Spiritual Growth

A Prayer for Lent

One of the hardest decisions in our wedding planning was choosing the songs for the ceremony. We didn’t want to use traditional instrumental music but instead wanted to include hymns and worship songs that were meaningful to us both. The problem was we couldn’t narrow it down (and still ended up choosing five songs!).

One song that my husband wanted so badly for us to use but I refused was “Depth of Mercy.” It wasn’t that I didn’t like the song; it just seemed so depressing for a day that was to celebrate God’s love through marriage. The song begins:

Depth of mercy, can there be mercy still reserved for me?
Can my God His wrath forbear me the chief of sinners, spare?
Now incline me to repent, let me now my sins lament. 
Deeply my revolt deplore, weep, believe and sin no more.

Wrath, lament, deplore, weep…those aren’t typical words you hear at a wedding. I wanted songs about God’s love, beauty, and grace. A song about God’s wrath would be hard to hear when we’re all dressed up and acting our best. I wanted our guests to revel at God’s creation of marriage, not squirm at his righteous justice. Now I realize that the truth of those words could have reminded my husband and me at our wedding that we were two sinners being brought together by God’s deep love and mercy.

Lent begins in two days on Ash Wednesday, initiating forty days of fasting, prayer, and giving that leads up to Easter Sunday. It’s a time of preparation for Easter, similar to what Advent does at Christmas. But unlike Advent, Lent is a somber season, where we remind ourselves of our individual sinfulness apart from Christ, the depravity of mankind, and the injustice around the world.

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Spiritual Growth

Remembering the God of Hope

It’s almost three weeks into the new year, and probably most resolutions are already long forgotten. The buzz of a new year, and a new decade, has faded into the daily grind of work, school, meals, etc. It’s hard to remember the illustrious plans we had for the new year when our dishes and email inbox start filling up again. It’s not that those goals are any less true, we just forget them. One key I have found to successfully completing resolutions is simply to remember them.

Left on our own, our hearts and minds are quick to forget. Not only do we forget fleeting things like yearly resolutions, we forget who we are and what we have in Christ. That is why when Paul prays for the church at Ephesus, he prays, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe” (Ephesians 4:18-19a, NIV).

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Spiritual Growth

My Word for 2020: Gospel

As I began praying about where God would draw my focus for 2020, I looked back at what he had started teaching me already in 2019. It began with a book that truly transformed the way I see personal evangelism—Gospel Fluency by Jeff Vanderstelt. It continued as I studied the book of Acts with my D-Group and during my husband’s and my mission trip in the fall to Washington, D.C. It was confirmed this past Sunday as our pastor announced the focus for our church in the coming year. Through these things and more, God began revealing a gaping weakness in my Christian life, a lack of passion for speaking the Gospel in my everyday life.

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Spiritual Growth

6 Things I’ve Learned in 6 Years of Marriage.

Tomorrow, my husband and I will celebrate six years of marriage. This day six years ago, I was busy hanging tulle from the ceiling, putting ornaments on the largest tree I’ve ever seen, spreading sparkly snowflakes literally everywhere, and other crazy ideas my bride-mind had created. At the time, the wedding seemed like such a huge part of marriage—everything must be perfect to start our marriage off right. While I did love our wedding day, I realize now it was just a very small part of our marriage journey.

I am in no way a seasoned marriage expert, but, as of tomorrow, I will have six years of experience, and I want to share a few encouragements of how God has grown me in my love both for Him and for my husband these past six years.

Continue reading “6 Things I’ve Learned in 6 Years of Marriage.”
Spiritual Growth

Advent: Celebrating Seasons of Waiting

For the past several years, our Christmas cards held exciting announcements. We got married. I graduated with my master’s degree. My husband was commissioned as an officer in the Army. We gave birth to our little girl. We moved. We got new jobs. Every Christmas we were able to celebrate reaching another life milestone.

Until this year. This year as I create my Christmas cards, it seems that so many big life changes are within reach, but not quite here. We’re still in the long home study process for our adoption. We miscarried. Professional goals have yet to be reached. We’re waiting.

I’m not at all saying that God hasn’t been faithful this year. We can look back from month to month and see answered prayers, but so many of his answers this year have been to wait. I don’t like to wait, but the Advent season is all about waiting. Advent reminds us of Israel’s expectant waiting as they longed for God’s promised Messiah. It stirs our longing for the second coming of our King. Advent is a celebration of waiting. Continue reading “Advent: Celebrating Seasons of Waiting”

Spiritual Growth

I Have This Hope

A couple months ago, we took my daughter to the movie theater to see The Lion King remake. It was very nostalgic for me and my parents because The Lion King was my first movie to see in theaters as a child. I was so excited, and from the moment the sun rose on the screen, I was hooked. The Lion King has always been my favorite Disney movie, and I was thrilled with the actors and music in this new version!

But when the ravine scene arrived, I started getting anxious. I was already so attached to this new Mufasa, I didn’t want him to die. I kept thinking, maybe in this version, he’ll be okay. What a crazy thought! There would be no Lion King without that terrible scene. Simba wouldn’t be who he was without that pivotal life moment. There would be no “Hakuna Matata,” no “Can you feel the love tonight?” and not even a “Circle of Life: Reprise” without this heartbreaking scene. The movie writers twenty-five years ago wrote this tragedy into the life of Simba for a purpose. His story wouldn’t have been a blockbuster hit without it.

God brought back that memory to my mind last month, as my husband and I faced the greatest heartbreak of our lives. In October, we found out that I had a miscarriage. It’s something that I know is so prevalent, but I never thought it would be part of my story. Why did our family have to go through this? Why did God write this suffering into my story?

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Spiritual Growth

Fight the Feeling

Recently I was talking with a small group of women at my church, and one woman confessed some doubts she was having about her salvation. It’s a stressful time in her life, and she was struggling to believe that she was really saved. As she shared, I began to recognize lies from the Enemy that she was believing:

“I’m messing up too much, so how can I truly be saved.”

“I’ve lost the fervor that I had as a younger believer, so does that mean my conversion wasn’t real?”

“I don’t feel joyful or hopeful, so do I really have faith in Christ?”

I began to feel a holy fury rising up within me to fight for my dear sister against these lies, because I too once believed them. Shortly after getting married, in a time of great transition in a new town, working a new job, with a new husband, I began to question my salvation because I didn’t feel saved. I was wrecked by guilt, embarrassed to confess my faith struggles before my newlywed husband. I couldn’t even bring myself to come to God, fearing that he too would condemn me. Satan had me putting the emphasis on myself and my feelings, instead of God’s truth and faith in Christ.

What did my friend and I have in common? We followed our feelings instead of faith in God.

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Prayer, Spiritual Growth

Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality

I finished Rosaria Butterfield’s book, The Gospel Comes with a House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in Our Post-Christian World, at the end of March and immediately felt convicted over my self-centered view of hospitality. I grew up in the South and always believed hospitality required a new seasonal centerpiece, fresh baked desserts, and at least one-week notice (though two is preferable). You pull out the nice serving bowls (heaven forbid you serve from the kitchen) and eye your throw pillows so that they don’t get squashed by an unsuspecting husband (who really just wants to take a break from all the preparations).

That’s not what Butterfield’s book is about (you can read my review in this blog post). She challenged my self-serving view of hospitality on the very first page, “Those who live out radically ordinary hospitality see their homes not as theirs at all but as God’s gift to use for the furtherance of his kingdom.”

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Spiritual Growth

The Blessing of Missed Opportunities

The anxiety has been around long before the hashtag, but the trending #FOMO has brought to light a hidden worry—the fear of missing out.

It’s what keeps us glued to our phones, constantly refreshing feeds. It’s why we have devices strapped to our wrists that alert us as soon as new information is available. It’s why news syndicates thrive 24/7, keeping us full of the latest news and gossip.

But what happens when our fear turns into a reality? What happens when we actually miss out?

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Spiritual Growth

3 Things I’ve learned in a Year of Transition

Today is the one-year anniversary of moving into our home in Birmingham. Now, that doesn’t sound like that big of a deal, but this past year has been a huge transition. In July 2018, within a two-week span, 1) we moved into our first home (in a new city!), 2) I quit my full-time job to stay home with our daughter, 3) my husband graduated from his graduate program, and 4) and my husband started his first full-time job. Add a four-month old to the mix for a bit more craziness!

You might think from that story that I love change—you would be wrong. I struggle with change. I have always had a hard time moving on from one season of life to another. My false hope that I can control a situation is completely shattered in times of transition. However, it is when any semblance of self-sufficiency is gone that God has taught me the most. Going off to college, getting married, starting my first job after graduate school—every time I “lost” the control I never really had, God revealed something about myself and about him.

Continue reading “3 Things I’ve learned in a Year of Transition”