teamwork makes the dream work

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Happy Valentine’s Day, lovers!

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That’s all I have to contribute to the holiday.

Now.

I was at a conference this past weekend. Some of you may know about it. It’s called the if:Gathering. You can learn more about it here. I enjoyed the time I got to spend with some ladies from my church and came away with quite a bit to think about.

The structure of the conference was: listen to a teaching, talk about it at your table, eat some snacks, repeat. One of the questions that was asked at our table was, What is my dream for my people and my place?

The first thing that came to mind was: team.

Now, being the washed-up athlete that I am, that might not be surprising to most. But more importantly than what first came to mind was the images and feelings I got while I thought through it a little more.

My junior and senior year’s of high school basketball were some of the most fun I had as a player of the sports. It was so much fun to be on the court with my best friends, competing together and having the time of our lives.

One image that kept coming up over and over again this past weekend was our inbound plays – in particular, under-the-basket inbounds plays my senior year.

My friend Brandi and I had the best chemistry under the basket. As guard, I was responsible for getting the ball in play. If the play was busted, Brandi just knew where to cut and when to cut, and I knew she would always be there. I could no-look-bounce-pass Mr. Spaulding into the lane, Brandi would snatch that sucker up, and the LadyCats would have 2 more points added to their total. I never worried about a 5-second violation because I knew Brandi would be there.

We even played in a three-on-three tournament a few years later and did the same. dang. thang. My teammate was there for me.

Knowing each other that well didn’t just occur after one day of practice. We sweat together, bled together, went through hell week together. (side note: have you ever had 2 weeks of Christmas break practice with NO GAMES to play?! it’s the worst. you want to quit everything and just go home to eat Christmas candy.)

And that’s what I want from my people and my place.

I want my team.

I want us to be there for each other.
To anticipate one another’s moves.
To remind and ensure each other that, even if the play is busted, we’ve got each other’s backs. We don’t need to worry about hell week by ourselves because our teammates will be there in it with us.

A year ago I wrote about standing on holy ground with others. How there is something sacred about holding someone else’s story with them. And I’m so thankful that’s how my team has formed.

I know my team holds my story and I feel so thankful that they allow me to hold theirs.
I know we all stand on holy ground with and for one another.
I know that the sacredness we share in spiritual friendship is rare, and I hope I never take it for granted.

Whatever my dream is – or ends up being – I know it’ll be easier to chase because of the stellar team I’ve got on my sideline.

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psalm 32

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Here I go, here I go, here I go again….gurls what’s my weakness?

Getting back in the rhythm of writing.

But, here we are, writing again in the psalms.

Once again I find myself in the middle of David’s writing. Although, if I’m honest with myself, I am more prone to skip over the first 2 sentences.

I often skip the blessing and go straight to the groaning.

I feel the heaviness of my sin and the withering of my soul when I let my iniquity keep me away from God for too long.

But the beauty of this psalm – and many psalms – is that we aren’t left in the heat of summer. We are reminded that God is still God and He is still good. He is still the One that forgives the iniquity of my sin and all He asks of me is to come to Him.

That’s it.

Just show up.

And in the showing up I can be glad because His steadfast, never-ending, unconditional love is not only offered to me, it surrounds me. Like…I can’t get away from it.

So, instead of hiding from my great Savior, I will choose, like David, to make Him my hiding place – the great Light of the world where darkness cannot be found.

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.

I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.

Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found; surely in the rush of great waters, they shall not reach him.
You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
Be no like horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you.
Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord.
Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!

 

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2017 – the year of joy

2017 - joy

A few years ago instead of making a bunch of resolutions at the beginning of a new year, I resolved to instead choose a word representing my desire for what the year could bring or what I hope God would specifically shape in my heart over a 365 day period.

2016 was the year of dwelling.
2017 was the year of joy.

In many ways 2017 has sucked.*

Amy Poehler writes in her book, Yes, Please, “Imagine spreading everything you care about on a blanket and then tossing the whole thing up in the air. The process of divorce is about loading up that blanket, throwing it up, watching it all spin, and worrying what stuff will break when it lands.”

Now, obviously, I have never been divorced. Or married.
But in a lot of ways, 2017 was a year of loading up the blanket, tossing it in the air, and seeing what would happen when things landed.

Friendships shifted in ways I didn’t expect.
I experienced spiritual warfare in the most personal, physical way that I have never experienced before.
The hope of a budding relationship and a life of non-singleness didn’t pan out the way I thought it would.

And that’s just, like, 17% of the past year.

But…

God didn’t leave me.

While some friendships shifted away, others moved even closer and grew even deeper.
In the midst of the battlefield, Jesus took up His sword and fought on my behalf.
God showed me, yet again, that He alone is the true lover of my whole self.

God didn’t leave me without.

And that’s why it truly was the year of joy.

On the outside looking in, it probably wouldn’t be labeled a joyful year.

But on the inside, I know in the core of who I am, that joy is not defined by my circumstances.

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. – Romans 14:17

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.  – James 1:2-4

(Jesus speaking, after talking about abiding in Him) These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. – John 15:11

You see, my joy – by God’s grace – is Him. It is a deep, abiding truth that He will never leave me or forsake me. That in Christ, I am loved and known and treasured, and in turn can love and know and treasure the One who has come to set the captive free.

I don’t think my journey with joy is over – but I do think that in the midst of all the tossing, this is what has landed: the joy of the Lord is my strength.

 

 

*but also, my baby sister got married and is now going to also have a baby of her own, SO THAT’S REALLY COOL!

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o come emmanuel

o come Emmanuel

I’ve had a lot of conversations over the last couple of weeks about Christmas. Shocker, right?! I’ve shared many words with friends (not the game) about not missing Jesus in the midst of this season.

Which kinda makes me want to barf just saying that. Cause I despise clichés. And hanging a banner of “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” makes the blood run cold in my body.

I have some things to work through.

But. My point remains.

It is so easy to speed through the few weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, hitting up all the parties, wrapping all the gifts, making all the cookies. It is so easy to miss Emmanuel – God with us – during this time of year.

I very vividly remember the first time I didn’t have a “major” gift on my Christmas list. When I say “major,” I basically mean that I grew out of wanting the kewlest toy of the year. I had books and movies on my wish list and some people didn’t think that was enough. They thought they had to spend so much money and make sure I had the exact same number of gifts as my sister so we would know they loved us equally.

It breaks my heart to think that we can’t be content with celebrating the coming of the Messiah – the long-awaited One descending to His people. And to know that I am not always content with the greatest gift of all – King Jesus.
That in this time of advent – of longing for the One who will come and set all things right – we spend much of our longing on ripping paper off of a box to find a gift that we will probably forget about in 4 months.

What my friend and I have been talking about is this: how do we not miss Jesus? How do we express gratitude and faithfulness to the God who came to be with His people?

My sweet friend Emily recently shared the song O Come O Come Emmanuel on Facebook, which also happens to be my all time favorite Christmas song (that I wish we sang all year long). It truly makes me weepy:

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o’er the grave
Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel

O come, Thou Day-Spring
Come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight
Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel

I think this is how we don’t miss Him.

We sing songs with one another that remind us of the great anticipation that comes with Christmas morning – Jesus has come and death’s dark shadows have been put to flight.
We put priority on relationships over materials.
We have dinners and go to parties and make cookies with real live humans and thank God for the gifts He has given in friendship.

We remember that God has been faithful to send His Son Jesus to His people.
We worship the One who has come to thee.
We rejoice in the confident hope that Emmanuel shall come once again – just as He said He would – to set all things right and ransom His people back unto Himself once and for all.

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living my truth

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So, I gotta be honest. This phrase drives me bonkers.

Like, legitimately might be my biggest pet peeve with people these days.

“Living my truth” seems to be the kool kid phrase of our culture right now. When celebrities/public figures/people with influence are asked questions in interviews about an.y.thing. that could have a moral standard attached to it, they typically respond with something along the lines of, “Well, I just think it’s really important for us to find our truth and live that out. Ya know, just, living in your own truth can bring you so much happiness and freedom.”

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Yes, Anna. Stop that. Stop that right now.

Although, she’s probably said it too…sigh…

ANYWAYS. Back to my rant.

My issue with this whole “find your truth and live it thing” is that we can’t ALL decide what truth is. I don’t get to decide the 100% actuality of a thing.

And I think my biggest hangup with the whole dang thang is that we pick and choose what we want to be true in order to serve our own selfish desires and fleeting pleasures.

If I decide that the truest truth is that Mexican food is the truest form of good food and that you are a demon-spawn if you don’t like it, and you disagree with me, who is right? Does your inability to realize truth in its highest form (my truth, that is) remove your rights/value/dignity as a human?

(I mean, in this case probably because Mexican food is delicious)

NO. Absolutely not.

Because guess what…that isn’t truth. It isn’t an indisputable fact.

Chinese food is good.
Pizza is good.
Queso is…wait….queso is Mexican. Never mind.

My point is, I cannot be the final decision maker when it comes to truth. Nor do I WANT to be the final decision maker. I feel like we are all so inadequate at deciding ANYTHING, especially what truth is. Mainly because we are all so fickle and selfish and just…well…ill equipped.

We were made by the only arbiter of truth, and that is God Himself.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things (including truth) were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing (including truth) made that was made.

John 1:1-3

If we submit to God as the Creator of all that we see and know, we have to submit to Him as the Creator of truth as well.

We don’t get to only submit to parts of God’s commands and character. His Word was not given as a mere suggestion on how to live your best life now.

No. His Word was/is given as the truest form of truth we can know. Jesus was given as the complete embodiment of Truth – so that we might have a Savior from our sinful ways and an Example of how to submit to the One whose truth gives life and freedom.

Submission to God and His actual truth does not lay heavy bondage on my life.
Living in a world (even if it’s my own world in my head) where I get to choose truth and it changes all of the time — that is what causes bondage, and anxiety, and heartbreak, and disillusionment, and, well, a lost and weary soul.

Submission to God, instead, frees us up to rest in knowing His truth will lead to life everlasting, it never changes, and that it is for my good and His glory. Living in God’s truth frees me from living a lie of working my way into His grace.

I’d rather live in the truth of the Creator who has been faithful throughout history than try to figure out my own truth every morning.

Man. What a friggin burden to bear. I’ll let Someone else tell me what truth is.

It just seems easier — more life-giving — that way.

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