choosing to be present.

Present is my “word” for 2020.

I hesitated to even declare a word over my year because, frankly, God will do whatever He wants. I might make my word “quiet” and He’ll crank up the volume. I might make my word “joy” and be met by the deepest depression of my lifetime. It’s true. Regardless of our plans, His will surely will prevail.

For me, while I’ve chosen words over the past few years (like abundance 2018 and trust 2019) is because they heighten my awareness to what I believe He is already speaking over me in a particular season. In the first few days of January, I still didn’t know if I would choose a word for the year. But God practically broke into the things I was watching, reading, and listening to and highlighted everything that had to do with the act of presence. Choosing a word for the year isn’t declaring everything He will do, because His Word says we can’t even imagine all the good and glory He’s got around the corner. But, every single tool we find that opens us up towards the movement of the Spirit is a worthwhile pursuit.

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Small steps in the right direction: Not caring about my house or my appearance being perfect as long as my heart is available to serve (cleaning, working, homework, housekeeping) and love (give a friend encouragement, give someone a hand in the studio, drop what I’m doing for an hour if someone needs me, etc.). My ceramics professor said to us nearly every week this past fall semester, “PERFECTION IS AN ILLUSION.”

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He didn’t tell us this to keep us from trying our best. He told us this on a regular basis, because we found ourselves stuck because what we wanted just wasn’t attainable. Our desire for perfection wasn’t making us better artists, it was actually bringing our work to a defeated pause. To a bunch of struggling art students, this phrase was like water on a Kansan August day. We were worn out from the expectations of our other professors, society, and – ourselves. This serves as a reminder for me in my work and every other area that perfect isn’t the goal. The need for perfection will get me to a tidier life, but not a kingdom-building one. The act of presence will make me give my best in the moment and leave the results to God. What matters isn’t that my house looks good, I get all As, or that I look like a Pinterest ad (although those things might coincide with my goals at times), what matters is that my life is open to the blessings of God and to bless others. And that just won’t happen if I’m mad about clutter or broken out skin or a failing grade, as fickle as those things may seem.

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Other tangible ideas I’m working towards: Looking people in the eye, at least more than I can say I do now. Reading more books. Making time for fun outside and within school. Taking time to revel in awe at God and His Word. Writing, at home and in coffee shops about the good, the bad, and the ugly instead of dusting it under the rug. Being 95% “where my feet are”. (Of course, a woman’s brain is hard to untangle into one geographical location – but what would happen if we gave as much as we could in the room or discussion group or even the Instagram DMs we were in? And then moved to the next “thing” with the same amount of attention?) By the end of this year, I’m sure I’ll have many other ideas as I’ve committed many months to the same idea.

“Present is living with your feet firmly grounded in reality, pale and uncertain as it may seem. Present is choosing to believe that your own life is worth investing deeply in, instead of waiting for some rare miracle or fairytale. Present means we understand that the here and now is sacred, sacramental, threaded through with divinity even in its plainness. Especially in its plainness.” — Shauna Niequist, Present Over Perfect

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Being present is simply the first step into what’s best for me in serving Christ and those around me. If I’m present, I’ll here His whispers quicker. If I’m present, I’ll count gifts consistently, seeing the ways in which He is constantly at work. If I’m present, life’s woes will be a lot more painful – but I won’t just ignore them, but experience God’s strength within them.

We live in a world that will take any chance it can get to numb away their lives, good or bad. If only we can drink, smoke, or buy more than enough – then we will feel relief from our days. If only we could have lots of sex and make a lot more money – then we will feel success. If I live vicariously through someone else’s bravery, I won’t have to listen to my own dreams. If I can keep all things tidy – myself, my house, my kids – then everyone will think I’m okay.

Choosing to be in the present is something that the evil one is offended by. He loves when we dwell on our past regrets and fret about the future. Oh, and he LOVES good intentions for *someday*. But he knows he will lose when believers stand up and show up to their one God-given life.

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The enemy delights in this future faith, for he knows it is powerless to accomplish any practical results. But he trembles and flees when the soul of the believer dates to claim a present deliverance, and to reckon itself now to be free from his power. . . Just as much as He [Christ!] came to deliver you from future punishment did He also come to deliver you from present bondage.  — Hannah Whitall Smith

By being present, I’ll be more awake to all the way’s He is moving. Whether it’s painful, exhilarating, or anywhere in between – wouldn’t we all prefer to say that we were awake to our own life? That we soaked up everything we could to make us better humans, His glory magnified on the earth, and our brother and sisters around us more loved? 

We should live in the present where love can touch us. — Henri J. M. Nouwen

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Being present is about being awake to it all. God is all powerful, but He doesn’t force us to listen. By making mindful choices to listen, to behold, to look up more often – we are guaranteed to be touched by love. And that love will flow through us in more powerful ways than when we were distracted by perfection.

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I’d love to know… What’s your word for the year and why?

 

 

 

 

surprised by joy

Zach and I are celebrated six months of marriage on December 15, 2019.

The first few months of marriage – maybe the first ten years – are for taking in all the experiences like a sponge. We take it all in with open eyes and raw nerves. I hesitate to celebrate such a small amount of commitment in light of a lifetime, or to offer insight as a twenty-year-old wife. Gosh, I can’t even legally order a margarita or rent a car but I’m committed to Zach for life. But here’s the thing: the reason the Israelites wondered in the wilderness for so long, the reason the rebellious teenager strays from the faith of Sunday school truths, the reason so many of us are out here floundering? It’s because we forget. We don’t celebrate the goodness and the faithfulness of God routinely – and then our routines become drudgery. 

Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us.” — 1 Samuel 7:12

So we are staking our claim – the Lord has helped us. Through six months of figuring out how to love each other like the church should devote itself to Christ, how Christ lays down His life for His friends. We lay this stone of this small victory in faith – in sureness of things not seen – that it’s one of many.

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Our first six months – setting up our home with IKEA finds and sentimental pieces of our pasts, getting and training and loving our puppy, my busiest semester yet, living the untold stories of behind-the-scenes ministry life, walking through a whirlwind of family tragedy. Panic attacks, laughter only two close friends could share, passive aggressiveness rooted in deeply hurt feelings, freedom found in open communication – you can find a bit of it all here. It has all seemed like too much at times, in good ways and bad.

This week, we brought home a present for our six month old puppy. Bones are the only thing that seem to hold his attention for longer than two minutes – with the exception of possibly his tail. Zach went to pick up only his food, but he also noticed something Usher would love – a bone that is 3/4 his length. He picked it up and as soon as I saw it, I couldn’t wait to see Usher’s face when we brought it home for him. We delighted to give the gift and he delighted in receiving it.

As Usher grabbed the bone from our hands, he could barely keep it up with his mouth. On the way to his favorite spot on the couch, he dropped the bone twice, fumbled over himself, and needed help. And was deliriously excited.

Stretch your imagination with me in this moment. Isn’t that a bit like God’s gift of marriage?

We did absolutely nothing to deserve the gift of marriage. We are not holier than the single person seeking companionship. But God saw this gift for us and He couldn’t wait to see our faces in the receiving! Even though He knew that we would need help – every single hour. Even though He knew we would make fools out of ourselves. Even though He knew it was a bit too much for us to carry on our own. He delighted in the giving and we are delighting in the receiving – of the gift and the help stewarding it.

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I’ve been thinking about the fact that if our lives were a movie, Zach and I’s story would be over. The curtain would close somewhere between our wedding ceremony and the airplane that took us to the Cayman Islands. But this, this — is a holy beginning. The world would say that we’ve got nothing else entertaining to give. And it’s true, our dating and engagement was a whirlwind of excitement. But God has just begun the good work in us, of growing love larger in our hearts every single day.

I think the crux of couples getting lost in the day to day is how they perceive a successful relationship. Is the goal to never fight, to always sync physically, to feel good?

There’s a better way. And it is the hardest, holiest way.

The thing that matters? It’s not whether I am being served or happy, while those things are included in the package deal many times. The only thing that matters is whether our marriage tells the truth about the gospel or not.

Are we irritated at each other but laying it all out on the table to work in out? Is the romance just not there today but are we rooted in the unconditional love of Christ? Is your “better half” being a jerk, but you know that when the lights go out you can use this as a conversation for growth of character and the relationship?

Is it all feeling broken, but we are leading one another to the cross?  

As long as a couple is married, they continue to display – however imperfectly – the ongoing commitment between Christ and his church. . . . The first purpose in marriage — beyond happiness, sexual expression, the bearing of children, companionship, mutual care and provision, or anything else — is to please God.

— Gary L Thomas, Sacred Marriage

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A month ago I was leaving my friend Gloria’s house. As Midwesterns have been mocked on the internet for doing lately, we were standing in the kitchen next to her back door saying our 15 minute goodbye. I looked at her with a decidedness in my voice: “I just wish that we would have been honeymooners a little longer.” By that I mean, the first time I was so angry to sleep on the couch – even in beautiful, fun, finally-no-boundaries-unplugged paradise – wasn’t even a week into our marriage. #wifeoftheyear.

“I think most of us who have been married for any substantial length of time realize that the romantic roller coaster of courtship eventually evens out to the terrain of a Midwest interstate – long, flat stretches with an occasional overpass.” — Gary L. Thomas, Sacred Marriage

She nodded her head with understanding.

She assured me that it’s okay if your story doesn’t seem to look like someone else’s newlywed story – because it’s real. Can I lean in and say that again? It’s okay if your story doesn’t look like someone else’s. It’s you. It’s authentic. It’s good to walk through hardship – as long as we walk, crawl, and stumble together.

Gloria finished her words of encouragement: “Don’t worry. God will surprise you with joy.”

He truly has.

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the one where we get engaged!

On October 20, 2018 Zach picked me up at our mutual friend’s house where I had spent the night in Des Moines, IA. We had spent the evening before at a good friend’s wedding dancing the night away. After I said goodnight to Zach, the girl’s and I went downtown Des Moines and enjoyed the sights and the good company. As Zach and I drove the two hours to meet my best friend for lunch the next morning, we listened to sappy music that means a lot to us as a couple and talked about our week. I get to see my best girl friend, Leah, about once a year. Zach and she arranged it starting in M A Y that we would all get together over Leah’s fall break, right in the heart of beautiful October. We met her for lunch in the small town of Bonaparte, Iowa and enjoyed a lunch by the river. I tried to get Leah to hang out for longer but she said she had “plans at 1 to hang out with her family”. So we took a few photos to capture the moment of all three being together again and said our “goodbyes”.

 

Bonaparte, Iowa is where we three met. Leah and I were assigned to be in the same cabin in 2007! Zach, Leah, and I became pals in 2013 when we were all working on kitchen staff together. We spent the week laughing together, wrestling with team dynamics, and singing High School Musical.

Zach and I made the drive out to camp and memories from my childhood just flooded in. We sat on a bench outside the kitchen where out initial interest kindled over Reese’s Peanut Butter cups and washing countless dirty dishes. We talked about all the memories we had together and personally in this one stretch of land – the friends we made, the not-so-fond memories, and the way God touched our lives. I remember leaning my head on his shoulder in that moment and wondering “Why isn’t he proposing?????” 😉

We continued the walk around my favorite spots at camp and took remake photos from our time there in 2013. I even took Snapchat videos that are hilarious and sweet to look back on knowing what was just about to happen!

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Being the typical woman that I am, I didn’t like the way I looked in any of our photos so Zach said, “Let’s go to the gazebo and try some there.” We laughed and walked hands over to the gazebo. I saw picture frames lining the benches, and then Leah with the video camera, and at that moment I knew what was happening.

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The moment had finally arrived.

The moment I’ve been dreaming of long before I knew Zach and the one he’s been teasing me about since we knew the direction of our relationship was certain. Zach got down on one knee, said the things every girl longs to hear, and closed with, “Would you do me the honor of becoming my wife?” I said “YES!”, he put the ring on my finger, and threw the ring box aside for one amazing, life-changing-moment embrace.

At a spot drenched in sentiment in the heart of camp, we had sweet pictures surrounding us & reminding us of the long road we traveled, red roses, shaky knees, happy tears, and a promise made.

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I’ll let these pictures speak for themselves about the joy and wonder of this moment…

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“WE’RE ENGAGED!!!!”

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Where you lead I will follow, soon-to-be husband.

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Diamond ring and twelve red roses… everything she ever wanted… all those dreams and now they’re finally here. 

She’s so young and he’s so perfect… they waited for love and it was worth it… they want to feel like this for a hundred years. 

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And, before any date was settled on or food tasted or vendor booked, I knew one other thing… So, next, I popped the question and asked Leah to be my maid of honor!!!

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I could write a book about the ways her friendship is constantly life-giving to me. 

After several hours of soaking in the moment at our favorite spot, we waved goodbye to a whole new set of memories and drove to Zach’s family’s house where I thought we would have a fun dinner with family. And that we did — but with a few more people than I was imagining. The drive was several hours and we forbid ourselves to talk about plans but simply to relish the fact that we had officially committed to becoming one, whenever the Lord seemed fit. When we arrived to Zach’s parent’s house, the driveway was packed with vehicles, the house filled with beaming faces, and our hearts continued to explode as we shared the news with those closest to us. I walked in and found my brother who had traveled over four hours, my parents who had driven seven, Zach’s college friends that I am now blessed to call my own, many family members to welcome us into each other’s clan… and the last guest I found in the corner of the living room: my best friend since BIRTH. I wouldn’t be who I am without this wild, beautiful woman of God and here she is at the 2nd most important day of my life so far! That’s actually the first time my tears absolutely flowed that day, not believing she was able to come & realizing the beauty of that moment. How our God loves drawing full circles of redemption.

Goodness, what a blessing. 

(Zach did good, right? 😉 )

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My best girls.

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That priceless moment when Grandpa welcomes you into his family. Wow wow wow.
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With one of our ring bearers to be!

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We are surrounded by so much love!

Next up was a rapid morning at church, a 7 hour car ride listening to football and calling close family and friends, all leading up to another beyond sweet engagement party – this time with our Kansas crew! Unlike the night before, family gathering at this party thought they were coming to a birthday party – and we met them at the door with other news!!! This was a night of pure joy exclaimed in so many hugs, getting to finally talk to my matron of honor about all the festivities, telling my family, the most delicious cupcakes, and playing with the kiddos in my life.

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To the community surrounding us: Thank you. Your support of our lives & now our lives together keep us reflecting on the goodness of God.

 

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Since this sunny and windy day in October, we have experienced many growing pains, but they are growing us closer to God and closer to each other. We are facing so many challenges and changes at once it’s hard to keep our vision straight. But this we know: the fight for holy marriage, the fight for unity, and the fight for God’s glory? It’s always, always worth it. And He is blessing us with so much joy as we continue to sharpen each other and laugh together. We are counting down the days.

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They told us camp wasn’t the time. (And God, in His sovereignty, kept us from romantic relationship for four more years.)

They told us our friendship would fade. (And we just kept growing closer, regardless of when we were able to see each other.)

They told us that we wouldn’t make it long distance. (And by the grace of God He held us in conflicts and blessed us with the hope of what was to come.)

Let’s keep beating the odds. 

 

This love story — a massive gift of grace.

This ring on my hand, this story of “Will you be my wife?” — unreal.

This life we are building together — I can’t wait. 

sing a loud song of redemption

I was able to attend my home church a few weeks ago and a lady in the congregation approached me to congratulate me on Zach and I’s engagement. She concluded by saying,

“God certainly provides doesn’t He?”

Lately I’ve felt guilty when I might lean on the side of “oversharing” in conversations face to face and on social media about Zach and I’s relationship. It’s such a thrilling time in life that I don’t want to become too centered on our little world of marriage preparations. While there is a time and a place for when and what to share, this comment made me realize why I commit to telling our love story.

My lowest low due to love forsaken was in the summer of 2016. I sat at a youth conference in Estes Park, Colorado and was told to write down the strongest lies I believed about myself.  Scribbled on a neon orange piece of paper I wrote, “I’m not good enough. I’m ugly. And no one will ever buy me flowers.” Tears streamed down my face as I saw those thoughts on paper for the first time and reflected on the reality ensuing back home making me feel these things, the sadness of those lies being exposed to the light and losing power over me. I crumbled up the piece of paper and threw it away, thinking that no one would ever have to see those thoughts that were active in my mind. After another full day of activities and worship sessions, we returned to the same workshop with a bookmark for each participant with Scriptures attacking the lies. I’m not sure even today of who read my broken remarks, but they fought the battle of exchanging those lies for God’s truth on my behalf. The new words reminded me that I was equipped for every good work in Christ and that I was flawless and beautiful by the blood of Jesus.

And the reason I will sing of my love found, is because the love I’ve found in Zach not only gives me the joy of this earthly companionship, but his love reminds me of what’s been true all along. The way he looks at me – is forever changing me the way I love and the way I receive love from the Father. If there is something in your life that is revealing love to you in a brand new way, spoken by God or shown by Him through His creation, the world needs to hear it. God didn’t start singing over me when Zach decided to choose me across all the miles and all the obstacles in our way. We haven’t “arrived” – this is simply the path of sanctification the Lord has led us to. God was singing over me when I was stricken by grief in the mountains, when I was afraid of losing Zach’s friendship the next summer, when we promised each other forever this last October, and every step in between.

This song, it’s not about us at all. God certainly provides, doesn’t He?

The definition of provision isn’t in finding a spouse or buying that impressive house. Provision is the truth that God is singing over you right now and He won’t stop. The circumstances you are in – whether in the waiting or the fulfillment – there’s still a call for a victory dance. Because whether you’re waiting for money to pay bills, that dream to come true, that boy to call back, lab results that might have a new chapter attached to them, or those job results after an exciting interview – He is here. And He has something to speak to you in it. 

why our redemption stories, in all their variations, are worth telling:

  • to count the fruit

The good parts are not the whole story, but focuses our hearts on what matters most and how far we’ve come. Recounting faithfulness reminds us of all the goodness that can spring forth from growing unseen and maybe even unappreciated in the dark.

  • to change the language

This world is drenched in cynicism and confusion when it comes to healthy relationships, marriage specifically. What if more people in stable relationships shared their lives and their struggles openly? What if by our lives we could all beckon a bit more hope in each other’s dreams? In order for this to change, it all starts with the language we use to each other and about each other.

  • to bless our partner, our friends

Scripture says in Hebrews 10:24 that we ought to “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works…” One way to do this is to consistently tell your partner what you’re grateful for. It tells them, “I see you & the way you love behind the scenes.” It builds them up and it helps them to keep going with a joyful heart.

  • to show the world what true love is

When I was living out my singleness in high school, my friend Becca wrote long letters to me telling story after story about how God was working between she and her husband (then her boyfriend!). Hearing about the way Casey held her, wiped her tears, and laughed with her pointed me to hope. When I consider keeping this love only to myself, I think about how my thought processes would have been different without those stories shared by Becca and other sweet women who have let me take a glimpse into sacred pieces of their lives. If all the world is hearing is songs about one night stands and broken communication, who will tell them that sacrificial, gentle love exists? Let is start with us. 

The Gospel is the grandest love story that will ever be told. And if our one relationship, lived with intention – in all our mistakes and mishaps – points others to that One Best Story? Then who am I to stay quiet about what He has done?

Maybe you’re committed to a lifetime of singleness or you just don’t know what’s next. Your love song has already begun. Sing the song of your redemption loudly, whether it’s in the reconciling of a friendship, the Spirit working through your campus, or speaking to you over a pile of laundry. We share to not award ourselves, but to shed more light on the generous, glorious work of our Father. God is singing over you — and the hopeless world out there needs to hear echoes of that melody. Don’t be afraid to share how God is shaking things up for good – it will wake up our weary hearts.

september good list.

it’s easy to get caught up in the everydayness, in the hustle of these autumn school-laced, work-packed days. here’s how i’m counting the fruit, pausing to take in all that the Lord is doing, processing the beautiful and bittersweet in all this chaos.

coldplay playing

coffee swigging

black finger nails

breathtaking light through trees

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a perfectly sharpened pencil

a two-hour phone call with my best gal

slow mornings (when they come, if they come, they’re the best)

when someone calls me Em

sipping sweet tea and watching The Cat

campus at dusk

yummy delivery with lots of bread

love notes on my side table

crying during a sweet Disney movie

worship with Jason Gray

dancing with my man in the middle of the kitchen on an emotional Sunday night… to this song 

Michael Jackson spinning on vinyl in my room, it’s Friday afternoon

hugs from kiddos at work

long handwritten letters from a kindred spirit

thanks, God, for tiny blessings? that aren’t so tiny after all. for hearts that look after mine. for hearts to look after. for a new church family to open Your Word with. for gaps being filled. thank You for everything. 

thirty days off.

Thirty days off from what, you might ask? Social media.

Is it hard? Yes.

Do I miss it? Yes.

Is it worth it? Also, yes.

the logistics ::

My loose plan: No browsing Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. I’m replying to snapchats and Instagram DMs and looking at Pinterest with discretion.

the better yeses ::

More leaving my phone at home.

More eye contact.

More reading.

More creation.

More dreaming.

Less envy.

Less stress.

Less time doing homework because my attention span is broadened.

Less comparison.

the why ::

[part one]

Recently I read an article by Italo Calvino that talks about how when you begin to take photos of your life, you then feel compelled to take at least one photo a minute to give context. Because once you see one moment captured, you are fearful of fleeting moments and therefore become obsessed with fragmenting time through recording it in some fashion. In order to do record this moment, you have to remove yourself from the present, if even for an instant. You are recording for a memory and therefore already beginning to see the present moment in the past tense.

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Italo Calvino

These words inspires me to create more, look into the eyes of the people around me, sit with more questions. To take thirty days off. To live in the moment I’m standing in. To be awake to my own thoughts and to the people around me. I believe you can live fully present and have an active Instagram account. But if you live in this place of always, always needing to capture every good thing, the vision of your life will become blurry.

[part two]

When Mary was told by the angel that she would give birth to the Savior of the world, she asked “how?”. She said “I’m Yours” to the Father. She went to go visit Elizabeth and they praised God together. When Jesus was born it is recorded in Luke 2:19 that

…Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.

All of our minutes are a gift from God, but with so much of my life changing at the moment, I don’t want to look back and feel like I’ve missed it.

exhibit a – My boyfriend Zach just moved to Kansas. For the first time in our relationship, we are minutes away from each other instead of hours! I’m working two jobs with a full school schedule. I want to build community among my coworkers, my college friends, our new church home. I want to love my people well through time, love, service.

This season is unique and it’s hard to keep up with everything shifting, in big and subtle ways. When I look around at all the GOOD (& even the ugly), I want to be more like Mary.

I want to say, “How can this be?” (I’m still in this stage. Thank You so much, God. For you. For all this change. Also, please send more coffee.)

I want to surrender to His will. (His timing is not mine. His plan is not mine. His timing and His plan are best.) 

I want to celebrate with those around me, wholeheartedly. (This requires my full attention.) 

I want to ponder these things in my heart, not missing a thing.

There is more ahead then I can imagine. So, I’m marking my first deep breath here – in the margin of an empty notification screen, a heart of reflection and anticipation.

What rhythms in your life help you to ponder and process the beautiful things going on in your life?

you deserve a seat here.

We were sitting in a nonuniform circle, partaking in the awkward string of first day of class introductions and stirrings in office chairs. It’s my intro to digital photo class. My professor is from India and he has the richest, most beautiful accent. One after another my classmates say, “This is my first official class in photography.”

I’m new here.

I’m not sure what I’m doing.

One girl sitting across from me says her name and states, “I’m not good at photography, so…”

My professor interrupts her. He questions her with curiosity, compassion. A light in his eye, a lump in his throat. “Who told you that?”

Who told you that this was your name? Who told you this couldn’t change? Who told you that you weren’t good enough? Who told you that you can’t measure up? 

She answered, “Well, me.”

He leans his head towards the girl and says firmly yet playful sarcasm, “You don’t count.”


You are your own worst critic. And those thoughts? They don’t count towards the truth of who you truly are.

You have room to grow, babe. There’s no denying that each of us have things to improve – we should complain less, stretch our legs more often, create more interesting compositions, look up at the sky more. We should be kind and consistent, hard working and at peace with our lives. And you can change to experience growth and breakthrough in your life, but you never have to change to be loved. 

You might think that you don’t belong here. Like your place in the circle doesn’t make sense, that it’s a mistake that you’re learning how the inner workings of your industry flows from the professionals or that the way he looks at you in incomparably breathtaking.

Your being __there__ is not a mistake. You being loved is not a mistake. You stepping out into brave situations is not a mistake. You working hard and dancing freely is not a mistake. The joy you feel? It’s not for someone else, it’s a gift for you.

The only mistake is that you believe you’re here to prove yourself based on human’s measurement of success, not to build the life God is calling you to and to create a more beautiful world all around you.

You deserve a seat in the circle.

So, introduce yourself. Assume challenges will come. Ask lots of questions – after all, we’re all new here. Imagine the growth you want to see. Celebrate the tiny victories. And never forget that the voice that counts calls you 

Chosen. 

Redeemed. 

Beloved. 

#SayYesToAbundance2018

since the first few weeks in january, you’ve seen me use the hashtag SayYesToAbundance2018.

but what is saying yes to abundance? and why this year?

it’s knowing that a full life isn’t a perfect life. God came to give us joy, but not a life that makes us boast of our own achievements and blessings, but a life that is so wrung out for the glory of God that people can only praise Him as a result. a life that points to the power at work within us, not to us.

i chose SayYesToAbundance this year, because I tend to believe in scarcity. it’s hard for me to believe in my heart that after God multiplies the fish and the bread, after He multiplies strength and peace for everyone else, that there will be room for me at the table too. i love spurring people onto His table and His family, but i miss the point that the gospel is for even sinful me. i live in worry that when a good moment comes it’s too good to be true. but here is what the gospel tells me: there is always more for me. there is always more grace, always more love, always more truth, and always more to hope for.

so before you have to say yes to abundance, you have to redefine abundance as it is seen in its biblical context: which includes the term growing wonderfully.

for me, it’s about listening to the Holy Spirit when all my flesh craves is stress and the myth of control and He says let go and celebrate.

sometimes saying yes to abundance means saying yes to suffering. sometimes it means asking your boyfriend how his heart is when he hasn’t asked you yet and you don’t feel like it. saying yes to abundance means saying yes to vulnerability and humility. there will be nights you fall asleep with tears on your pillow, because when you suffer with Christ, you’re glorified with Christ. 

saying yes to abundance means saying no to all the wrong things, to all the toxic things.

saying yes to abundance means loving your enemy and leaving the last word for Him to speak.

saying yes to abundance means receiving the craziest blessings from God, the ones you don’t need, the ones you didn’t expect. saying thank you and choosing to receive in a way that gives all the glory back to Him.

abundance is telling the truth in my weakness so those closest to me, the ones who my sin rubs up against at its ugliest everyday, can see His power shine through.

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” – Ephesians 3:20-21

children of God, we can get our hopes up. because we have been underestimating the love of our Father long enough. what would happen if we all dared to ask? and let Him exceed our largest prayer?

maybe abundance is not in what we think at all, but in everything He has designed from His fullness. maybe saying yes to abundance is saying yes to heartbreak and misunderstandings and hard days because through these things we let loose in love. and what could be better?

so this is what i know — half way into 2018, looking at every instagram grid and into his eyes and at all the sunsets from the interstate for just a glimpse of this glory: i’ve only begun to taste what abundance is, what God meant when He said He sent Jesus to give it to us. i know abundance means more of Him, not more of us. i know He gives us blessings from His heart, and knowing more of His heart is the greatest gift along the way.

maybe we can barely fathom the whole of what His abundance is – and maybe that’s the point.

 

 

21 reasons why i love my boyfriend.

It’s my best friend’s birthday.

I’m feeling all the feelings, grateful for his life and sad that we can’t be together and joyful that he chooses to fight for our relationship across hundreds of miles every single day.

He turns 21 and these are just 21 reasons why I have fallen in love with him.

[Here on the blog, you’ve seen glimpses of his presence, but haven’t been fully introduced. That is changing today! Here’s a bit more about the guy that’s the reason I’ve been so quiet in the writing department over the past few months – pondering it all in my heart, building up words for myself and words to slowly release to the rest of the world.]

one.

he loves Jesus

It’s what matters most and I couldn’t be more grateful.

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two.

he is goofy and serious

He’s hilarious AND so wise. This means I get the gift of laughter, discernment, joy, and perspective every day.

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three.

i can be myself with him

See reason number two. 🙂 He brings out the kid in me.

four.

he is good at Dad jokes

The kid is years ahead of his time in the Dad joke department. Thanks for making me laugh. And making mostly everyone else cringe.

five.

he makes himself at home in the most random places

When we reunited last summer, I introduced him to friends and twenty minutes later he was digging through their fridge looking for something to eat. For some reason, it made me smile so wide.  It’s all about the right amount of friendliness and confidence I think.

six.

he doesn’t care what people think in the best way

From wearing purple hair to his first Kansas State football game to going crazy with me on the dance floor, I don’t have much of a chance to hide out from FUN on the sidelines or in the shadows anymore. His loud and my quiet create a really beautiful balance. He’s the Chip to my Joanna.

 

seven.

he confesses sin + repents in the light

He’s not perfect. But when he sees sin in his heart and life, he takes it to God and makes it right with the people around him.

eight.

he loves his momma real well

It’s the sweetest thing to witness.

nine.

he cultivates community

He is gifted at connecting people. This makes him an incredible friend and one day will make him a terrific pastor.

ten.

he is good at conflict

We have had our fair share of conflict and he is able to speak true, hard words with gentleness. He says, “Talk to me. What’s up?” about ten times a week. When we are together, he will cup my face and says “Look at me” when I’m avoiding eye contact. He prays before and after rough conversations that could very well lead to – or we know will – lead to an argument.

eleven.

he errors on the side of thoughtfulness

Zach never stops thinking, in every situation, about everyone in the situation… and usually thinks about himself last.

twelve.

 

he looks at me like this

 

He looked at her the way all women want to be looked at by a man. – F. Scott Fitzgerald

thirteen.

he puts his all into everything he does

In a world that is constantly distracted, he is fully in the conversations he’s involved in. It’s not a matter of perfect focus, but he is so good at doing the next best thing and putting all his strength into it whether it’s an all-nighter for school, picking up extra hours at work, or playing a game in the backyard with his family.

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fourteen.

he has a servant heart

Before I even see a need or a desire of a friend or family member, Zach is fixing it or helping or going above and beyond to meet the need.

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fifteen.

he’s a baby + kid magnet

All the kiddos in my life adore him. All the kiddos we pass on the street gravitate towards him. My youngest nephew was calling him Uncle Kurt the day they met and it was too cute to ever correct him. He sees kids like I think Jesus intends them to be seen in the kingdom of God — with priceless value and intentional attention and necessary correction.

sixteen.

he was my faithful friend first

Ever since we became friends in 2013, at the end of a bad day I always knew Zach was a safe place to land.

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seventeen.

he makes life a dance party

We are always singing and dancing.

eighteen.

he prays over me and anyone who will join him 

Almost ten months into our romantic relationship, I cannot count the times he has prayed over me and with me. He leads well. In fact, I knew I was 100% ready to take a step of faith and say yes to move further in our relationship in a prayer he said over us last summer. In addition to ministering to me in this way, I have seen him minister so many times to friends and even strangers going to God in prayer.

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nineteen.

he takes care of me when i’m sick

The man has held me in the ugliness of my worst panic attacks, rubbed my feet when I had a fever, prayed over me when the lies in my head were strong, encouraged me countless times to go to a coffee shop and spend time with Jesus when I’m having a rough day, and got everything I needed including a Gilmore Girls marathon when I had the flu.

twenty.

he writes me songs and letters

I was a hopeless romantic in middle school, but I don’t think I ever thought I’d have someone who wrote me songs. Counting this as one of the many ways God goes above and beyond to grace me with Zach.

twenty-one.

he is stubborn in his love for me

When I am stubborn in moodiness and negativity and plain nastiness, he is stubborn to call me out with kind, true words. Stubborn to not hang up the phone until he knows I’m okay. Stubborn to not go to bed angry, if we can help it. Stubborn to bring my from tears to laughter. Stubborn to help me receive love and say thank you. Stubborn to get me to work through my fears and open up.

ZACH KURT!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!

You’re a good man, and these are just a few of the reasons why. There are so many more. Don’t celebrate too hard without me – kick those finals in the butt, drink a round of green tea shots, and live it up with those handsome Spiicy Short Boyz. Can’t wait to party with you in just a few sleeps.

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spring reads.

I’m slowly feeling like myself again, figuring out where reading fits into my new normal. I used to scoff at college students that said they didn’t feel like reading for fun and now I understand. Some days it will be the exact medicine you need and some days you need to relax in different ways and that’s okay. But, as a whole, every time I pick up a book I leave refreshed and wonder why it’s taken me so long. These three were no exception when I found pockets of time in my day to cuddle up in my dorm bunk with a cup of coffee and crack these open:

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Scary Close by Donald Miller

“I no longer believe that love works like a fairy tale but like farming. Most of it is just getting up early and tilling the soil and then praying for rain. But if we do work, we just might wake up one day to find an endless field of crops rolling into the horizon.”

This one was a re-read. The last time I went through this book, I was a single lady and I knew that it was worth revisiting with my new perspective. I love the way Miller looks at life and shares about the trials of love so honestly. If you struggle with intimacy (um, who doesn’t?) this is a good place to dig deeper and become more real, especially with the one you love most. You can see my original review for more info here. 

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Daring to Hope by Katie Davis Majors

“He wasn’t promising a world without trouble, without heartbreak along the way. He was promising me Himself.”

I have missed Uganda and I have deeply missed Katie’s words. I ate this book right up. It deals with the tough questions we all ask about God’s goodness in the face of illness, death, rejection. Katie’s stories of how God has held her in the middle of the night and through the worst times are relatable and life-giving. And, for those of you that have followed Katie’s story, it gives one stunning life update that will leave you in tears. *Benji’s proposal* *sniff sniff* 

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Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst

“So don’t berate yourself for being in pain. It just means you are walking toward victory by not numbing yourself right now. You are making progress. You are going to be strengthened by it, healed from it, and better off because of it.”

and my personal favorite…

“We won’t think about thighs in eternity.”

Okay, let’s be honest, Lysa TerKeurst isn’t my favorite. But this book was exactly what my heart needed in this season. I read what I needed the day I needed it. The truths such as “her success does not threaten yours” has been on repeat in my mind, helping me when I’m struggling with comparison and jealousy. It was a refreshing read that I’d love to study with a group of gals. She tackles the roughness of love lost from high school boys and mean girls who break your heart with biblical truth — what a GIFT to us in 2018.

BONUS:

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I just finished this Bible study from HB! Hannah has a fresh way of looking at the text and letting us see the stories of Jesus in a way that makes us see where we, as 21st century victims, fit into His story just right. I was convicted by her pointed questions that made me examine my heart, no excuses, and was brought back by the way she pointed to the goodness of God’s heart.

You can download it (FOR FREE!) for yourself here: First, Be A Follower

What am I currently reading?

A Woman After God’s Own Heart by Elizabeth George

THAT’S A WRAP.

Let me know what you’re reading in the comments!!