Protected: Celebrating Freedom

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Don’t Miss It…

The snow came through Nashville yesterday and I sit cuddled up in my “window seat” with my (now) cold coffee and my Christmas tree still lit <– I have no shame–> As pictured, Bailey thoroughly enjoyed her first snow! I woke up this morning with a message on my heart and I could not wait to put my pen to paper (yes, I still do that!) and hear what God was writing on my heart.img_7287

This message is for the 20 something girls both single and in a relationship as a plea to not left your life pass you by. As I write this, I pray you take this as a word of encouragement from a big sister. The one who is still processing and learning from the mistakes I made in my early 20s. The one whose heart and true intent is to inspire, encourage and to empower women to seek God’s best for your life over all of the things that this world – both the secular world and Christian world – say is best for you.

Sweet girl, I say this with so much sincerity and truth:  your singleness is not a disease. Some of you are rolling your eyes at me and that’s fine, I get it. It’s hard to hear that from the girl that’s married with her cute little Nashville house and her perfect dog… I get it. But really lean in and listen close. God has gifted you WITH this season for a purpose. I hear you say that you’re just waiting for God to bring the perfect man into your life but your worth is not in the love found in a man that may one day be your husband. And I’m afraid that if you are not careful, you might miss out on a whole big, full life you could have because you were waiting/searching for a man.

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Sister, you were created for more than that! You have gifts and passions that are in you for a purpose! Don’t waste them or this time you’ve been given. God gives us seasons of waiting but it’s what we do in the waiting and what we learn in the waiting that are often the lessons that really stick with us if we’ll take the time to just listen.

I went off to college with a feeling in my gut that I would find my husband. I had my list of qualities I wanted in a man practically laminated in my back pocket ready to whip out against any guy that made a pass at me like a 20 questions measuring stick. Yall, I WAS THAT GIRL and maybe that’s why I feel so inclined to write on this topic. But it’s not just to the single girls. You may be in a relationship right now but I beg you, listen in. This message is for you too.

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So here’s the thing, that purpose that I keep talking about that has been crafted within each of us… it’s so much greater than just being someone’s wife. And when we are living out the purpose that God has for us, sometimes our paths cross with someone else who is also living out God’s purpose for their life and you might come to a place where God shows you both that maybe you’re supposed to live out this journey you’re on together. {Because the man you’re praying to come into your life to be your husband was created for more than that too.} And it’s not a guarantee and sometimes we think that we are entitled to a spouse and we get frustrated that God hasn’t brought that person into our lives and what we’re doing is putting all of our hopes and dreams and all this stock into another {imperfect} human being when God is looking down at your sweet face saying, “My beautiful child, won’t you just lay all of that down at my feet and follow me?”

At the age of 20, I met a guy who I thought would be my husband. I had everything planned out, my whole life around this guy. Everything was perfect until a year later when he ended it out of no where. And then for another year, I held onto this hope that our story wasn’t over. I look back at that time of my life and I don’t even recognize that girl! That was until the summer after I turned 22 when I went and served in Argentina for two months. I lived with 5 other college students from 5 different states and all with different gifts. We had no internet, no cell phones, we had a roof over our heads, running water (most days), no appliances, no real beds – just leaky air mattresses and a pump without working batteries. We walked everywhere except when we took a bus to the city. And every day I wonder what it would be like to go back to my little village and live in my concrete hut where all I had was Jesus, His word and the purpose he had given me.

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That summer, I fell in love with myself,  who God had created me to be and the life God had created me to live. And when that old boyfriend emailed me after I returned and eluded to the idea of us getting back together once he returned from his time abroad, I heard God remind me, “You were created for more than waiting on a man.”

So I didn’t. Instead I lived the life God called me to live. I got plugged into a new church where I was loved and empowered to serve. I invested in others like I never had before. I made strong friendships with people who still today are the ones I refer to as “my tribe”. I spent the next summer in Nepal with sweet friends telling precious men and women about the love and redemption of Jesus Christ. It was there that God prepared me with His strength for the hard journey that awaited me when I came home where I lost my mom, and then my dad, and then both grandmothers and an uncle all in 3 years time but He never left my side. And neither did that tribe of folks He gave me – one of which became my husband way down the road but it wasn’t because I sat around waiting for a perfect man – No, it’s because I got up and followed a perfect man who walked me through some high highs and some low lows and he hasn’t left me yet. Me and my Jesus have been around the globe and this ride I’m on as a daughter of the Most High King, living out the life he created me to live has been so much more than that perfect fairytale love story I was striving for. Even now that I’m married, living out this #wifelife for Jesus is so much more than I had ever dreamed before.

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So sister, don’t miss it. Don’t miss the wild adventures that God wants to take you on whether you’re waiting on a ring or a man himself. All of those passions that are like a fire in your belly – don’t ignore them. Seek Jesus and the journey He wants to take you on and I promise that He will show you that a life more abundant doesn’t start with our eternal life promised in Glory but in letting His abundant Glory transform your life today. Don’t miss it.

You can spend your days just going to class or work or binging shows on Netflix just waiting for your chance to be someone’s wife, maybe even “preparing” to be someone’s wife or you can recognize the beautiful life God has already promised you as His child. Go live your life and do it fiercely in the light of God’s grace! And if along the way, you find that your road intersects with a man also seeking the life God created Him to live and you both feel God leading you to do this thing together, then do that. And do it fiercely. But the more time you spend searching for a husband is time your eyes are not on Jesus and girlfriend, that’s not living in the freedom of God’s grace.  Live out your life with the purpose God planted inside of you and I promise, it will be so much more vibrant than you could ever capture on instagram or save to your pinterest board. You don’t want to wake up one day, take a look around and wish you’d lived a little more in your 20s while you had the chance.

You were created for more, sister. Don’t miss it. img_7205

Faith over Perfection…

This is part 3 of a 3 part blog series over 1 Peter 1:3-9

Read Part 1 here.

Read Part 2 here.

Salvation is available because of our faith, not our perfection.

As a type A, slightly OCD, complete control freak – I have this innate, unhealthy, even sinful desire for perfection. I don’t even notice it sometimes but I strive to control, organize, and micromanage everything to go as planned and when I mess up, I have a really hard time forgiving myself. While I’m grateful every day for the grace I have received through Christ and while I’ve learned through that to extend grace to others, I’m not so great at extending it to myself when I mess up. I hold myself to a standard of perfection in so many areas of my life when Jesus wants me to see myself through his eyes and He holds me to a standard of Grace.

Maybe that’s you too? Or maybe you’re just like me about 11 years ago? Maybe you, too, carry an invisible (or maybe even sometimes visible) check list of do’s and don’ts to be a perfect Christian or perfect wife, daughter, employees, mother, Sunday School teacher, etc. This is not living in freedom and this is not living as God has called us to live. Until I got to college and plugged in to a community of believers on campus, I had always lived such a legalistic life and held others to the same; a life of judgement on myself and others. God calls us to more. Perfection can no longer be our standard – GRACE must be our standard if we are to live the life of Freedom that God has given us the authority to do  through our salvation!

In 1 Peter 1:8-9, Peter writes, “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of our faith, the salvation of your souls.” <—- Salvation = the outcome of our faith!! 

Because of our faith, we obtain salvation! Salvation is not the byproduct of our perfect Christian lives, ladies! It’s by our faith! So hang up your checklist, hang up your obsessive need to control, your perfect big plans for this big American dream life because God is not concerned if you have gotten married yet, bought that dream house or climbed that next step on the corporate ladder. God is not concerned where you are in life compared to others your age. God does not want our perfect plans or our tired attempts, he wants our hearts and he wants our faith and it’s only through faith that we will obtain salvation.

Your Pain is Valid…

Part 2 of a 3 part Blog Series on 1 Peter 1:3-9

Read part one here.

Your pain is valid.

Whatever is is that you are feeling, it is valid. God is not surprised when you are hurting, He is sovereign so just as He sees your pain, he warned us that trials would come and he allowed it to happen.

1 Peter 1:6-7, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Peter speaks of the trials we face and of our faith that is refined in these fires we walk. I know for certain that my faith in Christ is stronger because of the trials I’ve faced.

You won’t recognize the brightness of the sun if you’ve never wandered through the darkness. 

In the book of Exodus, the Israelites wandered through the wilderness for 40 years before they made it to the other side for Joshua to take them through to the Promised Land. When the crossed the Jordan River, Joshua instructed them to lay down an ebenezer, a stone of remembrance, one for each of the 12 tribes, so that for generations to come, all who came upon these stones will be reminded of all that God had done for the Israelites.

I’ve written this to you before but I feel it important to say it again. I was always told growing up that “God will not give you more than you can handle” and I need you to hear me when I say that that is not true. It’s a down right lie. God allows us to endure trials that are much more than we can handle. He does that so that we are drawn closer to Him, to refine our faith, to teach us to cast all our worries at the feet of Jesus, to depend on His strength and not our own, and to recognize that He is in control!

When my friend said, “I know that my problems are nothing compared to others but it still hurts.”, I realized just how common it is for us to feel this way. We think to ourselves, “There are people who are without a home and are going to bed on a cold street tonight hungry, my problems are not that big of a deal, I can handle it, I’ll get over it.” and we don’t deal with our pain. Is it true that others are hurting in ways that are different and seem more dire that what we are facing and maybe they are? But the pain that you are feeling is real and it’s valid and it needs to be worked through.

A few weeks ago, I was dealing with some pain that I wasn’t sure how to work through it. It happened at church, my feelings had been hurt and it was keeping me from wanting to go to our church for a few weeks. I sat with my friend Anna one day and shared this all with her and the most beautiful thing happened. She listened. She validated my pain but acknowledging that those situations are painful. And after all that was said and we had changed the subject a couple dozen times, she said something in a completely different context that opened my eyes in a new way.

She said, “I believe that sometimes God allows certain painful situations to happen so that you can be a part of the solution and help make sure that doesn’t happen to anyone else.” 

God spoke to my heart right there as I sat in her recliner and Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians came to mind.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.” -2Corinthians 1:3-7

Sisters, we are not alone in our suffering. Jesus suffered and it is by that suffering that we have grace and can rejoice in our salvation. Recognize your pain and your brokenness, seek the God of all comfort and allow Him to heal your pain.

This is not our home…

Last week I received a call from my life long best friend – you know, that friend that you grew up with, knew you during your awkward middle school days, cried with you during your high school breakups and who made 5 walmart runs for more hair dye because orange was not the desired shade of “summer blonde” you were going for when you were 19 – yep, that’s her! We live a couple hours away from one another and now have “adult” lives and do not talk every day or even sometimes every week but you would never know it, we pick things up right where we left them each time and never miss a beat. She held my hand as we buried my mom and she stood by my side on my wedding day. When she hurts, I hurt and vice versa. She’s the Cristina to my Meredith. The Lane to my Rory. The Rachel to my Monica. Through thick and thin, she’s my girl.

Now when she called, I was out running errands and as I pulled up in the Kroger parking lot, I could hear her tone shift as she said, “Case, I know that God is good. Like I KNOW that He’s good! But with everything going on around me – I’m just having a hard time seeing it.”

I sat there in my car in my cozy parking spot for over an hour just listening to my best friend tell me of how her heart hurts for so many people and families that are going through unthinkable trials in our community back home. I sat and wept as we talked about families who are spending their first Christmas without loved ones that are no longer here. We talked about the pain felt by those who know they are spending their last Christmas with a loved one who is sick and also those who are sick and are walking through fire as they fight for their life. And then she shared areas where she is hurting and she said these words:

“I know that my problems are nothing compared to  what others are dealing with but it still hurts.”

I’ve been mulling over this conversation for several days now and as I flipped open my bible to one of my favorite passages, I felt the weight of this scripture a little differently. I’ve written a few ways that I have heard God speak to me through this passage and it will be shared over the course of a 3 part blog series. My prayer is that whether you are currently walking through fire, just came through it or you’re headed towards it, you’ll find peace and comfort in God’s word.

Our Inheritance is Worthy of Rejoicing!

In 1 Peter 1:3-5, we see a beautiful depiction of the Gospel. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

I LOVE the description given of Heaven –

  • English Standard Version – our inheritance, imperishable, undefiled and unfading, kept in Heaven for you.
  • In the Holman Christian Standard Version, it uses the word “uncorrupted”.
  • In the King James Version it says, “incorruptible and undefiled and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you.”
  • The New Living Translation puts it this way, “an inheritance that is kept in Heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.”

Y’all, this is our inheritance and through it all – every dark day, every valley, every fire – we can rejoice! This road is hard but through it all, our salvation is worthy of rejoicing! This world in which we are living is the exact opposite of what awaits us in Heaven with our Jesus. This is not our home! This is just a temporary stay – that cheap motel where you lay your weary head on that long road trip. This place is perishable, it will fade away, it is defiled, it is corrupt – the exact opposite of our eternal home reserved for us in Heaven. And whatever is bringing you pain today, no matter how hard your circumstances, it’s only temporary because this world is only temporary! This world is not our home!