The Thrill of Hope

My general rule of thumb is that I can put up my Christmas tree on or after my birthday (November 21). But this year, after all that this year brought, I couldn’t wait to start the festivities of celebrating hope, so my tree has been up since November 14 or so.

It’s been one of the most exhilarating years of my life. I stepped into an exciting new job that I love with NewThing network, a global church planting organization. I have been able to have some great adventures, and work alongside some of the most incredible humans I’ve ever met. Most days I can’t believe that I get to do what I do.

But this year has also been one of the most broken years of my life. Grief, sorrow, and a broken heart have been war-zones of my soul. The enemy has come at me with audacious lies about who I am and what I’m worth. There have been so many days when I have had doubts about my faith, disbelief about God’s love for me personally.

As the smoldering dust clouds of my heart have settled, and glimmers of a new dawn break through, the word I’ve heard God whisper over and over to me has been “hope.” I’ve been holding fast to the promise found in the book of Hebrews: “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul.” God’s love and faithfulness keep me steady when everything inside of me is unsure. My hope is secure and not in vain.

And so as we move into the Advent season, I am ready to celebrate the thrill of hope; the hope that Jesus has come for us. That He still comes for us. Emmanuel. God with us. Now and always. In the brokenness, in the messiness, in our fears and doubts, He is our hope. He is the one who breathes life into dead things; the one who makes rivers in wastelands.

My tired soul is thrilled that my hope has come. Hope is the anthem of my soul.

My heart is beating like a blown speaker
The spirit is willing but the flesh is weaker
A distortion pedal and a pair of wings
And an anthem played on broken strings

My heartbeat, my oxygen
My banner, my home
My freedom, my song
Hope is the anthem of my soul

 

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You’re Welcomed To The Table

Happy Thanksgiving! When it comes to the traditional meal, I’m a stuffing kind of girl. Here is my never-fails, family-favorite recipe from The Comfort of Cooking. My husband and children actually cheer when I make it!

The truth is that as much as I pride myself on being a gourmet cook (y’all, I really love food, and I love creating in the kitchen), it’s the cranberry sauce—jellied, straight from a can– that wins for me. You know, where the lines from can show on the purple glob? Classy, right?

In a few hours, Adam, the kids, and I will be with my family, gathered around a table. 17 of us, the adults outnumbered by the kiddos, will be enjoying our Thanksgiving dinner together. It’s going to be beautifully chaotic and incredibly loud (I come from a long-line of strong, loud women. God bless my husband and brothers-in-law). As loud and chaotic as it is, we will be together, and we will love every minute of it.

I’ve been studying the Old Testament book of Zechariah. It’s been a moving book, portraying God as a God that clothes us in clean garments when our accuser stands to our side naming our guilt. (If you struggle with shame, read Zechariah 3, and be set free.)

This morning I was blown away by what I read in Zechariah 10: 8 – 10. It is such an appropriate section for Thanksgiving! God says that he is working to bring His scattered children home. However far we are from Him, whatever mess we are in, God wants us to be at His table. He delights in bringing us to Himself; in bringing us home.

So today, wherever you are, God sees, and He wants you to make your home with Him; to delight in the feast of His goodness and presence. Nothing you have done exempts you from being able to be at home with Him. You are wanted, and your seat at the table is waiting for you.

Thank you for joining me in these little written journeys. My prayer is that today you would know that you are created with purpose, with dignity, with God-given-delight. I pray that you would pause, and receive His invitation to know and be with Him.

 

 

Manifesto For My 32nd Year

Today is my birthday, and while I’ve always loved my birthday, today feels different. Today I feel more overwhelmed with gratitude than I ever remember being on this day. As calls, texts, Facebook posts have come through with well wishes and celebration I have stopped and reflected on the individuals sending such thoughtful messages. So many memories, so much joy, so many miles of life traveled with the people God has allowed me the privilege of knowing. More than I can say, I am thankful.

My 31st year was an unexpected one. A year ago I felt the word “dauntless” would be an important one, but I couldn’t have anticipated the adventures or the sorrow that would require the need for resolute courage. My 31st year has passed, and it was filled with wonderful journeys across the US, new career adventures, bigger dreams, deeper love, greater appreciation of rest and stillness, the grief of tremendous loss, and a keen awareness of my own humanity and frailty.

Through these last 365 days I see that God was in the heights and the depths. He was with me when I was a bundle of nerves 37,000 feet in the air (I’m learning to love flying, but the year didn’t start off that way). He was with me when I was curled up on my bathroom floor crying big, ugly tears during one of the hardest seasons of my life. He was with me when I was with crowds, and with me when I was hidden from them. He was with me when I felt like who He made me to be, and when I felt so broken, frail, and far from that woman.

In the wake of the lessons I learned during year 31, here is my manifesto for 32:

Breathe deep and live slow.

I am 32 and I’m only moving forward. I’ve heard that the years go faster, and I want to appreciate the now. I want to take more mental snapshots of the beautiful, ordinary moments. I want to delight in the mundane as well as the exceptional.

Dig Into Real Community

I’ve moved more than 10 times in the last 14 years. I’m conditioned to start over when I feel that I am no longer “new and shiny.” When my imperfections start to show, I want to run. 31 taught me to have more grit, to dig in, and to trust that there are people who really do want to love me and stay with me, even when I’m broken.

Rest more.

31 pressed on my wounded soul’s belief that my value comes from what I can produce; that I am only as valuable insofar as I contribute. I am a terrible rester, which means I run on fumes… a lot. And that is not how God designed any of us to live, nor is it the truth. I want to stop more often. Be still on a regular basis. Breathe deep. Rest, and continue allowing Him to speak the Truth: that my value comes from the reality that I am His.

See and love people. 

I love humans. A simple moment with a barista this morning ignited my soul. There was nothing spectacular about our conversation; no earth-shattering moment, so to speak. But there was kindness, and a genuine sense that we saw each other with dignity, worth, and value.

I want to take the brief moments I have with people throughout the day and speak life, hope, value, worth, and joy into them. Whether it’s looking someone in the eyes and sincerely asking how they’re doing, whether it’s taking the time to hear a person’s story and pray with them, whether it’s a sincere thank you to the barista handing me my dark roast coffee…people matter. Period.

Delight in my husband.

Oh that man is gifted at loving me. Thank you, Jesus. It takes a strong man to hold fast to my restless ocean of a heart. Adam, you have all of my affection, and I want to delight in being your wife.

Play more.

My obsessive need to clean my house can wait. My kids can’t. They’re growing far too fast and I am powerless to stop it. I will never regret giving them my full attention. I will most certainly regret not doing so.

Honor my health.

I’m generally healthy. I run, I drink water, eat vegetables… But I’m not as flexible as I once was, my right knee crunches, and I can do all of five push ups (which is an improvement. A month ago I could do 1. Yah me). For 32, I want to run farther, grow stronger, stretch more, and remember to take my blasted multivitamins. Oh, and I should probably deny my sweet tooth more often too…

Taste my words & own my thoughts.

My tongue is often too fast, and my mind is often too weak. I want to grow in slowing down before I speak; in tasting my words before I let them fly. I want to speak more grace, and less judgement. I want to speak more hope and less criticism.

I want to think the Truth to myself too. I want to grow in strengthening my mind, filtering my self-talk through what God has declared about me and over me.

Fix my eyes.

I want my eyes to be laser focused on Jesus. I want to intentionally look for Him in the moments of my days. I want to obey. I want to look for hope in the hopeless places, and have eyes to see and ears to hear where God is moving in the hard moments, and delight in the beautiful. I want to keep my eyes on who I’m running for.

And so…here’s to a new trip around the sun. Here’s the 32. Cheers.