What if, the doubting, fearful, stressed out, frantic, chaotic, frustrated, complaining, gossiping, self-focused you is all the Jesus someone else sees?

That thought brushed across my mind last night as I drove home from a powerful, freeing evening at IF:Gathering, IF:local. I am heading back there in just a few minutes, with this thought still haunting me because it’s true.

But what if…

What if, the confident, loving, kind, patient, beautiful, encouraging, trusting you is the Jesus someone sees today?

wading in joy

So if you follow me over on IG then you saw my photo late yesterday afternoon. The last two days have been a bit rough around these parts, with presentations crashing to a busted water heater to server switches and grocery bags falling apart in the parking lot.

Yes, all the things in under a 24 hours happened. To me.

Currently I am watching $1200 worth of pipes and a brand spankin’ new water heater get installed into my home. (insert nervous laughter and increased stress) There have been some tense moments, tears of frustration and worried speech. As the grocery bag broke yesterday I just started laughing.

You see, God and I have been having some amazing times together over the last month. Just good stuff, centered on Him and not me, and a whole lot of getting to know Him more and how He is pushing stuff through my life. I have seen blessing after blessing flow out from Him in the form of friends, work, and even writing.

So the reason I am laughing still, staring at this bill, is because my heart started to worry. It started to question and become frantic over this situation, and then I remembered.  I remembered how He’s provided before, over and over. He has blessed and given in such huge ways, and such small ways, that I can only laugh. Because I feel like the devil saw an “in” with me in these situations, reminding me of the old me who would freak out and get wound up so tightly that I was lashing out on others. It wasn’t that long ago, in fact this time last year, where I would be a bundle of nerves and frustration.

Is the situation ideal? Absolutely not.

But what it is a reminder, a physical manifestation, that I get to lean into Him and be dependent upon Him in everything. That in all circumstances, I get to count it all joy.

My brothers and sisters, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. James 1:2-4

That verse right there used to rub me the wrong way constantly, until I took time to really look at it in the midst of a circumstance, that I get to choose joy in it. I get to count it that way instead of in the frustration column. Out of it comes patience, perfected work in me in fact, if I but choose to be joyous in it, choose to be in Him and not in my self.

Now I may not be joyous at the bill for this new water heater, I am joyful that I get to see this as an opportunity to enjoy the moment, to be with Him in the midst and see this as a perfecting work of patience in my life.

Because my joy, my peace, every bit of it? It’s found in Him and not in me. That’s a choice worth making today, and every day.

Today would have been my mamaw’s 100th birthday. My mom reminded me of this last night as we chatted. To be honest I had gotten the year mixed up and thought she would have been 97. But I never forget that her birthday is February 2nd.

You see my mamaw meant an awful lot to me, as she was a godly woman who I got to spend summers with on occasion learning how to hand-sew quilts and make spaghetti from scratch, just for lunch. When she would get to giggling, it was something magical because to be honest, we never could get her to smile for a photograph. It was like she somehow knew a secret none of the rest of us did and she was holding it in for dear life.

I shared with some coworkers recently about how she had the phone book and would read the obituaries in the paper every morning and remove people from it. I asked her once why she was doing that, or if she knew them, and she told me very informatively that “Well no I don’t know them, but in case I needed to contact them now I know I can’t.” Part of me strongly believes I get my sweet tooth from her, and my knack for now holding my purse on my lap. We spent Saturdays with her alot, going to A&W for corn dogs, shopping in Wal-Mart and picking blackberries from the bushes in the garden. She used to put them on our fingers and tell us to enjoy with a smile.

Later in life, she started to forget us. Her mind becoming muddled with a different reality and confusion. It hurt my heart to see her get agitated because she didn’t know us, couldn’t remember my grandfather who she was married to for so long, not knowing her only daughter, my mother.

Memories are a tricky thing-they bring us such delight and also such pain. For a while after she passed away I could only remember the conversations of convincing her I was her granddaughter, of seeing her curled up in the nursing home bed not wanting to talk. I carried those around with alot of hurt, until I realized that’s not what I was supposed to see her as, the truth had gotten muddled with the picture before me. An illness tried to dilute  my memories down to something else, to replace the images I knew with something that wasn’t. Much like it did to her in the latter years of her life.

So instead I choose the memories of my mamaw with her pink lipstick, color-coordinated pants suits and “ear bobs” because that is who she was to me, to us all. She was the kind-hearted woman who made hundreds of hand pies for church homecomings and would laugh when we told her she shouldn’t be “taste-testing” them all since she had diabetes.

We often don’t get to choose the story that is told about us, but memories provide a way for us to seek the good and true in a reality that is sometimes harsher and colder than we could ever imagine.

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Steadfast Love: Review and Giveaway!

Confession time around these parts…

I love books.

You all probably knew that by now, but I seriously get anxiety over all the great books I have yet to read. I keep a shelf in my bedroom of books I read each year, and those I plan to read. I got the idea a couple of years ago from my friend Jon Acuff. It was this whole “empty shelf” challenge, and one I have kept to for the last three years. My goal each year is to match the number of books I read with the age I will be turning. That’s the only stipulation. So I read professional development, fiction and Christian living books. Every once in a while I share those on here with you all, as you’ve seen from Choose Joy, Fervent and Dancing Through Life.

This month I got a jump on my book challenge with the new release from Lauren Chandler called Steadfast Love (You can pick it up at your local LifeWay which now does price matching!). You may or may not be familiar with Lauren or her family. I have been what you’d call a “follower fan” of Matt Chandler for a while, as he pastors in Texas. Several years ago Matt fell ill and captivated alot of Christians for how he and his family navigated the diagnosis and subsequent journey under the “new normal.”

Let me say I started this book off slow, as I was finding it hard to get into personally. But I had to deal with that as this book is beautifully written on a Psalm which is personal to Lauren, but is one to be learned from by us all.

We deep dive into Psalm 107 section by section, verse by verse throughout this book. She pinpoints anchors we choose to use, instead of the the everlasting, eternal one in Christ. One such quote found in the early pages digs right at the heart of where we need to start when seeking/living in steadfast love:

What we choose to use as our anchor determines how well we will weather the seasons of life. (pg 19)

God’s steadfast love is our anchor, in the midst of any storm or seas of life, when we need rest, to enjoy the perspective, or when we need refuge.

Lauren walks you through each of those areas, from the heavy and hard to the folly of our own hands. You see her worship of Psalm 107 and it ignites within you the desire to look at the steadfast love in your own life, the anchors you fashion out of your own hands, and begin to examine the Psalm with eyes on Him. She gets to the crux of her book with the synopsis of “Sometimes he wrings the worship from our hearts.”

In truth, He does. We get wrung out through praise, but it has to be from a heart filled with steadfast love in Him from Him.

As we enter the month of love awareness (I’ll save you all my soap box on that), I wanted to encourage you to check out this book from Lauren Chandler and examine the Psalm a bit deeper as we look at steadfast love in a time where love seems to be bought and traded far too cheaply. See how His steadfast love grabbed Lauren to prepare her for a time when she needed the anchor which holds stronger than any one she could’ve fashioned for herself.


To celebrate Lauren’s release and to get this book into the hand of a reader, I am giving away a copy of Steadfast Love RIGHT HERE! All you have to do is tell us what Psalm you love in the comments and a winner will be picked at random. Deadline to enter is Tuesday, February 2nd!

Remember there are worse places than Nineveh. He that goes out of the path that God marks for him may yet come to be at the bottom of the sea with Jonah, with the weeds wrapped about his head.“-Charles Spurgeon

Maybe your Nineveh doesn’t look like Jonah’s. Or maybe it’s looking worse than you can fathom his to be. Jonah didn’t know at the time he would end up in the belly of a whale, so God could get his attention on what He was asking him to be obedient in.

Do we ever get the whole picture?

Nope.

What we do get is the call to obedience, to be on the path of God’s design. We get the choice of the step. Where that leads is up to us….

I don’t know about you but Nineveh is looking better than the belly of a man-eating whale from this perspective.

Seeking Deliverance

Do you ever feel wronged? Like injustices are levied against you, repetitively to where you just can’t seem to win? During my Junior year of college I felt that way with a particular class. I just couldn’t win with the professor, no matter how many office hours I went to, no matter how many extra credit assignments I worked, I just couldn’t seem to grasp his method of teaching finance. I poured over the book, would dig into notes and still wind up feeling muddled and confused by the exams and projects. It came to a point of just hoping to get through it without falling below a C so I wouldn’t have to retake it my final semester at UT.

That semester saw me pull a C in that class, and the only time I have ever been proud to get C. (For the record I only received two other Cs-my Freshmen year, and that was because I was finding my new found freedom in not attending College Calculus and English) I was desiring after deliverance from the class after only three weeks in the semester.

I was thinking on that situation, as well as some others over the span of my life, where I was merely seeking to be delivered from the circumstances I found myself in. Circumstances I felt were injustices levied against me, and ones I would not have chosen had I had a say so in them. I couldn’t help but think of Joseph. While his situations differ quite drastically from those I found myself in, I find his example to be one which is best followed when responding to life.

You see Joseph didn’t ask for his brothers to sell him off to a band of travelers which caused his enslavement (yes, Joseph got a bit mouthy about his dreams of being above the family, but let’s just chalk that up to being the sassy-pants youngest child). Joseph didn’t ask to be placed within Potiphar’s house, nor did he beg to be seduced by his wife and then falsely accused of advances when he held strong to his integrity and character.

But we see over and over in just a few chapters in Genesis that God was with Joseph. He was with him and Joseph prospered. (Don’t confuse this with prosperity gospel, please…) Joseph didn’t rely upon God because of what God could give to him, but rather because Joseph knew God was with him in the midst of it all. He trusted that the Lord was with him and his character remained unchanging when he faced enslavement, imprisonment and success within Pharaoh’s employment.

There is a real difference in praying for deliverance from a situation and praying to seek God in all things. It’s an attitude shift and a perspective change. One that Joseph illustrated repeatedly throughout a life filled with injustice and enslavement. When we seek deliverance we place our good above that which God knows is good. We believe we know better than the Sovereign God.

Do some circumstances just plain stink? Absolutely.

Do I want to be delivered out of them? You bet.

But sometimes that just isn’t possible because that’s not what needs to be done. When I set my sights on deliverance, instead of God I hear my voice instead of His alot more. I hear my justifications of rightness and not of His promises. When I seek Him, I don’t see the slights or hurts as often, because I am no longer self-focused. I am driven by the will of Him who seeks to bring about every situation for good if I but allow His work to be done in and through me.

Even in the darkness of the prisons we find ourselves in, the Lord is with us and shows his kindness to us if we but seek Him instead of our own plan of deliverance.

The Gift of Snow

We got hit with Snow Storm Jonas in Nashville on Friday. It packed more of a whallop than expected and gave us all a free day to play. When I woke up Saturday, there was still this beautiful calm of white (it ain’t going anywhere for a few days with close to 7 inches where I am) so I wanted to grab a few photos to remember the fun, the joy, and the beauty of a day spent sledding, getting to know the neighbors and resting.

Wherever you are today, I hope you are able to take today for what it is-a gift of presence. Be abundantly aware of what you have been given today, a day to be fully aware of every moment and every experience. You don’t have to be what yesterday or last week or last year were, you can be today. Afresh. Anew.