Cost & the cross – let me tell you.

I no longer believe that love, like candy in a parade, is wasted if it falls through the cracks.  Service doesn’t require a willing recipient.

Love doesn’t either, not really.

But it does require great power.

And we have been given it.

“Freely you have received; freely give” (Matt. 10:8)

I am reading Erin Loechner’s book, “Chasing Slow,” and it is unraveling me.

(Though let’s be honest, I was never particularly raveled to begin with.)

There is a quote I love from a Tana French novel – “Someone else may have dealt the hand, but I picked it up off the table, I played every card, and I had my reasons.”  This was my mantra for a long time; recognizing that I couldn’t do much about my circumstances, but what I could control, I did. There’s nothing wrong with control, inherently.  Until it becomes your identity, your security, your pride.  As it was mine.

I’ve always believed there is a price to be paid when you say yes, when you choose vulnerability over security, when you ask for forgiveness and when you offer it, when you enter into disagreement.  I was proud of myself for willingly paying the price, especially as the price is often pain; before I realized that’s not willingness at all, but a resentful, bitter kind of love.  An oxymoron.

What it’s taken me time to learn in life is that there is also a cost to every flip side of the coin: to saying no, to ignoring conflict for the sake of security, to walking away from something hard to something safer.  Sometimes that’s what risk or right looks like.  There’s pain there, too.

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I keep flipping the coin like I’ll be able to make sense of which side is heads and which is tails and what in the world does that mean for me, anyway?

And also, which is more important: the cost, or whether you can pay it?

If you can’t answer the second without the answer to the first, here are two things I know for sure – together they answer both.  They are the only answer I have.

We are free to give love without fear.

Because God covers the cost.

It’s not that the price no longer exists.  Life will still wreck your head and break your heart.  Not on purpose; that’s just the way life is.  We live in a broken world, and sometimes we are broken, too.  The decisions we make and the things that happen around us will ask something of us.

But heads or tails, if you are walking with God, steeped in grace and seeking truth, God covers the cost.  We were never meant to bear the weight of every circumstance, every choice alone.  He has forever promised to enter in and carry what we cannot, and that is why Christ bore the cross.

And because Love has already borne the cross, I can walk into and out of any situation knowing that I love out of a place of power.  It’s still a risk, and it still might have a price, and yes, there’s a decent chance that the price is painful.  But it’s not a pain or price that’s permanent.

A mentor once showed me a diagram with two cylinders.  The cylinders are you.  They are also me; they are each of us.  There are two of them: there is the lie; and then there is reality.  Let me tell you.

The lie is that your cylinder has a hole in the bottom.  It can’t fill fast enough to stay full, because life is always dripping out, wasting away.  And if you could just be full – if you could just meet the difference between the top of your cylinder and the contents of your heart as life leaks out – you would be happy.  You would be free.

The reality – and oh, how you have to hear this – the reality is the opposite of the lie.  The antonym to “lie” is “truth,” and this is steeped in truth – but more importantly, it is what is actually real around you, if you would choose to see it and believe it.  The reality is that your cylinder is whole.  And what is pouring into you, filling you to overflowing, is the love and grace of God.  You lack nothing.  There is no distance between your fulfillment and the top of your cylinder; in fact, your cylinder is filled so full that it begins to spill over the sides.  This is when you begin to learn to love the world around you out of the same love that fills you every day.

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The story of the cylinders is challenging.  It asks us to step out of the lie, to choose to believe in what we cannot always see until we begin to see it.  I do not always feel full.  I do not always feel whole.  But when I call the lie for what it is, I begin to recognize reality.  And I learn what it is to feel full of a grace and love that’s beyond me because I am empty of myself; to feel whole because the pieces have been mended by the gentle hand of God.  He sits with us in our pain, He bandages our brokenness and weeps over old wounds on our hearts.  Then he calls us to step out of our lies and into His glory, because the ultimate price has already been paid.  And because I am ever learning this, I am learning I can care deeply without fear of the cost, and everything I get is so much better, richer, deeper than anything I might lose.

This is reality.  You are already full to overflowing.  You are whole.  The price has been paid, the cost covered.  You are free from fear. You are free to love.

By the way. Do you know who is having the most fun at the parades?  Do you know who is granted the biggest smile?

It is she who is throwing the candy, of course.

Erin Loechner, “Chasing Slow”

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Get out of the boat – let me tell you.

John 21 is about another time that Peter jumped into the water, this time not in the middle of a storm, but in the middle of an unknown, which is almost scarier sometimes.  I do really well with planning ahead.  It freaks me out on a semiregular basis right now that my planner is a clean slate past June.  The latest date that’s set in stone in my life is my 22nd birthday.  After that, who knows? And that’s a little scary.

When Peter jumps into the lake, all he knows is that it’s Jesus on the shore.  Not how Jesus got there or why.  Peter doesn’t stop to ask questions – he just jumps in and starts swimming.  This is the same guy who started to sink in the middle of the storm, with Jesus strolling right towards him on the waves.  You can almost HEAR John rolling his eyes as he writes “For they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards.” That Peter!

There are a lot of thoughts I have about this passage and the ways in which Jesus meets the disciples, and us, right where we’re all at.  But I keep coming back to Peter.  I like that the first time Peter encounters Jesus, Jesus renames him from Simon to “Rock.”  Actually, before he even renames him, Jesus first names him.  “You are Simon, son of John.”  He identifies the name he’s known by, and who his family is: two of the primary things that defined an individual in Jewish society, and in our world today.  Jesus always tells us who we are first.  Sometimes that’s hard to hear, because the names the world call us come with expectations and labels and responsibilities to live up to.  Sometimes the names the world identify us by bring out the sin and stresses, the fears and failures that sting and smart in old wounds.  In this case, it was just Peter’s name and his dad, but we don’t know what that brought to mind for him.  Jesus wants us to know who we are and where we started before He tells us who and how He’s making us to be, which is why he proceeds to name Simon, “Rock” with little explanation as to why.

I like the care with which John traces Peter’s transformation from Simon to Rock throughout his gospel.  It’s never the focus, but it’s consistent, a little side narrative.  It’s even the note John’s gospel ends on in chapter 21.  I appreciate that because I think John knew a lot of us would see ourselves in Peter.  When I was little, if my family could have renamed me, I’m pretty confident it would have been “bossy.”  Somehow as I grew up that lent itself to skills like teaching and babysitting and having sixteen cousins, and I slowly but surely learned to temper that spirit when it came to what came out of my mouth.  I grew to see these traits as “independent,” but if I were to identify those same traits for you today, I would call myself stubborn.

I’m a huge fan of discussion and disagreement and debate when it comes to the issues of life we differ on, so long as it’s positive.  And you can probably sway my opinion of anyone or anything with enough time and a solid argument.  But my interpretation of truth and my expectations for myself are two things you will not touch.

One of these is positive.  I took a survey last semester that told me one of my top spiritual gifts was wisdom.  I don’t really understand spiritual gifts yet so in the humblest of ways – because what I do understand is that it’s much more a gift to me from God and not something I intend on showering on the world without solicitation – I think that’s true.  I think that God makes certain pieces of truth very clear to me at particular times and other times He brings me back to the Word and the counsel of others.  But either way, I am very stubborn in keeping my interpretations of truth and my conversations with the Lord my own, because I believe that is absolutely what defines the relationship between Him and me as a relationship – something living and active – instead of a code or a creed that I follow.  Because life in Christ is a bit of both, but one is more important than the other.  The relationship is the context in which the rest unfolds.

Every now and then, or maybe every other day, I forget that while my interpretations of truth are my own and God’s, they are only His to orderI love control, friends.  Like a lot.  We’ve already discussed this with the planner issue.  The point is, I become very stubborn in my own head when I encounter some truths, or maybe most of them, that it is my responsibility to live up to them.  Wisdom falls somewhere to the wayside in these moments, I’m afraid, and I take it upon myself to paint truth across my skies.  The nice way to say this is that I am solutions-oriented; the honest way to say this is that I’m stubborn.

Let’s take teaching for example.  Some things about student teaching are just true.  There’s an established order for the classrooms I find myself in and there are certain requirements and expectations I’m obligated to meet.  There’s nothing wrong with these statements.  It’s when I start taking them as an ultimatum that I create a twisted truth and live by it.  And then I do the same thing in my relationships, and in my faith.  What’s more, these ultimatums start to cost something that’s worth more than the expectation, and I willingly sacrifice it.  I give up being genuine for the sake of appearing strong.  I give up who I am for a version of what’s expected of me.  Eventually, I give up what I need for the sake of what I should be.  A part of me knows that there is more to that truth than what I’m letting myself believe, but figuring it out feels hard and finishing the job feels easier.

The only way to not do this is to stop trying to paint my own skies with truth and start looking for the truth He’s already painted.  The only way to not do this is to weigh truth in my heart and not my head.  The only way to not do this is to speak the word “grace” over myself until I start to see it all around me.  Because when I feel like a failure from all the weighty expectations and obligations I’ve willingly tied myself to, it comes from this: I want so badly to believe truth that I being to work for it.

In this way I see a lot of myself in Peter, or maybe a lot of Peter in me.  He doesn’t crop up again by name in the book of John until 6:68, when he is the first disciple to call Jesus who He is.  The Holy One of God with the words of eternal life.  That’s truth.  That’s reaching out and claiming it, calling it true and speaking it out loud before God and others.

But goodness, is God funny!  We keep reading along and lo and behold, at the last supper, what does Peter do?  He pitches a fit when Jesus goes to wash his feet.  Yep, he’s up on this Holy One of God thing alright – that must be why he thinks he knows better than Jesus what’s good for him.  (Is the sarcasm coming through here?  *taps mic* Is this thing on?)  I can hear him now because I’ve thought it myself before.  He watches Jesus wash the feet of a few of the disciples, and thinks “No way. I can do this one on my own.  Jesus is going to be so proud of how dedicated I am to Him, that I won’t even let Him near this mess of mine.”  It’s literally contradictory as I write it, and still I have said it before.

To his surprise as well as mine, Jesus tells him, straightforward but not unkind: “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”  Translation: unless you are steeped in grace, the work you work so hard to do is not mine for you, because I am not in it with you.  The more you try to take care of your mess on your own, the more messy you will feel, apart from me.

Peter’s response is wholehearted, and mine is, too.  “Wash my hands and my head as well!” Fix it all at once, Lord!  Make me whole.  Quicken the process.  My cry is always focused on the immediate solution, never the ways the process solves the problem in a far deeper way.

Jesus’ response is a little weird, but reassuring.  Just your feet, he says, you’ve already had a bath.

Then why do I still feel like a wreck, smudged and spotted, head to toe?  I can feel Jesus want to laugh and console me at the same time, moved by my magnificent misunderstanding.  Remember Peter’s earlier recognition of truth, when he calls Jesus the Holy One of God?  You know the truth, Christ responds, and I have named you as my own, and you are clean.  But this is still a road we’re walking, you and I, and you have to learn to let me wash your feet.  You must be firmly steeped in grace for you to see yourself the way I have made you.  And that looks like letting Jesus in, in the most simple, mundane, and grimy of ways.  Like my roughed-up, ragged feet that have wandered down all the wrong paths.

The storms and the simple: it’s where he finds us best, or maybe where we find Him.  But what’s the why?

“Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.”

In John 13:31-38, Jesus predicts Peter’s denial.  But before that, he clarifies something for the good of the group.  All of this, this pain, this suffering – it’s for God to be glorified.

All for the glory of God.  We get to be vehicles of God’s glory, even when we’re more stubborn than the dumbest rock, like I am some days (most days?).  We get to be where the world sees Him act.  Steeped in grace.  Stepping out in storms.  That’s what gets me out of the boat, following Jesus to the shore.

Let me tell you about living loved.

When I was in high school, I had this friend from church.  We didn’t see each other very often; she was homeschooled and I was at a public high school, but we talked in Sunday School and we visited each other’s houses in the summers and we caught up on life when we could.  Somewhere in the middle of my senior year, amidst all the other stress and strain of college applications, AP exams and normal teenage angst, she started texting me every morning.  Some days it was “Have a good day!” but most days it was just “Good morning Allie!”  It was a little thing, and after a week or so I had to admit I was perplexed and a little bit flustered by the pressure to reply, day after day.  But despite my hesitation, it didn’t take long for that exchange – just that quick little “Good morning!” or “You, too!” – to become a part of my everyday routine rather than another item on my to-do list.  We’ve lost touch over the years and I’m still not really sure why she choose then and there to reach out to me, morning after morning.  All I know is that we settled into a rhythm of supporting each other in the smallest way possible, and every day, it made me feel valued.

Recently I reconnected with a boy who makes me smile and now that we’re dating, he typically texts me good morning, too.  About a month into our relationship, he was out of the country for eight days and I wondered at how quickly something and someone can become a part of the rhythm of your life.

I haven’t written in a long time and there’s a lot of reasons for that, but the most obvious in my mind is that there’s very little rhythm to my life right now.  Senior year is supposed to be the time when you enjoy the ride – I’m not sure what kind of ride everyone else is on, but mine is a roller coaster and I’m clinging to the handles of my seat for dear life.  Here’s the thing though: I love roller coasters.  They taught me a lot about life about a year ago and the context has changed since then, but all the important things have stayed the same.  Life is messy and complicated and I make mistakes a lot, I get scared a lot, I get in scrapes a lot.  But a lot of times the beauty happens when I’m flat on my back, because the Lord uses those moments to get my whole entire attention instead of just a bit of it.

And then those are the moments remind me to give my whole entire attention to the people in my life that are dear to me when I’m with them, instead of just a bit of it.  This coaster might have some loops that tear my sight from one spot on the horizon to another, but the position of the sun doesn’t change and that is the community in my world.  Last week I laid flat on my back under a tree and stared at the sky with my headphones in my ears and I just let my brain think until all the thoughts ran dry.  And by the end of my mental wild-goose-chase, all I had left in me was to thank God that there are sunshiney days and rainy days and that He shows me the beauty in both when I’m on my back.

This is what I’m trying to say, wrapping up all the thoughts I’ve not gotten down on this corner of the Internet in the past few months: When there’s no other routine to follow, we have to find our rhythm in loving the people around us as hard as they’ll let us, as long as we can.  And if we’re going to commit to that, we have to open ourselves up to the belief that we are loved back, and trust God to fill in the gaps going each way with a love we’ll spend this whole life chasing to comprehend more deeply and fully.

It looks like a lot of things, but right now, for me, it looks like jumping out of an airplane or daring to ride the tallest coaster.  It looks like doing instead of analyzing, speaking truth instead of sitting in fear, and writing for myself when I should be writing for school.  It looks like spur-of-the-moment Colony House concerts with brand-new friends, like matching elephant pants, like Oreo truffles, like learning how to use chopsticks, like driving down Natchez Trace with Ben Rector on the radio.  It looks like losing control for the sake of living loved.

When do I feel it?
When do I feel it in my bones?
That kind of breathing
Whispering mysteries to my soul

I think it’s when I lose control
I think it’s when I lose control
We can’t keep fighting for a steady life, so
I’ll ride the wind like a feather toward home

Lose Control // Colony House

It may be a while since I’ve written over here – but I actually had the beautiful opportunity to write a post on living loved for my friend Emily Conrad’s February series! Check it out here.

Let me tell you about Christmas 2016.

This is joy.  I stand on the sideline, not really sure of where the air in my lungs came from or how it got there, but holding it, harnessing it, hurling it into infinity as my shrill sound joins the cacophonous chord of the rest of the band.  The fans are on their feet, my friends are at my side, and fierce joy tears through me.  Nothing can compare to this moment, it shines sharp enough to cut the fog of time to pieces when I look back on it down the road. Too soon, but not soon enough for my lungs, the note is cutoff and we cheer.  I walk away from my last performance, and my eyes are bright, with pride and maybe, tears.

This is hope.  My eyes are bright, in the pane of the airplane window.  I squint past their dim reflection to the flash of light I caught on the horizon, my forehead pressed against the glass.  Lightening spiderwebs across the sky in the distance, illuminating mountainous clouds as we fly parallel, closer and closer.  My view improves with every moment, and I know they’re slipping by too fast: just as they get better, soon enough they’ll be gone.  I stifle a yawn, but I won’t miss this, not yet.  I watch the lightening strike again and again, watch it writhe across the sky, crack it wide open; watch it spread through the clouds, a muted, fleeting flash.  I think of flying home, to family and future, to finishing one chapter and falling fast into another without knowing much of what to expect.  I think of where I’ve been and where I’m going.  I think of how my God is big enough and bold enough to shoot lightening through the sky, and how good and gracious and giving He is to not keep it to himself, to give me a show on my way home.  I smile, and snuggle deeper into my stiff, narrow seat.

This is peace.  I’m snuggled in a high-backed armchair in my grandparents’ living room, with a book on my lap, hot tea in my hand, and a roaring fire at my back.  Football’s on the television, no one’s really watching; we’ve all taken up positions in various states of relaxed, on couches, chairs and cushions, and we pay no attention to the sound of sports on low, lost in whatever we’re reading and throwing the odd comment to another across the way.  We play Rook, four of us, and despite the fact that half the time I have a hand like a foot and not a clue what I’m doing, Grandaddy and I set them twice and win the game.  We laugh and high-five, then move the chairs back, bring some fudge in from the kitchen, and return to our previous positions, this time, with the news and a dog snoring as the backdrop for the living room to live on.  I curl up in my chair and close my eyes.

This is love.  I close my eyes, and I’m eight years old again, dressed in my best for the Christmas Eve service.  We sing from a blue hymnal, I hold my very own candle as we sing “Silent Night,” a circle of twinkling spheres throwing shadows on the sloping ceilings of the sanctuary.  The next morning, I wake up first and dart downstairs to see everyone’s presents from Santa, neatly arranged by our stockings at the foot of the brick hearth.  I smell my Granhannah’s cinnamon rolls, I take a toy from my pile and make my way upstairs, and we talk while she bakes, or lets me help her roll the sticky dough into shape. I open my eyes and give myself one more glance in the mirror on my way out the door. The same sloping wooden beams still support the sanctuary as we sing from the same blue hymnals.  Five days later, my sixteen cousins and all the aunts and uncles shepherding them will flood my Grandaddy’s house, and we’ll stack food on every available surface, with a person in every open seat.  The whole house will shake with laughter, and the only silence will come just before we eat, when we all join hands, the thirty-something, forty of us, and we pray.

Because Christmas is the coming of our Lord, of my Jesus.  Christmas is about the hope, joy, peace, and love He brought to the table when He was laid in the manger.  But Christmas is also the hundreds of memories that surround the day itself, and they are what immortalize that thrill of hope, that weary world rejoicing, that law of love and gospel of peace.

I hope your heart was full of gladness, and the peace that covered sadness.  I hope your joy was overflowing, and your many blessings growing.  I hope you had the time you’ve longed for, with the people that you love.  And I hope you know that even if you felt none of that this Christmas, you are loved, and this holiday marks the day He came for you.  I hope you had a merry Christmas.

Let me tell you about being single.

A couple of weeks ago, I woke up to a new post from one of my favorite bloggers and opened the email to read: “5 Questions to Ask If You Never Get Asked Out.”

I almost threw my phone across the room.  I have had it up to here.

Because I think we’re asking all the wrong questions about being single.

Because “5 Questions to Ask if You Never Get Asked Out” makes me think that something I’m doing or being needs fixing to be loved.

And at the other end of the spectrum,”5 Reasons to Love Living Single” or “5 Things to Do While You’re Still Single” puts pressure on my heart to make most of the this time and be grateful.  And when I fail, as I almost always do – when I wake up ungrateful, or lonely, or disappointed with my singleness – it creates a chasm of guilt that I fall into headlong, allowing fear and shame to tell me what is true about myself.

We live in a world where being single is hard.  It just is.

Which is why the main question I go to God with when it comes to being single is this-  How is this a part of your good plan? 

I cling tight to stubborn pride that my plan for my life – which would not involve staying single – is the right one.  Loneliness, heartbreak, disappointment – they don’t feel good, so how can their part in my story be good?

I have to admit that in those moments, I am denying God the opportunity to sit down with me and me alone, look me in the eye, and tell me what is true about myself.

Being single is so not about seizing the opportunity to travel or pursue your career or climb whatever other mountain that the world offers.  Those are all great options – they’re just not really the purpose this time is made to serve.

It’s a time to learn what it looks like to live truth.

I know lots of people who can do this in relationships, and I admire them greatly.  I also know that I am not one of them.  I need to be on my own to come to know who and whose I am.  I need my entire understanding of relationships – my expectations, my hopes, my fears – to be entirely shaped in this context.  Because single or not, I want to be ever living not out of a place of fear or doubt, but of fullness and freedom.

Knowing how God has made me lets me live out loud as the person He’s made me to be, with no hesitations, no 5-steps-to-fixing, and no regrets.

So if you’re anything like me, and you find yourself in this time of waiting – don’t miss the chance to ask God to wait with you.  You might be surprised at the conversations you’ll have with Him, and where it will take you.

It’s not deciding in my mind, “I  deserve to be loved.”  Or manipulating my heart to feel loved.  It’s a settling in my soul: “I was created by God, who formed me because He so much loved the very thought of me.  When I was nothing, He saw something and declared it good.  Very good.  And very loved.”

Lysa TerKeurst, Uninvited

The song below is my anthem.  When I think about living out loud, about being the person He’s made me to be, and about how to share that with you – this is the song.

It has no words, only a feeling.  It’s me whipping past trees, flying straight and sure through the black night alone in my car, with the radio up and the wind in my hair.  It’s you, dancing alone in your room or stepping into the crowded coffee shop.  It’s each of our stories being written, crisscrossing one another, bringing new pieces and parts to life with every step forward that we take.  Even – and especially – the ones we take on our own.

Want more? Here are a couple of articles that I feel do ask the right questions about singleness.

The Five Main Reasons You Are Still Single

Is Chivalry Dead?

You are loved.

New Creations – let me tell you about identity.

Happy Friday, friends!  I’ve talked about and around the concept of identity quite a bit in past posts, but today I want to invite you into my story of searching to secure my identity in all the wrong places, and how rooting my identity in my faith has changed that for good.  This summer, I met sweet Lexi through Instagram and as we started swapping pieces of our stories, we couldn’t help but notice that God has been making identity a tremendous theme in both of our lives recently.  From there, we decided to collaborate on our content and came up with the questions you’ll find below together.  We’ve decided to call this project “New Creations” in reference to 2 Corinthians 5:17 – “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”  In Christ, the most important thing about our identity and the way we see ourselves in the world is new – we are transformed in Him, and we don’t have to hold onto the heaviness of the past any longer.

Read on to find out more about this freedom and its impact in my life – but first, please hop over to Lexi’s beautiful blog and check out her post!  I can guarantee that you’ll find more powerful truth about who and whose we are in her words.  The beautiful thing about the blogging world is the opportunity to step out in faith and be vulnerable with someone who shares your passions and interests, even if they live far away. I’m so excited to be partnering with this friend and her Rubies ministry to dive into this truth with you today!

What’s a significant experience that shaped your perception of identity?

Two years ago, I ended a relationship with my boyfriend of three years because we didn’t share the same faith.  When I came to college, my faith was a big part of my world, but not at all a part of my everyday life.  Through the transitions college brought first semester, and the ministry I joined, I learned more about what it looked like to let God into those spaces, and He began to work in my life in a completely new way.  Our God is not a god who distances himself from our messy or mundane moments – instead, that’s where He loves to share His truth and grace the most.  And when the person you’re closest to doesn’t understand or perceive life in that same way, it’s impossible to continue walking the same direction with them.  That was a decision I came to with a lot of prayer and strong encouragement from the Spirit, but it didn’t make it any easier.  It was hard to understand why something so good had to end – or if it was going to end, why it had happened in the first place.  Yet once we broke up, I realized how often I defined myself as “the girlfriend” in my mind – and that drew my attention to all of the other roles in life I use to define identity.  These are all roles that require me to do or be something – to keep trying, to meet expectations, and to please others.  Some of them – daughter, friend – are no less important, but they cannot be the pieces that define my view of myself – and that gave me my answer as to why.  God has been calling me to place my identity fully in Him, and learn what that looks like as I go.

How do you define your identity in Christ?

Free.  It is the freedom to be, not do, and it is the grace to let myself step into who He is making me to be right in this moment.  It’s a curious combination of salvation and the Spirit, constantly transforming me into something greater than what I could ever achieve on my own, while leading me to remove the responsibility and role-playing from my shoulders and step into a place of trust, dependence, and grace.  And as those things not only fill me up, but they overflow, and I am able to step into the calling God’s laid on my life to pour them out onto others.

What scripture guides your identity and how do you live that out?

Ephesians 1 is my favorite passage when it comes to identity.  It speaks of us as believers as being blessed, chosen, holy, blameless in His sight, predestined, loved, adopted, sons & daughters, redeemed, and forgiven.  What beautiful words to sum up what God sees when He looks at us – and that’s without us having to strive or stretch ourselves to meet any expectations or fulfill any obligations.  That’s just because of who and whose we are!  Living out scripture is always a challenge, but I find that preaching these verses over myself in a specific moment – taking my failure and, instead of holding it over my head or giving myself a hard time, reminding myself that God calls me blameless, forgiven, and redeemed, and even when I mess up, He calls me daughter.  That’s another of my favorite verses – 1 Peter 3:4 speaks directly to women about rooting their identity in the things that matter, saying “But your beauty should come from within you – the beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit that can never be destroyed and is very precious to God.”  This verse reassures my soul in so many ways on my worst days.  My beauty is more than my appearance.  A gentle and quiet spirit can be a beautiful thing, but it has a certain strength to it – it can never be destroyed.  And why all this?  Because my spirit is very precious to God.  What stunning truth to meditate on – and what a powerful way to define my identity.

How has God reminded you of the freedom you have when your identity is in Christ?  How does He continue to do that today?

God has put incredible people in my life to speak words of truth over me, and to encourage me to pursue Him ever greater to receive that life right from the source as well.  Through the encouragement of my friends and family, God has reminded me who He is making me to be and continued to call me into the freedom of that promise in new ways.  One thing I am continuing to wrestle with today is giving up control for the sake of freedom.  When I take it upon myself to wrestle the many facets of my life under control, it feeds a false sense of pride in my accomplishments that will eventually devastate me when failure, brokenness, and struggle inevitably comes into the picture.  Yet it’s SO tempting to get sucked into this pattern of thinking that assumes power, implies responsibility, and views my identity through a lens of self-sufficiency.  Thank goodness that God works through the little things, like a word from a friend or a bright sunny day, to simply remind me of His presence.  Sitting still in God’s presence reminds me that my carefully controlled plan is no match for the plan the Orchestrator of all of creation has for my life, and that is where freedom is found.

What is an everyday struggle for you concerning your identity and how do you combat that on a daily basis?

I am so hard on myself!  I constantly want to reshape my identity to become a “better” version of the me I was yesterday, and I have a tough time leaving the mistakes and missteps of the past behind me where they belong.  Sometimes that looks like putting extra effort into my appearance in an attempt to look put together to the rest of the world, sometimes it means working harder on an assignment ahead of time to save myself stress at the last minute (or try to).  But it’s a vicious cycle – when my perfectly straightened hair curls in the Tennessee humidity, or I get behind on other work in a desperate effort to stay on top of responsibilities for something else – I beat myself up even more, and I hold myself to an even higher standard. This is NOT the way of life that God has for us though, sweet friends!  The only way I can combat this on a daily basis is by taking off my mask of independence, capability, and confidence – one that feels good at first, but quickly lets me down and burns me out – and allow myself to be full by simply knowing that I am a daughter of God, and every day, regardless of what happened yesterday, that makes me a new creation.

If you haven’t already done so, please hop over to Rubies and check out Lexi’s post answering these very same questions!  I just can’t wait for you to read it!

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Let me tell you about being full.

Hey, God.

We’ve done a lot of talking lately, but it’s mostly been inside my head.  I was thinking it was time to get some of these words down, because when I let them rattle around in my brain for too long, it’s easy for me to think the same thoughts over and over again.  And it’s easy for me to do a lot of the talking, but none of the listening.

“The poor and needy search for water,
but there is none;
their tongues are parched with thirst.
But I the Lord will answer them;
I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.
I will make rivers flow on barren heights,
and springs within the valleys.
I will turn the desert into pools of water,
and the parched ground into springs.
I will put in the desert
the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive.
I will set junipers in the wasteland,
the fir and the cypress together,
so that people may see and know,
may consider and understand,
that the hand of the Lord has done this,
that the Holy One of Israel has created it.

Isaiah 41:17-20

My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
    the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
    broken cisterns that cannot hold water.

Jeremiah 2:13

Yesterday me and my sweet friend Katie hung out and studied this passage in Isaiah that You revealed a lot of truth to me in last year, at Phi Lamb retreat.  We talked about our lives as the desert that your river of mercy is transforming, how You are growing things in us that don’t necessarily come naturally, that wouldn’t be there without You stepping in and planting them.  And we talked a little about that verse from Jeremiah, that talks about how easily we seek to dig our own sources of life in the things of this world.

It’s a really wonderful metaphor, one that helps me sift through and categorize some of the different aspects and nuances of the life I’m living.  I think that I love this activity so much too because when I did it last year, it really allowed the truth I was learning then about identity to take root in me in new ways.  And the hardest thing since then, by far, has been to keep my eyes on that river, on Your source of life.

It was easy to see in Buenos Aires, in a situation designed for growth, where trees shot out of the dry ground and spread their leaves across my entire sky, and so many of the cisterns I’d gotten used to building got removed for me and left here.

It’s harder to see now that I’m back.  Obligations masquerade as an oasis, and trick me into believing cisterns might be springs.  I may have left them behind while I was abroad, but coming back onto campus, I picked them right back up again.  I go to them expecting to be filled and then act surprised when I don’t grow.  My vision grows hazy, I squint through the waves of heat rising from the ground, and I lose sight of Your river and my true source in the middle of the mirage.

You know that it is hard for me to live loved, Lord.  I think sometimes a better way to think of feeling loved – or feeling loveable – is to think of being full.  Love is so conditional in our culture.  It’s all too often based in what we can do and be instead of what we already are.  When I’m living out of that definition of love, it’s no wonder I have trouble seeing the river of Your mercy, let alone the ways it’s changing the landscape of my life.  But when I’m living out an unconditional, unshakable conviction that I am already filled – that the fullness of my God is already poured into my heart and soul, and actively spilling over the brim – the love of others doesn’t feel quite so conditional and contingent anymore.  I can stride into situations confident in who I am and who I am being made to be, because I am already full.  Doubt is covered in certainty and grace seeps in the cracks to seal up old wounds when they want to cause new fears, because I am already full.

If we become enamored with something in this world we think offers better fullness than God, we will make room for it.  We leak out His fullness to make room for something else we want to chase.

It will happen if you, like me, chase perfect order from an imperfect world, thinking it will make you more full.

With God, there is fullness.  There is no lack . . . with the fullness of God, we are free to let humans be humans – fickle and fragile and forgetful.

Lysa TerKeurst, Uninvited

Thank you for that reality, Jesus.  I don’t let it sink in the way I’d like to every day, but I know that You are patient, You are kind, and You are the only love and only source that fills me up, and You will keep teaching me every day until it settles into the core of my being.  And I can’t wait to know what that looks like.  I love you as I live, Lord.

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