Blog: life happens here.

Zechariah 3: Out with the old, in with the new.

A good gauge of where you are at in your relationship with the Lord is to measure the influence of everything else. In any given situation, there are two forces at work. The Lord and the enemy. Ideally, as believers we want to be under the Lord’s complete influence. But inevitably we occasionally find ourselves slipping into the familiar patterns of our flesh— especially in negative situations. Think about how you react when you’re ready to dive in to a new day and you encounter something unexpected. Maybe you are late to work, and traffic is slower than ever. Or maybe you just got your little one dressed and on your way out the door you realize their diaper is leaking out the side, and now down your arm. We all know how quickly these seemingly small events can lead to the destruction of an entire day. But I want you to take it even further— I think by allowing our circumstances to be the primary influence on us, moment by moment, day by day, we are making a decision to give ourselves over to the jurisdiction of the world, instead of putting the things of this world under the authority of the Lord. This can lead to an entire lifetime of putting God second, and subsequently never fully recognizing his power in our lives. I want to challenge you to start a new habit. A habit of holding every experience, thought, and reaction accountable to the Lord. Everyone reacts poorly once in a while. And most people have probably thought on the worst days that the pain will never end. I don’t think the measure is necessarily in a person’s reaction, but in their reaction time. How quickly did you notice that the enemy was at work in your thoughts? How fast did you recognize the spirit of discouragement was not placed there by God? And how long did it take for you to be able to say to the accuser in Jesus name, “Get out, stay away from me. You are the father of lies.”

The couple of examples I gave above may sound insignificant. And they are small compared to a lot of the struggles we face in this life. But I believe that holding even these minute difficulties accountable to the Lord changes everything because it changes our perspective. In Jesus name, we have power over our circumstances, thoughts, and actions. We just need to better our reaction time, making it second nature to look at our thoughts as influencers— the Lord or the enemy.

In Zechariah chapter 3, we continue with the vision of the Lord to Zechariah. Satan, called the accuser, is standing before the Lord making accusations against the high priest, Jeshua. After Satan’s allegations, the Lord responds in verse 2, “I, the Lord, reject your accusations, Satan. Yes, the Lord who has chosen Jerusalem, rebukes you.” I want you to stop here and read the verse to your self again but replace Jerusalem with your own name. The Lord has chosen you. And because of this he intercedes on your behalf so that you are not left in your sin. The enemy’s charges have been thrown out and he has no jurisdiction in your life.

In verse 4, the angel instructs Jeshua to physically change his clothes. The changing of his clothes represents the cleansing of his spirit. He is no longer dirty, reeking of sin— but he has been made clean, and is ready to step into the fullness of his new life. This part of the vision points to the coming Messiah and how he will clothe us in salvation by offering his own life for our iniquities.

When we look at the power given to us, through Christ’s death and resurrection, it is clear that the freedom and power in which we have been called is possible— when we fully trust in the Lord. Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians is my prayer for you and for me. That we would have eyes open to the power available to us and learn to walk in the fullness of our salvation.

Ephesians 1:18-21 “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. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.”

When we strip off our old selves, and clothe ourselves fully in the Lord, putting every part of ourselves under his will, we are given supernatural authority. My challenge for you is this, next time you begin to allow negative thoughts to resonate in your mind— work quickly to hold them accountable. Once you recognize their origin, cast them out, and fill up with the truth. Make Jesus Lord of all parts of your life, including your thoughts. Lean in to him and learn how to walk in complete freedom.

Reflection:

What ways does the enemy influence your thoughts? Do you recognize negative thoughts and feelings as weapons of the enemy?

Write down the characteristics of your old self. And then write the characteristics of life as a son or daughter of the king. (Chosen, redeemed, created for purpose) Speak out loud to the Lord as you take off the old and put on the new. This will help to send the message to your body and also be a tool to help recognize any thought that comes in.

Making your way back to the Lord: A study of Zechariah, Chapter 2

Have you ever felt comfortable in your sin? Or maybe just comfortable in the routine of daily life? You may be at the point in your career where your work and life finally balance perfectly to create what culture encourages us to view as a thriving lifestyle. The truth is, in today’s nonstop, do more, digitally distracted world, the enemy doesn’t have to tempt us with some terrible sin. If he can simply keep us busy with the everyday, we will never be of any threat to him.

As we dig in to Zechariah chapter 2, we find the Israelites in an unexpectedly comfortable spot. They had been living as captives in Babylon for so long that they couldn’t remember what it was like to be free and Babylon was starting to feel more and more like home. God tells them in verse 6 that the time has come to be free from captivity and return to Jerusalem. But many of them had become so comfortable in captivity, so content with their day to day in Babylon, that they weren’t sure they wanted to accept the blessing God had prepared for them and return home. I think it’s important to point out here, that throughout scripture, Babylon is used synonymously with the world or worldliness. When you look at the Israelite’s situation through that lens, I think it is easier to understand where they were coming from. At first glance, we may judge the Israelites for not jumping at the chance to do God’s will and return home to Jerusalem. But how many times have we found ourselves choosing something else, something familiar, instead of God? I know I have. Sometimes it’s hard to tell what we’re even supposed to do. In this chapter, God tells his people exactly where to go next. But I think more often than not, he says, “stay close enough that you can hear me, I will whisper the way.”

Let’s look at verses 6 & 7 and dig in to the Lord’s instruction to his people.

“Up on your feet! Get out of there—and now!” God says so. “Return from your far exile. I scattered you to the four winds.” God’s Decree. “Escape from Babylon, Zion, and come home—now!” Zechariah 2:6-7 MSG

The Lord’s words here are urgent. I believe this is because living apart from God or even just half heartedly following him, is a dangerous place to be. The Israelites had almost forgotten their homeland, the Temple and the favor they enjoyed when they were in right relationship with God. I think the insistent language used here makes it clear that the Lord is eager to bring his beloved people safely home. He is ready to bestow his blessing not only on his people but on the land. And he wants them to be excited about what is to come.

“The Lord says, “Shout and rejoice, O beautiful Jerusalem, for I am coming to live among you.” Zechariah 2:10 MSG

“Be silent before the Lord, all humanity, for he is springing into action from his holy dwelling.” Zechariah 2:13 MSG

Whether you’re on the edge of believing or a worn out believer dabbling in the things of this world— I would encourage you to draw near to the Lord. Give him your all. Dive in. Read your Bible. Praise and pray expectantly. Look underneath the surface, believe there is always more. Breath in forgiveness and exhale all guilt and shame. Become new. Let freedom flow into every part of your being. Step in to a position of power. Choose to be fearless because you are more than a conqueror. And as you begin to walk in the fullness of victory, watch and see what the Lord will do.

“So we are convinced that every detail of our lives is continually woven together to fit into God’s perfect plan of bringing good into our lives, for we are his lovers who have been called to fulfill his designed purpose.” Romans 8:28 TPT

Short reflection:

Do you ever find yourself distracted by things that are unimportant or even destructive? Do you see how the enemy can use all sorts of things to distract us from the Lord and his plan?

What can you do this week to intentionally return your time to the Lord and eliminate the pull to instant gratification and distraction?

Making your way back to the Lord: A study of Zechariah, Chapter 1

Many of us, at one time or another, have found ourselves further away from God’s presence than we desire to be. For me, my late teens and early twenties was this time. It was a period that I felt as if I was almost coasting on the faith my parents had invested in me early on in life. As I matured into adulthood, I found myself being called in to a deeper relationship with the Lord. My need for a relationship with Him became even more pressing as I began to struggle in my marriage and in a new and confusing battle I later recognized as postpartum depression. 

In the book of Zechariah, the Israelites find themselves on a similar journey. Zechariah lives in the time following the 70 year Babylonian exile when the remnant of God’s people was returning to Israel. Because of this, Zechariah is known as the prophet of restoration, but he was not simply called to physical restoration (restoring prosperity to the land and rebuilding the temple). He was also called to restore the relationship between the Lord and his people, Israel. 

Before we go any further in this study, I would encourage you to read Zechariah Chapter 1. To fully grasp God’s message, as we study this book together, you may need to read the chapter a couple of times. (I had to read it many times!) The symbolic language used throughout the book of Zechariah is sometimes easier to just skip or skim through. However, I would encourage you to read these passages with an open heart and mind, willing to work to see what God is trying to teach you as you dive deeper into his word. 

Ok! Let’s dig in. 

Ch. 1 Redirect: “Turn and Stop”

Zechariah 1:3-4, “Therefore, say to the people, ‘This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.’ Don’t be like your ancestors who would not listen or pay attention when the earlier prophets said to them, ‘This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Turn from your evil ways, and stop all your evil practices.” 

The first thing I would like to look closer at is the call to return to the Lord. The call to return, indicates that when we find ourselves distant from the Lord it is not because the Lord has distanced himself from us. It is because we have left the Lord and pursued the things of this world. James 4:8 says it like this, “Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.” As much as God wants a relationship with us, he wants us to make the choice to intentionally turn away from the world and follow him. James gives us a call to action very similar to Zechariah, “wash your hands… purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided.” Just like Zechariah, James is calling us to turn and stop. I think for a lot of us it can be easy to turn to the Lord and say, “God I know I was wrong and I’ve decided to follow you.” But sometimes these promises are simply lip service and can even become a force of habit when we find ourselves continuing down the same wrong path again and again. This is why in both verses, the call is not only to turn away from evil, but to take a good look at your heart and see where you have given parts of your life to the Lord and held on to others. Make the choice to rededicate all of you to the Lord’s way and his purpose. Intentionally redirecting, turning toward God and away from sin  (removing sin/distraction), is the first step to restoring the relationship. 

Zechariah 1:7-21 documents another message from the Lord to Zechariah. This time it is in a vision. In the vision, Zechariah witnesses a group of riders who were sent out by the Lord to patrol the earth. They report back to “the angel of the Lord”, who in this context, many scholars believe to be Jesus Christ in human form. In their report, the riders tell the angel of the Lord that the whole earth is at peace. After hearing this, the angel of the Lord advocates for Israel in his prayer to God, asking how long until he will again show mercy to his people. Because although the world was at peace, God’s people were suffering in captivity. And even though the people had turned away from the Lord and ended up captives, the Lord still loved his people deeply and was disturbed that the world was enjoying peace while his people suffered. Today, we can find ourselves in a similar state of captivity when we align ourselves with the world instead of God. As slaves to sin we begin to live like captives in enemy territory. But the sinful choices that brought us here do not have to hold us back forever. The Lord loves us and wants us to return to him. 

Zechariah 1:17,  “Say this also: ‘This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: The towns of Israel will again overflow with prosperity, and the Lord will again comfort Zion and choose Jerusalem as his own.’”

Again, the Lord will comfort Zion and again Israel will overflow with prosperity. Again and again, God chooses us no matter how many times we turn our backs on him. All we need to do is make the choice, followed by the action. All we need to do is turn and stop. 

Short Reflection:

Where have you felt God asking you to turn and stop in your own life?

In what ways have you seen God reveal his will in your life?

Birth pains.

God is birthing a new season in my life. I didn’t realize, at first, this meant I would have to experience actual labor pains. I have 3 kids— all natural births. So I should have known better than to think I could experience new life without feeling any pain. Even though I know that the beauty of this coming season will make me almost completely forget the pains of labor, in these more difficult moments, the emotion can overwhelm me. Which is why I need to remember the birth story. The moments that are so hard, I am left to trust God to provide the minutes of strength needed for each hour. And It’s here that I feel like I can literally hear God speaking directly to me. In the short breaks between contractions, as I meditate on his word and draw closer to him, I feel like I can see God and his provision for my life so clearly. And it’s these times of clarity that I will be able to pull from memory the next time Spring comes along. And that first birth pain reminds me that God is creating something new again. I will remember new life doesn’t come easily, it’s hard work. And it tends to take a mix of blood, sweat, and tears to fully prepare for the final push, and inhale that first sweet breath.

More than conquerors.

I recently relapsed in my fight with anxiety. I became so afraid that I began to let how I was feeling about an incident consume my every thought. I found myself planning how I could run away to safety, along with my family, and never face this scary situation ever again. I wanted to personally guarantee that my family would be safe— no matter how much joy, fun, or freedom I would need to sacrifice. As a parent, the hardest thing I have ever done is to release my fear of something bad happening to my children. When faced with a potential threat (or the idea of), everything in me says that I— as long as I worry enough, am proactive enough, and overthink enough— I can in fact guarantee my children’s safety. It all depends on me and only in my care will they find complete protection. But this time around, knowing what I know of God’s promises and his protection displayed already in my life, I was challenged by how I responded to my fear. Fear didn’t have the complete control that it had in the past. Because of how God has shown up in my life, I recognized his presence in this moment. Even though I was afraid. This feeling delicately urged me to choose a different route this time, to trust in God, fully. And to believe that he really is good, he really is faithful, and he really is all of the things I am always saying are true about him. It was time for me to physically step out in faith, and release control. In what seemed in the moment to mirror the story of Abraham giving up Isaac, I felt like I had to trust God with my children. And because of how he showed up for Abraham, I could know that God would also show up for me.

God always planned to provide the sacrifice, he just wants us to bring the faith.

So yes, God allowed me to stumble. But I wasn’t alone. I could feel his constant presence in the background of my fret. I felt the reality of the fear, and struggled with the very real temptation to run and hide. But this time I remembered what was at stake. A generational tendency of fear, worry, and anxiety. A sin that I vowed not to pass on. A temptation of the enemy that I have chosen to call out— and put an end to right here, right now. Anxiety, you will not be passed on to my kids. Fear, you will not steal my joy. Worry, you will not keep me up all night. I will show my children an example of a woman and a mother who is not consumed and controlled by fear or circumstance. A mom who does not back down in the face of the enemy— who does not sacrifice her present peace for a facade of security. At the height of the tension, when I had to choose to stay and face the fear or to run away and hide. I chose to be stronger. I chose to fight. I did something the old me would not have been able to do. But I did it. And I know that my kids saw me. And more importantly than what they saw is the lesson I taught them of what is happening that we cannot see— the real yet unseen battle that is happening all around us. And the strength we have as believers whose hope is in the Lord. Did you know there are warrior angels surrounding us, being commanded by God on our behalf? (Psalm 91:11) And if we believe as though it has happened, do you know we can ask for anything and it will be done? (Mark 11:24) And when we are disheartened by the darkness in this world, do you know that we can always find joy in the shelter of his wings? (Psalm 63:7) Do you really know all of this to be true? I do. And by knowing this, I am more than a conquerer.

“Yet even in the midst of all these things, we triumph over them all, for God has made us to be more than conquerors, and his demonstrated love is our glorious victory over everything!” Romans 8:37 (Passion Translation)

*My mom has always been my greatest encourager. She pointed me to Psalm 91 as I laid awake at night in contemplation. I wanted to include that reference here for anyone that struggles with fear and anxious thoughts. These words brought me strength and peace in the midst of the storm.

Reclaim your Monday.


The above picture is my office today. For some of you, that is a very overwhelming site and for others, this picture gives me credibility. All of you who are in that second group– I see you. The topic I chose to dive in to today is something that I have been REALLY struggling with lately. The title itself is actually overwhelming me. Reclaiming your Monday? That sounds much easier said than done. I actually think sometimes, Satan waits for Monday. After the joy of Sunday, it is so like him to take advantage of the trying moments as we come off the weekend high of friends, family, and fun. He comes to steal, kill and destroy, right? And although, many times, we may disregard our bad days as, “a case of the Mondays”, what if it is actually a case of the enemy intentionally stealing our joy?

So, here’s the truth: As I am writing this post, it’s actually a Wednesday. And although this Wednesday feels like a Monday, it’s technically not and I just wanted to be honest about that up front. Glad I got that off my chest! Now let’s get back to the hard stuff. As I started writing today, Wednesday, I had baby down for nap, coffee ready, and notes and computer set up in front of me. After only a few typed words, my daughter started yelling, “mom!!”, at the top of her lungs from down the hallway. And as I ran back to her, whisper screaming that she needed to stop or she would wake the baby, I heard the startled cry of a little one who is not even close to finished with his nap but is now awake. And to make it worse? I got to my daughter and she forgot what she needed to ask me. This had Monday written all over it— but mind you, it is a Wednesday. So, with a motivated spirit I quickly latched baby to my chest and continued writing from my phone. Which is where I currently sit. After a few desperate sucks baby is back to sleep— and thoroughly enjoying his much warmer napping nest, nuzzled up in mommy’s arms. And I’m actually back to writing! 

As I began to wrestle with this topic, earlier this week on an actual Monday, I started to think the answer to reclaiming your Monday was really quite simple: God’s grace applies to ALL THE DAYS. God’s grace covers us right here, right now, and at this very moment. We don’t have to wait until Tuesday for a fresh start, and another go at it— no. We can reclaim the day, today. Even if it’s a Monday. But, let’s be real. How can we find God’s grace when it is covered in all of our dirty laundry? (Literally and figuratively) How can we push ourselves to overcome that gigantic pile of negativity, exhaustion and that overwhelming feeling to just give up? I’m literally in the thick of it right at this moment. My daughter woke baby again— through another long string of events I’m not going to include here. And it’s blowing my mind that attempting to write for an hour has literally shaken this house like an earthquake. I sit down quietly, in a moment of defeat. And there it is again, the same thing I was thinking of a few days ago— grace. But not just for me, for my little ones, and for my home, and even for my to-do list. What is ALWAYS evident in the way that God works in me is his grace. When I’m struggling, like I am today, I feel his presence. His calm and steady hand still leading me. And I love how it’s never, I told you so— but always, I’m still here. I want nothing more than to have that same steadfast love and open arms for my little ones when they struggle as well. I think Mondays are tough on all of us, including the kids. And although the enemy loves keeping us so wrapped up in what is going wrong that we can barely see past our current chaos— God’s perfect grace, given in love, covers it all. All we have to do is remember it. Remembering God’s grace changes everything. And lathering it on heavy for days like today is essential for salvaging those chaotic moments and using them for reflecting God’s presence and love, despite all that is going wrong.

“Love is large and incredibly patient. Love is gentle and consistently kind to all. It refuses to be jealous when blessing comes to someone else. Love does not brag about one’s achievements nor inflate its own importance. Love does not traffic in shame and disrespect, nor selfishly seek its own honor. Love is not easily irritated or quick to take offense. Love joyfully celebrates honesty and finds no delight in what is wrong. Love is a safe place of shelter,  for it never stops believing the best for others. Love never takes failure as defeat, for it never gives up.” 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7

Waiting on purpose.

As I begin writing today I am sitting in a messy house, at a messy table, staring at my little guy, and you guessed it— he’s making another mess. Everything kind of feels a little messy right now. A few weeks into following my “calling” to write more and it already feels like too much for this time. But it’s also something I love and feel called to prioritize. Most importantly though, deep down I know this is all a part of God’s plan. And right now I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be— sitting here in my kitchen, with my littles, in the middle of a beautiful mess. I know God is pruning me here. Pruning me for his purpose. Shaping me into who he needs me to be in the coming season.

So today, despite the mess, I’m choosing to put one foot in front of the other in the direction of my dreams. And because it’s a place of tension for me right now, I want to focus on the waiting. That time in between getting a glimpse of God’s plan and actually making it happen. How do I use that time to wait– on purpose?

There are so many Biblical examples of waiting. It seems to be what God leads people to right after announcing something really big in their life. Abraham, Joseph, and David are the three names that come first to my mind when I think about waiting in the Bible. Abraham is kind of the guy that stands out the most to me. I don’t know if it’s because he was so old or because God’s promise to him was SO big. When Abraham was already an old man, God promised him that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky. When God first shared this promise with him, Abraham had believed that he would be forced to leave his entire inheritance to one of his servants because he didn’t have a son of his own. While Abraham waited on God’s promised child he struggled to see how it could all really be possible. So instead of waiting on God, Abraham tried to make God’s plan happen on his own terms. He slept with his wife’s servant, Hagar. And he messed up big time. But the part that I love most about his story is that, even though Abraham messes up, taking control of his own destiny instead of trusting God with his life, God still holds up his end of the deal. God’s promise is fulfilled.

Joseph’s story is a little different. He is only a teenager when he has a series of dreams that begin his journey of promise. Joseph shares these dreams with his family and as a result his own brothers sell him into slavery. Wow. So he gets real about what God is doing in his life and those that are supposed to encourage him literally throw him into a pit and eventually sell him to some Midianite traders. Joseph had to wait a long time for God’s dream to be fulfilled in his life. But as he waited, God was with him and made him successful in everything that he did. Even when Joseph was sent to prison. Genesis 39:21-23 says this, “But the Lord was with Joseph in the prison and showed him his faithful love. And the Lord made Joseph a favorite with the prison warden. Before long, the warden put Joseph in charge of all the other prisoners and over everything that happened in the prison. The warden had no more worries, because Joseph took care of everything. The Lord was with him and caused everything he did to succeed.” Even at his lowest, God was with him— taking care of him, and personally shaping him into the man he needed him to be for the great work ahead. I think one of the reasons Joseph had so much success, even at is lowest points, is because he was a man that proved himself trustworthy with God’s promise, trustworthy in the waiting. Despite the temptation of Potiphar’s wife and the misery of his circumstances Joseph chose to do what was right and pressed on toward the dream God had written on his heart.

The last man I want to talk about is David. David is one of my all time favorite Bible characters. He was anointed to be the next King of Israel when he was a young boy, shepherding his father’s sheep. He had to wait for God’s perfect timing to be able to step into the ultimate calling that God had for his life, to be the next king. It can be so hard to know when exactly God’s timing is right in our own promises, in our own lives. I’ve heard that when you are following after God with your whole heart, like David did, you can trust your feelings on this. But as we learn from David, there’s even a little more to it. The exact moment David knew God’s timing had come is recorded in 1 Chronicles 14:1-2 where it says, “Then King Hiram of Tyre sent messengers to David, along with cedar timber, and stonemasons and carpenters to build him a palace. And David realized that the Lord had confirmed him as king over Israel and had greatly blessed his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel.” God confirmed the promise with his provision. He sent David the materials to build a palace. He didn’t ask for these things— instead God, in his timing delivered what he needed to establish himself as king, just like he had promised.

Studying these three examples helps me to see where, in my own life, I can use this time of waiting to lean in to God and to prepare myself to do his work. I sometimes think that I should wait to talk about something until I’ve come through it. But I’ve come to learn that wisdom is often learned in the now. And it is sometimes forgotten in the afterward. Wisdom is in the mess not the perfection. So if you are also waiting on something— you and I can use this time, together, to learn from each other and to learn from the many examples that God gives us in his word.

Because of Abraham’s mistakes, I can know that my own shortcomings do not disqualify me for God’s purpose. No matter how bad I mess up in the waiting period, God is in control and nothing I do is going to mess up his plan. I don’t have to worry about having it all together, or having enough instagram followers. I don’t have to tire myself out proving I’m good enough for my dreams. I simply need to walk with God, daily. At the same time, Joseph’s great faithfulness and righteous living teaches me that, despite my circumstances, I need to honor God with my life. Even in the hard things. God is always with me and is working things out for me. And last, God reminds me that with his promise comes his provision. I don’t have to worry about the details because God has it all under control and he will bring it together at his time and with his hands. Ultimately, what these three examples have in common is this— Each of these men were careful to remain close to God, even as they waited. And God fulfilled each promise just as he intended, exactly when he meant for it to happen. I think knowing this is so important. It is all in God’s timing— all we can do is hold fast to his word and honor him with our lives, despite the mess. There is a reason that when you are in the word consistently, it starts to jump of the page as if it was written just for you for just that moment. Because God is with us in all of it. He is always at work in our hearts, making us ready for whatever comes next!

As I finish writing this I want to make sure I say it is not lost on me that I am incredibly blessed right here— right where I am. I was just reading a book by my favorite author and the ironic thing is she is where I would like to be as she writes about wishing for the things I already have. And that humbled me. It’s just that as I finish this short piece at the end of a hard day at work, I dream of a time when I can spend my day in a hipster coffee shop somewhere, writing for more than a couple hours every few weeks. And this is exactly why I wrote this today. Because I am selfish, I forget how blessed I am all of the time. And I have so much to learn. But as Annie F. Downs, the author I just mentioned, says, “preparation makes it possible.” My dream is being made possible right now as God works to prepare my heart. And I have to remember life is happening right here in the waiting. And my waiting? I think it just might be yesterday’s promise. I am surrounded by God’s many blessings– a loving, joy filled marriage and three amazing kids. I have a job that allows me to learn while I work and also has created in me a new confidence when dealing professionally with others. I am so thankful for all that God has done and is doing. Maybe with this, like so many times before, the lesson isn’t what I thought it was all along. In addition to what I learned writing today, I think God really wanted me to just stop. Stop and see that what I have right now, is really good.

The perfect chocolate chip cookie.

I’m coming up on a full month of regular, weekly blog posts! Yay— this is big for me! As I’ve started posting regularly, I’ve been encouraged by a few friends to share more of my recipes. I never really considered food to be my strong suit— my cooking is SO BASIC. But, apparently there are other busy people, on a budget, looking to cook healthy-ish meals with simple ingredients. So I thought I could try one monthly post about food. Maybe it will even challenge me to spice up my repertoire! And because my ultimate goal is to bring people together— what better thing to do than cook food, right? This first recipe is all of the above, minus the healthy part. It’s my chocolate chip cookie recipe. And I know I said today was going to be about food, but because it’s me I managed to also make it a little sentimental.

So here we go. After Violet was born, I perfected my chocolate chip cookie recipe. I was an anxious young mom, I didn’t sleep very often, and for some reason brushing my hair was NOT a priority. For me, at that time, making chocolate chip cookies seemed to bring back the innocence and joy that postpartum depression was stealing from me. So I baked them as often as I could. And they were perfect. I’ve tried so many times to get that recipe right again. And each time I failed. Until yesterday. And wow— the taste and the memories are still so raw from that time almost 8 years ago. So much good and so much bad. All mixed up together. And although I am in a much better place now than I was then— the cookies taste the same. And they are indeed perfect.

The recipe:

If I can, I will always choose one large  bowl to combine my ingredients— I hate extra dishes. Because of this I start by adding the wet ingredients to the bowl first, blending them together with a hand mixer. Next, I dump the flour, baking soda, and salt on top of the wet ingredients. After the dry ingredients are dumped loosely on top of the wets, ill grab a fork and lightly sift them together— careful not to disturb the wets. Once combined I grab my hand mixer again and mix together the wet and dry ingredients. The mixture should start to crumble, and then quickly form a dough. Last it’s time to dump in the chocolate chips, stir with a spoon, and begin to form my cookie balls. I like to shape my cookies into balls and then lightly press them down on to the pan so that the tops of my balls are flat. Fill your pan, leaving space for spreading, and put them in to the oven at 350 degrees for nine minutes. Maybe a little longer if they are bigger, and shorter if they are smaller. You get it. Just keep an eye on them! There is nothing worse than a crunchy cookie. Unless you’re in to that. (Love you, mom!)

Ingredients:

1 C butter

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

¾ C granulated sugar

¾ C brown sugar

2 ¼-2 ½ C flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

1 C Semi-sweet Chocolate Chips

Tips:

Spoon flour in to the measuring cup instead of scooping the whole cup in to the flour.

When mixing the dry ingredients in to the wet look for the dough to crumble before it fully comes together. This will tell you that you have the right amount of flour. If it skips the crumble it may be too wet and need more flour.

These cookies are perfection. Exactly as I remember. Now if only my metabolism was the same as I remember when I was 22…

Love & trust.

I was at a wedding a couple weeks ago— I absolutely love weddings. Soaking in the words of the message, I usually find my heart revitalized with a newlywed’s eagerness to prioritize my marriage. But this time, when the pastor asked couples what areas they could be more intentional about in their marriage, nothing came immediately to mind. My husband was in the hallway with our youngest. And instead of thinking of things we could change, I just wished he was there so we could lock eyes and smile, passing each other the silent message that we are just so happy to have each other. I remember a few years ago being at weddings and grabbing his hand, praying for better days, and hoping we would make it. We were so young when we got married— no plans or responsibilities. We just knew that we really, really liked each other and maybe it would be fun if we could hang out forever. So we got married! Looking back, I know God was in it. It could have gone so badly. But it didn’t. He had a plan.

Over the years our relationship, once carefree and idealistic, began to change. We didn’t mean for it to happen. I just don’t think either of us were strong enough, at the time, to thrive in life’s challenges. In the beginning, life together was relatively simple. But before our first anniversary I was pregnant and things started to change. I want to make sure I say first, change is not bad. These shifts can be hard— but most of the time a change in the road not only brings new sites to explore, it also leads to knowledge and growth. Becoming parents changed us in all the most wonderful ways. But it also changed our marriage in ways I didn’t recognize right away, and because of this I didn’t take the time to intentionally lean in to a new and deeper love with my husband. Up to that point I thought I knew what love should feel like, but that definition exploded in to a thousand pieces the day I met my first born. Suddenly love was a mixture of intense joyful affection and a new somewhat fearful vulnerability. It would be years before I would learn to love my husband in this same way. If love meant I had to go all in, that I could get hurt?! Then that was not for me. For my kids— of course! But I didn’t think I could risk my whole heart on a man. And so without knowing it, I was holding myself back from love’s full potential. It’s complicated of course. But at some point I decided that my husband would get part of me. And I would hold back just enough so that if anything ever went wrong I would be safe.

Fast forward almost 6 years where I found myself at a fork in the road. And I realized I had to choose a direction. I wasn’t feeling fully loved by my husband. And I wanted to be. Not just loved— but I wanted closeness, I wanted to be his best friend again. Like it used to be. I was pregnant at the time and so, without my permission, I was emotionally vulnerable. And I cried. I allowed myself to think that maybe he didn’t love me, maybe he didn’t even want to be my friend. Neither of these thoughts were true of course! But at the time I needed to think them because I needed to care. And I quickly realized I indeed cared very deeply about this. So I decided to be brave and open up to him about everything I was feeling. His response was thoughtful, loving, and kind. He was there all along. Loving me. He never stopped. And he never held my feelings against me. Suddenly, for me, it was like we hadn’t missed a beat. I don’t know if he fully understood the depth of my thoughts, but he knew that ok was not ok for me anymore. I wanted more. Although it seems so simple, opening up to my husband about my innermost thoughts and emotions laid the framework for growth in our marriage. Opening up about these things unlocked my heart to a risky, all in, almost magical love like nothing I had felt before— and it permeated through all facets of our marriage. It was like Aladdin asking Jasmine on to the magic carpet, “Do you trust me?” Obviously over simplified, but what if she wouldn’t have trusted him? Sure, they could have taken a walk in the park. But they would have missed that amazing ride! Saying yes to trust, saying yes to loving deeper has transformed our marriage. We’re on the same team now. We are one flesh. We care about the details. After having Rowan, knowing my postpartum challenges, Randy asked me to tell him every time I felt anxious. It got to the point that he could tell by looking at me if I had just had an anxious thought. He partnered with me in my hardest time and I was secure knowing he was by my side. Being open and honest about our personal struggles, relationship conflicts, and dreams— all of it has only made us stronger. By holding back, I was slowly losing touch with my best friend. And I’m so thankful for that emotional pregnant lady who set me free from my self imposed isolation.

I wish I would have known how much better this kind of love was when we first got married. My engagement ring recently broke so, until we can get it fixed, I have been wearing the wedding band alone. The band is meant to wrap around my ring so alone it looks a little odd, a curvy line of white gold. But as I look at it now, alone on my finger, it seems so perfect to describe what it actually is. The wedding band. The pomp and circumstance of the engagement isn’t there anymore, but the band as it winds up and down around my finger looks a lot like the road we’ve been on in our marriage. Each curve marks a change, a chance to dig deeper, and a time for new adventures.

Searching for rest in a world full of responsibility.

I’m exhausted today. The beginning of the week is always tough for me. As a family, we tend to live for the weekend and savor each moment spent all of us together. And then inevitably Monday rolls around— and after stealing my husband away to work and leaving me with a weekends full of undone chores I can’t help but feel a slight case of the “after vacation blues” start to set in. Add to this feeling a little one who is maybe teething or maybe just likes to be held all day, and suddenly Monday’s mantra becomes, one step forward and two steps back. At the end of the day I’m usually left gazing in to the horizon as the perfect storm is rolling in— a daunting combination of unfinished tasks and exhaustion. The clouds are grey and heavy with mom guilt ready to rain down. What exactly did you accomplish today? Do you even have a right to be tired?

Here’s the thing— I think if we’re being real with each other we can admit that we’re all a little tired, right? It may feel like weakness to admit this, but how couldn’t we be? We live in a world full of responsibilities and everyone is in an invisible race to do the most in the same amount of time. It’s imperative, we think, to show the world that we are managing our days well— that we are accomplishing the most with the time we are given. But what about rest? What if rest is meant to be more than just a side note— something you squeeze in each night between work and more work? Is it possible to make rest a part of your everyday? I don’t know about you, but I could go for some real rest in my life.

As I thought about how to do this the first thing I realized I would have to do was to prune my priorities. So, I made a list. For me, in this season, my priorities are: faith, people, exercise, and writing. My grandma tells me often, “You can have it all but you can’t have it all right now.” That’s why making a short list of what I wanted to invest my time and heart into right now was important to figure out. For me, the two obvious things that are missing from this list are career and home. After having my third child things shifted a little, it was after all the start of a new season. And I realized I would have to let go of some things to do well at the others. Honestly, right now work is not one of my top priorities. I work part time, and I do my best when I am there. But I have made the decision to leave it there. It’s the same with my home. I still have to keep up with laundry and clean the kitchen. But instead of obsessing over perfection in every corner I have learned to be okay with a more “tidy” approach to house work, instead of daily deep cleaning. For the first time in a long time I made the choice to take a few steps back from these things and focus on people. Specifically my people: the family, friends, and neighbors that God has put in front of me to love and encourage, and to be loved and encouraged by. These people are my priority. Not to say I will never be career focused or that my house will never again be ready to host the queen— but for me this is not that season. To carve time for rest, each season must have its own set of priorities.

So even if I can make time to rest, what about my mind? Will I be able to give myself the freedom to take time for real rest? Or will I fill it with anxiety and guilt as I have done in the past? After making your list of priorities I want you to remind yourself of this,  whatever you chose to focus on in this season, allow yourself the freedom to live in that choice. Stop allowing negative self talk to take away your confidence and steal your joy. Being the best version of you is the best example you can give to your children. Wallowing in someone else’s purpose only to feel like you have made the better choice for your kids is not doing them any favors. I am constantly reminding myself of these words found in Galatians 5:1, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” If you choose to stay home, work part time, or work full time, do not allow Satan to burden you with the guilt of what you should be doing or what you could be doing better. I am constantly reminding myself of this, I am free. And it is for freedom that I am free. Stop placing the burden of false expectations on your own shoulders. These weights may be unseen but they are heavy— and they get in the way of rest.

So where do we rest? In her book, Love Lives Here, Maria Goff talks a lot about making her home a place of rest. This resonated with me. I want more than anything for my home to be a place where my family, friends, and neighbors can gather and find rest. However, because I feel so much pressure to work inside my home I’ve become the type of person that loves going out. I’ve always thought getting away was how I relaxed actually. Unfortunately, after being out and about I often still have an unquenched desire for real rest, and sometimes I’m actually more exhausted. It doesn’t help that I believe my kids bedtime is my “free time” to get together with girlfriends and if there’s dancing involved I’m most likely going to be the last one to leave— Especially if the DJ is indulging my love for Shakira. And right now, this time spent with my friends is a priority. It’s a part of the season. I’m not pregnant and baby is now old enough for a few hours away here and there. So yes, I take advantage of this time to be me. The problem is that when I go home I feel bombarded with todos and needs and the last thing that I believe I have time for is rest. And how can I even rest here? There is always something to do. My work in this place is never done. So, how do I change my mindset so that my home can become the place of rest that I wish it was? I think Maria says it perfectly when she says, “We will never find our purpose in exhaustion.” It makes you see it in a whole new light doesn’t it? What if these endless lists and todos are actually a distraction from the enemy? What if we are killing ourselves working late in to the night only to find ourselves sleeping through our purpose? What if a lot of what we think we have to do is not actually necessary at all. What if we are being deceived into a lifestyle of exhaustion when Jesus says he wants to give us rest?

I am writing this as much to me as I am to anybody else. I am not good at rest— ask my friends. I don’t even know how to nap! I just can’t turn off in the middle of the day like that. I knew I was going to need a lot of help with this topic. But I also knew that I could REALLY benefit from being better at resting. So let’s dig deeper in to what the Bible has to say on the topic. When I think of rest in the Bible I think in Old and New Testament terms. In the Old Testament I think of Sabbath, or physical rest. Like what I mentioned in the first section— carving away actual time for rest. In the New Testament I think of Jesus, and the rest that he provides for our souls and in turn the freedom he gives us to make rest a part of our every day. In Matthew 11:28, Jesus says, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” To me, this sounds like rest as a state of mind, found by giving our lives to him. I love these words from Jesus spoken to his disciples in John 14:27, “I am leaving you with a gift— peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” There it is again. Peace of mind and heart, something not found in this world. A gift from God.

Ugh. I feel like I’m just scratching the surface of this topic. As I’ve been diving in, I feel even more convicted about how I’ve treated rest in my own life. In his book, Soul Rest, Curtis Zachery writes, “When we practice the Sabbath and intentionally move away from the regular rhythms that come from our work and accomplishments, we cease to be bound by “this world” thinking. Our focus shifts to the worship and acknowledgement of the God, who has made this world and held it in his hand.” Wow. It’s beginning to seem like rest is more important than I had thought all along. In Mark 2:27, Jesus again talks about rest. This time he is referring to the Sabbath. “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath.” God created the Sabbath because we needed it. We need rest, physical and mental, not only to live out God’s purpose in our lives but in order to ensure we remember God is ultimately in charge of it all. In the busyness we find self, and in the rest we find God. All of the distraction and the noise of this world may indeed be Satan’s greatest weapon against man. As I began writing this I wasn’t sure what God was trying to show me. I knew I was tired and that rest sounded like something I needed in order to perform better in my life. Instead I think I’ve realized it’s not about performance at all. Rest is about remembering God.

I have only begun to unpack the idea of rest. But I hope, like me, you have come to a new appreciation of rest and why it is so important to declutter our days and our minds in order to ensure we have time to rest well. Resting, to me, seems to be a lot like reliance. In order to sleep we need to be able to rely on our heart to keep beating, our lungs to keep breathing— our lives to keep living without us being physically awake. Finding rest for our souls sounds like it may be a lot like this. Giving up the control over our circumstances, our time, our success even, and relying on God to provide the life while we simply rest.