when good intentions aren’t good enough

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Do you ever frustrate yourself? It can be easier to notice when someone or something else makes you boil on the inside, but do you ever recognize the moments that its YOU that is aggravating you?

I get that. I’ve gotten to that point more & more as I’ve come to know Jesus. As my life is slowly but surely transforming & being sanctified by the Holy Spirit, there’s tension in the process. There’s a lot that has needed to be broken off of me. A lot of shell that has needed to be shed. A lot of imperfections that have needed to be refined in the fire.

I’m in this place in my life right now where I’ve gained a fair amount of knowledge on what it means and looks like to follow Jesus, & I’ve definitely made strides through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, but I get caught up in thinking that with all this knowledge I know what I’m doing. I know that I know that I know that there is so much room for me to grow & learn & develop, but my mind plays tricks on me & too often I’m caught in this cycle of thinking that I’m much further along that I am. That because I think about all the ways that I can serve Jesus and others or imagine exactly how I desire my relationship with God to be then I am good enough. I have the intentions of putting Scripture to work in my life, but I fall short of actually applying it. & oftentimes it is because I get self reliant & self absorbed & as a result my eyes turn from God towards myself and all of the idols in my life.

Why is it that I get so self reliant when I know that I have a God that is more than capable of handling the tough stuff that so often overwhelms me? Why do I lean in to myself, and not God, even when things are going well? & why do I go through what feels like a cycle of turning to God & turning away from God over & over? Why am I in the role of the unfaithful Gomer in the book of Hosea more times than I ever want to admit.

I want to take you back to April of this year, when we got the word from the Air Force that we would be leaving Southern Illinois to move to California in just under a month’s time. It was unexpected, and last minute, so it certainly threw us for a loop. Yet, in that span of time I felt a great deal of assurance in God that it was all taken care of. I chose to trust God in that season of life for us. I trusted that leaving a place that I loved so deeply was a part of his will; that moving across the country away from everything we have ever known was a part of the plan; that His will and His plan is always for our good – even if that means that challenges lay ahead. I was surprised at myself as I told people with confidence that I was trusting God to lead us to what He has wanted for us, even if it wasn’t exactly what we had envisioned. Trusting Him didn’t take away the challenges that we were facing in the stress of a month’s notice, cross country move, but it did give us a rock to lean on – THE rock to lean on.

Then we arrived in California. & the lack of nearby support from friends & a solid church family quickly tempted me to lose some sight of my upward thinking, and after a couple months time, I got comfortable. I enjoyed days at home tending to my interests. I didn’t have to deal with a stressful job or straining responsibilities. Maybe the comfort is what turned my eyes away from trusting God. It was like I got off a bus and said, “Okay God, we got to where you wanted us. Thanks for bringing us here. See ya in a few months when you pick us up for the next change in our life.” & yet when it came time to start prepping for our move to North Dakota, I was leaning less on God than I did in our previous move. I was still trying to tell myself that what’s ahead is for our good, regardless of if it meets my expectations or not, but I feel like I was doing it more as a pep talk than doing it in a way of trusting Jesus.

As another point, for the most part, I stayed committed to opening my Bible in the mornings in the past months. With the steadiness of a routine, that’s how I started every morning. & each time I have dived into God’s word, I’ve seen life. I read words that speak to my heart, soul, & mind. I’ve taken in the words that give me hope & motivation. Words that spur me towards Jesus. Yet, most days I closed my Bible alongside of closing my mind. I shifted my attention to the first task on my to-do list and let the life-giving words of Scripture drain out of me. When I’m in the Word, I want it. I want the words that it speaks of to ring true in my life. I want the character & perspective of someone like Paul to be reflected in me daily. I honestly have felt the depth of that longing in my heart sometimes. Like when your heart is aching for something so desperately. I want that closeness with Jesus. I want my desire for Him to be consistent. I want each day of my life to be one that brings Him glory & is lived intentionally for Him & His purposes. I want these things. But when I’m not in the Word, too often it’s out of sight, out of mind. I don’t put forth the concerted efforts to allow God to make the changes that I deeply desire for my life.

As of late I finished working my way through the She Reads Truth plan “Open Your Bible”. (Ladies, have you checked out She Reads Truth? If you haven’t & you’re looking for a daily dose of Scripture & relatable application along with the option to get involved in the online community, then I recommend you give it a try!). One of the days in the plan I read the quote: “I nourish my life with good intentions and expect it to thrive when only Jesus can quench my soul-deep thirst.” I swallowed these words & they went straight into the pit of my stomach. All of these moments that I spend thinking & imagining myself in closeness with God are just intentions. I desire to be someone that communicates relationally & consistently in prayer (which is such a long shot for me right now – I’m so guilty of being terribly inconsistent in the greatest gift of communication with a God that loves me). I want to be someone that soaks in Scripture & is able to share it with others, while being able to understand it more fully as the days go by & as I apply it directly to my life. I hope to be someone that exudes Jesus, not myself. & yet, my thoughts, and hopes, and dreams of these idealistic “me’s” are a waste of time if I never take the steps to make them real in my life. I’ve expected these intentions & hopes to be good enough. To satisfy my soul. To push my relationship with God forward. Yet, in the back of my mind I kept pushing back the truthful thought that what I was doing was routine. My daily time in the Scripture was not heartfelt. It has not been personal. It’s been a box to check. & I hate that. I don’t want to be that person. I don’t want to treat God like that. But I do. & the heartbreak I feel with myself & for God is nothing compared to the hurt that I’ve inflicted on God. It’s in these moments that I just don’t understand how He is so merciful. I can’t comprehend how He can put up with me so much. How he doesn’t just give up on me. On humanity. He is faithful though. He’s consistent. He’s grace-filled & merciful. & he still pursues me even when I walk away from Him. Oh Jesus, how I need you every hour!

Can you relate to this at all? Does this cycle feel disheartening to you? Because I know I’m not alone in my struggle with this. The struggle of knowing better but choosing otherwise. Paul felt it too:

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. [Romans 7:15]

For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! [Romans 7:23-25]

I feel like a toddler that God shouldn’t take His eyes off of, otherwise I might run towards something that turns my attention away from Him. Or maybe it’s that I feel like a teenager, that knows better, but I still turn towards the things that I know don’t bring me to life nearly as much as God does. Either way, I’m still turning my eyes from Him. With one hand in a pot of gold, & with the other in Your side**. These are the reasons that I relate so much to Gomer. These are the reasons that I can relate so much to Israel. These are the reasons why the words spoken to God’s people in the Old Testament are also directed towards me. I’m an unfaithful, selfish being that turns away from the God that has graciously given me salvation. Sanctify me Lord, that I may do this less & less.

I’m in a new season of life. I’m getting a fresh start in a new place. By God’s mercy, every breath is a second chance. So in order to start honoring Him like I have desired to, my goal for my life right now is to start turning my intentions into action. To start living out the truth that God has allowed me to understand and accept. Will I fall short? No doubt. I’m a work in progress & will be until the day that I die. But here’s to leaning into God’s strength rather than in my own.

With all of this said, I don’t want to make it seem like what you do (or intend to do) is the way to earn favor in God’s eyes, or even that what you do is what earns you salvation & that if you don’t do these things you won’t have either. I’m speaking from the perspective of someone who has already accepted the free gift of salvation & redemption in Jesus Christ & is allowing his Spirit to sanctify my thoughts, words, actions, & entire life. It is Jesus who has covered me & my sins & has made me pure. Nothing that I do would be enough to do that. With his Spirit within me, I’m seeking to honor God & live my life the way He would desire for me to – so that He may be glorified by me, and that if He so desires to use me that I make myself willing. This is a whole topic that goes much deeper than I could ever say with all the words I’ve been given, but I felt like it was necessary to point this out & clarify what I’m communicating.

*This is a line from the song “Wedding Dress” by Derek Webb. One of my favorite songs of all time, because it convicts me & moves me all at the same time. Check it out when you get the chance!

break off these chains

First off, I want to take the time to say a HUGE thank you to all of you who are here reading this blog. It has been something that my heart has felt pretty strongly about for awhile, so to have your support simply by reading the words I write means more than you know. What means even more is the continual affirmation I’ve been receiving from many of you. It genuinely warms my heart to hear some of you sharing that you like what I have to say, or that you connect with what I’m posting. The encouragement & support has been wonderful & I thank Jesus for this opportunity to share my heart & my life with you all.

Before I post the follow up to my No Make Up Month, I want to share something with you. Last week I was flipping through a journal of mine that I’ve poured my heart into occasionally in the past year & a half, & I came across a few pages that I titled “Break Off These Chains.” I wrote them back when we were still living in Southern Illinois, so many months ago, but they still resonate with me today. They reflect & emphasize a lot of what I have already shared with you, & what I plan to continue piecing together in the future. These words came straight out of my heart in the midst of struggle. They’re raw, transparent & sincere. & yet there’s still hope in them. & hope is something that is most definitely worth sharing.

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“At the age of almost-23 I have been significantly impacted by the materialistic, self centered culture that I live in. In many ways I’ve let my heart & mind become saturated in vanity, comparison, & pleasure. & my heart & mind have suffered because of it. Junior high & high school are typically known as the breeding grounds for self esteem issues & comparisons, but the last year of my life has been the hardest time I’ve ever had in dealing with these issues. I’ve cared about my clothes, my hair, my appearance more than ever before. I’ve looked at my home & life through the lens of Pinterest & wanting it to be picture perfect. & I’ve felt the insecurity as I came to believe it didn’t all measure up. But that’s the thing about “picture perfect” – you only see the small fraction of a second that was captured & think that everything about it bleeds perfection. But you don’t give a thought about everything it took to make that picture. You don’t think about all of the messiness in between the shots. I have been damaging my heart as I’ve compared my clothes, my home, my abilities, my experiences, my marriage, my relationships, my faith, my whole life to everyone else. I’ve bought into the lies that [this] isn’t good enough, or [theirs] is better. & when I do feel like I’ve mastered something, I take pride in it. But the satisfaction lasts about as long as it takes for me to get those 25 likes on Instagram. Why do I do this to myself? I know how toxic it is. I know that confidence in Christ is worth so much more. I know that the things I’m worrying about most of the time are superficial. So why do I do it? Why do I let myself get caught up in it? If I were being blatantly honest, its because those few moments of praise, or accomplishment, or satisfaction I get make me feel good. So I keep striving to get to a point where I can experience that all the time. The thing is, I will never reach a point in time when I have it all together. Things in this world will always come up short. I’ve known this struggle for so long now – the balance between low self esteem & pride. It’s been brutal at times. But I know the solution too: Jesus. God created this world as good. He created it to be enjoyed & admired. But He didn’t create it to be enjoyed & admired more than Him. Time & time again I have brought myself to his feet making the commitment that I will turn away from this world towards him. & in those moments I know what it is like to experience true joy & fulfillment. But then I pull a “Lot’s wife” & look back, & I’m snatched back into emptiness. I’ve tried to obtain more self confidence, & that certainly is pleasing at times – being comfortable with who I am & owning it. But I still come up dry sometimes. That’s because I need to be seeking confidence in Christ. Confidence in the cross. Not confidence as the world sees it. But confidence that I am known & loved by the creator of this world. Confidence that I have freedom in Him because he died for my sins – including my pride & my struggling self esteem – & rose again to defeat them. As I take greater steps towards submitting my life to His will, I hope to fully commit to the freedom I have in Christ by letting go of the things that bind me. It’s about time I do, & it’s about time I do it for Him.”

I’ll leave you with this: Hope can be found in Jesus. We just need to allow ourselves to turn to Him for it.

Is there any part of this that you can relate with? I know I’m not in this alone. Feel free to share in the comments below or contact me by email.

bind my wandering heart to thee

As last week came to an end, this wasn’t exactly the post I was planning to share right off the bat, but on Saturday God overwhelmed my heart with a topic that has been unfolding in my life heavily for the past year. It’s one that has changed my understanding and perspectives on following Jesus; One that I think is of utmost importance in the church today; One that I think is going to be a significant part of the heartbeat of this blog because so much of my life has been impacted through this. And it all started last September as we joined our church in Southern Illinois for a fall retreat to explore the topic of tearing down idols. The teachings were challenging, convicting, and motivating, & they left a large impression on my heart and life. One so big that I cannot contain it for myself.

I’ll start with this: Back in the time of the Old Testament, God revealed to Moses the ten commandments. At the time this was a preamble of sorts to the law that God established for the people of Israel to follow him and the life that he desired for them. Now mind you, through Jesus’s death & resurrection the law was fulfilled, and therefore it is not binding in the same way for us New Testament folks as it was in those times, but God’s heart is still plastered all over these words that serve as a guide for believers to live more like Jesus & to live a holy & satisfying life. This can be made sure through Jesus’ teachings in the New Testament that not only bring up the ten commandments, but also expand and explore their meaning and application.

God stated in the first of these commandments, “you shall have no other gods before me.” This was then followed up by the second: “you shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them…”

When I first became a Christian, these were the commandments that I felt like I never needed to worry about. At face value I thought I had them covered. I didn’t have statues or images of things that I bowed downed to or worshiped. I didn’t believe any other religions, nor did I believe in any of their gods, so I thought I was good. As I’ve gotten to know Jesus more and have gained more knowledge of the Bible though, I’ve realized that these commandments are the ones that I defy probably more often than most.

You see, at their core, these commandments are not simply just speaking about the golden calves or Baal worship of the Old Testament, or the obvious application of false religions. They’re also referring to the things in our lives that steal our attention & hearts away from God. They’re talking about the things that we put in God’s place in our hearts and lives; the things that we put before God and devote ourselves to even though when they stand alone they will only leave us empty; the things that we are unwilling at times to sacrifice & give up for the sake of following Jesus.

Ever since our fall retreat I have had this eye opening sense of idols in my life & in the world. & it’s alarming. We don’t realize that we are idol worshipers in our daily lives. We put things in the place of God all the time. These hidden idols are all right in front of our faces. When we seek prosperity and money more than we seek Jesus, we are making an idol of it. When we spend our time devoted to seeking entertainment or status in order to fulfill our lives, or sex or romance or alcohol or the way all of those things make us feel as a way to make us feel whole, we are making idols of those things. When we put something in God’s place in our hearts, we are in severe danger of making that an idol in our lives. Many of our idols are not necessarily bad things on their own. Mark Driscoll once said, “Idolatry is taking a good thing, making it a god thing and that’s a bad thing.” Things like relationships, family, food, work, or money are not bad things in themselves. But if we make these things more important to us than God, we have a problem. When we are consumed by something more than we are consumed with Jesus, we have a problem.

For probably a year now I’ve been fighting a battle with materialism and vanity in different ways. I’ve fallen into the comparison game more times than I can count. I’ve sought to have the style or wardrobe that other admirable women have. I’ve sought to have life experiences that live up to, or out do, others. I’ve made efforts to have that well put together life that others admire. & every single one of those paths has led me to emptiness, brokenheartedness (I think I just made that word up), & self esteem issues that God’s been helping me work through since I finally turned to Him. I’ve sought these things more than I’ve sought satisfaction & contentment in the love of my Savior. I’ve spent time thinking of, and acting on, these things more than I’ve devoted my time to serving and seeking Jesus. & the real messed up part is, I’ve tasted & seen so much of God. I’ve experienced His goodness & faithfulness & sovereignty & love & healing & so much more of his character, and I still find myself choosing otherwise, & chasing quick fix idols. I’m constantly playing the role of the prostitute Gomer in the book of Hosea (which is one of my favorites in the Bible because of the humbling portrayal of our unfaithfulness to God & His faithfulness to us) where regardless of how much my God pours out his love on me, I still seek satisfaction and fulfillment in worldly things that leave me feeling empty & craving more. That’s what we do when we worship something other than God: we prostitute our souls to it. Praise the Lord for grace and mercy through the blood of Jesus Christ!

I believe that we all have idol issues in our lives. & if you are having a hard time recognizing one for yourself, I challenge you to examine the way you spend your time, your money, and your thoughts. Just like our pastor posed the question to us, I ask you: if you feel like you couldn’t give up that one (or many) things(s) for a year, you very well have a heart issue that needs to change. We are to hold everything in this life with an open hand. If you are a Christ follower you are meant to give your life, ALL of it, to Jesus. Although it is terribly difficult for us to loosen our grip & hand it all over at once, there is beauty & grace in the process. Another note I have from the group of messages spoken at fall retreat is that “this life alone is not fulfilling enough because we were made for something more. We were made for eternity” and “we were made to be fully satisfied in nothing other than Jesus Christ.” If you’re seeking for satisfaction & fulfillment elsewhere, it may sustain you for a little while, but it will all leave you empty handed at best in the end.

My heart has been breaking so much lately as I see just how prevalent idols are in our world & lives. That there are things deemed acceptable that are being increased to a status that they do not deserve. That something that can be good in our lives could put us so out of whack if we treat it with the wrong heart and intentions. This is serious stuff. So serious that the very first two commandments of the original Old Testament law concerned these issues.

God wants our hearts. He wants our lives. He asks things of us that are going to cost us. But we can look beyond the pain of tearing down our idols, cutting our heartstrings, & loosening our grip, to see and experience the freedom of redemption in Jesus & an eternity spent with Him. I think that is something that is SO worth it.

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the pilot episode

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Starting a blog is a thought that has crossed my mind many-a-times over the years, but I’ve never quite settled into the action of actually doing it. I mean, what would I write about? Is my life really exciting or fascinating enough for others to know about, or care about for that matter? So after quick two second spans of pondering I would push the thought to the back of my mind and let it go. It’s come and gone in distant waves, but it started to surface more often in the past months. Upon moving out to California for the start of my husband’s Air Force career in May, I was looking forward to a great deal of free time. And by a great deal, I mean all the time. This season of our lives in the Golden State is a short one due to the training nature of this job assignment, so we’re here for 5 months total before we move on to North Dakota – not a very reasonable time span for me to get a job. Thankfully our new active duty income allows for wiggle room too so that it’s not mandatory for me to be working at this time. Therefore during our time here, I have been soaking in the job title of “stay at home wife.” Best gig in the world! I certainly do love it, especially after a busy and heavy nine months of working with foster care. Praise the Lord for rest! But I digress…

In anticipation of these months (that we’re more than halfway through by the way) I thought about what I would use my time for. Jokingly (but somewhat seriously) the day before leaving our home state of Illinois I mentioned to Adam and one of my best friends that I would just start up a blog with all of the time on my hands. To my surprise, they both supported the idea immediately with statements like, “you’re really great at writing encouraging words to others so I think you’d be good at it.” Woah. Speaking one of my love languages here with those words of affirmation! So I began to think: what if I stopped daydreaming and actually seriously considered this shindig. Fast forward through the past few months and you’d see montages of me contemplating and going back and forth about the decision to actually pursue this – granted those would be pretty boring scenes to watch as they would just be of me thinking, and that’s just weird, but you catch my drift. So these months of consideration have brought me here for two primary purposes.

The first is more surface level, but still a significant factor in my decision to be here now doing this. Here’s the thing: I’m a woman. Therefore my mind is a constant highway of quickly flowing thoughts that sometimes rage out of control because there’s just so much mind traffic. Therefore, any way of mind dumping and getting some of those thoughts out to make more room and get some relief is a significant tool. Journaling has been that for me forever and always. Now I don’t do it nearly as much as I would like to these days, nor as much as I should, but there is something about putting pen to a paper (or fingers to a keyboard) that helps me drain those many strings of thoughts. It helps me to process and piece together things that I wouldn’t connect otherwise. And sometimes those connections are so good that I can’t help but want to share them. Ergo, putting them on the world wide web seems like an easy and practical way to do just that.

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The second purpose holds a much greater deal of meaning for me, and an even greater deal of purpose. And it goes something like this: I’ve just recently come to a new understanding of God’s will for my life – one that is applicable for all of us. Over my years of getting to know Jesus I’ve heard the phrases “I am not my own,” or “my life is not my own” and they’ve become more and more true in my life as my relationship with God deepens. And in the past few weeks this phrase’s truth has been expanded to the point that I understand it with a broader perspective. As a Christian, I am called to live my life for Jesus: to honor him, to imitate him, to lay down my life for him. But not only am I to just live my life in a way that exudes Christ’s character – I am to share my life with others; to live alongside of others and tell others about the things God has put on my heart and is doing in my life. God’s constantly at work in me in ways that would completely overwhelm me if I knew all of the details. He is consistently teaching me new things and deepening my understanding of who he is, and how that affects my life and my faith. I’ve realized that if I keep all of those lessons and experiences to myself, I think I am being selfish. To store up the truth and the spirit that God has breathed into my life just for myself is hiding how the gospel has unfolded in my life. If I’ve experienced the redemption of Jesus Christ, then I want to proclaim all that he does in my life. I want to share it with others, and in turn share more of Jesus with them. Stories are meant to be told. Mine is no exception. Yours isn’t either. Our stories aren’t meant to become dusty books sitting on the shelf. And so I’ve been motivated & encouraged by this truth to open up the pages to mine and let everyone in the world (or at least those who happen to read this blog or share life with me) read it and know it. That’s what I intend to do here. To share all that God has done, and is doing in my life. To present what he puts on my mind and my heart. To use the gifts he has given me to extend the reach of the gospel. Whether that means sharing something I learn straight from the Bible, a practical way I’m being challenged to live my life, family happenings to keep far away friends and family updated, or a DIY project here or there to connect with and inspire others, then so be it. I just want to be able to open the doors to what is going on in my and my family’s life as we venture on the journey that God has laid before us.

It’s a scary place to be. It’s a vulnerable place to be. But it also seems to be a very kingdom-minded way for me to be living my life right now. And if all I ever do is impact one heart for the sake of Jesus, then so be it, because that is His plan. If it’s more, then that’s something even greater to rejoice. As timid as I am about doing this, I am also incredibly excited to share my heart and soul with all who come to read this. I’m excited to share my story as it unfolds, and to hear your stories in return. So here goes nothing.

Welcome to the Pruim life…