Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Dear 2011: Reflections and Lessons Learned

I was ready.

When the clock struck midnight on December 31, 2010… I was ready.

I was ready for change. I was ready for hope. I was ready for something to propel me forward.

I had been in this vortex of comfortable.

My faith had hit a plateau. There was nothing remarkably different about me.

Yes I had changed in the past year. I had made new friends, I had moved, I had become a woman I had never seen or never thought of becoming.

But something inside of me wanted more, needed more, begged for more.

So I was ready.

For good reason, too.

I look back today and think: Has it been a whole year? One entire year?

How has it not been longer? Hasn’t it been longer?

These are the questions I ask myself as I sit here and think about the magnitude of change my life has encountered over the past year and things that my heart, my hope, my faith have learned.

I've learned you can wish for change, you can beg for change, you can run for it full force with all you have… but it’s not going to come until God allows it come. And when it does, you may not be as ready as you think. But the only constant in change, is that it ALWAYS comes. And the biggest thing that changes you, is how you deal with that change. Lean into God. Pray. Fight hard with your faith. Grow. That is what change is all about.

I've learned to dream. That’s a crazy concept to think about since we have been dreaming from the day we were born. Our parents had dreams for us. We had dreams for ourselves; jobs we wanted to have, places we wanted to see, people we wanted to be. But somewhere along the way, if you are like me, you stopped dreaming. Let me tell you this: There is nothing more beautiful than a heart that has been awakened and can learn to dream. AND DREAM BIG. God wants us to dream. HE IS GOD. He is so much bigger than our dreams. And maybe those dreams lead you closer to Him. Or maybe those dreams bring others closer to Him. Or maybe you just figure out more about who He is. Isn’t that what it’s all about? Don’t be afraid to fail. That might be the purpose. But trust me, the end gain with God is so much bigger. So Dream. Dream Big. Why not?!

I've learned that your faith grows immensely when you surrender to God. The only situations I have been in this year, are ones where at the end of the day, the only thing I have is my faith in God. It will bring tears to your eyes when you can understand more and more of who He is. I cannot describe in words just how faithful, how loving, how simply INCREDIBLE God is and has been to me this year. But I am not who I was one year ago. I think that alone speaks volumes of His capability.

I've learned life does not get more stable the older you get. It does not get less scary. You do not have more answers than you did when you were 19. In fact I think it gets scarier, I think it gets less stable, I think you have less of a clue about where you are headed. But you know who you are. You have more courage, more faith, and more strength to face all the unknowns if you allow God to grow those things in you. You do not have more answers, but the answers you do have are more secure. You do not have more strength; in fact you may become weaker. Thank God His weak is a billion times stronger than our strong. His grace is sufficient for us.

I've learned I am beautiful. I posses something that is my own, that God created in me. Every day is a struggle to fight the lies Satan poisons women with; more personally, poisons me with. Every day it is difficult to remember that God created me with a unique beauty all my own. Every day, God sends reminders of how beautiful I am to Him, how happy my love for His world, makes Him. Every day He continually teaches me the TRUTH about beauty, about HIS beauty, and about the beauty He created within me.

I've learned pain comes in waves. Change doesn’t come without pain. It rains. It will always rain. Sometimes the pain can hurt so bad, you think you will die before God vanquishes it. But then it goes, just as quickly as it came. We go through hardships, loss, fear, and hurt. It comes when we aren’t ready for it, when we don’t expect it, when we can’t handle it. Waves come. Waves go. Things get better. Maybe for a moment, or a day, or a week, or a lifetime. But the “better” comes. Through a laugh, through a friend, through a prayer. And the best thing about waves is they bring you closer to shore, closer to Home, closer to Him.

I've learned the war has already been won. I’ve spent a lot of time this year fighting battles. Honestly, they seemed like wars at the time. Satan is a vicious, vile, relentless jerk. And that is putting it nicely. But because of these battles, these hurts, these tears and tiring sleepless nights, I have realized the most important thing that wins EVERY battle: The war has been won. This truth allows me to cling so desperately during these battles to the beauty, the glory, and the sacrifice of the Cross. The victorious, redeeming, wondrous cross. Satan may throw a lot of crap at me, and it gets hard… believe me, it gets REALLY hard. But the war has been won. The price has been paid. My heart, my life, my everything lies in the hands of Jesus Christ who will not leave me nor will He forsake me.

I have learned life is not about getting what I want. I did not ask to be single at 25. I did not ask to work for a non-profit, sometimes struggling very hard to make ends meet. I did not ask to live in a different city than my family. I did not ask to be continually in question about what comes next in my life. I had a plan. Don’t we all. I did not get much of what I wished for as a little girl. It has taken me a very long time to accept that. He did not put me where I wanted. I will forever be grateful for the grace and mercy that has allowed this truth. He has put me where I am needed, where I am wanted, where I will grow and continually seek His will. Life is not about what I want. Life is about what I can do for Christ. That doesn’t mean my dreams won’t come true. That means all those old dreams, are gone. It’s time for new ones. It’s time to ensure that I delight myself in Him and follow His dreams for me, and make sure everything I want reflects everything He sees in me.

This past year, 2011, has been hard.

I have been pruned. And that is not an easy thing to undergo.

But I have come through with more joy, more love, more hope, more faith, and more knowledge of peace than I ever would have been able to without the pruning.

It has been exactly one year. One year since I braced myself for change.

And now…
I have no clue what is coming next.

But I’m dreaming, I’m seeking, and I’m abiding.

Dear 2011,

 I cannot sum up in one tiny post the hundreds of lessons I have been taught, journeys I've taken, experiences I've had, massive amounts of laughter I've shared, tears I've cried, or mountains I've slid down and conquered. But I will continue to share them to those who wish to learn, seek and understand the vast amount of things your small one year span has taught me.

What a year it was.

See you in photos and memories,

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What I've Learned About Relationships

This past year I’ve come in contact with many different forms of relationships.

Some of my friends entered their second year of marriage.
Some of my friends got married.
Some got engaged.
Some just started dating.
Some broke up.
Some have been married for many years.

And none of them are the same.

I decided a while back that I would try to learn from what everyone around me in relationships had to offer.

How do relationships really work? What's normal? What's is trying to make it work and what is beating a dead horse? What makes a relationship last?

So I’ve watched. I’ve asked. I’ve taken mental notes. And I’ve prayed.

Most of all,  I've learned.

I've learned that no two relationships are the same. They all start differently, they all have different struggles, and they all have different ways of functioning. You cannot compare your relationship to that of someone else. Just because one relationship starts really quickly and one takes months of months of being friends before dating… doesn’t mean one will last and one won’t. There is no cookie –cutter relationship that we should all hold a standard to.

I've learned that it doesn’t have to be hard. I’m not saying that it is always going to be easy, or that you will never fight. But I’ve seen a lot of my friends in couples over the past few months… and it doesn’t have to be that hard! If while you are dating: you fight every single day, you can’t agree on anything, you talk bad about each other when you aren’t around one another, you’d rather be alone more than being with your significant other, you can’t trust them… there is a better way! Maybe you work it out with the person you’re with. Maybe you decided to move on. But I’ve seen it. It does exist. Relationships are work, but they don’t have to constantly be hard work.

I've learned the importance of dealing with your baggage BEFORE you enter a relationship. I never realized that the things that have scarred me in my past—“daddy” issues, the way I have been treated in past relationships, the way I behaved myself and the scars I caused myself—will show up in your relationships! In a major way. No one person can make me whole. No one person can “fix” me. It is up to me to allow Christ to do that and to genuinely seek becoming more like Him and healing those scars. He is the ONLY one that can do that.

I've learned that your spouse will always come second. I used to believe that my future husband would come above anything and everything else in my life. If we had children, they would follow. Then I fell in lovewith Jesus Christ. And He wants to be first in my life. ABOVE ALL ELSE. That all else… that includes a husband and kids. That includes family. That includes EVERYTHING. If you do not have a significant other that feels the same way or sees Christ the way you do, you need to seek Christ together and ask Him to change your hearts, make you fall in love with HIM, that way you can allow room for Christ in your heart and in your relationship.

I’ve learned my position as a woman in a relationship. I used to get soooo offended at the thought of “submitting” to my husband.  I am my own person, why should I let him get the say? This could be a whole post in itself but in the end, it’s not a power thing… it’s respect, it’s Godly, it’s trust. The bible calls me to be with a man worth leading me and making the decisions when it comes to our well being, our walk with Christ, our children. Ladies, if he’s not worth submitting to, don’t. Men, we need you to lead us. We need you to be worth submitting to.

I've learned that no matter how hard it may be or how difficult and confusing it may seem at the time… sometimes you have to walk away. I get so upset with friends who allow themselves to be walked all over. Mostly because I've been there myself. Problems with someone relating to emotional or physical affairs will not get better in a relationship or in a marriage. This does not solve anything. Ladies, if he is having an emotional affair with someone BEFORE you get married… what makes you think that the minute you get into a really difficult situation in a marriage, he won’t run to another woman to help him? Guys, if she’s cheated on you once, what on earth makes you think she’ll never do it again? She did not have the respect or love for you to not do it the first time. And in many cases it’s what I like to call a cockroach situation: If you find out she’s cheated once (notice she didn’t tell you and didn’t want you to ever find out) there are probably about 10 more cases that you do not know about where she has cheated. You may be afraid of being alone, you may not want to give up, but God wants you to. Let go of a bad, abusive, emotionally trying relationship. Don’t settle.

Speaking of settling. I've learned not to settle. Someone to lead me in my everyday life and my spriritual walk. Someone who makes me laugh and laughs with me. Someone who appreciates me. Someone who is not abusive in any way. Someone who loves Jesus way more than he will ever love me. Someone who is ok with the fact that I may know just as much about football and baseball as he does. Someone Godly, respectable, and endearing. I don’t think that’s too much to ask. I’d rather be picky, have high standards, not settle... than be in a relationship that is destructive for the rest of my life.  I’ve come too far to give up now. And if life in a relationship doesn’t glorify God the way life not in a relationship does, no thank you.
(Side note: I do not say alone, because I believe that whether I am blessed with a relationship or not, I will never be alone. God has blessed me immensely with plenty of people and loved ones to fill my life. It took me a long time to appreciate and understand this.)

I've learned it’s not about me. My entire life, I have desired a relationship with a man. I’ve wanted a family. And more recently, I have desired to be a stay-at-home wife and mom. But these are selfish desires. I’ve learned we must align our hearts with God’s. If my relationships, if my life, does not honor and glorify Him, then what is the point? I do not want a relationship, simply to have a relationship. Paul speaks of the good single people do and how his preference is to stay single for the simple fact that as a single person, we dwell upon the Lord and aim to please Him. If I can serve God more furiously as a married woman, FANTASTIC.  If I serve Him better single, then He will grant me the peace and understanding to do so for the rest of my life. And I fully believe and put my hope in this truth.

I've learned the best and most fruit bearing relationships bring you closer to God every single day. I’ve observed some pretty incredible relationships this year and have been so lucky to get to be a part of their lives and learn from them.  And the biggest lesson they have all taught me… is you can’t get closer to each other, without getting closer to God. Intimacy was CREATED by God Himself.  How do we expect to know it, to have it, without Him? It’s like a triangle: The closer you get to Him at the top, the closer you get to each other. It also keeps your relationship strong and keeps Satan from attacking you with the everyday struggles of life. Those can either magnify the relationship or destroy it.

What advice do you have? What have you learned through relationships of your own or from others around you? Are you looking to learn? What could you learn?

I encourage anyone who is single or even in a dating relationship to seek out advice and things you can learn from those around you that are married or in relationships. But don’t forget to consult the One who made you. He thought up, designed and implemented the idea of relationship, so that He could have it with you. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011


I have exciting news.

Actually, it may be the most exciting news a girl can ever have.

I have been romanced.

I am talking: completely, head-over-heels in love, butterflies in my stomach, cold chills... romanced.

And it was done by none other than the Original Romancer Himself, Jesus Christ.

I get this may sound weird.
It honestly, sounds a little odd to me.
But there is no denying it.

Let me share an embarrassing fact with you.
It has been a very long time--many years, actually--since I have felt adored, treasured, beautiful...

Quiet honestly, up until recently, I do not know that I even remembered what it felt like to be loved. love and be loved...

I knew that in a platonic sense.
I knew that in a family sense.
I knew that in a Christian sense.

But to love and be loved in a ROMANTIC sense...

That is a concept that has been lost over the years in the hurt and in the pain of hiding.

God has been many things to me in my life. Especially in the last few years, since I completely surrendered my heart and life to Him and His perfect will.


And He still is all these things!

But He has become something even more to me.


I recently came through a rough patch in my walk with Christ.
My heart was dead. 
Numb really.
I couldn't feel ANYTHING.
Except the bad of course.
I think for the first time in my life, I completely understand what it means to CLING to the cross.

I have cried.. I mean boo-hooed.. every time I worship in the last month.
I could feel... really feel... God was good.
I knew He was.
I knew He was God, He was more than I was, and He was with me.

But I was utterly numb.
There was no zeal, no passion, no nothing to my life.
I was lonely, sad, angry, frustrated, and lonely.

I put that twice, I realize that.
I need you to understand... I was really LONELY.

I can't tell you what happened.
I can't tell you I prayed a magical prayer, and poof.. all better.
I can't tell you, that I tried harder and that worked. 
I didn't. 
In fact, I grew weaker.. and my life, my walk with God probably reflected that.

I was worshiping one Friday night and we sang these lyrics:

"I hear Thy Savior say 'thy strength indeed is small. Child of weakness watch and pray; find in Me, thine all in all.'"

My heart just said.."..that's you. you're that child."
My hands FLEW in the air.
My entire body had goosebumps.
Tears...streamed down my eyes.
At one point, I'm fairly certain I just gasped in awe.
My heart... My heart was 

That night I went back to a passage I felt God had been writing on my heart for the last few weeks:

"So now I am going to draw her back to me. I will lead her into the desert. There I will speak tenderly to her." Hosea 2:14

I got it. 
After WEEKS of meditating, praying, seeking...
I got it.
I quit looking at the desert part.
I was there.
But this time.. I saw the first half of that verse:
                               "...I will lead her back to ME.."
I began to pray:
                 God--when did I leave you? I'm here.. Did I abandon You? Father.. Precious Father...

And then I read on: 
            "I will give her back her vineyards. I will make a door of hope for her. Then she will love Me as she did when she was young. 'And in that day' declares the Lord, 'you will call Me "my Husband" and no longer will you call me "my Master". I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness and you will acknowledge the Lord." 
Hosea 2:15-16,19-20

In that moment, He was not trying to be Father. He was opening my eyes, my heart.

I can't perfectly describe what that passage means to me.
I can't make you understand what that did right then, right there, on that Friday night, to my heart.
Or what it continues to do for that matter.

I think for the first time in my life, I am IN LOVE with my Savior and Redeemer.
I have always revered and feared Him. 
But this... this is different.

It's a relationship. A real one.
It's living.

Songs send me to tears thinking about our love. 
Each day and each night, I cannot wait to spend time with Him.
I can feel Him wrap His arms around me, especially when I begin to feel weak.
He speaks to me.
The stars sitting out on a friend's dock a few weeks ago, were a special gift for me--His Chosen Bride.

He has become my all in all.

God is many things to us all. 
You may need a father figure because you don't have a good one, or one at all.
You may need a friend when you are lonely.
You may need a savior and redeemer for your past.
At this time in my life, I needed a lover--someone to provide that true love that I so desperately long for.

Real. Romantic. Love.

I came to the well.
And I have been filled up.

My heart has awakened. 

Today, I am satisfied. He is the Love of my life. 

I know that all relationships go through ups and downs. I know life won't stay this way. We live in a terribly broken world... and Satan will do anything to attack this love. My flesh and my soul will always be at war in this world. 
So I will cling to the cross. I will cling to this love. Until the day I get to go home and sit and praise Him for the rest of eternity. 

He came to give life and give it abundantly.

"Oh Praise the One who paid my debt and raised this life up from the dead!"

And this heart.