- My identity is in Christ, and I am deeply loved.
- Following Jesus is the abundant life.
- People are more important than tasks.
- Our home is a safe place of grace, love, and laughter.
- Jesus is sanctifying me, and I’m a work in progress.
- Believe the best in others. Offense is a moment, offended is a decision.
Here is how God is asking me to live out the Gospel lately: every day, after I wake up, I get a glass of water and I take a little white pill.
I remember the first time I realized something was off, but really it was someone else who noticed it. Before a volleyball game at West Carter High School, my volleyball coach came over and said, “You’ve not really been yourself lately. Is anything wrong?”
The answer was yes and no. No, nothing really was wrong, besides the normal high school drama, but yes, because she hit the nail on the head: I didn’t feel like myself anymore, and I wasn’t even sure what that meant. All I knew is my thoughts sometimes (a lot of the time) were out of control and I was second guessing everything.
It got worse during my senior year of high school; I was happy, really happy, but almost every day I would still have these…moods…for lack of a better word, and I had no idea why I was feeling what I was feeling so I came up with a reason. It brought a lot of codependency and drama, but at least with the drama I had a reason for why I was feeling down. A new start in college would make it better, I was sure.
So I headed off to college, and things were new and fresh and better, until they weren’t, and so I found a safe place to crawl back into myself little by little. I beat myself up so badly after I said something stupid, running through every word I said for hours and hours. At one point shortly after I got married I just learned it was easier not to let people in at all.
I started a job that I loved in KY, but building high walls makes it pretty hard to be successful in ministry. I remember one day someone asked me to add a name to the roll on their class list, and I went to the bathroom and cried because I just couldn’t do One. More. Thing.
Chris knew for a long time, but he was gracious and loving and so he let me say it first. One day, I couldn’t sleep (again) because I was spiraling through everything I had done and not done and said and felt like I failed about. And I turned to him and said, “Maybe…I’m depressed.”
I tried counseling then, maybe twice, but it wasn’t a good fit and ministering in the community kept me from trying to reach out much further. Which is stupid now; no one else put these expectations on me, but I held them firmly on my own shoulders.
For three more years, a total of nine years on this path, I kept struggling, and beating myself up. I asked a doctor for help and she said she would prescribe me something, but she hadn’t even asked my symptoms so I decided I could try on my own. I had by Big Three of things that if I could just do them, I would be fixed. I had my works I had to do to get through. They were my health, my work, and my faith. If I could get my weight to a certain spot, or be fulfilled enough in my work, or read my Bible and pray enough, I could, I should be able to fix it myself.
After all, good Christians shouldn’t need medicine to have joy and peace. Those were fruits of the Spirit, right?
I was tired, so tired. I felt like I had to guard my time and my words and my heart so fiercely.
At the beginning of this year, I sat down to do my goals. That was a big way I tried to cope, goals and lists and lists and more lists. But as I sat down to do my goals, I started praying something bolder than I had ever prayed before: God, I believe that at the end of this year, anxiety and depression can be words I would NEVER use to describe myself.
I had prayed before that God would help, usually in the dark on the worst nights of anxiety, and in the morning I would go back to making my lists. But the next morning instead of picking up a list, I kept praying. And praying. And praying. Every day.
Then I started seeing a counselor. Actually, I tried one, and she was terrible, so I tried another, and she was amazing. After a few months of talking through things, she referred me to a psychiatrist, and that word was terrible and embarrassing but I walked out of her office with a diagnosis (major depressive disorder and anxiety).
It’s hard to put this into words, because I can’t really describe the 180 degree turn it’s been since I started taking medicine. I thought taking medicine would be defeat, saying, No, God, You’re actually not enough for me.
But it was more like surrender…
God, I cannot possibly fix this. I can’t even try anymore, and I need help. Every day, when I swallow that pill, that’s what I’m saying. I need Your help.
I have felt the cloud of depression rise up and all of the sudden I can hear God speaking to me and directing me, and He is bearing fruit of joy and peace and love that I tried so hard to produce in myself.
I jokingly say credit it to the medicine, but I know the truth: it was surrender to Christ that is making me better. Every morning when I swallow that pill I get a reminder that I can’t do it, I can’t work hard enough, I can’t bridge this chasm from who I am to who I want to be. But Jesus did. He did the work, and He’s still doing it. He’s choosing to do it right now through medicine, and He may always help me through that.
I feel like a whole new person, because six months ago all I could see was just a few steps ahead of me: what can I do to make myself feel better, what can I do to move forward. But Jesus took my to do list and handed me back freedom and hope and joy and peace. What a gracious, gracious Savior.
“The pursuit of society’s well being is not about charity, but about justice, and it’s an essential part of our commitment to the reign of God in our city.”
Justice is a big word. It’s almost kind of a trendy word right now, which means it is easy to dismiss, but when I look through Scripture, there is justice written ALL OVER it. Justice can be defined as making everything right or fair, but it seems like God’s definition goes a little deeper and means setting things right, to their original purpose (thinking back to the Garden of Eden, and humans in holy relationship with Him and one another). Yes, sin has made the world broken and messed up, but God is still present here, and His people are still present here, so we are able to give glimpses of the original purpose of creation–the love God and love others.
God goes as far as saying, “I, the Lord, love justice.” (Isaiah 61:8)
“’Cursed is he who distorts the justice due an alien, orphan, and widow.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’” Duet. 20:29
“He loves righteousness and justice; The earth is full of the lovingkindness of the LORD.” Psalm 33:5
“I know that the LORD will maintain the cause of the afflicted And justice for the poor.” Psalm 140:12
And that’s just a few. Do you know that the Israelites, God’s chosen and set apart people, were almost completely destroyed by the Babylonians and Syrians, and God said He didn’t hear their prayers because THEY FORGOT TO TAKE CARE OF THE PEOPLE IN NEED AROUND THEM (Isaiah 58, please read it!).
Did you know in the New Testament Jesus says God will divide his followers into two groups: those that took care of people in need and those who didn’t. And to the people who didn’t take care of people in need, he says, Go away, because you actually didn’t serve me. (Matthew 25:31-46; Matthew 7:21-23).
Justice and service are so integral to who God is that if we are not fighting for justice and helping people in need here on earth, we actually might not know God after all. (Matthew 7:21-23)
Justice as fairness can be tricky, because God is this beautiful paradox of grace and justice. He made a way where we didn’t get the punishment we deserve. He could have left us all to die without the hope of eternity, and that would have been a definition of justice. But He didn’t leave it at only fairness. His justice is filled with mercy and love, too, and He seeks to bring all of creation back to rightness and perfection.
Because if God wasn’t a God of justice and mercy, He also wouldn’t have had to send Jesus to die for our sins. By sending his son to be punished, God fulfilled the requirements of the law, showing His heart of both justice and of love and mercy.
When I look at the headlines, it is SO easy to write off the hurting. So easy. I mean, why didn’t they try harder in school? Why did they choose to enter that profession? Why did they buy drugs or alcohol with the money for their family? I can think of a million and one reasons why I can shut my eyes and turn away.
But I can think of the one reason why I can’t turn my head on the partnership of justice and mercy: God didn’t turn his head to me. He, full of mercy and love for justice, plowed a path for both justice and grace in my life. And He has commanded me to do the same on the earth.
So what does this mean for me, honestly and practically? It’s a journey I’ve been on ever since I spent every night for three months praying with 40 orphaned children that God would set them in families. But here’s the thing, even four years later, I still have to fight against apathy in my own life and for justice.
Here’s where that quote comes in–I am 100% committed to the reign of God in my community, and that means I am 100% committed to seeing the hurting healed, those in need provided, cared for, and known, and seeing the broken and dark places of Denton redeemed and full of light. If I am committed to the reign of God in Denton, I am committed to seeing justice and mercy reign.
And furthermore, I personally have to commit to giving my hands and feet and time and money to see this happen, not only because I want to see it happen but also because God made sure it happened for me.
How do you do it? I have a few things I do, but I honestly feel like God is calling me to so much more, so I don’t want to sound like I have it together or have something to teach you. But here’s what I am trying to do:
- Research the specific needs of your community. Who is hurting? Where do they live? How are they living? Who is helping them?
- For instance, Denton County has over 800 homeless youth, over 300 prostitutes, and is a major stop along one of the most popular trafficker thoroughfares (I-35). There are 115, 480 individuals in Denton that are classified as Food Insecure (Source).
- Don’t turn away. When I see a shocking news story, I most of the time would rather walk on by than stop and read it. But I have to know the needs, to both honor the people walking that story and to be able to pray about how God can extend redemption to that community, and how I can be a part of it.
- Pray for your church to be the church to people in need. But only do this if YOU are willing to act as the church to people in need.
- Get to know the people in your community that are different than you. Race, class, religion, etc… You can’t serve them if you don’t know them.
- Give your time away. This is the hardest for me because I would honestly rather read a book each night than attend meetings or hang out with people I don’t know, but every single time I give my time away I walk away knowing Jesus better than I did before.
- Figure out where your strengths and skills meet a need in your community. Take personality and spiritual gift tests. Identify what you really love doing and figure out how it can help. Can you teach a class? Can you run the social media for a ministry? Can you give money? Can you pray? Can you rally people to volunteer? Can you cook a meal?
- Talk with anyone you can about what they see as the biggest needs in the town and find out what they are doing to help. See if there are ways you can join them, either with time or prayer or money.
Just throwing this out there, but I have been super convicted for the last year about the fact that I live in a very Hispanic community and I don’t know any Spanish. We live in a college town and hardly know any college students. There are so many international families in the neighborhoods within walking distance from our church and I personally haven’t done anything to make them feel welcome or invited to our church!
I feel like the Holy Spirit in my soul is just crying out for justice in this city, this country, and the world, and I just can’t, I can’t, I can’t continue to ignore Him.
Today, I’d love to share with you a great through about Easter morning from Hannah Card. Thanks, Hannah, for sharing, and be sure to check out more of her writing at thissweetlybrokenlife.com.
Our belief about the resurrection determines a pivotal point of our faith: Do we believe that God is living and active, or is He a thing of the past, defeated by this world?
Matthew 28 gives us a unique glimpse at this monumental day. In this passage, two women were traveling to visit the tomb of their friend Jesus following his public crucifixion. It seems important that we acknowledge the intimacy of their relationship. After all, it was Mary Magdalene from whom Jesus had cast out seven demons. These women were more than just followers, they were friends. And on this day, they were likely confused and weary friends, mourning the death of a man dear to them. It was in this desire for a final moment of nearness to their Savior that these women would walk into likely the most significant moment of their lives.
Let’s walk with them for a moment.
Upon their arrival at the tomb, the angel immediately dispels their fear. Surely, standing at the empty tomb would have quickened their hearts and ushered in a sense of panic. I have a hunch, however, that the angel’s next phrase brought them the greatest peace: He is not here; He has risen, just as He said.
This phrase is nothing short of miraculous; the very utterance of Jesus’s resurrection has extreme implications for our faith. Yet, my favorite part of the phrase is the last several words: just as He said.
Jesus had promised His return; He assured His followers that death would be defeated. The angel’s words remind us of this one monumental truth: Jesus keeps His promises.
Immediately after his proclamation of the resurrected King, the angel invites the women to come and see.
Is that not what we are seeking still today? We want someone to usher us in, to validate our fears and doubts, and invite us to come and see. Jesus is never afraid of the invitation, and our doubts never prove too much, because His life and His Word hold up. The invitation of the angel sounds to me much like the one Jesus gave to Thomas when he extended his nail-scarred hands to wash away Thomas’s doubts. Come and see. It has always been our invitation.
The call does not end here. We must enter in, we must come and see, but there is more. The women did not stop at the sight of the empty tomb. The angel first offered them an invitation: come and see, but he next offered them an opportunity: go and tell.
Our call is much the same today. Jesus invites us in and then offers us the opportunity to go and tell. Ours is a gospel made for multiplying. It is in our obedience that God is most pleased. He wants us to come and see. He wants us to know more of Him, to taste and see that He is good. Then He desires that we would go and tell of the wonders of His love. Once we have tasted His goodness, to go and tell is a natural outpouring.
Surely, these two women could have walked away from the tomb in fear that day the way many of us choose to walk away from God opportunities. The news of the resurrection would have made its appearance without them, but they would have missed a golden opportunity. God does not need us, but
He chooses us. In His rising, He resurrects the dead parts of our lives and invites us to a grander unfolding story. Let’s not miss this. May we never live as if the stone was not rolled away.
1. What is God inviting you into today? How can you come and see more of Him?
2. What opportunity is He offering you to go and tell? How can your life reflect the truth and glory of the resurrection?
Hannah Card is a wonderer and a wanderer. She is a southern-speakin’, Jesus-lovin’ coffee consumer who writes about life, whether pretty or messy (usually leaning toward messy). She is the daughter of two amazing, brave, church planting Jesus followers, the sister of an amazing worship pastor, and a lover of Jesus. She blogs at thissweetlybrokenlife.com.
Maybe I should start this review with a disclaimer to y’all who might be rolling your eyes:
I am not someone who enjoys reading marriage books. I tried, when we were engaged and first married, but once I got married I struggled because all the books seemed to be written by women with a very particular personality for which submission was pretty cut and dry, one size fits all. I didn’t really seem to fit, which meant I felt guilty 100% of the time.
So, disclaimers aside, I have to say….
I really learned a lot from The Power of a Praying Wife and really enjoyed reading it. A month later, I am still pulling up some things I read in order to pray for Chris better.
This book is honest. It doesn’t promise to give you the right words to say to “fix” your husband into what you want him to be. Instead, it talks a lot about your heart and what it means to pray for your husband. It’s acknowledging that my words and nagging aren’t going to be life-changers, but instead it’ll be the Holy Spirit. It says that in praying, sometimes nothing changes, but instead our attitude changes as we submit our own selves to the Lord.
This book is super practical. It has 31 chapters, each with a single thing to focus your prayer on. It gives Scripture references and a sample prayer in the back. If you feel like you’re praying the exact same thing every day for you guy or gal (Um, Lord, please keep him safe and help him be happy…), this book will give you specific ideas of what to pray for and why it’s important.
This book can lean towards a bit of prosperity. A few times she writes something that sounds like it’s using prayer as a get out of jail free card, but, honestly, I might just be sensitive to that since there are a lot of big authors cashing in on that kind of teaching. This is a minor part of the book, a few sentences in one or two of the chapters, and wouldn’t hinder me recommending it.
Overall, I would highly recommend buying a copy of this book, reading through it, and then using the Table of Contents as a prayer guide for your guy. I’ve already seen huge ways it has helped my prayer life and improved my attitude toward Chris. You can grab your own copy from Amazon here. I’d love to hear what you think about it!
Have you read Power of a Praying Wife? What did you think? If you haven’t, what marriage books have you enjoyed?
I love You + Me Forever‘s approach to marriage (you’ll be a good partner if you’re following Christ with all your heart), and When Sinners Say I Do is one I’ve seen recommended a lot, but haven’t read myself.
Hey friends! Yeah, so, I guess I’m a true adult now that months and years seem to just be flying by. I’m currently enjoying my Texas February (I’ll take every 70 degree weekend the Lord sees fit to give me), and planning a trip to Kentucky this weekend to celebrate my sister and her marriage.
In January, Chris and I really settled into the church and sunk into a new routine. It’s an adjustment to go from having nothing going on to Chris working 2 jobs and have lots of activities, but we are really enjoying the church and the students. Chris worked lots of overtime at his financial job, which meant he was home for maybe 30 minutes before we went to bed each night, but we still found ways to rest and watch lots of episodes of the Office. We also got to have an amazing weekend with his mom and Grandpa and checked out the Fort Worth Stockyards.
As for my goals for January, I really did not do so hot. A few unexpected things happened that took up more energy than I was expecting, but that made me glad I first set my guides for the year. I’m not feeling like a failure, but instead, I can look at what I did and didn’t accomplish and set even more realistic goals for February. Here’s what I’m looking to do:
Here are my goals for this month:
1. Make more veggie-heavy meals. Last week we had spaghetti squash and sweet potato, eggplant, gnocchi, and carrot hash, and it reminded me veggies don’t have to be the boring this on the side of my plate. I’d like to have at least 1 night a week where the meal is almost entirely vegetables.
2. Celebrate Kayla. My older sister is getting married in April, and I want her to know how much she’s loved by the Stepp family as she’s walking down the aisle to make her own family (insert cry face here).
3. Blog 2x week. I’m cutting back from last month because I get to do some other fun writing projects this month that will take up time. Look for new posts about Grace and Relationships all this month on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
4. Meet other writing goals. I have a fun project I’m working on for this space, one for For the Love, and a few others for work I’m looking forward to. I’d like to get lots of legwork for these done this month.
5. Tithe. Chris and I give to some nonprofits, but we need to get better about consistently giving to the church and other projects.
6. Clean out my closet. I’m eyeing purchasing some high-quality wardrobe staples, so I want to sell some clothes to help cover some of that cost. (On a wardrobe note, is anyone else excited Un-fancy.com is coming back?!?)
7. Try making money online. I have an ambitious goal this year that I want to pay for an Alaskan cruise for me and Chris making money on a few user-testing websites. This month is my first full month really going for it, so I’m figuring out how much money is even possible to make.
It’s funny, the last three are financial goals. Chris and I are pretty frugal with our money and committed to staying debt free. Since we’ll probably buy a house in a few years, we’ve gotten to have more money talks (YAY! not) and set some ambitious goals financially. Hopefully we do better with those goals than I did with my January goals!
So what do you want to accomplish this month? Any ways I can cheer you on?
Pssst….are you looking to set goals this year that you’ll actually accomplish? Do you want to not feel like a failure if you don’t meet every goal in exactly the time frame you want to? Get my F-R-E-E workbook, Setting Goals with Grace, here!
I love hearing about new things in the missions and nonprofit world: what’s working, what’s not, what’s changing. So every month, I want to highlight some of my favorite blogs and articles on the topic. This month’s Moments include some from November and December, but they were just too good to pass up.
The IMB, the international missions sending arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, is calling home many of their international workers as they face a budget crisis. Whether missionaries you know are a part of this or not, this is a great resource to caring for overseas workers when they are back “home” in the States.
You’re still part of the team. You’re not a washed up, has been, burnt out, broken down, used up, person. You are a child of God, dearly loved. Cherished. And you are still needed. The Church still needs you. The Father still wants you. Jesus still loves you. And the Holy Spirit is still near to you.
As I prayed, the still, quiet voice of the Good Shepherd simply asked, “Who will go?” to which I answered a thunderous, “I will!” even though I didn’t know much of anything about China. Nor did I know that less than 1% of full time overseas co-labors are Black.
On the outside, I still look a lot like you. My hair is like yours, my skin is like yours, and I even bought a new outfit to make sure that I would still be in style like you. On the inside however, something has changed. I find myself struggling with new thoughts and beliefs, especially now that we are back together again. Can I share a little of my heart with you?
This month, Compassion International launched it’s Peer to Peer fundraising initiative called Act for Compassion. As social networking continues to grow, should fundraising follow the trend?
At SocialMediaOrg, Jason W. Spencer shared on Employee Advocacy. He works for Humana, but seeing his content has got me thinking–shouldn’t nonprofits be excellent at employee advocacy? Read one article from Mr. Spencer here.
These are just a few of my favorite articles from the world of missions and nonprofits this month. What have you seen lately that’s exciting or challenging?
Last October, I took a trip with TEAM, the missions organization I work for, to Spain and Portugal. On the trip, we explored the culture of each city and learned about the religious implications Spanish and Portuguese history have on sharing the Gospel today. This post is a long time coming…this trip had a profound effect on my heart and mind, but I wanted to process internally before putting it out there.
The beginning of a story is exciting, full of possibilities.
The end of a story is typically full of gratitude, thanksgiving, and excitement for the next steps.
But the middle of the story—that’s the everyday, one foot in front of the other part. It’s the drudgery, the hard work, the repetitiveness. The middle can be simple and even boring. But it’s also where the faithfulness is born.
One of my favorite things of my trip to Spain and Portugal was walking the journey of a church plant just outside of Porto, Portugal. I read this story from TEAM about this church’s journey and their difficulties finding a place to meet and grow as a body of believers. Communities in Porto are really suspicious of evangelical organizations. Some people might even compare them to a cult. But the Holy Spirit moved and this body of believers continued to grow—building or not.
This church got kicked out of the missionary’s living room, then moved to a space next to a bar. They were kicked out of there, and moved into a restaurant, only to quickly outgrow the space. They made another move to a larger building. They put so much sweat and tears into this next location to make it welcoming for visitors, but they outgrew this building, too, and knew they wouldn’t be able to find a building for rent that was big enough to hold them. Through more sweat, tears, and prayer, they eventually were able to purchase their own three story building and even build a beautiful sanctuary.
That evening, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of this church with the body of Portuguese believers there. There were young people leading worship as we sang, “Greater things are yet to come in this city.” It was surreal, this beautiful redemptive story wrapped in a bow. God provided the church with a building, where they are now thriving!
Looking back, it is so easy to forget all the doubts and questioning and the beginning and middle of this story. People came and went from this church throughout the years. Missionaries were lonely as they made a home away from what they knew. There were probably many nights wondering where there congregation could meet that week. Yet, all the while, God was moving them closer to this moment of celebration, inch by inch.
Here’s the thing: we all have a middle to our stories. We all have the moments where we are so unsure we are where we are supposed to be that we want to quit. When things are so difficult that it’s easier to pack up and go home. But sometimes God asks us to show up in the middle and do the hard work and if we refuse, our stories don’t get the victorious endings they deserve. They don’t express the faithfulness of showing up every day to the thing you’re called to and doing it without glamor or fanfare.
It reminds me of one of my very favorite verses, “Let us hold unswervingly to this faith we profess, for He who promised is faithful.” Let us show up in the middle, let us keep doing the work God puts before us. Let us keep showing up, day in and day out. Let us hold unswervingly to our faith, even when it’s plain and simple and boring. I love the beginnings and the endings, but I hope I get better at the glorious, faithful middle.
2015, my year of dwell, was full of lessons figuring out things about my personality, what I like and don’t like, and what I need to be healthy mentally and emotionally. I’m sure in ten years I will laugh about how little I know now, but here are five adjectives that this past year I’ve learned to describe myself. Please play along in the comments!
- Idealist—I truly believe the world can be better and together we have the power and mean to change the world for better. This also means I sometimes have high expectations.
- Creative—I’m not a painter, jewelry-maker, or draw-er, but I’ve learned that if I go too long without creating, I start to feel disconnected with myself. Whether it’s a blog post or a nice dinner, my soul feels connected when I’m creating.
- Growing—something I remind myself often is that I am still growing. Brandon Heath’s song “He’s Not Finished with Me Yet” is one of my favorite songs. Because I have those high expectations, sometimes I need to give myself a little grace, and this last year I feel like I let this truth sink in a little deeper.
- Passionate—I get excited about new things and immediately want to share them with someone else. See also: every post on this blog.
- Jumper–I tend to jump into new ideas without too much thought to the details. Thank goodness Chris is the opposite or else we would have been a few days into the trip I planned for us to NYC before we realized we were broke! :)
So I’m intrigued…what 5 words would you use to describe yourself? The good, the bad, the bragging…anything goes!
I want to tell you: you have a fresh start right here, right this minute.
This right here can be the day you let go of the shame and the guilt of past years. This is the time you can leave anger or anxiety behind. 2016 can be a year of remarkable change and growth.
This year I’m praying boldly and asking for help when I need it. I’m making a plan for my physical, spiritual, and emotional health. But I know all these things are pointless if I don’t take that first step away from what I’ve always been and into who God wants me to be.
Sometimes it’s hard to give up who we’ve always been to walk into our fresh start. The things about us that hurt the most–we hold them so tightly they become part of our identity. Walking away from that, no matter how needed it is, can be scary. What do I do when I’m not the girl who ______________?
I remember seeing a video back in college that explained the Gospel like this—you’re a prisoner, guilty of the crimes of which you’re charged, sentenced to death in prison. And then Jesus opens the door, comes and sits inside your cell, and tells you you are free now. He will stay in your place. The door is wide open and freedom is right outside, but sometimes we get so comfortable in our jail cells we are scared to do the work of walking out the door.
So here we are, a handful of days past the beginning of a new year, but no matter what time of year—you have the opportunity to have a fresh start. You just have to take the first step out of that door. Maybe for you that’s a prayer. Maybe it’s a counselor or medication. Maybe it’s sitting on the back pew of a church service for the first time in years, or telling a friend things are actually not okay at all.
You can do this. I’m believing in you and for you, and maybe a little in myself, too.