The House That God Built

We moved around quite a bit growing up, and so I guess I never really got connected sentimentally to a house. Maybe moving around so much is what made my first home a big deal for me.

Two months before we got married, we had NO idea where we were going to live. About a month before the date, we started randomly driving around and I remember having one appointment to see an apartment. ONE. 

{I have always wanted to have an apartment. I like small and cozy. One: because you need less stuff to make it look full. Two: because it’s less to clean. Three: because dorm life didn’t count since I didn’t get to pick my roommates. Four: because I wanted to come home and read fun magazines instead of studying constantly. Such will probably never be a reality. Oh well.}

{We never got a phone call back about that apartment. Turns out the person who rented it was arrested later. I’m REALLY glad that wasn’t us.}

I offhandedly mentioned it to my grandfather and he furrowed his brow (which is what he does when he is about to drive home a point or get perturbed). He tilted his head, furrowed his brow, and said, “Why in the world would you consider that when your own family has a house that’s gonna be for rent?!”

This was news to me. And so off we were whisked to look at a house that (coincidentally) (or not so coincidentally) was going to be open, say, August 8. We got married the 13th. Not only did we move in with just enough time to spare, but the people who lived in it before us were clean to the nth degree and left the house SPOTLESS. I didn’t even have to clean before we moved stuff in.

I DIDN’T EVEN HAVE TO CLEAN BEFORE WE MOVED STUFF IN.

As a result, we’re still friends with this couple. We ended up in a home church with them and we still chat and love them to pieces. God is so generous.

Did I mention this house was my great-grandfather’s? There’s just something about having a pantry where the board games and toys used to be. And my aunt Tara lived in it for a time and left us some beautiful yellow chairs that I was dreading leaving behind when we moved. There is character and a ton of memories in this house. We loved it. And the Lord just Dropped. It. In. Our. Laps.

I have often wondered why I didn’t panic that we didn’t have a house so close to the wedding. I guess I trusted the Lord. Who knew?

I learned this as a teenager: When you let go of your dreams, you give God permission to dream for you. And His dreams are always way bigger. And better.

Somewhere along the way, we got in our young brains that we were going to build one day. Build for God’s glory, nonetheless!! He was going to give us a beautiful new house with all the trimmings so we could host unbelievers and encourage believers and eat to our edification!

I jest. But isn’t it so easy to shoot God’s Word into our dreams and make it sound spiritual?

We WOULD have done those things. Don’t get me wrong. But here’s the thing? We were doing those things anyway, in a rented house. With 70’s cabinets and speckled countertops and a pink commode. And ya’ll…. we could STILL HONOR GOD. And you know what? If people weren’t coming to our house because it was claustrophobic or because they don’t take showers in pink bathtubs or because our refrigerator doesn’t have an automatic water dispenser, then a) I may need to reconsider the audience I’m ministering to, or (most likely) b) God would fix it.

(He obviously thought our sink made a bad impression because He gave us a brand new one last week.)

(I kid. But He is kind. That is my point.)

Brandon went to an auction last May and casually asked me if I wanted to go along and look at the property that was being sold. I told him I loved the land and SURE why not buy it if it’s a good price? I’m still not sure what medication I was on, except that my grandparents were in from Pennsylvania and all was right with the world.

That day we became land owners. And about six months later we were ready to tackle building.

We had several meetings with a fantastic (also placed in our laps) architect and contractor. We settled on a design we wanted and a guy we thought would do a stellar job. We were thrilled with the possibilities and I was IN LOVE with the way the outside was going to look. Gray siding with a stone face around the door and beautiful white pillars leading to the sidewalk. And a GARAGE. My three loves? A porch swing. A master bath. And a GARAGE. That I could actually park in. The inside? That was debatable.

IMG_3179

But back to the rental: One thing I loved about this little house? All the walls and corners that added mystery and character. But when we thought about hosting more than 15 people at a time, we realized that it was a little claustrophobic. In the words of one little guy, “Your house isn’t that small, Miss Cara. It just FEELS small.” I couldn’t say it any better. But then we went into an “open floor plan” house that was about the size we wanted. You could stand in the living room and see the kitchen (and all the dirty dishes), the dining room, the master bedroom on the left, and a toilet on the right in the guest bathroom. Our contractor said, “Yeah, but you can just close that door.”

Hi. Have you met Brandon?

I can’t get my husband to put the toilet seat down and you think he’s going to remember to close the door?

(This was the point that I seriously doubted the capacity to which I could trust this contractor.)

And he thought carpet was better because of how good it felt on his feet. But we knew how soon we’d need to replace it in the main walkways. And then he told us we couldn’t afford a garage. And that the driveway would be the length of the panhandle state but we wouldn’t have money to pave it. And the house would be sitting behind the barn on our property. Because glamorous. And the basement would be unfinished. AND it was already going over our budget. TWICE.

The breaking point for me came the day I remember clearly telling Brandon, “I can tell you right now that I’m not going to be content in this house. We will be swimming in debt and I won’t even have my dream house.” I struggled with my discontentment. How selfish was I to anticipate being discontent? Am I not responsible for my level of contentment?

I don’t think Paul remembered his granite counter tops at home when he wrote (from jail) that he was content in every circumstance.

I battled with desiring so much and feeling guilty. Katie Davis lives in Uganda with dirt floors and I’m sad about not having a walk-in-closet? Twice the size of her hut? I felt incredibly selfish. It truly made me want to curl up in a ball and tell Brandon to pick everything and decide how many square feet we should have. Then, if I hated it or felt guilty, I could blame him for it all. But then I knew I wouldn’t get my claw foot bathtub and then I’d just be mad.

{Note: If you’re thinking of building a house, prepare to meet your ugliest, most depraved self. I have met myself and we haven’t been friends since.}

Finally, once we had everything almost ready to go and a promise to have a house by spring, we hit a wall. It’s too confusing to articulate (and frankly, I’m still not positive that this wasn’t something God made up because even our contractor hadn’t heard of this law) but let’s just say that we weren’t allowed to build until June. This was in February.

And ya’ll, I was mostly sad because I had big plans to write Scripture on the 4x4s of each room, Scripture especially for us and for our family. Prayers that we want to see fleshed out in our home. To me, this was going to be a spiritual undertaking. We knew God would bless this house and use to to make us a blessing.

And He would have. We just would’ve been stressed about money and in debt up to our eyeballs and we would have had no money to entertain with. You all would have been invited to bring the steaks with you when you came to visit.

I have said that it wasn’t God’s will for us to build. And I do believe that, technically speaking. But I really think it was just that He had a better way. We wouldn’t have been disobeying if we built. Hear me on this: He gives us all a free choice. But He knew CARA and knew that this decision was not best for her. Or her marriage. Or her wallet.

The death of a dream usually gives life to a dream you didn’t even know you had.

We looked at other houses but nothing clicked and we were still looking at a LOT of money. For us. Who are trying to live simple lives and find a budget that would potentially allow me to stay home with kids later on. Brandon kept talking about “if we have kids before we get this paid off” and I kept saying, “Yeah. You should probly plan on it”… because if we didn’t have kids in the next 30 years? Well…

One day Brandon asked me if I had ever asked my great aunt if she would ever consider selling this house. It was such a long shot that I almost didn’t. You wouldn’t believe (or maybe you would) that she said her daughter had just mentioned to her the week before that she should sell this place. I think I heard angels singing around me.

And the rest is history. We hit some bumps along the way, but never was it more clear that this was the plan God had for us. We were able to buy about 11 acres with it, so our family can grow and expand and potentially more houses can be built on it one day. We are five minutes from both jobs and from town, but we’re in the county and don’t pay city taxes. We have family surrounding us and the ones who aren’t go to our church or have just been fantastic neighbors. I have about a two mile radius that I can exercise and I don’t have to pay for a gym membership. Or even go around a neighborhood more than once. (Hellooooo again, folks on the porch….)

And WE DON’T HAVE TO MOVE.

It doesn’t have the ridged wood floors I wanted. It doesn’t have a porch swing. It doesn’t have a master bedroom or a connecting bath or even more than one bathroom. But we already know the things that need to be repaired/replaced because we’ve lived here for 3 years. We know the dreams we have for it and we have people in our lives that specialize in keeping character while making things functional. For now, it’s just us two and we can live with most of it.

I like to say that Jesus tricked us into living here before we bought it. So we can’t say, “I can’t handle this pink toilet!” because we have for three years. Isn’t He sneaky? Sneaky good?

The thing I’ve learned through this journey is that God not only supplies our needs. He supplies our wants. And sometimes, He provides the wants we never knew we wanted. He’s good like that.

So when I pull up to our house, I picture my dream house. Because it is a wonderful place to live a dream.

 

 

This was one of our engagement pictures 3 years ago. We knew it was the site of our first rental, but no idea that it would be our first home. God has secrets, ya’ll.

Team After God’s Own Heart

My God is big. And because He is big, He can handle my questions. A lot of my life, I’ve heard this statement: “Because I said so.” This is a perfectly valid response, because sometimes God says to do something and we don’t always know why. We just need to obey. (Exhibit A: Abraham picking up a change of address forms and not knowing to what city he was moving.) But when I wanted to obtain a reason, sometimes I found out that asking questions meant that I was rebellious.

I began to search the Scripture for examples of people whom God favored. And I was shocked to find out how often they protested, complained, argued, and questioned God. And I thought, How is this okay??

I came to Moses in the Bible, who, when called by God, argued and called Him a liar because there was no way he could be a public speaker. And then went on to speak to God face to face and be the first and last man to see God walk past him. And there was Samson, who clearly disobeyed all three of God’s specific commandments to Him and yet God seemingly blessed him, gave him his desires, and answered his prayers all the way up until his death. And there was David, who committed some of the most heinous crimes and yet was still called a man after God’s own heart. And Jacob, who wrestled with God all night long? God could have won that match in five minutes, but the process of wrestling was healing for Jacob. And God named His nation after Him: ISRAEL. And then Jonah. WELL NOW. What do we have here? A person who was so messed up and really wanted God to wipe out an entire people group because he felt they weren’t worthy of grace. Because he was? If that isn’t something, I don’t know what is. Oh, the fact that He told God that and wasn’t a bit ashamed of it? Yeah, that might trump it. And now he’s one of the most-told stories in the Bible and he became the inspiration for the first goldfish cracker.

You see, what I discovered is that God welcomes our thoughts, questions, opinions, and emotions. Mind you, He deals with any of those that are wrong (hence, Jonah lost his shade.) But He doesn’t consider man questioning as disrespectful. It’s almost like He welcomes it. A person who only takes orders answers to a boss, not a friend. God isn’t solely a “because-I-said-so” God. There were times when it appeared that way, but after the obedience He often explained the result He was after. Even in the Old Testament, when He was establishing the law to show man how incredibly short they fall, He interacted with human beings and loved them despite their inadequacies and lack of knowledge.

This is not an excuse to live how we want. It is a mindset. It is TRUTH. Asking questions of God doesn’t always mean we don’t trust Him. Sometimes it means we are trying to understand His character. To find out what He is doing in the world. To draw closer to Him.

This thing of questioning? It is not to hold down the spiritual fort. Because while we stand for truth, God doesn’t need any help defending His Kingdom. He could do it without us. But He wants to use us. And by questioning traditions, we seek out the heart of God. And He becomes our ultimate source of Truth.

We ask Him if our hearts are in the right place when we do things as they’ve always been done.

We seek His face about whether our motives are pure and whether our efforts have been effective.

It means being willing to humbly acknowledge if we’ve missed the mark.

It means being held accountable for whether we are growing in OUR direction or in the Lord’s direction.

It means saying, “Search me, O God, and know my heart. Try me, and know my thoughts. And see if there be ANY wicked way in me” (emphasis mine).

And then giving God permission to point it out to us and fix it. (And if this sounds heretical to you, please know that God will not force us to stop quenching the Spirit. That is a decision we must make, and until we become truly willing, He’s not signing the contract.)

I heard a good concept in church recently: Truth doesn’t shy away from scrutiny.

It’s not about being right.

It’s not about being right.

It’s about being on the right team. The team after God’s own heart. Embrace reconsideration. Read the Scriptures with a new light. Be open to new thoughts that God would plant in your heart, even if at first they may seem foreign.

I would hate to miss something big God has for me because it doesn’t look familiar or seem comfortable.

Don’t simply seek God’s ways. Seek His heart. Most of the time, the way I think God would do something is not the way He really would. (How glorious!) We interpret behavior based on our experience. God interprets behavior based on His nature… righteous, holy, and in love with a flock of sheep.

Not my idea of God AT ALL.

The idea of God being different that I think He should be can be terrifying. Because He seems to be more manageable when He is safe and predictable. But the exciting journey begins when I, in no way disrespectfully, let Him be Him. He is always Who He is, even when I refuse to admit it. But life is so much more beautiful when I allow Him to show me new things about Himself. 

And the amazing thing? The more I find out that I didn’t know about Him, the more I realize that He’s just the same wonderful Father I’ve always known Him to be.

1 Corinthians 2:5-16

“So that your faith may not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory…. No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him… these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God…. For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.”

Analyzation IS a word

If analyzing were a sport, I would have a wall covered in trophies.

It started when I was a child, when I made the mistake of vying for a friendship with the popular girl at church. But she had too many friends. {Looking back, I don’t blame her. They were all way cooler than me. Ralph Lauren had nothing on their style.}

I think what bothered me was that she never came out and told me why. She made excuses and left me guessing. And so I hereby determined at age 8 that the rest of the world operated the same way. If your behavior doesn’t make sense, it’s possible that you’re fake.

It’s not that I want to be bullied. Not exactly. Maybe I should be glad she didn’t outright tell me why I wasn’t good enough to be her friend. I just wanted to be given an explanation. The TRUTH. How was I to know that if I would just hit the mall one weekend, I could be on the in crowd? It would have changed everything if she had told me.

{It also would have changed my entire life and I would be a shopaholic.}

{Although some would argue that I already am. Just go with me here.}

Obviously, the way to win friends is not to wear their brand of clothes. Because SHALLOW.

{And by the way, I’ve come to this conclusion because of analization. (It’s a word.) She never told me this. I just deduced it with my methodical reasoning. It’s a process of elimination. It was definitely the clothes. It for sure would have had nothing to do with my being a homeschooler, and at that point in my life, being extremely brilliant but slow when it came to social skills. There’s only one option left: WARDROBE.}

I still analyze in my adult life. Because kids who weren’t real became adults who weren’t real and have you met society recently? The only problem is that I can take it too far. Even with people who tell me they love me. Because what if they’re lying? And what if they’re using me? Nothing is safe, folks.

BUT. (This gets better. Keep reading.)

I love how I can be in one of my mental analyzing states and in the middle of constructing a wall to keep people out when God makes a connection. I can be distressing over how a relationship has gone from endearing to simply business and wondering what happened and coming to no conclusions. And when I say distressing, I mean going over the last 365 days of when we’ve met and spoken and pinpointing the time when they decided they were over me.

This may or may not have happened recently. Possibly last night.

And God, Who so well knows my massive infatuation over who I can REALLY TRUST to be real with me, always comes through with a whisper or a thought transplanted in my head.

And it usually goes something like this: Now you know how I feel.

I can get up in the morning and read the Word and journal and pray my heart out and feel like I’m almost sitting on His lap because I’m that close to God. And then the day begins and pandemonium breaks out and things are going all wrong and from then on, it’s strictly business. I only speak to Him when I’m filing a complaint, or asking for a raise, or asking Him to reschedule my shift. I get exhausted and overwhelmed and under-appreciated and He’s the One I go to for help. Suddenly, I’m not approaching Him with gentle words like “I love you” and “good morning” and “thank you” but the phrases are now longer and more spiteful like “why are You sitting still when I know you can see how they’re treating me and it is NOT OKAY and are You going to do something about it?”

Hypothetically speaking, of course.

And He can pinpoint the moment when it all went downhill and I began to see Him as my boss instead of as my Lover and I begin to feel entitled. And He always reminds me of what He’s already done for me. And how I don’t need Him to do another thing for me in order to be worthy of my worship and praise and adoration.

And I come undone.

God is not human like we are and He doesn’t per se have human characteristics like getting His feelings hurt and feeling left out. But sometimes it helps me to remember how I would feel if I were my friend up in the heavens and that usually makes me feel really lousy.

Because the truth is that He will always be true to me even when I’m unfaithful to Him. He will never love me less or use me to get something or take advantage of me. The only way to truly love is to be vulnerable and I am SAFE with Him.

There’s no relationship in the world that I would rather analyze than the one I have with Jesus. I could never figure it out and that would be a good thing. I’ll never know why He loves me and keeps loving me even when I fail Him. It makes no sense.

And for once, I’m okay with that.

A Future of Right Nows

College. Dorm life. Midterms. Final exams. Ramen noodles. Roommates. Caffeine.

I don’t know what word pictures the term “college” conjures up for you. For most of us, they hold both good and bad memories.

While most of us would not eliminate it from our timelines completely, most of us would never want to repeat them.

I really wish I could. I am a completely different person now than I was back then. My view of life was extremely limited and fairly self-centered. There are only a handful of people that I chose wisely to invest in.

I look back at those years with bittersweetness. Without college, I wouldn’t be who I am today. But if I could go back today and do it all over, life would be very different for me and everyone else around me. I don’t mean that I would’ve screwed my grades or dated around or gone mattress surfing (…more often…). I mean I would’ve treated people differently because I now have a different view of myself. When you view yourself as a respectable person, you find that you treat others with more respect. When you let Christ define who you are, you become all things to all people, not just letting the in crowd define you.

So much time is spent trying to a) determine whether we’re in the crowd and b) how disposable we are to the crowd and c) how we’re going to keep high rank in the crowd.
With Jesus, no time is wasted because you already know what He thinks of you and that’s all that matters to you.

I am at this weird stage of life: kind of like the college between “high school and family life”/ “marriage and career life”. I feel young but don’t feel like I belong in the teeny- bopper crowd (although I love them dearly!). I don’t feel old, either. And there just aren’t a lot of people in my category- married and being bugged to DEATH about when they’re going to start popping babiess out. There aren’t a lot of people who are content where they are.

I know I’m usually not.

I don’t know what stage you’re in, or whether you feel content in your calling or not. Or maybe you’re like me and you’re wondering what the heck your calling is.

One of my favorite people from college is getting married tonight. I’m not at the wedding, but I wish I could be with everything in me. Obviously it was not God’s will for me to go… maybe I was spared a wreck. Or spared a jealousy marathon (at a beautiful Pinterest wedding where I was sure to covet every centerpiece.) (I know this to be fact because of those dadburn personalized hashtags on Instagram.) But the truth is, I was still pouting about it. Majorly. I knew all the popular people from college would be there… and I wanted to reunite with them. I wanted to be them. Most of all, I wanted them to know that I am a different person now than I was 5 years ago. I wanted to redeem my college years. To loosen up and have a good time. To make memories without holding back. Or holding a demerit slip.

I really think they would maybe like me now.

I got in the Word and God reminded me of David… the one no one noticed. He was so busy serving out in the field that his own family practically forgot about him. And it says that David stood among his brothers as he was anointed. It reminds me of Psalm 23. While we know that his brothers weren’t enemies per se, it is clear in the next chapter that they are clearly not fond of David being chosen. And I feel their pain. I have often been the older brother who can’t believe I haven’t been chosen for something that my girlfriend was chosen for. I wanted to be the one to do that! Why did God give HER that calling? Didn’t He think I was capable of that? And then other times, I ask, When am I going to get picked to do something AWESOME? Everytime I look around, someone else is indisposable, doing major things for the Kingdom. When is it my turn?

The truth is, I want to do something big for the Kingdom. Truly not for the recognition, but because I want my blip of existence to make a difference in the world. And most days, it doesn’t seem like I’m affecting anyone’s life. I want to be a “faith girl” –and glorify God by living a crazy life that even those who don’t believe won’t be able to deny.

You, too?

Notice these words in 1 Samuel 16:13. “And the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David from that day on (emphasis mine.)

Hey, you? Your turn is coming. But in the meantime, we have to be faithful in the fields. Whatever that may look like. Your field may be a cubicle or a grocery cart or a crib. It might be sending cards to shut-ins or playing cards at the nursing home or fixing cars for widows. But no matter where you find yourself, be all there. Right now. Be thankful IN it. Even if you don’t like it. Even if you wish you were somewhere else or someone else. Because one of these days, it will be your day. And then, you might wish that you had used your in-between time more wisely.

I assure you David didn’t. He named those sheep even though he knew they wouldn’t live forever. And he loved nature and the sunshine and the rest in the shade. He had some wild adventures with bears and lions. And he wasn’t trying to fit in. He was himself and he was happy with who he was. And he was ready for whatever God had for him. Instead of wishing his time away, he enjoyed the moment. He enjoyed it so much because he didn’t ask any of his brothers to sub for him when there was a party in town.

His party.

This. This is what I pray. To be so consumed with right now that back then is a faint memory and up ahead is a future full of “right now”s.

My Kind of Camping

Psalm 34: 7

“The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and delivers them.”

When you feel like you haven’t ever belonged and it takes almost nothing for you to get pushed back into that category? When loneliness creeps in and you’re afraid that life will never get easier? When you feel the pull of worldly pleasures and it tells you it will never let up? When you believe that loving people will always come back to haunt and hurt you?

The truth is, we all need a Deliverer.

I used to think deliverance was for people with addictions, bad marriages, abusive relationships. But it’s also for people with sin. And we believe the lie that we don’t struggle with that. Really.

Trust me, as long as we are here on this planet, we will always need to be delivered from something.

“Delivers: pull off, strip, depart, equip (for fight), present, strengthen, offer, plunder, rescue, withdraw (from a crowd, as in Hosea 5:6).

Do these definitions of “deliver” seem odd to you? I have to admit that most of those words are not the first ones to come to mind when I think of that word. Sometimes, God’s deliverance could look like anything but deliverance??

Pull off? Strip away? Depart?? Withdraw? How could that possibly be a rescue?

Superman is supposed to show up and save the day. Not go on vacation to the Bahamas.

Consider this. Maybe God will pull off a habit that has leeched itself to you so you can further meet your calling. He might strip a friendship from your life that He knows would harm you longterm. He might bring deliverance from jealousy or hurt by withdrawing you from a crowd. He may tell our resources to depart until He is all we have left. He may offer an alternate route or another opinion so the path becomes more clear. He may plunder the enemy without us lifting a finger. Or not.

He may graciously equip us for the battle instead of removing the battle. 

He may present new opportunities or new ventures. New facts. Ideas. Dreams.

And sometimes, the only deliverance we need is to know that He is present. And oh, what a deliverance that is!! All it takes is awareness of the Presence of our Daddy that saves us from ourselves, from the need for vindication, retaliation, or approval.

He is all you need. Your cure for loneliness. Your approval fix. Your Highest pleasure. Your belonging.

“The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and delivers them.”

Gazing at My Father

It can seem like the craziest thing in the world.

Breathing thanks as the tornado rips apart your house. Giving thanks for something that you want to curse. Being grateful for the pain? Who in their right mind?!

And yet, every time my eyes rest on the page it jumps up and slaps me. Or maybe it’s the pain that slaps me all over again and I wonder how I could ever be thankful for the thing that daily steals my joy and stabs down deep. But  when I read again, hoping that it’s gone, I find that it’s not only there but it screams louder.

Obedience doesn’t require sight in order to work. In fact, blind faith is actually rewarded more. I can have a portion of Abraham’s faith when I go, being told, but not understanding. Faith is imputed to my account when I can walk confidently without seeing the stepping stone in front of me.

“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

So what about this day?  A happy day for those who have their dads. A sad day for those who don’t. A grateful day for those who have a great relationship with their dad. A hard day for those who don’t.

So, for those “who don’t”? Yep. This day counts, too. And maybe counts more than the other 364 days combined. Because God knows it’s tough. And mark my words… He knows how it feels. There was a time when He was estranged from His Father. And that pain was worse than the beating and nails and crown of thorns and death. But in the face of fresh pain, He was not detoured.

Because He knew that without His pain, we could not live. His death harnessed life. Do we ask to share in His sufferings like Paul did? So that we can bring glory to God? That is the ultimate goal.

When we can stop asking how we can make the pain stop and start asking how we can glorify God through this? Yes… this is when life begins to be abundant life. Our eyes off ourselves and our eyes on Him… there is no other place I’d rather fix my gaze.

When you feel estranged from someone you love, know that being engaged with Christ is worth far more.

And when you’re gearing up to celebrate with your dad, remember your heavenly Dad’s sacrifice so that you could have the life you live.

If you’re in both of those categories or neither, I hope that this 3 minutes and 25 seconds will put your gaze where it needs to be and change your perspective to what will pay dividends: God and gratitude. Hand in hand.

“He Knows My Name”

Spent today in a conversation
In the mirror face to face with
Somebody less than perfect
I wouldn’t choose me first if
I was looking for a champion
In fact I’d understand if
You picked everyone before me
But that’s just not my story
True to who You are
You saw my heart
and made
Something out of nothing
I don’t need my name in lights
I’m famous in my Father’s eyes
Make no mistake
He knows my name
I’m not living for applause
I’m already so adored
It’s all His stage
He knows my name
He knows my nameI’m not meant to just stay quiet
I’m meant to be a lion
I’ll roar beyond a song
With every moment that I’ve got
True to who You are
You saw my heart
And made
Something out of nothingHe calls me chosen, free forgiven, wanted, child of the King,

His forever, held in treasure…
I am loved

I don’t need my name in lights…
I’m famous in my Father’s eyes…

Cream cheese & Sugar

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The strawberry heads fell one by one into the sink with a thump. I stared out the window in between slicing to see the dog bounding across the grass on his way to who-knows-where. I felt strangely out of place… like maybe he had an advantage on me because he didn’t mind not knowing where he was going. I spend so much of my day clamoring and grasping for plans, counting hours and minutes and hoping to make everything work. just. right.

Just when it seems that I’m happy with where I’m going and where I’m at, someone makes a comment or a kind suggestion or simply asks a question and I’m undone. Or someone else is pregnant and when am I going to have a baby? Or I start working out and I’m satisfied with my body and then someone wants to tell me about their new diet and I feel guilty all over again. And just when I finally become content with the place I live and not building a house, then the friend buys a big darling house with a huge yard and a garbage disposal and a dishwasher and I’m back to wanting more than this. Is it possible that as long as the enemy can keep us bouncing from one fire to another, putting out the flames and squelching the passion, that he can keep us from the ultimate victory?

I picked out the best largest and sturdiest strawberries and placed them in a separate bowl. I wished that I could pick a carton up at the store that had all the same size and freshness of the season. Instead, I find myself buying three or four cartons just to satisfy my need. If I am going to fill them with cheesecake icing, they must be strong so I can hull out the center, and the bottom half must be just ripe enough or it will smash easily.

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See, I want to be the big and sturdy berry. I carefully plan my life so that my appearance is firm and my house is fresh and I stand tall in a world that needs to find fulfillment. I want to be the one to give them the answer. But I’m so often beat up by my own sin and poor choices and distracted from the Bible study that helps me grow and I turn out to be a midget Christian with soft sides who can’t even hold my own weight. There might be some room for the sweetness of God to penetrate me, but I’m so full of other rottenness that the sour taste remains. The more control I desire, the less control I have. And when situations buoy out of my control or I find that I have no power to make someone perform {that could be me}, I buckle under the disappointment of losing control and I come face to face with the fact that I have made an idol. I craved control and power and influence and all it got me was humble pie.

I set the bowl of small and weak berries in the refrigerator. I could eat them for breakfast with my Cheerios in the morning, but they wouldn’t do for my project. They were useful, but not for what I intended them to be. It is embarrassing to admit that I’ve made a god out of something, anything. I claim that God is the only god I serve, but when I can’t live without something, it tells on me. I know that I’m useful in the Kingdom, but I also realize I’m not exactly who God intended for me to be. The enemy loves to remind me of this and make me feel defeated. He wants me to look at my problems and feel hopeless. He wants me to focus on my shortcomings and feel dumb. And my mind has no hard time going along with it. But when I can just look straight into the face of my Savior, He reminds me that every day is a fresh start to becoming who He and I both want me to be.

The cream cheese and powdered sugar and vanilla blend in the bowl until the mixture is creamy. I pipe it into each strawberry. Each berry requires a different amount, depending on size, strength, and how much I was able to hew out of the center. I was proud of the big sturdy berries. They displayed well and would surely be the first chosen. The smaller, weaker ones didn’t stand up by themselves and I knew they would be battered and in pieces as everyone dug for those around them. But I knew that those smaller berries would be the ones that I would scoop up at the end of the evening, turn my spoon upside down over my tongue, and savor. Because the smaller the berry, the more the cream cheese flavor would stand out.

And I am reminded that the weaker we are, the stronger God can be seen and tasted in my life. The ugly truth is that I can’t change people. I often can’t change situations. But not being in control doesn’t mean that I don’t have influence. And it doesn’t mean that God doesn’t require of me every little step of obedience even in my place of seeming insignificance. He checks my attitude and tries my motives and watches for where I put my time, attention, and effort. He rewards accordingly. And He reminds me that it’s not up to me to change the world.

It’s up to me to change me.

So I put Him back on the rightful throne and take myself off. I let HIM be the one to judge others and do justice, not me. I let HIM punish others and not me. I let HIM affect my mood and attitude and actions, not others. And I take the higher road of not being in control, but of being controlled by the One controls my destiny.

I thank Him that when I was living in sin {yesterday}, He lived in grace and I inherited His sinlessness.

After everyone else picks the big, strong kids for their kickball team, I’d like to think that God scoops me up and savors me because I’ve leaned on Him when I wasn’t strong enough to stand on my own two feet. When I was yet without strength, He chose me and put me on His team. And Coach doesn’t kick me off the team even when I’m a poor player and I let Him down. And when I wander away from the game, He invites me back.

I pipe the last of the strawberries and gently place the lid on top. I suddenly feel light again since casting my burden on Him. I think I could go bounding through the yard after the dog. After all, you never know what you might find when you are willing to let go and travel on an adventure with God. Knowing that He knows the destination allows me to take my hands off the wheel and sit back and enjoy the ride.

 

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Tonight. Just me and God. We laughed. We cried. We shared a coke and a small waffle fry at Chick-Fil-A.

I wish I could tell you that we had this date night planned for days or weeks in advance. But the sad truth is: It. Just. Happened.

And to continuing my heritage of honesty, I’ll even tell you that I wasn’t happy about it. In fact, I was more along the lines of unhappy.

The sheets we registered for were top of the line. 400 thread count. Beautiful Egyptian cotton. Less than three years old. And I won’t tell you how much they cost, but I’ll tell you this much: they were a penny short of $130. I would never have purchased these for myself, but I have the best family in the world and they bought it for me. And through two bed transitions, they have brought wonderful sleep. They have managed to drape over a “large full/small queen” (whatever that is) and most recently, have snuggly covered a California King. We have been pleased.

That is, until yesterday. When I found an enormous tear in the fitted sheet. I almost cried. After a small panic episode, I texted my friend who used to work at the factory that popped out these pretties. (I won’t tell you where they came from, but when she worked there, she always hash tagged #bbbprobs.) She encouraged me to take them back to the store.

I assumed I could sleep on them at least another week until I would be heading that way, but this morning the hole was twice its size. So, all day, I have been planning a trip to a town yonder to beg these wonderful triple B’s to be so gracious as to swap them out with only a gift receipt and an expired bridal registry print-out.

I knew better than to ask my husband to skip basketball with the guys for sheets (who needs to sleep when you can come home with a black eye?). My sister-in-law is very prego and was not up for an hour and a half round trip ride. Another friend was having a cook out with her in-laws. Another had a graduation party. One was in a play. A dozen had kids and they didn’t have time in order to find childcare. Two friends didn’t text back.

I heard the Whisper. But I kept pushing it out of my head. Ministry is my first priority. I need to find someone to encourage.

In the meantime, I pouted and pity-partied and pleaded with my husband to remind me who my real friends were. “They’re just as busy as you.” He made perfect sense. But that wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I wanted to hear that I wasn’t valuable. No one liked me. Everyone wanted me when I could help them, but no one just wanted to be. my. friend.

And the sick thing is that hearing those words spoken out loud would have strangely comforted me. Because my mind has been telling me that since childhood, and it’s frankly exhausting to spend so much energy trying to prove my mind wrong. Some days, my soul begs me to give in. Over the years, it’s deception has sunk into my heart and I have come to believe it.

But the Whisper didn’t let up. It kept getting louder. And still, pulling out of the driveway, I was going through my mental list of people that I could call to hang out with me at the last minute. The fact that I was bored and didn’t have something planned was so unusual that doing something spontaneous was VERY out of my comfort zone. I didn’t like it at all.

I finally spoke to the Whisper and said, “Okay, God. Just you and me.” I exhaled slowly. It was an awkward silence like the initial three minutes of a first date. Not because we hadn’t talked recently, and not because we didn’t like each other, but because we both knew that He was my last choice. I spent all day trying to find a companion and He was there all along. And yet, that didn’t seem as “worthy” as being with a human would be.

And herein lies one of the greatest deceptions of the enemy. Ministering involves other humans. But God created man because HE wanted communion with a person. The God of the Universe… wants us. Ministering to God is perhaps one of the most ignored forms of worship, because we have believed the lie that we are ONLY AS VALUABLE AS PEOPLE SAY WE ARE.

What if we believed that we were what God said we were?

“His treasured possession.” (Malachi 3:17)

“Fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:14)

“I have loved you with an everlasting love.” (Jeremiah 31:3)

“I have engraved you on the palms of My Hands.” (Isaiah 49:16)

“He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by His love; He will exult over you with loud singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)

And so, I sang. Loud. And as I opened the sunroof and my heart, He opened my eyes to see mountain ranges all around me and breathtaking clouds. It was the never-ending sunset. I came home close to nine and there was still light in the sky making the most magnificent pictures. It’s a wonder I didn’t crash because I couldn’t take my eyes of the pictures He painted for me.

And a smile tugged at the corners of my lips. “You did this on purpose. You tore my sheets on purpose just to get two hours with me.” And I felt loved and treasured and sheepish.

The sheets were replaced, and I got a new design and color to boot, along with 650 thread count. I thought I’d better up the ante. We clearly like to sleep. Or, be in bed. I stopped at Chick-Fil-A to use a free coupon, but didn’t read the fine print. I thought chicken sandwiches would be a universal menu option at a chicken restaurant, but apparently it is specific to breakfast. So, I stuck with fries and a coke.

And we are already planning our next date night. And I heard Him ask me, “Now wasn’t that fun?” “Yes, Lord. I had a blast.” “Am I good enough for you? Without anyone else or their pleasant opinions of you?” And I couldn’t reply. Because we both knew He was right. And I was embarrassed that I had to prove my love for Him.

And I remembered Peter after the resurrection when Jesus asked him three times if he loved Him. I don’t believe the number was coincidental considering the three times Peter had denied Him just days prior. After He had secured his love, He then said, “Feed my sheep.”

Until we learn how to love the Shepherd and minister to Him, we will not be very effective in loving His sheep.

Until we learn how to eat waffle fries with God, we won’t be able to feed His children with the Bread of Life. We may never know the balance between ministering to Him and to His people. But, He will probably let us know in His own creative way. Perhaps when no one answers their phone or returns texts or shows interest or has time to spare. We can choose to take it personally, or we can take a compliment and turn our ear towards our Lover who is pursuing and wooing us.

And, plus, I’m pretty sure He took all the calories out of my fries. Can your friends do that?ImageImageImage

Take five minutes to remember what you felt when you first fell in love.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q-ZX9P8lJps

Day after day
I try to explain You
Like I can contain You in so many words
You are the ocean
And I’m on the shoreline
Thinking I know You like You could be learned

It’s so amazing that You’d ever save me

I thought I knew Your face
I thought I tasted grace
But I had never felt anything close to this
Just when I’d seen it all
New mercy breaks the dawn
With my eyes open wide
It feels like the first time, first time
It feels like the first time, first time

After all of my searching
All of my reaching
I’m left with nothing
Nothing of worth
You treasure the broken
Over and over
Give me a hope that could never be earned

It’s still amazing that You’d ever save me

I thought I knew Your face
I thought I tasted grace
But I had never felt anything close to this
Just when I’d seen it all
New mercy breaks the dawn
With my eyes open wide
It feels like the first time, first time
It feels like the first time, first time

Your beauty no eye has seen
Your majesty overwhelming
Your love for me is healing oh God

I thought I knew Your face
I thought I tasted grace
But it was nothing like this
Just when I’d seen it all
New mercy breaks the dawn
With my eyes open wide
I feel alive for the first time, first time
Just like the first time, first time

I can see for the first time, first time
Feels just like the first time

 

 

No relationship comes close to what we have with our Savior. Don’t let the love grow cold. Don’t forget to worship Him. Don’t forget to tell Him you love Him. Don’t forget to hold onto Him in the good times and bad times. Don’t forget what it feels like to be in love.

You’re Beautiful

“I see Your face in every sunrise
The colors of the morning are inside Your eyes
The world awakens in the light of the day
I look up to the sky and say 
You’re beautiful. 

I see Your power in the moonlit night
Where planets are in motion and galaxies are bright
We are amazed in the light of the stars
It’s all proclaiming who You are
You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful

I see you there hanging on a tree
You bled and then you died and then you rose again for me
Now you are sitting on Your heavenly throne
Soon we will be coming home
You’re beautiful, you’re beautiful

When we arrive at eternity’s shore
Where death is just a memory and tears are no more
We’ll enter in as the wedding bells ring 
Your bride will come together and we’ll sing
You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful

I see Your face, You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful
I see Your face, You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful
I see Your face, I see Your face
I see Your face, You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful.”

Phil Wickham

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