Freedom over Grief…

I sit here in my chair thinking back on all that has happened over the last 6 years. See, 6 years ago, my mom went home to be with Jesus. It would be really easy for me to sit here and wallow in sadness today, of all days, for all the things she has missed – birthdays, graduations, my wedding day, etc. And I did that for a long time – off and on, I would have seasons where I was completely overwhelmed by the weight of grief. I had a hard time allowing myself to be joyful in the Lord through the ups and downs of life because my mind was consumed by my grief. I didn’t know how to overcome it. And then Jesus spoke to me.

It was just last year. I had felt God moving in my heart and bringing me to a season of transition where I knew that God was calling me to do something but I did not know what it was and I know now that my grief was consuming my mind and blinding me from seeing what God was calling me to do. I was sitting in a worship service at church and I was writing in my prayer journal the same thing I had written countless times – “Lord, heal me. Heal my broken heart. Strip me from this grief. Heal me, Father.” And then it was like a light bulb came on. I immediately thought back to the story in scripture where Jesus tells the lame man to get up and walk for He has been healed. And I knew Jesus was talking to me. He was telling me to get up and walk – I had been healed, I had been healed all along but I just hadn’t gotten off my mat and accepted that healing. I have been given freedom through salvation in Jesus Christ yet I was living in chains of bondage called grief.

There is joy through grief. You can still miss your loved ones after they’re gone yet find joy in the Lord. You can do both and it is because of the freedom we have in Christ. But just like all of the other chains that bind us, we have to make a choice to walk in the freedom we have been given and to be joyful in the midst of our grief.

I found a blog that I had written the week leading up to my mom’s passing 6 years ago. I had forgotten that I had even written it. This was the week where I knew we were going to lose my mom and yet, I had so much strength that can only be attributed to the strength of God. I included a song that had been encouraging to me during that week and it’s still one that I cling to today. No matter what roads you’re walking right now, know that we can still find joy in the Lord. I have left you with a play list of songs that have given me strength the past 6 years and I hope it’s encouraging to you along your journey as well.

 

Our Silence is Making it Worse…

I started this post yesterday but I was too scared to post it. I was afraid of what would be said by those who will disagree with me. I could visualize the silent “ssshhhh little white girl, we don’t speak of things like this” glare that would come from some people but this morning when I woke up, my husband said, “Another black man was shot by a police officer yesterday.” And I won’t let those who may disagree stifle my voice any longer because this is an important issue and now more than ever we need every voice lifted high.

I want to preface this by saying that I am in no way writing a piece that is anti-police. That is not my intent at all and if that is what you take from this than you are not truly hearing my heart on the matter. There are bad apples in every bunch. There are ministers being arrested on sex trafficking charges. There are teachers/coaches arrested for inappropriate relationships with students. There are doctors selling prescriptions on the street. We can all likely name someone within our line of work that has made a poor call in judgement. And by acknowledging this, we must be honest with ourselves and say that there are also men and women in uniform who are not apt to using sound judgement based on fear (because let’s be real, their job is scary!), prejudice, sleep depravation, anxiety, depression, PTSD, and the list goes on and on and on. There are many more good men in uniform than bad… I know a hand full of them, they are good people who are truly looking out for the good of the people. But let’s not turn a blind eye to those who aren’t.


7/6/2016: My husband and I watched the video of Alton Sterling being shot while being pinned down on the ground by two police officers in Baton Rouge, LA, last night. I recall thinking, “What is wrong with these people?” and then I rested comfortably and fell asleep. I didn’t do anything, I was upset that this has happened YET AGAIN and I went to sleep. It’s like I’m numb to it now. Black people are slaughtered in the street so frequently that I’m not even moved to say a word any more because I feel so helpless that I just go to bed.

There’s a problem here. And I think it lies in folks just like me. See, I never have to worry that my husband could be pulled over for a busted tail light and be shot and killed. I don’t have to worry that my nephew could be out on his normal run, just training for cross country, and be mistaken as if he’s running from the police and be shot and killed. Growing up, we would set up a table in front of the drug store in Humboldt during the Strawberry Festival and sell toys and bags and costume jewelry (basically anything that would sell!), I never had to worry that an officer might notice that my dad was carrying a handgun, which is registered and legal in the state of TN, and that he might be pinned down, shot and killed. And it’s because we’re white.
And the problem lies in my silence. I’m white and I don’t carry those fears and I feel so completely helpless when these things happen ALL of the time that I say nothing! White friends, we MUST link arms with our black brothers and sisters and stand with them and proclaim that Black Lives DO Matter!! And I think that there are some of us that think that this is just a black issue and that we need to stay out of it but that’s the problem!
We need politicians on both sides of the party system to speak out. Our politicians need to stop worrying about losing votes in an election year and speak up for what is right and that is getting to the root of the problem and fixing it. And before you ask, I don’t know what that fix is but we have to spur one another along to finding it!
We need our pastors to speak out about this. We, as a Christian community, need to unite as the body in which we were created and stand up for justice. You who were so vocal about our crooked justice system this week when we learned that Hillary Clinton would not be charged in the recent FBI Investigation… are you equally outraged about this injustice? We must set our agendas aside and stop swinging to the right and to the left and start fighting for an issue that is right in front of us.
So, when you see #BlackLivesMatter being plastered around, they are NOT saying that your life does not. They are not putting themselves of more importance than other races. They are not saying that ONLY Black Lives Matter. And I hear people say that they feel this way but you have to take yourself out of the equation and recognize that this is not about you. Their fear is real and we can no longer turn a blind eye to the lives of those that killed and those who were acquitted of those charges. They are taking a stand. And we should be standing with them. And unless we are standing up and rallying around the issue at hand, our silence is making it worse by not acknowledging that there is a real problem.
So I’m calling out to all of us who feel helpless and like we don’t have a voice here because the pigmentation of our skin doesn’t match those being wronged in this instance – we do! And if we do not speak up, we’re part of the problem!

It’s just not about us.

“A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that you may have life and have it in abundance.” – John 10:10 HCSB

“Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have also obtained access through Him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” – Romans 5:1-5

Hey Friends!! I hope you had a great 4th of July celebration! I had an amazing time of eating way too much and enjoying time with sweet friends and their kiddos through all things summer – fireworks, water slides in the back yard, kick ball, even a little flag twirling to the sounds of LeAnn Rimes rendition of “God Bless America” and Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA”. (Seriously, if you’re not following me on snap chat, you’re missing out!)

As we celebrated, the theme “freedom” came up a lot and that is my word for this new season in my life. I found myself reading recently in John 10 and I had this moment where I thought about this idea of abundant life that is promised in this passage of scripture and how that relates to the freedom we have in Christ.

I’m going to get real transparent with you here: I may be alone in this but after you’ve read a verse in the bible 100 times, do you ever find yourself kind of skimming over it and having a brief “Christiany” overview of it’s meaning? (This has convicted me to my core of how many more pieces of scripture I just skim over with a very general thought of it’s meaning while missing so much truth that God wants me to take to heart, yet I just pass it over!!) Well, sadly yet honestly that’s how John 10:10 has evolved for me over time: this verse pretty much gives us hope that basically, Jesus will give us a better life and we should follow Him instead of following the ways of the world. I’m getting this all wrong!!

I mean, it’s true in a sense – Having trust in God gives us a peace that is only by faith placed in Christ BUT… the way in which we experience a more abundant life as we see promised here in scripture is really through a change in perspective through faith in Christ and in his power by recognizing this life is not about us at all.

Story time: June 1, 2007, I was 20 years old and was dropped off at the airport by my mom and dad with two large pieces of luggage (with about 10 pairs of shoes, I’m sure!), a full backpack and, without a doubt, a Vera Bradley bag to spend two months in Scarborough, Maine along with 9 other college students working with churches in Southern Maine. We said our goodbyes, my mom with her huge coach bag hiding tears with her large sunglasses while my dad in his traditional garb of Wranglers, boots and a cowboy hat, did a excited shout and a legitimate heel click as he exited the airport in an attempt to embarrass me – it didn’t in the slightest.

We flew into Boston to meet other students spending their summers working with churches across all of New England. We had a couple of days of sight seeing, had orientation and then we were loaded up and headed north. We were in a large van making the couple hour trip to Scarborough {just south of Portland}. I recall sitting toward the back of the van as we crossed the state line and it was pouring down rain, perhaps even hailing, as we passed the big blue Maine state sign that reads, “Maine – The Way Life Should Be.” In that moment, through the rain and hail I felt a peace come over me and I thought to myself, “I’m going to love it here. My whole life is going to change here.” And I was absolutely right.

Marilyn was my supervisor. Picture a literal firecracker in a small, mid-50’s, 5’2” ish petite frame. She is still one of my favorite people on the planet! One day early that summer, I’m sure in a moment of pure selfishness on my part – the details are fuzzy but I can imagine I was requesting a stop at Dunkin Donuts for coffee – Marilyn looked at me right in the eyes, with her glasses sliding down her nose, “Casey, this is not about you!” Ouch, right? 🙂 I spent the next 8 weeks pondering those words and learning more and more ways that I make situations, and this life in general, all about me. Throughout that summer, I realized how God had used her words to teach me of my purpose in this life, in light of my summer in Maine – this summer is not about you, Casey. It’s about all that I {God} am going to do in drawing people to myself through the love I’m going to pour out of you onto these people. It’s not about you and your comfort or your preferences, you just happen to be the instrument I’ve chosen to use for this season in this place for this task.

Now 9 years later, I’m still repeating these 5 words to myself and it dawned on me recently that I don’t believe we, as a Christian community, have taken that same message to heart. When we think of a life more abundant we think of all of the blessings we will receive by following Jesus because without even realizing it, we think it is all about us when really it is and has always been about God’s glory shown through our faith to the world.

When we walk through valleys and are faced with hardships, it’s easy to ask “God, why is this happening to me?” or even, “God, what is it that you’re trying to teach me?” We slap a Christian cliché on our heavy burden backpack of how God will never give us more than we can handle when it was never a burden for us to carry on our own in the first place. {The grief of losing a loved one is not placed on you because you are strong enough to carry it, the pain of infertility is not placed on you because you are strong enough to bear it, I could go on and on. Insert struggle here.} The road to following Jesus was never promised to be an easy one but how much lighter of a load might it be if we realized that this life is not about us and our perspective was shifted in light of God’s ultimate control and sovereignty. What if instead we called out, “God, I know you’re in control and you are working all things for my good. This burden is heavy. Will you show me how my life can bring you glory in the midst of this trial?”

The problem with that ever popular tag line is that it puts us at the focus and how strong we must be or God wouldn’t have allowed “that” to happen – NO! God is not in the business of putting us on a pedestal for our strength! No, God is in the business of standing firm on the pedestal that HE rightly deserves because it’s when we deflect all attention from ourselves and cast it back on Him that He is Glorified and HIS Strength is made known around the world and people are drawn to HIM. That is His ultimate goal – for people around the world to come to faith in Christ and worship HIM as the one true God and until we, as a Christian community, realize that it is not about us we are not truly doing our job in fulfilling the Great Commission as directed in scripture. The Gospel of Jesus Christ was not meant to be placed on a shelf, it was meant to transform you daily and  for others to recognize God’s power through that transformation. But we can’t be fully transformed if we think this life is all about us.

It’s just not about us! Not one bit of it! We are simply instruments that God has chosen to use because let’s face it – He didn’t have to. This is the God who created the earth and the sky and everything around us. He does not need us at all but the abundant life that we’ve been promised comes from having faith in Christ, trusting in His control, rejoicing in our suffering and giving all honor and praise to Him and allowing Him to use our hardships and circumstances in spreading His fame around the world and seeing others come to that same faith in Jesus Christ. That is abundant life, my friends, and the sooner that we realize that it’s not about us and all that God is going to give us in our earthly life yet it’s all about trusting Him in this life because our ultimate destination is WITH Him in the after life, the sooner we will be able to bask in the freedom we have available through the grace of Jesus Christ.

I feel like I’ve unloaded a lot of information today but this message has been stirring in me and I feel it’s too important not to share. We walk around carrying heavy burdens, we carry shame and we carry fear and I’m here to tell you (from loads of experience) that we can not live freely as we’re called until we lay them down at the feet of Jesus and acknowledge His goodness and His sovereignty! As always, I would LOVE the opportunity to connect with you and encourage you no matter where you are along this road to growth in your faith journey. Feel free to comment below with your email address and I would be honored to walk beside you through prayer.

❤ C

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Bailey likes my “window seat” too!

“Looking for Lovely” Review

Hey Friends!!

Along with guest posts, another new part of my blog will be book reviews! Totally taking you back to 3rd grade but this time with no word counts and no red pens! 🙂 I know so many ladies that are looking for new books to read so I felt like this would be a good place to put reviews, mine and those of my friends, of books we recommend.

Our first review is on the book “Looking For Lovely” by Annie F. Downs. You’ll see that we have each given it 5 gold stars! We all loved it and I loved how much our reviews were similar with one another! Crazy how God works like that! Read more about Annie and her ministry at her site, http://www.anniefdowns.com or follow her on all social media platforms @anniefdowns.

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Looking for Lovely by Annie F. Downs is inspiringly honest! Having just completed, Let’s all be brave by Annie as well (also so so so good!!), I could not jump into “Looking for Lovely” fast enough – and I had it finished in less than 48 hours thanks to audiobooks and 2 hours of commuting each day! 🙂

Annie walks you through struggles she has met along her own journey and how she has found God in the midst of it all. Annie does not shy from the brutal truth of the season of “broken crazy” where she found herself seeking God for a true transformation. As someone that graduated college 4 years ago, I found myself so familiar with “broken crazy” and I’m still trying to figure out what adulting is all about. All I know so far is this: Adulting is hard and I don’t really want to do it anymore but I haven’t found a “pass and go” to get past the hard stuff and neither did Annie. She talks about hard things like counseling; which sounds like such an ugly word to us, especially those of us in the church, but if we were all real honest with ourselves, everybody could use a little counseling – but that’s just my two cents! 🙂

The way that Annie tells her stories, you feel like she is your best friend which is what pulls you in to where you’re unable to put it down – or drive an hour without starting a 30 day free trial of the app audible because the thought of going any longer without reading another word is just dissatisfying. 🙂 I recommend you pick up a copy of Looking for Lovely. From the first page you will feel like your heart has just sank down into this comfy couch of realness and humility where you, too, will find yourself vulnerable and relating and will be encouraged to Look for Lovely in your life – and you will find God there, too.

❤ C


Lojenna1oking for Lovely is a game changer! You will instantly fall in love with Annie and feel like best friends! I couldn’t p
ut it down. Every chapter gave me a need outlook on finding the lovely in even the smallest of everyday things!”

– Jenna Cherry, my lifelong best friend.

I went on Amazon and sent her this book before I had even gotten my own hands on a copy after a strong recommendation from another friend. We are planning our own “Looking for Lovely” weekend since we can’t attend the one Annie is hosting here in town! 🙂


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“Looking For Lovely is one of the best books I have read in a very long time. As I read the book, I felt like I was talking to one of my best friends in reading Annie’s stories. Looking for Lovely became a lifeline during a season of my life that was far from lovely – I was in a tough season of seeing dreams change and everything in my life just felt really hard. Annie’s words became a challenge: to find the lovely in my life even in the midst of the “broken crazy”. From perfectly timed sunsets to really good cupcakes to new dreams being inspired in the midst of broken ones – I was able to find lovely and Annie’s book was a huge part of what God used to restore my spirit. I HIGHLY recommend Looking for Lovely as it reminds us that we’re all broken, but in the midst of our brokenness, God has intricately placed all the lovely things – we just have to look for them!”

-Legon Craighead, one of my dearest friends. Legon read this book first. She started all of this and we’re SOOO grateful!!


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“Looking For Lovely is by far the best book I have ever read. I instantly felt a connection to Annie, as if she was writing this book about my life too! During this season of my life, I have found each word on every page to shine a light on so many issues I have dealt with recently. Seeds of sorrow, pain, tragedy, singleness and plenty of “broken crazy”, Annie helped me bring to life a path to find freedom, the lovely. I learned that I must be broken to be rebuilt, I must live always with grace and perseverance and become brave because I have purpose. Through music, in people, various places, and things like nail polish or my “sushi”, I have embraced my “broken crazy” and set out to find the lovely. I am finding that it is okay to be an unfinished story, one where the Lord is leading, I just have to “trust the path”. Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. When you seek that out, the most lovely, it truly will change your life forever.”

-Kaisey Taylor, the friend who always keeps you laughing even in the midst of inner struggles. Kaisey and I have something in common, our past wouldn’t show that we are good at finishing books so I was overjoyed that she fell in love with Looking for Lovely.


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These are my people. Aren’t they lovely?? Thank you Annie for writing this book that has meant so much to us!

❤ C

Dear College Freshman…

Hello again Friends!!

About this time every year I pull out my laptop and a blanket (because I have a macbook and it’s always super cold on my pale summer legs) and I write a post dedicated to college freshman. I grew so much as a college student and I have a heart to encourage students in where God is leading them during such a crucial time as those 4(ish) years on a college campus. This year, I thought it might be fun to hear from someone who just finished her freshman year – my sweet friend Margaret Anne.

Margaret Anne Byrd is one of my favorite people on the planet. I first met Margaret Anne and the entire Byrd clan when I was asked to lead worship at children’s camp in 2010 – the year her mom (one of the funniest people I’ve ever met!!) coined the phrase “Choices were made…” and then that was the theme for camp the very next year but that’s a story for another day.  Since I met Margaret Anne, I have always prayed that God would give her a heart to serve the Lord in missions and I can’t exactly tell you why but I have just always seen her big heart and knew that she would fall in love with the cities and cultures and people if she ever took the leap to go on an international trip. I was thrilled when she shared about a trip to Haiti and was honored to help her raise funds to get there.

The reason I asked Margaret Anne to write this piece is not just because she just finished her freshman year – it’s because I believe she did it well. So many times I see college students who are so concentrated on their major (which they’ll likely change in 3 semesters) or even in finding a husband (live your life, he’ll be worth the wait!) that they miss out on just experiencing college and living in the moment. As much as social media will allow (I mean, how did we really keep up with one another before the likes of instagram??) I have watched Margaret Anne just CRUSH it – loving her sorority sisters of Zeta Tau Alpha (my grandma would be so proud – she too was a ZTA at Union! 🙂 ), making incredible grades, growing in her faith and making friends that she’ll have for the rest of her life! I’m so proud of you MA!

I hope you guys love her post as much as I do! Enjoy! ❤ C


Dear college freshman,

 

Congratulations! As an upcoming sophomore and someone who has just been in your shoes, I can tell you that you are about to have one of the best years of your life. Freshman year is all about finding your best friends, meeting new people, and finally having the opportunity to taste freedom for the first time. To put it simply, my freshman year of college has been the best year of my life. Hands down. That doesn’t mean it was perfect and picturesque, however. There was a lot of soul-searching, lessons learned, spiritual refinement, and up-hill battles.

 

So, from someone who has “been there and done that,” here are my two best pieces wisdom for you as you take the next big step!

 

  1. Go with God

 

It seems simple, but for me, it was hard…it was SO hard. For those of you who know me, you probably know that my whole family bleeds red and blue. We are ALL die-hard Ole Miss fans. We have season tickets to games, we spend more fall weekends in Oxford, Mississippi than our own hometown, and why wouldn’t we? That’s where my whole family has attended college since the dawn of time and everyone, including myself, had always assumed that I would continue the legacy my family started years ago. It was MY plan and had always been MY plan, but I quickly realized that none of that mattered.

During spring break of my senior year, I felt a strong calling to travel to an orphanage in Williamson, Haiti with some students from Union University and my best friend. (Casey’s generous donations had a huge part of making that possible!) Because I had never done anything like that at all, I was heavily relying on the Lord’s guidance. While I was there, not only did I realize that I was called to work with missions, but I also met some of the most genuine people I have ever have known. They weren’t like many of the college kids I had known. They were so genuine, compassionate, and so incredibly intentional. They asked me about my life story and genuinely wanted to get to know me for who I really was. They were servants and they were relentless in the pursuit of God’s will for each of their lives. That’s when I knew that I was completely missing the point.

MAblogpics4It wasn’t about me at all. It was about God’s plan and doing whatever I could to further his kingdom. I wanted to be like those college students; I wanted to be intentional, love others, and serve others. In the next couple weeks, I fought God a lot. I tried to run from my calling to Union University like Jonah tried to run from his calling to Nineveh. At the time, Union was everything I thought I didn’t want and I still wanted so badly to go be an Ole Miss Rebel. It took several weeks of uneasiness and constant internal conflict, but eventually I stopped fighting and did what I knew I was called to do…and that was to go to Union.

Despite what I had planned, I knew Union was where God wanted me to be and I realized that following him was the most important thing.  I was able to experience a peace and a freedom I had never felt before. I realized what true friendship was in the purest form and I learned how to accept myself where I am while also allowing God to mold and change my heart. For the very first time in my life, I was no longer searching for “one day” because I fell in love with every single day. Was it a fairytale? No, it definitely wasn’t, but by going to Union and following the Lord, I experienced everything I never knew I wanted. That is why, above all else, I knew I must follow the Lord before my own plans or desires. The idea is summarized in the Bible verse God showed me the day I decided to go to Union:

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Proverbs 16:9

We make our own plans, but the Lord decides where we will go.

 

  1. Like Nike, “Just Do It.”

 

Getting good grades and maintaining a high GPA is important. I promise, it really is. But in the process, don’t forget that college is about the life experiences too. When I say that, I don’t mean waking up in the front lawn of a frat house with no recollection of how you ended up there. I mean quite the opposite actually. Do things that get your heart racing and make you feel alive. Allow yourself to be challenged and do things that scare you. Be stupid, go crazy, and stay up way too late. Eat pizza for breakfast and waffles at 3 a.m. because let’s be real…there is no bad time for either. Have a food fight in the dorm parking lot, pull all-nighters, put soap in the fountain, go to sports games, and play intramurals even if you only embarrass yourself. Wear face paint every single time it is socially acceptable, have sleepovers with your friends, go mattress surfing, and have a campout in the quad. Play hide and seek in the library, wear house shoes to class when necessary, and never pass-up a movie marathon. Prank the fraternity houses, go on road trips, have paint fights, and when there is just a torrential downpour outside, you absolutely must make a slip and slide. Break the rules and get yourself in trouble…but only a little bit of trouble. Get involved in something you love and genuinely invest in the lives of the people you meet. Soak in every single moment because it goes by way faster than anyone hopes it does. Most importantly, write it on your heart that every single day is the best day of the year. I promise it will change your life

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The day I moved into my dorm, I bought a small canvas with the quote, “Don’t get too busy making a living that you forget to make a life.” I read it every single morning and did (and still do) my best to make sure that was true for my life. After starting college, I realized pretty quickly that the beginning of college means the beginning of freedom, but also the beginning of becoming an adult and being responsible. After all, college is primarily here to help us create a better future for ourselves. That doesn’t mean simply being successful by the standards of society. Being wealthy and “put together” is all fine and good, but pointless without learning how to live genuinely and fully. Too many people are just forgetting the whole point and leading unfulfilling and boring lives for the sake of existing and never learn what it means to truly live. Don’t just live to survive; live to thrive.That’s why I always say “Just Do It.” College has taught me to seize every single opportunity I can because I don’t want to lead a boring life. I don’t want to spend four years and a ridiculous amount of money trying to achieve academic perfection to look back and realize that I wasted what could have been some of the best nights of my life on nights in my bed binge watching series on Netflix. I don’t want to grow up to simply pay taxes and die. I don’t want to be on my deathbed and regret not living fuller or bolder. Making a living is important and that’s why I’m in college getting a degree. But I am also in here to make a life. I am here to live without regrets. I am here to love and to serve. I am here to try to make any kind of lasting impact that the Lord may allow me to make. Over the course of the past year, I have seen too many bright students and gifted athletes get stuck in the same toxic cycle. They leave the nest to spend every weekend of their first year of college drunk on the floor of someone’s dorm room or passed out in an alley. That’s the definition of a fun night for so many college students. Don’t be one of those. Hold tight to the Lord and his word and allow him to fill you with a passion for life and adventure. Freshman year is a good one. Don’t waste it on nights you don’t remember or with people you wish you could forget. Chase after the Lord with fierceness, never lose your thirst for life, and don’t forget to soak it all in because it goes by way too fast.

 

All the love,
Margaret Anne Byrd MAblogpics

Sufficient Grace…

Hey Friends! I’m completely overjoyed to share with you that today’s post is from a guest writer, Legon Craighead. Legon has a Master’s in Social Work and works in Jackson, TN with a local nonprofit. Legon and I met while serving as summer missionaries in college and she has been one of my dearest friends for nearly 7 years now. Legon is such a faithful woman of God and I’ve been blessed to watch her faith in the Lord grow over the years. We share a love for hammocks, South America, snow cones, yard sales and as you’ll learn through her words today… we both have a huge heart for Maine. If you enjoy Legon’s story and want to follow her on twitter you can find her @legon_craighead. Be prepared for your feed to be filled with Duke Basketball! Without further ado, here is Legon’s story of the freedom she has found through God’s sufficient grace.


The heavy breathing would start, my palms started sweating, the desire to be nowhere near a vehicle threatened to keep me rooted in my place. And the tears. Always the silent kind that I didn’t want anyone to see. No one could see because that would make me weak.
Breathe, Legon. Just breathe.
Inhale, exhale.

Inhale, exhale.
“Your grace is sufficient … Your grace is sufficient … Your grace is sufficient …” Just keep repeating it. “Your grace is sufficient …”

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That sequence of events was a daily occurrence in my life for a year after June 16, 2010. That was the day that changed my entire life.
For those of you who don’t know my story, I’m going to start a little bit before that day so it all comes together …
I grew up in a family who loved Jesus. Believing that God was good came as easily as breathing for me – I never questioned it. I came to know Christ at 15 years old at FCA Leadership Camp and my life was forever changed. I knew that meant that my life was to be an example to those who were around me who were not following Christ and at times that was a lonely experience as a high school student. Yet, however lonely those years were, I trusted that God was faithful … and He was. He provided beyond my wildest dreams and allowed me to attend Union University starting in the fall of 2008. My freshman year at Union was fantastic. I loved my classes, made friends, and experienced my first mission trip to Boston, Massachusetts – an experience that I will never forget that ignited a passion in my heart for New England and for missions.
During the summer between my freshman and sophomore years at Union, I planned to do Tennessee Baptist Convention summer missions. After going to Boston, I thought that I wanted to do New England Travel Teams, but when I got into the interview process, the Lord made it clear that I was supposed to do Tennessee Travel Teams – and I could not be more grateful that He did. When I look at my life right now, nearly every relationship that is a part of my life is a result of that summer somehow. God used that summer to encourage my heart for missions and to surround me with a community of friends like I had never known before. It was an incredible summer.
My sophomore year was full of growing closer to the people who I met through my summer missions experience at the BCM at Jackson State. One of those people was Casey Williams (now Grooms). She had a heart for Maine and since I already loved Boston, we connected and through that connection I knew I wanted to go to Maine for the summer – and that’s where the Lord sent me. I was going to be a part of a New England Travel Team and I was super excited! As a travel team, our role was to travel around the states of Maine and New Hampshire working with churches and serving in whatever capacity they needed us to. That was perfect for a girl who loved Jesus, loved to travel and who loved New England!

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As May 30 approached, my excitement continued to build. My team seemed like it would be a great fit. I was serving with Leah, who I knew from the BCM, Justin, and Palmer. When we arrived in Boston for training, I grew even more confident that the Lord was going to do great things through my team that summer and in my own life personally. Throughout our first week of ministry then into our second, the Lord revealed Himself in new ways and stretched our comfort zones beyond what I thought was possible. After finishing up at Bike Week in Laconia, New Hampshire, our team was ready for a hot shower, a night of sleeping in a real bed, and a day of rest before heading to our next assignment.
That day was Wednesday, June 16, 2010.
On our way back “home” to our base church with our supervisor, Marilyn, we were in a car accident. The accident was very serious and unfortunately, Palmer did not survive. I can remember waking up on the couch in Leah’s hospital room the next morning just praying that I was dreaming because there was no way that this was happening … we were summer missionaries. We were doing what God had called us to. Why did this happen? What was I supposed to do now? How does one process something like this 2,000 miles away from family and friends?
I remember leaving the hospital that day with Joyce, an awesome lady from SouthCoast that was taking me to Marilyn’s house so I could shower and sleep. It was when I arrived at Marilyn’s house that I turned my phone on for the first time and I was completely overwhelmed. Text message after text message with voicemail after voicemail was delivered and I didn’t know what to do. I called my mom to assure her that I was physically okay – not that it helped a terrified mom 2,000 miles away from her child, but that was all I could do. I then called my friend Lauren and wept for what I’m pretty sure was the first time in my life. I am not sure that Lauren knew what she was getting into when she answered the phone, but I am so grateful that she did. She was one of my closest friends at Union and a clear mark of God’s unfolding plan. She listened to me cry then we hung up so I could take a shower. When I took of my sweatshirt (the same one that I was wearing during the accident), glass shards went everywhere and if the situation wasn’t real before, it certainly was then. There was no going back – my life was never going to be the same.
In the days that followed the accident, my Facebook wall was filled with prayers and love. My phone was constantly buzzing with people letting me know that they were praying for me. My response was always filled with the things I was supposed to say … “God is still good …” … “God has a plan …” … all true things, but it was a long time before I really fully believed those things. I felt guilty because Palmer had died and I didn’t. I was confused and honestly, I was angry. I couldn’t understand why it had to be our team. What was it about our team that caused this to happen?

 

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One night later in the summer, I had a conversation with a friend I’m sure I will never forget. Scott, who was one of Palmer’s best friends and was also serving in Maine, and I were having a conversation on the front porch of the Webb’s house. We were talking about the accident and where we were with it all. Scott said that he was reading the book of Job and mentioned the part of the story where Satan has to go to God to get permission to test Job. God gives him permission because He is confident that Job will continue to praise Him regardless of the circumstances surrounding him. Scott then asked me if I thought that was how it happened for our team. Did I think that God knew that we would continue to praise Him even when the worst happened so that’s why He chose this plan for us?
That conversation slowly changed my perspective. Did it make all of the pain go away? Definitely not. Did it mean that I didn’t have days that I was angry or deeply, deeply sad? Of course not. Scott and I’s conversation simply gave me a purpose in those feelings. Yes, I was angry. Yes, I was sad. Yet in the midst of all of those things, I chose to continue to praise my God because that is what He had called me to do. He was still the good God I had always believed in, I just knew Him in a deeper way. In the midst of grief, guilt, and heartache, He called me to share the story He had given me of His faithfulness, of His provision, and of His plan.
legonblogpics3When it was time to leave Maine 8 weeks later, I wasn’t ready. I didn’t want to be the girl on the team that had a wreck. I didn’t want the sympathetic looks or the questions that I felt would inevitably come. I wanted to stay in my safe place with my teammates who understood. But that wasn’t God’s plan. He had given me a story to tell and I needed to go home and tell it. It wasn’t easy, but that community He had given to me a year before was ready. They walked through the dark days of that first year – even when I was unwilling to let them in fully. They watched me cry, reminisce, and process – even when I made them do that from afar. As I slowly but surely took steps forward, they helped me find my new normal. It wasn’t easy, but I am so glad they were there to be a reminder that even on my worst, weakest days, God’s grace was sufficient.
That was my mantra – “Your grace is sufficient.” It still is – 6 years later. The scenario from the first paragraph still rears it’s ugly head on occasion, but I’ve learned to hold on to that verse and to LET HIM be sufficient in my weakness. In order to do that, I have to give Him control of the situation and rest in Him.
The last 6 years have brought so much truth to Romans 8:28, “For we know that He works all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.” God’s intricate plan truly blows me away. He knew I wasn’t ready for New England Travel Teams as a freshman so He placed me on a TN Travel Team so that I could grow in my faith and passion for missions while building life-long connections with a community that would support me through the good, bad, and ugly. He placed Casey in my life to encourage my heart and passion for Maine. He placed my team together specifically and strategically. He surrounded me with a new team to serve with that would love me right where I was. He made Marilyn my supervisor and I’ll be grateful for that for the rest of my life. He surrounded me with the right people at home in TN to ensure that I was honest and continued the healing process. He placed friends in my life for different seasons to love and encourage me. He uses my experience to make me more compassionate and understanding, and I am a better social worker because of that. His plan is evident and His grace is sufficient.
legonblogpics4When I look back on the past 6 years, I’m genuinely awed at how faithful and gracious God has been. I have been back to Maine 6 times since that summer and each time I go, I am reminded of His goodness and the lessons that He has taught me because of that summer. While I still have moments of fear and sadness, they don’t overpower me like they once did. My faith is deeper. I know that God is good in all circumstances – not just the good ones. I know that He is with me always and that His grace truly is sufficient in my weakness.
I’ve always had a hard time sharing this part of my story. I never want to seek out attention or cause other people to have to reflect on how this story impacted them. Yet, not sharing my story is selfish and not honoring the One who is writing it. God has shown me grace upon grace throughout the last 6 years and it’s time that I share that so He gets the glory.
I pray that you are encouraged that whatever your storm is right now, God’s grace is sufficient. Let Him be the Fighter of your battles, the Calmer of your storm, and the Grace that sustains you through it all.

Grace for a False Gospel…

Hey Friends! Today I’m going through Days 1 & 2 of the Freedom & Grace Devotional of the book of Galatians by Kristin Schmucker. So glad you’re back! If you’re enjoying this blog series or maybe just stopping by for the first time, I’d encourage you to head over HERE and grab a copy of this devotional to follow along! If you’re like me, you’ll find yourself wanting to purchase them all! No shame! I may or may not be using her pens, highlighters, journal and sticking them all in my “Be Still”pencil bag – also purchased on her site! 🙂

In the book of Galatians, Paul starts out the first chapter talking about the Gospel of Jesus. As I began going through this new study in Galatians with the title Freedom & Grace, it became very real to me that I should begin each chapter of my life reflecting on the Gospel of Jesus – each day as I wake, I should plan out my day in light of the Gospel of Jesus! I pray that I never overlook the fact that the Gospel is the exact place in which this grace derived. It’s only by His sacrifice that we have freedom.

If we continue to read through verse 7 of chapter 1 in Galatians, you’ll see that Paul is calling out folks that are not living in light of the grace they have received. Here you can see where these folks were growing more legalistic in their faith. This really hits home for me because I, myself, lived a very legalistic faith growing up. There’s a quote I have highlighted by Kristin from my devotional that reads, “We cannot abandon our liberty in Christ for a life of legalism. Grace and works cannot be mixed; salvation can only require one. It is all of the grace of God.”

You’ll see I highlighted a word in that quote: liberty. And if you read my last post, we covered that liberty is synonymous with freedom. “We cannot abandon our {freedom} in Christ for a life of legalism…” And we’ve also covered that the freedom we have in Christ relates to God’s sovereignty and how we are not in control, how we never walk alone and how we do not have to carry the weight of our sins because Jesus has carried them on our behalf all the way to the cross.

Legalism is just one example of not living our lives in the light of the freedom {liberty} we have in Christ. Like I mentioned earlier, I know all about legalism – I was the poster child for legalism. If there are stock images somewhere for the word legalism, you’ll probably find a picture of me from high school. I had a mental check list of things I could not partake in order to keep God’s favor {i.e. alcohol, drugs, sex…ya know, the biggies} and I judged oh so harshly those that chose that lifestyle yet also claimed Christ as savior.

I knew those worlds were separate and that their actions were sinful and not honoring to God but I had no clue that my legalistic faith was opposite of the Gospel of Christ. It was completely false. I had no idea of the freedom I could claim in Christ because of His death on the cross. All I knew is that I did not want to live my life one way while also proclaiming to be a Christian when that’s exactly what I was doing – I was proclaiming to be a Christian while harshly judging my classmates and holding myself in a higher regard when my sinful heart was no different than their actions that did not fit in my metal flow chart.

These folks are still alive and well today. They have a check list of do’s and don’t’s. They think that by doing x, y and z, they are earning God’s favor. Just like high school Casey, these folks tend to be super judgmental of those around them who live a lifestyle outside of religious check boxes. These folks may and may not know this but they likely carry a heavy burden on their shoulders for their sin and the check list makes them feel a little more in control. (<—Take it from the Type A Queen Bee, herself!)

To those folks, I’d say: “Grace wipes away your checklist – completely erases it! Graces brings freedom that transforms your list into a life lived to honor the Father and not the list. Your disdain for others that do not live like you is equally sinful. Paul refers to this as a false Gospel. Grace means that you do not have to carry the weight of your sins because Jesus already carried them on the cross. Be free!”

Friends, whether you are living your life by the check list or maybe you do not have any type of faith walk whatsoever – I’m here to tell you are not in so deep that God’s grace cannot go deeper still. Jesus came to break through the chains of sin that bind us up and keep us from pursuing the life of freedom that He died to freely give. My prayer is that you’ll hear the song of redemption that God is singing out to you and that you’ll dance in the freedom of His grace.

❤ C

@NashvilleBailey got her first haircut today! They said she did great! 🙂 #prouddogmom Shout out to Courtney at PetSmart at 100 Oaks for doing a great job and for loving on our girl so well!

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Dancing in Freedom!

“But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. Because if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man looking at his own face in a mirror. For he looks at himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but one who does good works – this person will be blessed in what he does.” James 1:22-25

I’ve heard this message countless times and honestly, I had kind of grown numb to it. When my husband and I would visit his home church back in his hometown, the pastor liked to finish each Sunday with the congregation reciting that popular verse, “But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”

Granted, I now have it memorized and did not need to follow along with my bible but that was it for me. I knew that God had written his word for me to respond and not just hear it. I knew that, as my mother would say, God hadn’t sent His word to simply go in one ear and out the other. However, it’s the next few verses that have given me a gut check this week. And the word that grabbed my attention – freedom. You’ll notice it stuck out in such a way that it has become the new title of my blog. (link to song that accompanied that inspiration below 🙂 )

The freedom that we have in Christ is available to us but how often do we live in light of that freedom? What does that look like to look intently into the perfect law of freedom and persevere in it? This passage in James has spoken to my heart as I’m approaching a new season – one of complete uncertainty. This is how I felt the Lord speaking to me as I journaled this week while digging into the first chapter of James:

You, Casey, can hear my word and even believe it’s true but if you do not take my word, recognize that there is freedom and power and redemption packed in my words and walk away different than when you first came to me – you are simply a hearer and not a doer. My word was not meant to simply be read, stamped on your wall or even to get likes on social media. Every word I’ve spoken to you in this book is meant to literally change your life. Let my word in. Let it change you. 

Ladies {and maybe Gents, too}, the freedom we have in Christ is this {and so much more!}: we are not in charge, we are not alone, we are forgiven. We can fall into the arms of Jesus and trust that He is at work and He is moving. We can be brave in this journey because we are not walking it alone. We can let go of the weight of our sin that is heavy on our shoulders because  Jesus has already carried it and we can walk free because of His grace.

I want to invite you to go on a journey with me as I seek to claim the freedom that is mine {and yours, too!} through God’s Grace. I’ve left info below if you’d like to follow along as I dive into a new study that is available for purchase online through Kristin Schmucker’s shop. I want to make myself available to you so feel free to follow me on social media and reach out to me. I find true joy in walking alongside my friends and praying with them through this journey we call life and I’d be completely humbled to walk this road with you too.

Until next time I pray that you will tune in to the redemption song that God has set in your heart and that you’ll dance in the freedom that He has given us through His grace.

❤ C

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Freedom and Grace Devotional for Galatians

The Heart in which I give…

Last week, I received some pretty disappointing news. Without going into much detail, I’ll share that my immediate response was that I wasn’t enough. I wasn’t prepared enough, I wasn’t educated enough, I wasn’t old enough, I wasn’t _______ enough < fill in the blank, I probably thought it. Thank you to those who loved me enough to give me a little space and not take it personally when I wasn’t quite ready for their encouragement.

Since that day, I’m grateful to the Lord for giving me peace in seeing the bigger picture of how He is working not only in my life but in others’ lives as well. My disappointment could have been someone else’s saving grace, answered prayer and possible even their Hail Mary! God’s hand is always at work in weaving together the lyrics to all of our own Redemption Songs and I’m grateful for the way my heart has been drawn to the feet of Jesus knowing that it’s in his strength that I stand.

I write all this as I’m reading through the She Reads Truth Advent Study. I’ll be completely honest in saying that I’m terribly behind on my daily readings  and I keep going back and rereading them as I’m catching up to get my heart back aligned with God’s teaching through this study. Today I was going through the story of Cain and Abel. I’ve read this story time and time again over the years but today it hit me like a ton of bricks, so differently when i read it a couple of weeks ago. My first thought when reading it was how Cain sinned, God cursed him (aka, there are always consequences for our actions) but then Cain called out and asked for mercy and mercy was granted. Cain was completely undeserving of mercy but it was granted and we see God’s grace shown again. Such a parallel with how God’s grace is poured out on us though we are certainly undeserving.

But then I was reading the devotional that goes along with the passage. Before reading this, again, I immediately questioned, “why was Cain’s sacrifice not good enough? Was it that Abel sacrificed the firstborn of his flock?” I was searching for the symbolism but I was coming up short. But then the writer of this devotional spelled it out and I was in awe. “God is pleased with Abel but not with Cain, not because Abel’s gift was better, but because Cain’s heart was not pure.” And there it is.

It became clear to me that moving forward in this process of obedience to God is not at all about what I prepare to offer God but the heart in which I present my gifts. May my heart be stirred with thanksgiving, praise and honor to the Lord.

We are in the season of giving. We’re giving gifts to friends and family and we’re giving to our churches and other organizations and while those are wonderful ways to serve the Lord, I want to tell you that God cares so much more about your heart for Him than the gifts you’re giving. I see people who feel they are not good enough, they feel they’ve done too much wrong. There will be countless people burdened by their sin and the consequences of that sin but I’m here to tell you that there was mercy for Cain and there is mercy for you. God is not at all concerned about the perfect life you can offer but instead wants your heart and your devotion to Him.

-C