My Favorite Sibling And Why I Want Four Kids


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Dear Reader,

I was jokingly and snarkily asked a question a few days ago that has made me both laugh and contemplate over the span of then and now.

The question?

“Who is your favorite sibling?”

Silly, right?

Now, I know it’s PC to say that I don’t have a favorite… that they’re all equally amazing in my eyes…. that I simply couldn’t pick or decide who the #1 spot should go to.

And in one sense, that is totally true.

They are all amazing.

But it got me thinking about each of them individually… not to choose my favorite, but to look at their character and their strengths, and admire them as my peers.

I thought I would brag a little bit on how awesome my sisters and brother are.

Let me introduce them to you.

This is Abigayle.

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Abi fully lives up to the meaning of her name (I think we all do, actually. But she probably the most out of all of us). She brings life and joy wherever she goes, provoking laughter with her intellegent wit, bringing deep, meaningful silence to moments that seem chaotic, and great steadiness of soul in all moments.

Her hair is an all consuming force to be reckoned with, and always has been. And she has become on of my closest and most faithful friends, regardless of the fact that we “have to be friends.” She is my adventurer, my comrade, the kind of girl I wish was more like: one who is planted with joy in who she is and not who she is expected to be by the world around her.

Even in light of the constant, daunting question “What are you doing with your life?” she remains steady, holding on at all times (even when the difficulty is suffocating) to the promise that God makes everything beautiful within its time.

She follows Him, faithfully and to what some who don’t understand it label it as, to a fault… leaving the “right” track to serve, to grow, to love and to remain. Not the financially stable route, but honestly, the right route for her.

She is striking and lovely in every way.

This is Adilynn.

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Adi has suffered the most from age-gap-syndrome found in our relationship, and it was only within the last 3 years that I’ve really gotten to peer into the heart of her sweet soul.

I realized quickly that I’ve deeply missed out on growing with a young woman who has such grace in her ways that it often floors me.

She is a classic introvert, as she has created for herself a “cave”, in which she retreats most every day to recharge.

But she is mighty. And she is often loud within circumstance that she finds full of comfort and trustworthiness. She lives in her youth in many ways that we forget to as we grow up… with a sense of wonder, of learning, and laughter. But my goodness, she bring gentle beauty wherever she goes, and is growing into the most amazing model of the proverbs 31 woman.

She is the feather pillow that the three other Selby children need to fall into from time to time to cry or relax or laugh or enjoy. She is the warm cup of hot chocolate after playing in the rain for hours and hours. She is the human embodiment of those fireworks that blow up quietly and float down softly like glitter. She is the owner of the most contagious laughter I’ve experienced, encouraging thoughts that bring more life than a defibrillator and a winner of most children’s hearts. And she has the most beautiful eyes you will ever behold. True story.

This is Austin.

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In the conversation that I recounted for you, he was the predicted “favorite sibling”… which most would probably assume of each of us girls because of how much was adore the kid publically on a semi-regular basis… but if you had him as a brother, you would do the same. I’d bet $200 on it.

He is one of the greatest humans I know, even if he will deny it with frustrated sighing and exaggerated head shaking… but my sisters would probably wholeheartedly agree.

He has more talent, more enthusiasm, and more humor in his left hand than I do in my whole body, and he uses it flawlessly.

His mind and heart are firey. He walks with humble confidence, standing up for what he believes in, discussing difficult topics when needed, pursuing the Lord without borders and loving people better than most middle aged church goers do. He’s probably the best driver out of all of us, and provides the most wonderful safe haven in his presence to anyone who needs it.

He is this odd mixture of an old soul and a young heart… lively and wild, yet solid and faithful.

He is my favorite little brother, always and no matter what.

I can’t pick a favorite, because they all drive me to madness from time to time, as I’m sure I do to them with my loud, opinionated, dramatic self.

But each of them holds a place in my heart that is meant for only them… and I’d sacrifice sleep, money and my right arm for each of them without question.

The four of us make up this amazing unit that I wouldn’t trade for the world. I often find myself thinking how did I get so lucky to have three siblings who love me, challenge me, make me laugh, make me cry, comfort me when I cry, believe in me, pray with me and for me, and do life so well with me that I couldn’t imagine trying to do it without them.

They are why I want a big family… so that my own little ones can grow into amazing relationship with their own family (Lord willing,and through prayers I’m speaking out even now).

They are my favorite.

No question.

Three Things I’ve Learned in “The Honeymoon Stage”


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Dear Reader,

It’s been a minute since I’ve sat down to write down some of the lessons I’ve been bombarded with. Life gets a little intense sometimes, and because of that, I’ve not pursued sorting out my thoughts through words and then publically proclaiming them in this little space of the internet that I get to call mine.

But it’s been a radical few months, with lots of changes, lots of growth and lots of adventure… and so here I am, writing it out.

It’s been 56 days since Brady and I spoke loving vows to each other, promising that we would go hand in hand in this tiny community of matrimony for the rest of our lives. 56 whole days of being Mrs. Redick… which has already been mistaken for Redneck just a few too many times for people with working ears.

Yes, I now get the pleasure of having my first name AND my last name butchered regularly.

We’ve been married for just shy of three months, and it’s been an adventure every day thus far in growing and learning together and individually.

It’s been said that marriage teaches you a few things, and anyone who says differently has obviously never been married.

I’m happy and terrified to report that my expectations of marriage were as close to being true as San Francisco is as close to New York.

Here are a few examples:

1). I’ve slept in a full size bed all by my lonesome for almost ten years. I’ve shared that space only with my dog, who is a bit smaller than me when she is all stretched out in sleep mode. I figured that I would have to adjust to sleeping next to a full grown person… someone who might steal my covers, or side of the bed… someone who might like to be close to me when I desperately need my own space to sleep. Shockingly, I was wrong. I’ve found that I sleep much better with him by my side, even if he does sometimes migrate to the center of our bed and take up my “precious sleep space” that I’ve come to find I’m not so set on having anymore.

2). I didn’t think I would enjoy the responsibility of sometimes getting up early to help my husband get ready for his day. I didn’t think I would like making dinner often. I didn’t think I would enjoy doing our laundry. I especially didn’t think that our house would stay mostly tidy almost all the time (I’m sure this will change once we have our own little ones… but maybe even that expectation will be shattered… who knows really).

But I do, and it does, and it’s really very lovely to realize that I might actually love these new responsibilities that I’ve been given instead of buying into the concept that I am falling into gender specific roles that are defining me and stripping me of my independence and identity.

Not so.

I get to be a wife. It’s a privilege, not a right. Some days, it means getting my hands dirty while cleaning up trash or digging up dirt or fixing my car right alongside the man I get to call my husband. Other days, it means embracing the fact that I have been given the time to take care of the home that we are creating… falling into the awesome fact that I am a girl, and I have been taught how to get stains out of things, how to make killer enchiladas, and how to multitask so that we have a successful day/week/month.

I am wife. Hear me roar.

3).  During our ten month engagement, I experienced a lot of spiritual warfare that I chose to believe was a threat to our relationship… and it was, to an extent. But I think I may have imagined that this would all magically stop after the wedding. Why I thought that, I don’t know… because it’s pretty ignorant.

I’ve learned mostly that the enemy… the toothless lion that prowls around to steal, kill and destroy…. hates marriage. He loves distraction. He loves lies. He enjoys making you feel isolated in a community. He longs to divide, to disband, to sever.

And some days, he’s really excellent at creeping into my thoughts and making an absolute mess.

Some days, he hurts me terribly,… which is not, I think, how a new wife should feel.

But in light of that, I also realize that in the times when he attacks, claws, bites and does his best to wreak havoc and instill fear… I get to proclaim and believe that God has placed me in a marriage that is what He wanted, and that we are going to do amazing things together. I’ve been matched with someone who I have been made for, and he for me. I don’t believe in “the one”… but I do believe that Brady is the Jim to my Pam… that we are perfectly suited for each other in every way, as God designed it.

It’s awesome that God has given me to someone who I am able to confide in, someone who is willing to not just listen, but to lead and help fight the enemy in my moments of weariness.

I’ve been blessed with a man who is my warrior… someone who will fight for me and alongside me. He not only claims that title in my life, but he is also my gentle protector… a shepherd-like figure, if you will. Someone who wraps me up in safety, gets me out of my head when I’m cloudy, makes me laugh so often, and provokes growth in me by challenging my walk with the Lord, my mind in intelligence, and my heart in integrity.

56 days of being Mrs. Redick… and I’m sure if I sat down for a day or so and remembered each day well, I could say with confidence that I have learned 56 different lessons, if not more.

But mostly I think the very best lesson that I’ve learned is that marriage is not a mold that you fit yourself into…. It is a process of taking two individuals and teaching them what it means to become a single entity through a lifetime of serving one another in unconditional love. That looks different for every single couple.

It’s not for the faint of heart, and I won’t lie and say it’s been easy, but I’m so glad that we’re here in this holy place of pursuing love and doing life together as husband and wife.

The end to the newly-wed rant. Carry on as you will.

Crying Over Wilted Weeds


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Dear Reader,

I’ve been a perfectionist since the day I was born. In everything I learned, I wanted to be excellent at it immediately or else all hell would break loose.

This was the way things went when I learned how to crawl, walk, read, write, do math, ride a bike, and drive stick shift.

If I didn’t get it right away, I would break down into angry tears of disappointment and self loathing…. and yes, I did learn to drive stick when I was 20… judge away.

Thankfully, through life, God has been working this out of me… and I’ll probably fail in this area once again at really crucial moments… like during childbirth or parenting well or being loving toward my husband when he leaves his socks out on the floor for the 2393473934th time.

But thankfully, God isn’t a Father that leaves His poor, foolish kids to sit and throw fits without coming alongside them in love and teaching them through the things that upset them the most.

Jonah was no different.

Over the last few weeks, the youth group I serve in has been digging through the book of Jonah.

To be honest, Jonah has always been a biblical character that gets under my skin.

He’s whiny, disobedient, fearful, emotional, and worst of all, self centered.

He’s the guy that brings that gray cloud of bleh into the room with him… the one that complains… the one that finds something bad about every situation… the one that should have “Woe is me” tattooed to his chest so that he could show it off all the time while saying it with his mouth and his actions.

He’s terribly and altogether obnoxious, and his choices reflect his heart clearly.

But this morning, during the final message of our series through Jonah, God sat down next to me and began speaking new insights in that I had never thought of before.

First, Jonah was a prophet from the nation of Israel. He grew into being a servant of the Lord. He walked, talked and lived out God’s messages, and probably really enjoyed the call that had been placed on his life.

All that changed when God started doing something that he didn’t agree with.

It sent Jonah into an immature and narcissistic state, and left him in limbo of being a part of something bigger that God was doing.

Secondly, Jonah reverted back to Adam and Eve’s method of dealing with their junk: he ran and tried to hide from God.

Let that sink in.

A PROPHET, which is defined as “a person regarded as an inspired teacher or proclaimer of the will of God”, tried to RUN AWAY from God and His plans.

This makes my brain hurt.

Thirdly, it took Jonah 3 whole days in gastric fish/whale stomach acid to decide that he should repent and do what God asked of him. 3 days. In acid.

Either that fish whale was swimming around in circles for a few days until Jonah figured out that his stupid heart was wormy and disgusting… or Jonah’s 2500 mile journey of running away from God to Tarshish was almost complete when the storm hit and caused him to be swallowed by the fish whale a.k.a. his new way of transportation to the destination he was supposed to be heading toward.

Observe the absurdity:

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3 days journey in the belly of a fish whale is the gnarliest kind of timeout.

Fourth, what even happens to Jonah at the end of the book? We see him finally do what God calls him to do, and is a part of the biggest revival in HISTORY (600,000 people at one time)… but then he throws a fit because God is loving and gracious toward the Ninevites.

This throws him into depression… he only finds joy in things that benefit himself (i.e. a weed that grows up in one day and then dies the very next)… and he remains angry at God’s grace even when God points out that He saved 120,000 children… 120,000 little minds that can be impacted and trained up in the ways of the Lord to be different than their parents (who had JUST turned away from their super evil lifestyle of human skin couches and skull towers to live for God… not a bad outcome to a one man show outreach, if I do say so myself).

And that’s where the book ends.

So what happens to Jonah?

I think it’s one of two possibilities: either Jonah had a heart change and started in this new ministry of loving the Ninevites and teaching them about the Lord, or he remained so self centered that he ripped himself off in being a part of the calling that God had for him.

But here is what I learned.

We are, often times, Jonah. We live our lives in comfort… in the ways that we think are best for us. We learn to love the Lord, and enjoy being with Him.

But sometimes God calls us to something bigger…. something that we don’t want to believe is actually what God wants…. something that makes us uncomfortable.

And that’s really the way that God’s callings work, if you think about it. God doesn’t ever ever ever call you to be comfortable.

Comfort is a sign of laziness and apathy. Comfort lets the sense of self grow without being challenge. Comfort is the obesity of spirituality.

God calls you to move. To go. To follow. To love when it hurts. To pray for people when you don’t want to. To feed the hungry when you only have $3 in your bank account. To speak truth when its scary. To love Him over anything/anyone even when it will cause waves.

Living in God’s call for your life is never safe or comfortable… but it’s good, and it’s adventurous and it’s life changing.

Don’t be Jonah, dear reader. Become the Jonah that could have been.

Don’t live in fear.

Don’t live in a world that glorifies your self centered mindset.

Don’t be so comfortable in your own life that you choose to run away from God’s real call on your life.

Be bold. Be fearless. Be loving. Be reckless. Be honest.

And for the love of all that is good, don’t throw a fit when the weed that God gives you for a season withers.

He has a tree that is meant for you elsewhere.

Learning Love


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Dear Reader,

A former college colleague recently posted her thoughts on what being loving looks like, expressing her hurt and frustration over the rebukes that her friends and family have given due to some of her recent decisions. 

While I’m fully on board with the promotion of being loving, my generation has bought into the lie that tolerance is love.

I have been on the side of being rebuked flippantly, harshly and with an enormous lack of tangible and spoken love. But I have never had my behavior or wrong choices tolerated by the people who profess that they love me.

Tolerating behavior and brushing it under the rug so that the person who is perpetuating that behavior feels “loved” is not loving.

It would be like wrapping up a broken arm in an ace bandage and saying that the person’s arm isn’t broken anymore.

 

The behavior isn’t the actual issue, and we’re not trying to modify it (because that’s not loving in the least). The real problem is what is spurring a person’s decisions that are the CAUSE of that behavior. The diagnosis is underlying.

So you are rude to others and lack love in your verbal communication… why? Is it because you are a rude person by nature or because you feel the need to tear people down in order to feel better about yourself?

So you refuse to confront others and deal with conflict because it makes you uncomfortable. Is that really because you don’t want to deal with the circumstance or because you actually have a difficult time being vulnerable with people in character building situations?

So you choose to leave your spouse because you are questioning your beliefs and feel the need to explore and break down your doubts. Is that actually because you need space to explore what you believe, or because you are not satisfied by the facade you put on to begin exploring religion in the first place and therefore are not willing to put in the work necessary to continue in the commitment that you made to another person?

 

Being loving is not about ignoring the underlying issues.

Being loving sometimes means saying the hard things to people that you do deeply love and want the best for.

Being loving sometimes means making the opposing party angry because you are calling to question the motivation of their heart.

 

I’m sure many people in Eastern Europe wish that Churchill and Roosevelt had questioned Stalin’s motives during the Yalta Conference.

Daily circumstances really aren’t that dramatic, but it’s the illustration that matters: when people you are in relationship with come alongside you and address actions that you have taken that are not good for you or those around you, how is that not being loving?

Love isn’t about making you feel good, it’s about caring for your heart and soul.

Aslan Is On The Move


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Dear Reader,

C.S. Lewis’ writings have been swaying my heart for 16 years now. I was encouraged to read The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe when I was 8, and have since been fascinated with Lewis’ imagination and wisdom.

In literary terms, Lewis is to me what Virgil was to Dante.

That being said, TLWW holds a statement within its chest that has been repeated in my heart and mind for the past few days. Some would call this a subconscious desire to watch the film or read the book. I call it the Holy Spirit reaching into my current circumstances and helping me better understand and be content with what is going on in my life.

The statement is found within a conversation that the children have with Mr. and Mrs. Beaver. In light of the chaos within Narnia, Mr. Beaver quickly redirects the worry to truth.

Observe:

“It’s no good, Son of Adam,” said Mr. Beaver, “no good your trying, of all people. But now that Aslan is on the move—

Oh yes! Tell us about Aslan!” said several voices at once, for once again the strange feeling – like the first signs of spring, like good news – had come over them.

“Who is Aslan?” asked Susan.

“Aslan?” said Mr. Beaver. “Why, don’t you know? He’s the King. He’s the Lord of the whole wood, but not often here, you understand. Never in my time or my father’s time. But the word has reached us that he has come back. He is in Narnia at this moment. He’ll settle the White Queen all right. It is he, not you, who will save Mr. Tumnus.”

In the past 48 hours, I have been constantly reminded that “Aslan” is on the move.

It’s in these moments of unknown, of complete change and of chaos that we notice God’s movements.

 

In light of the changes in my life… of not returning to teach a group of students that I love dearly, of not knowing how all of my bills will be payed this month let alone in the future,  of putting wedding planning on hold because of the lack of financial peace needed to enter wisely into a marriage, of not knowing what direction to step next… I am reminded that God is on the move.

He is making this mess a masterpiece.

In the chaos and confusion, He is sovereign still.

 

I’m learning that my plans are irrelevant to what God wants. I can try to force them all I want to, but in the end…even in the mess I make by forcing my will, He makes something beautiful and amazing out of it.

I am also learning that it’s so much more enjoyable to grab His hand and have Him lead my adventures.

 

 

Late Night Collisions


PeterbiltDear Reader,

One of the most freeing, and yet most sobering truths was brought to my remembrance tonight.

One of those Peterbilt-runs-headlong-into- your-mind moments.

It’s encouraging, and yet not simultaneously, which makes it difficult to take ownership of.

 

The truth?

We are flawed, messy, rancid, awful sinners.

And it doesn’t stop there… no no… it gets even more painfully uncomfortable before it can get any better.

Our sin… your sinful behavior… my sinful choices… they don’t make us sinners. Our behavior doesn’t dictate our identity.

 

In fact, our choices that are self centered, animalistic, destructive and anti-christ are all due to the fact that we are sinners by nature.

I am a sinner, therefore I sin.

 

Our behavior might not dictate our identity, but it does reflect it.

It demonstrates where we are in our acceptance of God’s love and grace in our lives, but does not hold us captive to the farce-filled labels that are placed on you by the enemy, as well as by your shame, fear, guilt and self-condemnation.

 

I am a sinner, therefore I am naturally inclined to behave sinfully.

 

So how do I fix my propensity to self-destruct from selfish choices, prideful attitudes and wrath filled thoughts?

 

I am the problem… and until I decide to face that head on, nothing changes.

Temporary behavior modification for the satisfaction of others is the only outcome… and that is not salvation or love.

 

The only way I’ve seen it work is how it is laid out by Jesus:

Deny yourself.

Pick up selflessness.

Follow Christ’s example.

 

How is this good news at all?

You are a sinner… a hot mess full of all sorts of junk that isn’t how you were meant to live. It’s a heart issue (Jeremiah 17:9)… not an actions issue (Mark 7:21-23). You just are a hopeless mess that was born that way (Psalm 51:5).

But God in His loving, gracious, reckless adoration said, “I’m not finished with you, beloved” (Philipians 1:6).

Follow the Leader


Dear Reader,

Peter Pan has always been one of my favorite Disney movies.

The ride at Disneyland has a 45 minute wait (even on a slow day) for a reason… it’s because it’s awesome.

 

When I was a little girl, one of my favorite songs to interact with from the movie was this:

 

You can still catch me humming it from time to time.

 

I think we can probably all relate to this game in one way or another, whether it be actually playing it, or being told you were playing it while you were in line at school or sports or whatever else you did recreationally as a child.

But for those of you who missed out on this little slice of childhood, let me explain the rules, as they can be rather complex…

1). Choose/Recognize the “Leader”

2). Follow them wherever they go, imitating whatever they do and/or say.

 

I realized today that being in a relationship with Jesus is actually one lifelong commitment to an intense game of “Follow the Leader”.

 

In Matthew 8, Jesus tests the hearts of those who are throwing themselves at being His disciple… aka following Him.

Check it:

Now when Jesus saw a crowd around Him, He gave orders to depart to the other side of the sea. Then a scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.” Jesus *said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Another of the disciples said to Him, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.”  But Jesus *said to him, “Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead.”

When He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him.  And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being covered with the waves; but Jesus Himself was asleep.  And they came to Him and woke Him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!”  He *said to them, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm. The men were amazed, and said, “What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?”

 

At this point in His story, Jesus isn’t hated by the crowds, but is more of a celebrity of sorts that everyone is entranced with due to His amazing works.

Many wanted to follow Him because it was the “cool” thing to do, even though they had no idea what it would actually cost to be His disciple.

 

Thankfully, Jesus is able to see and know the heart, and He was able to quickly recognize the motives behind each of these “Disciple Application Inquiries”.

 

It’s not that He didn’t want them to follow after Him (Luke 19:10, 2 Peter 3:9… Look them up, young scholar), but He  knew that they were not trying to follow Him because of who He was, but rather because they wanted the benefits that came with being associated with Him.

He never said, “No, you can’t follow me” but instead spoke against the reasons of why these men wanted to follow Him.

 

Here are three things that I took away from this story in Matthew about what following Jesus actually looks like.

 

1). Following Jesus isn’t always a comfortable gig.

The scribe wanted to take part in the adventure that Jesus was embarking on. He wanted to be in the thick of the miracles and the parables, which isn’t a bad thing at all. But Jesus was quick to bring to his attention that there were no Hilton Luxury suite experiences in following Him. Following Jesus is counter to the cultural longing for comfort… you cannot be comfortable and be Jesus’ disciple because a). getting out of your comfort zone is a major thing that provokes growth, which is a main desire that He has for those who follow Him and b). comfort allows for the possibility for laziness and apathy to creep in.

 

2). Following Jesus doesn’t give room for excuses to get in the way… even ones that are real.

The biggest excuse I give to the Lord on a regular basis is that I’m tired and I need sleep. Sometimes it’s less true than other times… but it’s a real reason. Sleep is necessary for good health and for the fierce attempt having a successful day… and guess what? God knows that. The next potential disciple is in a rather interesting place… he wants to follow Jesus, but he’s got some important things to do first, like taking care of burying his recently deceased father. But Jesus doesn’t give room for social and physical obligations to get in the way of being devoted to following Him. The call to following Him is more important than your to-do list.

 

3). Following Jesus means trusting in who He is even when things are bleak.

After these first two interactions, Jesus and the Twelve climb into a boat and begin to cross the sea. Jesus takes a little snoozeroo, leaving the able bodied disciples to pilot the vessel. We see a storm hit, sparking the disciples freak out not only because they believe the boat is going to sink, but also because they can’t believe that Jesus is going to sleep through it. So what should they do? Obviously wake Him up and yell at Him for not caring about their well being. Jesus answers them so bluntly, it’s beautiful. In this circumstance, the disciples failed to see Jesus for who He was: God incarnate. Because of their fear, they forgot how He had taken care of other bleak situations, and about all of the incredible things He had done. Now, you’re probably going to be in the same boat as the disciples (pun intended) more than once in your life… but start the healthy habit of knowing and recalling often the outstanding things that God has done not only in the Bible, but also in your own life so that when things do get bleak, you can rest in the knowledge of who God is rather than striving to calm the boat in the middle of the storm on your own. Following Jesus means trusting that He will take care of the big issues and the little issues.

Being a disciple is one of the most difficult and rewarding adventures to embark on.

Don’t be afraid of the challenges it will bring, and embrace the sweet moments when His miracles and lessons are more potent than a freshly brewed pot of coffee.

Honesty Hour


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“And when Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, imploring Him,  and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented.” Jesus *said to him, “I will come and heal him.”  But the centurion said, “Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed.  For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.”  Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel.” – Matthew 8:8-10

 

‘A son honors his father, and a servant his master. Then if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is My respect?’ says the Lord of hosts to you.” – Malachi 1: 6

 

Dear Reader,

I’ve always loved being busy.

I enjoy always having something to do… rushing about to get things done… having a list that I can cross things off of.

I’ve never been a fan of lulls, or of times in my life when I have had to drum up something to do.

 

Lately, I have not had to be creative in filling my time. I’ve been blessed with lots of work, the planning and preparing that comes with being engaged to be married, ministry opportunities and just enough time to get 6 hours of sleep in every night.

Idle hands are the devil’s playthings, right?

Wrong.

 

I’ve been in this state of bustling and completion of tasks in a quick and efficient manner for about a month now, and in this month, I have seen my busy heart take a major hit as a direct result.

 

What I mean is, I have found that being busy has become a detriment to many areas of my life that are far more important.

 

This morning has been something of an honesty hour for me.

It’s brutal, and it hurts, but it is good and it is where transformation and healing can take place.

 

The busy nature of my life style has been one that has stepped into the place where my relationship with the Lord should be.

I give excuses more often than not to avoid taking 15 minutes out of my day to spend with God.

I know that sounds a little harsh and heathenistic, and it definitely stings to admit it, but it’s actually the truth of what is going on.

 

When I choose to let my life events and my to-do lists take over my time with the Lord, I am excusing my relationship with Him…  I am saying to myself and to Him that my job, my relationships, my ministry, my life are more important than taking the time to know Him.

 

I’ve been distracted… and distraction is the number one tool that the enemy uses to get you out of proper communication and relationship with your Savior.

 

In the midst of kicking myself and being frustrated and ashamed of my lack of desire to move closer to the Lord in my current place in life, I opened my bible.

My lovely sister and I are starting on a journey through Malachi together, and today was the first day for me on this journey.

God has a funny way of reminding me that in my failures, my faults and my flaws, He still craves a relationship with me.

When I’m at my filthiest, He still wants to embrace me and remind me of my place in His heart.

 

Like a good father does, He corrects, not condemns.

And this is the verse that He did it with this morning:

‘A son honors his father, and a servant his master. Then if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is My respect?’ says the Lord of hosts to you.”

 

In the midst of moments like this, you have to stop and ask yourself, “Am I giving the Lord, my Father and my Savior, the respect and honor that He deserves in every single area of my life?”

 

And my answer hurt.

I’ve been failing, and coming to terms with failure is not an easy one.

 

Thankfully, God doesn’t ever leave me in the midst of this self disappointment for long. Condemnation is not of Him (John 3:17) and my pity party is not one that He wanted to help me throw.

 

I wandered into the book next door to Malachi… one that I have been camping on for months. In it, Jesus’ compassion and gospel driven heart are vivid. His longing to heal and restore are unparalleled.

I moseyed into a section of healing, both for the characters of the story and also my frustrated heart.

 

Jesus is kind of like a superhero of sorts… without all the human mistakes and junk.

He swoops into circumstances and doesn’t patch them up, but transforms them into something more beautiful than they were originally.

 

In this section if Jesus’ story, humble but bold hearts are the common theme of the people that He interacts with.

But He reminded me through their stories that they were the ones who were dirty, unfitting, and seen as those who shouldn’t approach God incarnate.

They were the broken, the sick, the needy, the outcasts.

 

I think a lot of times, especially with kids who grew up in the church, we forget that we are these things. We instead begin to believe that we are the ones that keep ourselves clean. We are the ones that make sure we don’t need. We are the ones who are fit to be in the pews on Sunday morning because we are “Christians”… we are the ones that have been made perfect.

 

But that’s a sucky place to live in, isn’t it?

A place where you aren’t able to make mistakes because you have to be holy. A place that reeks of “holier than thou” attitudes and judgmental eyes that hide behind sunglasses of toleration.

A place where you aren’t allowed to be the messy sinner saved by grace that you actually are.

Sometimes we find ourselves here because of those we have around us… but more often than not, we find ourselves in this disgusting place because we see ourselves as needing to be there.

 

These individuals in this story were those who knew their place in the context of Christ: men who humbly came before Christ, knowing that He didn’t have to help them, but boldly asking for His mending hand in their broken circumstances.

 

The centurion is the character that startled me this morning.

Centurions were part of the Roman empire… one of the most brutal and twisted empires the world has ever experienced.

They would capture nations, steal the goods they found there (wealth, food, women, etc) and kill those who stood in defense against them.

This included Israel… and Israel absolutely hated their captors.

 

And here, this leader within the Roman army approaches Jesus and begs for His help… knowing the dynamic between his nation and Jesus’… knowing that he has the upperhand and the authority to demand help and good treatment from a “lowly Jew”.

But instead, he places Jesus as the authority over his circumstances… over his beloved servant who is terribly sick.

He recognized he place in light of the Godman, and knew that he was not worthy.

 

My favorite part of this story is found in Matthew 8:10: “Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled…”

 

Stop.

Think about this.

Let it sink in.

 

Jesus marveled… God Himself marveled at what those in His bloodline would consider to be a worthless, dirty, horrendous waste of a man… He marveled at the faith that a Roman gentile had in who He was and the authority He had. He marveled at the trust that this centurion had in what He could do.

 

That, my dearest reader, is where I want to be.

In my failures, my junk, my trash, my nonsense, my foolishness, and my messy human sinfulness, I want to still know that I can come boldly and humbly before my Savior and know who I am in Him.

I’m tired of faking that I’m doing well.

Truth is, I struggle.

Truth is I’m really quite terrible at following Jesus. I trip, I lag, I get distracted, I get angry that He doesn’t just pick me up and carry to where I need to be but instead lets me walk out my faith beside Him. I forget to talk to Him. I think my thoughts are His. I think my plans are better than what He has for me. But the truth of it really is that I am made more like Him when I’m not faking it… when I’m able to real in my mistakes… when I’m able to admit that I suck at being His daughter. It’s there that healing begins to take place.

 

How do you live a life that Jesus has to stop what He’s doing and marvel at?

How do you live a life that blesses the socks off of your Savior?

How do you do relationship with the Holy of Holies so that you are living a life that honors Him, making Him proud, blessing Him, growing in Him and being transformed into His likeness?

 

I’m not completely sure… but I think it probably has something to do with humbly and boldly coming before Him and asking for His help.

 

Stop Taking Care of Your Self


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Dear Reader,

Mankind has been obsessed with themselves since the beginning of time.

The earliest mirrors discovered were dated at somewhere around 6000 BC… meaning that the idea of admiring yourself has been around almost as long as the world has been in existence, according to young earth science (but we’re not talking about that).

 

The self has been a topic of thought for a long while, beginning in the Garden of Eden with the lie that the serpent tells Eve: ”YOU won’t die… but YOU will be like God if YOU eat of this tree… He’s holding out on YOU and keeping good things from YOU” (Gen 2: 1-5).

Adam and Eve drop their gaze from the Father for a split second to take care of themselves… to better their lives in their own way… and it shatters goodness, separating them from the comfort, peace, joy, love and perfection that they knew of in God’s presence.

 

I have been in a wrestling match of sorts for the past few months over the self, contending with an idea of “taking care of yourself” and not letting others take advantage of you.

And while taking care of yourself in the form of getting rest, eating healthy, exercising, bringing yourself into a community to grow with others is good… I think there is something missing if you focus on that just for the sake of taking care of YOU.

 

See, the narcissistic self so enjoys taking care of themselves.

They enjoy making sure that they are not walked all over… they enjoy eating, resting, and partaking in actions that benefit themselves.

They long for the best for themselves.

But to what end?

Every single mistake that a person makes is a direct result of the love of  their self.

 

C.S. Lewis puts it deliberately:

“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell choose it. Without that self-choice, there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened” (The Great Divorce).

 

The ones who look toward taking care of the self are the ones that often become most distracted.

Look at Peter.

Jesus calls him out upon the waters, and he immediately jumps to the call… but he rapidly becomes aware that he is in potential peril… and his natural instinct is to be concerned with himself.

 

Let’s be real: I don’t think Peter was in the wrong for NOTICING the storm around him.

But his concern of himself over keeping his focus on Christ caused him to sink… and sink fast.

 

So here are a few lessons that God has been playing on my heart for a few months now.

 

1). Giving never ever leaves you lacking.

Whether it’s time, money, convenience or whatever have you. It should never be an issue of how much should I give, but rather how much can I give until there is no more room for me to continue.

I’m all about being sanctified into Christ’s likeness… and I never see Jesus say, “Meh, that’s enough…” In fact, He always gives above and beyond (check out Matthew 14:15-20 for an obvious over-abundance). Even in the moments before He was nailed on the cross, we see this. In Mark 15, we see Jesus be offered wine and myrrh before the nails are driven through His wrists and feet. This was a mixture that was supposed to help ease a bit of the suffering that those who were crucified would experience (as per Biblestudy.org)

But Jesus doesn’t take it… even to the very end of His life, He gave every ounce of Himself to give salvation.

 

2). Focus on anything other than the Cross will make you fall.

In gymnastics, focus is incredibly important, specifically on the balance beam. When you begin at one end of the 4 inch bit of wood, you are instructed to focus on the other end of the beam in order to help you keep your balance.

When you don’t, you botch your trick and get a low score (I speak from experience).

Focus is key, and when you become distracted with ANYTHING other than Christ and the Cross, you WILL fail. It doesn’t matter if its a focus on something that is actually good… like serving at your church, or feeding the poor, or loving with all your might… when you are not focused on the one area that should always capture your attention, the love of self creeps into every other area, specifically the one that you are choosing to focus on.

 

3). Taking care of yourself is not of the Lord.

This will probably be the one point that will cause waves, but I am stomping at the water, so waves are welcome.

But before you freak on me, hear me out: what if for one month, you did everything through the lense of thinking of others for the sake of the Lord? What if for one month, everything you did was accomplished only to please God?

What if for one month every time you were asked to give, you gave joyfully because you know Who blessed you in the first place?

What if for one month every time you were asked to give up a bit of yourself, it wasn’t an issue, because you trusted that God would provide a time of restoration?

What if for a whole month, you stopped worrying about inconveniencing yourself and went out of your way for other people?

 

Try it, I dare you. Because in the end, I know and trust that you will not be worn out… you will not be out of money… you will not feel inconvenience or upset or walked all over.

Why? Because God is faithful, and when you live a life of sacrifice of your very self… your needs, your wants, your desires, your necessities… God doesn’t leave you in desolation.

The only thing He asks of you is to take up your cross and follow Him…. not to get 8 hours of sleep, not to eat your broccoli, not to run 2 miles a day to keep up your fitness… No, He asks you to sacrifice everything that you are naturally inclined to and pursue Him.

 

God is bigger than you… and I think sometimes we forget about that.

Refocus. Return. Resacrifice.

Climbing from the Lower Branches


“God has to hide from us what He does until by personal character we get to the place where He can reveal it.” – Oswald Chambers

Dear Reader,

When I was 16, I climbed a tree in my best friend’s back yard.

In the area of heights, I am an incredibly safe individual, and tree climbing is not something that I often indulge in.

But here I was, halfway up a 25 foot pine tree, with plenty of large branches to scale to continue the upward trek.

Being egged on, I kept clinging to branches that I only half-heartedly trusted would hold me, avoiding the urge to glance down at the ground that I had left below.

“Higher! Come on, kiddo! Higher!” they beckoned.

So I stretched and pulled and gulped down my fear… knowing that I could go further, but facing my undeniably large fear of heights that seemed to be growing with every inch I scaled.

As you could probably guess, the second I heard the branch I was standing on groan, I quickly descended, not wishing to test gravity.

But I climbed a good portion of that tree, and as we gazed up at it after our adventure, I was quite proud of myself for getting over my fears and continuing onward.

 

My relationship with the Lord has been remarkably similar to this story that I have the pleasure of calling my own.

He often stands beckoning, “Darling, come higher. Stretch further. Press harder. Come, dearest heart, to the places that I have for you.”

Getting to these places is not as easy as a nod and a smile.

Many times, they take a wrestling match like that of Jacob, or standing in the shallows of the Red Sea  like Moses while Pharaoh’s army breathes down your neck and having enough faith to place the staff in the waters to encourage them to part, or sinking into the depths of the waves like Peter while crying out to Jesus for help.

Sometimes, the branch groans and other times it breaks.

 

But still, He calls.

In the midst of fear, of chaos, of failure. He still calls.

 

Dearest reader, look back to where you were a year ago.

Have you grown or have you remained where you are?

Have you followed the voice of the Lord or stayed clinging onto the bottom branches as He encourages you onward?

 

Oswald Chambers says it best:

“Compare this week in your spiritual history with the same week last year and see how God has called you up higher. We have all been brought to see from a higher standpoint. Never let God give you one point of truth which you do not instantly live up to. Always work it out, keep in the light of it. Growth in grace is measured not by the fact that you have not gone back, but that you have an insight into where you are spiritually; you have heard God say, ‘Come up higher,’ not to you personally, but to the insight of your character.”

 

He calls you higher so that He might show you the things of His heart.

You may think this strange… but this is grace. This is salvation. This is relationship.

 

I’ve begun to really despise the term Christian.

Christian does not mean what it used to or what it should.

Christian is a label that many place on themselves to avoid confrontation, to gain acceptance, and to feel safer about the future.

And this is not Christianity.

I feel the same way about religion.

 

But relationship?

Oh, relationship.

A relationship with my God, my Father, my Savior, my Lover, my Friend, my Lord and my King… that is what drives me. That is what inspires me. That is what gives me hope and purpose.

Nothing else.

 

And a relationship with a God who calls me up to hear His heart… His plans… His desires… what is more meaningful and beautiful than that?

 

God never reveals His secrets to those who are not willing to come up to them… just like you cannot see a beautiful view from the bottom branches of a tree.

Your character is grown by the climb upward, the moving forward, the pursuit of the Father.

This is sanctification…. the process of growth and transformation after salvation.

 

Proverbs 25:2 brings this calling into a brighter light, “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.”

 

You can remain where you are. You are saved and there you will remain.

But God has more for you, if you want it.

He has awesome views, experiences, growth and purposes for you than just a bump on the bottom branches.

You can remain a peasant and abide in slight knowledge of the Holy, or you can take ownership of your identity in Christ and become the royalty that has the privilege of searching out God’s heart.

 

Look at Abraham.

God calls him out of his comfort zone and takes him into a place where he would later be promised. No other directions than “Go” and no other promises than “I will bless you and make you into a great nation.”

 

But look at Abraham’s journey and the shaping of his character.

He is promised a son, is asked to wait for that son for years on end, and then is given Isaac in a time of his life when having a son is impossible.

He’s then asked to sacrifice that son, the one lifeline that God has promised a nation and blessing through… and Abraham trusts the Lord.

He faces wars, he faces failure, he faces success.

But above all else, he experienced God in faith and in grace… growing in character so that God was able to show him the plans of His heart.

We may not get the season we are in…. I certainly know this to be true of my life. We may not want to climb anymore out of fear, fatigue, or frustration.

But God wants you to join Him… to seek after Him, even in your fear, fatigue and frustration.

In the difficult moments, cling to Paul’s words: “And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”