Tag Archives: Jesus

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

truth.png

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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psalm 31 – the wrap up

psalm 31 pt3

But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hand. (v14)

Make your face shine on your servant; save me in your steadfast love! (v16)

O Lord, let me not be put to shame, for I call upon you (v17)

Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you (v19)

Love the Lord, all you his saints! The Lord preserves the faithful and abundantly repays the one who acts in pride. Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord! (v23-24)

It has been a long time since I’ve sat down at a keyboard to write a blog. Having been away for so long, it can feel a bit overwhelming to start back up again — the task can seem a little daunting.

And that’s sometimes what it can feel like when I’ve been away from Jesus for too long.

Looking back over my life I see the ebb-and-flows of my relationship with Christ. I can reminisce about my adolescence, college years, and early adulthood and recall times where I intentionally stayed far from Jesus because it just seemed too overwhelming to show up with Him again. The task was unsettling. Mainly because I twisted the whole “saved by grace through faith alone” thing and turned it in to “saved by making sure I’ve got my crap together, and then present myself as clean and whole before this righteous, holy God.”

I made redemption my game rather than receiving it as Christ’s finished work.

As my dad would say, that is so bass akwards.

If I don’t start writing again, then I’ll never write again.
If we don’t just come back to Jesus, then we’ll never come back to Jesus.

The doing of the thing is the thing.

Oh how thankful I am that our God does not turn His back on those He loves. How gracious is the One who preserves the faithful!

What I love about the back half of this psalm is that the writer is not afraid to enter in to the overwhelming, daunting task of presenting himself as…well…himself, to God. He just does. With beauty and honesty and humanity.

And God is faithful.

He is faithful to look beyond our feeble attempts to work our way into salvation and accept us because of what Christ did on the cross.
He is faithful to see how overwhelming this life can be for us, and so He enters in the only way the Savior and Redeemer of the world can — He shows up for us and with us in great, unimaginable ways.
He is faithful to shine His light upon us and save us with His steadfast love.

It might be overwhelming and seem a little unnerving, but the good news is that Jesus doesn’t wait at the end of the road for us. He meets us where we are, takes us by the hand, and walks the road with us — defeating any enemy that gets in our way, presenting us in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that we might be holy and without blemish before God.

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psalm 31 – pt. 2

psalm 31 pt2

I hate those who pay regard to worthless idols, but I trust in the Lord.
I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love, because you have seen my affliction; you have known the distress of my soul, and you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy; you have set my feet in a broad place.
Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eye is wasted from grief; my soul and my body also.
For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my iniquity, and my bones waste away.

vs. 6-10

Ever heard the phrase, misery loves company?

Well, often, my misery finds great company with people like David.
Yeah, we know, Kayla. You’ve mentioned that about a million times before.

But for real.
To have someone like David – a “hero” of the faith – write words like those above bring me great relief.
To have the, “Wait, you too?” realization is such a comfort – whether in Scripture or with friends.

You know the distress of my soul…

We even find the, “Wait, you too?” with God.

He knows the distress of my soul.

What a weird space it is to be in with the Creator and Sustainer of all that we see and know, knowing the very distresses of my soul.

He knows all of the dirty little corners of who I am, and instead of handing me over to the enemy, He draws me even closer to Himself, convincing my heart that He sees me and still loves me.

In the midst of my heated outpouring of frustration and anger, He’s there.
When I’m acting petty and selfish, He’s there.
When I slander His creation, He is still there.

We’ve been asking a version of this question at my church for quite a while now: Can Jesus love even me?

And the answer, every.dang.time, is an overwhelming: YES.

He sees me, knows me, and loves me – because of His faithfulness. Because of His love.

And so, even in the midst of my affliction, I can – and will – rejoice and be glad in His steadfast love.

 

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