down. It finally ended with my mentioning that it was late and I had to be up at 6:30 to get our son to school. I hadn’t meant it to be sassy but I’m sure it came across like it and thus ended my drama and selfishness for the night.

He had only meant to help me talk it out, to encourage me and to touch base but instead, he got to have a front row seat to my complaining and selfish pessimism. I wouldn’t have blamed him if he never tried to touch the subject again. I hadn’t been open to the (very good) solutions he had offered to our terrible two’s struggles or how he had validated my frustrations. I had just wanted to be mad and wallow and to choose to see the negative. Who would want to open that can of worms again, huh?

My wonderful husband. That’s who. The next morning, he made the kids breakfast and helped me get them dressed. He made sure that I got to shower and get ready in complete, uninterrupted peace. He checked in with me throughout the day and jumped at every opportunity to lighten my load. Why? Because we’re married that’s why.

I had my moment, the one that revealed where I was struggling to walk well in my calling of motherhood. He saw as the walls cracked and selfishness and anger were creeping in. He heard it all but instead of judging me or resenting me or taking a step back so I could figure out my heart issues on my own, he pushed in close and decided to serve and love and help me. Instead of letting my struggles be my struggles, he made them ours and he did all that he could to create a space for me to be refreshed and find the place that I needed to be in.

I know this is not a monumental struggle. I know that it might seem small, but the message and the action that was demonstrated in these ordinary circumstances is not small at all. My husband saw the worst of me. He sees it all the time actually but what I have in our marriage is a place where the worst of me can come out and then be worked out with a helpmate.

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2 NIV

Within the space of a marriage, our worst selves are safe to be revealed not so we can dwell with them, be comfortable with them or embrace them, but so we can find our way away from them towards righteousness with the help of someone who loves us unconditionally. Nothing on this earth mirrors our walk with Christ better than that.

Love, the bedrock, the motivation, the heart, and the soul of marriage and of Jesus sacrifice for us as well, is the reason for this. Why? Because 1 Corinthians 13: 4-6 says that “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth”

The very feeling and action and power that is synonymous with marriage is something that has selflessness and servanthood and safety at it’s core. It takes no pleasure in evil but pushes and perseveres until the truth of who we are in Christ is revealed. And then it rejoices.

That is marriage. The ever present, ever persevering force of love that propels us towards our goals of righteousness.

As if his actions didn’t speak it clearly enough this week, my husband said something today that was beautiful and profound.

“You’re supposed to do everything you can to help your spouse achieve their goals.”

That doesn’t just go for getting a promotion or running a marathon. That applies to spiritual things too. Things like helping your wife, the crazy, frazzled stay at home mom, find peace and power and provision from Christ to mother in grace and joy.

This week, I’m praying about ways that I can do that for Scott. Will you join me in seeking the Lord about how we can help our husbands grab hold of the things that God is doing in their hearts? Will you pray about how to make your marriage one that better mirrors the love and safety and motivation that we find in Christ? Because I promise you that the “moments” are going to come where the not so good sides of ourselves or our spouse will be revealed but within them, we get to make room for God to use us and our promise to each other to propel us towards righteousness.

When the Path Changes

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I wonder what it would be like to suddenly wake up 10 years ahead or behind in time.

Like you fall asleep as an awkward middle school girl floundering for social recognition and then wake up the next morning in an apartment with a roommate and a diploma waiting for you at the end of the week.

You fall asleep fretting over a skater-boy and wake up pondering a move back home and a far away job interview.

One moment, you’re waking up in the middle of the night to raid the refrigerator, the next moment you’re waking up because you realized how much a refrigerator is going to cost you as new grad.

No joke, these are very true and very recent stories. I woke up this morning thinking how silly it would be to wake up in another time — how freaked out I would be — and then for a moment I wished I had woken up in the past instead of the present.

Time is changing too quickly for me.

I don’t want to move far away from family, but I don’t want to stay either. I have grown frustrated with the community I’ve made in school, but I am afraid of losing that community. I want to move forward in my career, but I also want to hide from the world and binge-watch Netflix.

I’ve mentally blocked friends’ grad parties and other milestone events because I can’t deal with the goodbyes. My Snapchat feed is bipolar; my Instagram is nonexistent. One of my coworkers sent me words of affirmation through a text and I dropped my phone like a hot potato after reading the first line. I eventually read it… and cried.

And yet, #DegreeMe has become an icon, of sorts, among my friends and me, as well as other phrases such as, “Get me out of here.”

I’m a mess. I’m a spoiled mess because I’m graduating with a college degree, in America, with a job interview lined up and a supportive family… and my emotions are as present and toxic as the popcorn ceiling in my apartment.

But, this has allowed for some amazing, blissful moments with the Lord.

About a week ago, I was at the Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center in Oklahoma for the Baptist Communicator’s Association workshop. Two hours ahead of California time, 1,000 miles away and also several cellphone service bars away, I was forced to sit and twiddle my thumbs instead using them to manipulate the joystick of my life and others’ lives.

On one of the more tearful nights, my introvert-self escaped the confines of our hotel room and explored the grounds.

Crossing the creek, I looked up to my left and I saw, through the trees, three tall crosses lit up in the night. They were beautiful and my heart longed to run to them even just for a simple visual of my Savior who I wanted to meet with.

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I’m coming! My heart cried, but as I stepped another foot forward, I hesitated. Leading to the crosses was an ominous pathway. It was dark with the nighttime, grizzled and forlorn.

I’m coming… My heart cried softer now. This was not the path I had expected.

I took my phone out to light the way— it was at 7 percent battery life — I cringed and questioned my decision yet again.

I hadn’t even bothered to change out of my conference clothes, so I was stumbling up the muddy path in my little heeled boots and tripping over the rocks. As I struggled, I increased speed with the thoughts of kidnappers, psychotic runaways and wild animals… and my phone battery drained away. But I kept moving.

Breaking through the trees and into the clearing, I looked back down the path where I had come and cried — alone, without a working phone and in the middle of the night — what was I thinking?

But though the journey was frightening, I saw the crosses in the distance and they compelled me to continue. Christ beckoned me forward; He showed me a place where He had already been.

That night, I found a seat at the base of the crosses where their concrete foundations had been over poured, creating a flat, dry surface. It was ideal for my chaotic heart. I sat there in the darkness and communed with my Lord.

It was terribly cheesy, but it was terribly needed and it became our spot while I was in Oklahoma. I went back there and the path looked so different lit up with the diffused sunlight of morning. I knew the rocks and mud were still there, but I was no longer afraid of those things. With the light, I saw something so much greater.


About the Author

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetLauren Koski

Well, hello there! My name is Lauren and I am a follower of Jesus Christ. As a senior at California Baptist University and the Editor-in-Chief of the campus magazine, Pursuit, you can find me at anytime reading in a coffee shop or working closely with my fellow editors in the newsroom. I believe in harnessing the media’s influence for the Gospel and believe that storytelling will be a strategic tool used for the growth of His Kingdom. I am excited to be interning with GLOW and look forward to the ways Jesus will use this platform for His glory.

See, I Told You

He sees your obedience, I promise, let me prove it to you. I’ve been waiting to tell you this for a long time.

I remember it so clearly. I asked my Father to please give me an answer. I was done with wondering and trying to make a decision. Should I stay home for college and stick with the original plan (the one that was easy), or should I go to school in Tennessee (the last thing I wanted to do)?

I went to check my email and saw I had just received a new blog post. The first words of the blog post were this:

“The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people, and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.’” Genesis 12:1

I’m not sure what all happened in this moment. As much as I wanted to crumble under the weight of what my Father had just told me, somehow I stood firm, took in a big, stabilizing breath and said, “Okay.” No questions. No doubts.

Looking back, this makes no sense to me. Going to Tennessee was the last thing I wanted to do. It was the thing I had vowed I would never do. But, there I was, simply accepting this command without question or hesitation. Fear penetrated me from all sides and sadness flooded my heart, but there was a peace that overpowered it all. A knowing deep inside my heart this was what I had to do. I had no choice.

This was in November 2012.

In August 2013 I made the move to Tennessee and began the greatest experience I had ever had.

I call it great not because I loved it, not because it was easy, not because it was my favorite thing ever.

I call it great because the life change I experienced was epic. Yes, epic. Larger-than-life, impressive, and grand.

It was exactly what He had planned out and knew I needed.

The many waterfalls of tears, the days filled with being homesick, and the countless number of times I experienced why college wasn’t for me was still never stronger than the call my Father had placed on my life.

To leave my home and move to Tennessee.

In the many moments of frustration and tears my parents would always remind me of my choice to transfer and finish school in Colorado.

My answer was always the same: I have to be obedient to my Father, and He was telling me to stay.

I also knew my Father called me to live life fully and for Him no matter the situation. Therefore, I did my best to thrive at college. I put myself out there and tried to experience it all. In doing so, I made amazing friends I will do life with forever, made incredible memories, and saw great things. Ultimately though, this place was not my home, and never once did I feel a desire to be in Tennessee rather than at home.

Person after person would ask me, “What if you got offered a job in Tennessee and not one in Colorado?”

I told them all the same thing. “I know that God is going to bless my obedience and honor my desire to go home.”

Some people would laugh at my confidence. Some thought I was crazy when I told them if I got offered a job here I would still go home. Lots just liked to challenge me and play the “what if” game. But still, I stood firm in my belief. I knew my Father knew the deepest places of my heart. I knew He placed that love for my home in my heart. I knew He saw the pain I was going through to be obedient, and I knew my good Father wouldn’t ignore that.

He loved me. He wanted me to be happy. He placed my desires in my heart for a reason.

And so for three years I fought. I fought hard. I did my best to be a servant at all times and find people to love. I sought my Father with everything I had.

Many days my attitude was rotten. I complained. I whined. I cried. But, I stayed.

Soon enough, the days of looking for a job grew nearer and my time in Tennessee was coming to a close. I waited day after day for my scheduled interviews. I was flooded with emotion at the thought of what I knew my Father was preparing for me. I knew this was the moment where He was going to show me He saw my obedience. He was going to guarantee me my place at home through a job.

My constant prayer was, “Father, I can’t wait to see your faithfulness and tell everyone about it.”

On March 16th 2016 I heard these words over the phone, “…and that is why I would like to offer you the job at Soaring Hawk Elementary.”

My chest heaved as I did my best to maintain composure and stop the sobs from escaping.

My mind whirled as each new thought overtook my mind.

My heart swelled with all the feels — excitement, shock, fear, and panic.

This was really happening. A school offered me a job — in Colorado.

As I sat there, trying my best to pay attention to what was being said to me on the phone, all I could think was, “Morgan, remember this moment. You just got a job offer. An adult job. To be a real teacher. This is happening. Don’t forget this feeling. Your dream just came true.”

It was in that moment the last three years were worth it. Every tear shed, every lonely night, every ache of my heart had led up to this — my dream coming true.

Ever since I was five years old I have dreamed of being a teacher. My heart has been captivated since the beginning of time with the beauty that kids are. They are made up of innocence, passion, goodness, generosity, and love. To have the opportunity to impact and help grow their hearts is something I cannot pass up. Rediscovering the beauty and mystery of this world with kids who so passionately desire to learn and grow is how I want to spend my days.

And now I get to. The dream, the calling, the desire my Father placed inside my heart from the beginning of time has flourished and developed into an extravagant way of life. One that is now officially a reality.

You see, the heart of our Father is a beautiful and good one. It is so intricately connected to ours and will not lead us astray. He will guard us and go before us. He will take care of us in the most perfect way.

He leads us places for a reason. His instructions to us are perfect and good. His plan for our life is unexplainably wonderful.

Do not doubt where He is taking you. When His direction for your life goes against everything you had planned, draw near to Him and sink into his touch. Allow the peace He offers you to flood your heart and overpower every other emotion. The fear, the sadness, the angst, the anger — they cannot compare to the peace your Father offers you. And when you allow your heart to be flooded with that peace, obedience to your Father’s calling can come so much easier.

And then, I promise you, obedience to His commands will be worth it. In following His plans for your life, He will take care of your desires, and He will bless you. He will look into the deepest places of your heart, the part He so intricately, carefully, and perfectly made, and make every dream come true. It may not be how you planned, but His most pleasing and perfect will is what you need.

Following the verse where God tells Abram to leave his home and go to another country, He tells him this:

“I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Genesis 12:2-3

The power this truth and promise holds is immense. His Word was true for Abram, and it is true for us.

“He replied, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.’” Luke 11:28

He is a faithful and unchanging God. When we are still enough to listen to Him and we obey, He will come through on the other side and bless us. He will grant us the deepest desires of our heart.

No matter the pain, sadness, or frustration we have to go through, He is bigger, and it will be worth it.

I have waited months and months to write this blog post. In the last three years I have tried to convince so many people I knew I was headed back to Colorado after graduation, but I knew until it was official I couldn’t prove it. My Father’s truths and promises need no proving by me, but experiencing His promises in my own life and letting it be a part of my testimony gives me the opportunity to let others see the truth when they don’t believe it. And now I can. Now I can prove how faithful my Father is. How well He knows the desires of my heart. That He blesses obedience. That all of this was worth it. That obedience is always the right answer.

To sum it up, I am over-the-top thrilled. I want to proclaim His goodness and faithfulness from the rooftops. I want the whole world to know the God I serve is a good God. He is a loving Father who takes care of us always. Who wants to bless us. Who will always lead us in the right direction.

His goodness in my life is more than I can fathom. I am so humbled by every opportunity He has presented me with. I deserve none of it, but that is the beauty of serving Him. We deserve none of what He gives us, but He still lavishes us in His love and goodness. Bask in it. Don’t let a moment go by without relishing in the ways He has lavished His love upon you.

See, I told you. He sees your obedience. Every single bit of it. The early mornings and late nights. The patience you are amplifying through being friends with that person. The compassion you show when you gave the money you didn’t have to the person who needed it more. The diligence in seeking Him always.

He will bless it. I promise you that. Stand firm, taking in a deep stabilizing breath, and keep saying, “Okay.”

And in time a blessing will come so big and so grand. It will be right in your face. Impossible to ignore. Too good to be true. So good that you know, it could only have come from your good Father.

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The Art of Practicing Love

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Love is kind of a gushy word. People use it often, but at the same time not enough. People sing about it, read about it, watch movies about it, and think about it sometimes constantly throughout the day. And yet, love is still hard to understand. Love, when talked about in the romantic context especially, can seem easy, automatic, almost an accident or something we can just “fall” into. But there is a deeper side of love that we also long for in the midst of the other loves we are surrounded by each day. A love that was demonstrated to us by God when he created the earth and everything in it, and then was confirmed as he journeyed with humanity demonstrating his love to the extent of sending Jesus to incarnate that love.

As John describes love in one of his letters to the early church, love is important because it is the way we display who God is in our everyday lives,

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” 1 John 4:7

This sweet little line is important, and many Christians and non-Christians would agree that love is important, but I have found it is easier to talk about the importance of love than to live out that love on a daily basis. The kind of love that John is talking about takes practice.

For example if I told you to just go out and love your husband, or your brother, or your neighbor it might be easy for you to agree with the idea but there are moments when it is very difficult to actually do. It’s easier for me to love myself and do what I want to in the moment and get my point across rather than choose to love someone else. But when I choose to love in that way, where I have directed my love at another person made in God’s image, it makes way for God to use me in that person’s life.

My church here in Zambia does not have a pastor, so people in our community volunteer for everything from music to Sunday school to preaching on a Sunday mornings. A few weeks ago, we invited a mission group that has been here for a couple of weeks to speak in place of the sermon and tell us about what they have been learning through their work here in Zambia. These women are birth attendants, so they go into the large government hospital every day to help out in the labor ward. One of them talked about one day at the hospital where she and a friend visited a woman who was alone in her room and about to give birth. The doctors were already prepared to help the woman give birth, so the women visiting didn’t actually have to do anything, but they stayed with the woman held her hand during delivery. At the end she told the girls that they were her angels and right before they came into the room she was praying for someone just to be with her during the delivery process.

These women came with skills and knowledge that allow them to work in the hospital, but it was in their obedience to love this woman and to see her and to simply be with her that God used them to answer her prayer. Their simple action of practicing love through being present made a difference for that woman and God was given the glory through them.

After these women shared their stories, it freed up the floor for some other women in our community to share about how God had specifically answered prayers through another person. That is amazing. You can be that person; I can be that person. If we truly receive the gift of love that God has first extended to us, it should flow out of us in every aspect of our love.

Adam Hamilton, a mega church pastor, was quoted in a book I was reading, giving a similar instruction to his congregation,

“If 12,000 of us realize that we’re missionaries first and we go out into our workday world every day on mission to bless, to love, to heal, to bring justice, to serve God in the workplace — then we finally begin to do that, I tell you, the world is going to be different.” (The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good, pg. 95)

It is not enough to know God’s mission and even to preach God’s mission, we have to practice God’s mission by bringing it to life through our actions in our communities. Look at your schedule, where can you practice extending God’s love today?

Are you going to the grocery store? How can you use that as an opportunity to practice God’s love?

Are you meeting a friend for coffee? How can you use that as an opportunity to practice God’s love?

Are you sending a bunch of emails? How can you use that as an opportunity to practice God’s love?

It makes such a difference for me when I am going throughout my day and I realize my opportunities to practice God’s love. I don’t always do this, and many days I can get stuck in autopilot just making it from one day to the next, but it makes all the difference when I take the time to consider how God can use me, I obey, and trust God with the rest.

Ways for us to practice God’s love are endless. Our world has so many needs, and many of you may have heavy hearts thinking about the people and places in our world crying out for God’s love in their situation. Where are your opportunities today to be that answer? There is so much to do, God’s work is not yet done, but what is the one or two things where he has called you to participate in it today?

Peter Greer sums up this idea well,

“I don’t know why suffering happens, and trite answers are offensive to those suffering. But I do know what happens when people see the pain of others and respond with Christ’s love.” (The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good, pg. 132)

Let us respond to our context in Christ’s love today. May we practice it where we have opportunities today. And when you are tempted to sit back and look the other way, pray for Christ to move in you and through you despite of you. Rely on his love when you don’t feel like you have any left of your own. May we open ourselves up to being his hands and feet right where he has placed us today. May Jesus work through us so that the words he read in the temple may again ring true,

“And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

Because he has anointed me

To proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives

And recovering of sight to the blind,

To set at liberty those who are oppressed,

To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’

…And he began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Luke 4:17-21

God is fulfilling this scripture today as well, many we pray for our eyes to be opened and for the strength to practice and participate in Christ’s work among us.

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