Weathering the Storm

Floridians, you know the drill. A tropical depression turns into a tropical storm and it’s a buzz of conversation. Then it turns into a hurricane and it’s a constant rain of questions; what category it is, what track it’s on, how fast the winds are, what stores are out of water, and who’s still selling gas?

Then, we wait.

One of the most difficult parts about hurricane season is the not knowing. The waiting, questioning, and anticipation for something that we really don’t know anything about. It could slow down, speed up, turn away, turn toward us, or break up over the ocean and never really “hit”. These storms are out of our control and can’t be accurately predicted. Every warning is an abundance of caution because these storms have the potential to swell up or change direction so quickly.

The emotions and changes of life often feel like hurricane season. We end up rushing to prepare last minute, we stress and prepare for things that never happen, or we think our survival depends on us and how well we prepared, when it doesn’t.

Other times it’s more devastating or comes more quickly than we expect, all of our preparations can’t prevent challenges and trials, and even in a season of rebuilding or heartbreak, we aren’t in control.

Before learning that hurricane Dorian is approaching, we also learned we have to move and dove into the buying/renting market a little sooner than expected and finding a place has felt like hurricane prep. Despite knowing this would one day happen, we didn’t think it would be so fast or feel so pressing and it’s still subject to change any moment. We can look for places, research, compare and stress till our minds are simply exhausted, but we really aren’t in control of when this move will happen or where we’ll go. Anxiety feels so real, but it really doesn’t help. God has a plan and He ultimately provides.

Though we want to be good stewards the same way we stock up on water and gas and put up our shutters for a storm we can’t see, our attitude in the challenges of life and waiting for a hurricane should reflect the state of our heart, and that should be of complete trust in God.

Weathering the storm is often silent and uneventful; it’s waiting for an ever changing event with no timeline, one of the most prominent times to be a walking testimony of how we trust the Lord. So as you settle down and wait, remember who holds your heart and your home. Let the attitude of your heart speak of an abundance of trust in the Lord who cares for you, who settles storms, and provides for all trials.

Praying you have water, gas, and comfort food, but even more so that you’re using this hurricane season to press into the Lord.
Trust Him & be safe my friends.

8.30.2019

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Young Love // Building Our Life Together

“Two are better than one, Because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.”

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10a NKJV

The park in these photos is the same one we had our engagement photos taken at. It struck me during this photo shoot, about a year and a half since our engagement shoot, how much life has changed; how much closer we’ve become, & particularly how getting married at a young age has strengthened our foundation for the future.

There’s a lot we don’t know about how the world works because we’re so young, but we’re learning to navigate the challenges it throws our way while supporting (and thankfully being supported by) another soul. 

A personal example for us is buying a home.  Neither of us have done this before and we’re in the process of researching where to even begin.  We’re learning together what it looks like to qualify for a mortgage, budget for household utilities & insurance, and how to be prepared for things like the kitchen pipes bursting or a/c leaking.  Our ideas of a “dream home” are different too. Michael’s two story super-house and my sky lit open-floor-plan-kitchen farmhouse don’t mesh well. So if you opened Zillow on both of our phones, you’d see lots of different results and favorited homes.  But if you look on the laptop where we search ‘together’ you’d get a pretty literal picture of what compromise looks like. Because more than any picturesque dream home, we both want to share a home that’s ours.

Every decision, every word, every day affects another soul rather than just our own.  Sometimes this responsibility is like navigating rapids, but it’s made us better as two than we ever were as one. Rather than adding another piece to our previous lives, we’re building a new life together.  We’re creating our own traditions, experiencing things for the first time together, and facing challenges together.

I recently heard Jeremy Roloff say, (though he might have been quoting someone else) 

“Marriage wasn’t designed to make you happy, it was designed to make you holy.”

Happiness is a beautiful by-product of marriage, but the intent is actually to make us more like our Lord.  We cannot intentionally change or “fix” each other to fit our expectations or routines. Our relationship & pursuit of the Lord together makes us more humble,honest,& holy from the inside out every day. It makes us US, & it makes us more like Jesus.

My role as a wife is to labor alongside my husband, to know what his dreams are, to encourage Him to look to the Lord, and to pray for him.  It’s my privilege to lift him up when he falls to reach for his hand when I fall, and to build our life, not just my own. Getting married young means building habits together that a couple who gets married later on may have already formed and have to re-build as one.  We are discovering how the world works together, and figuring out what “us” looks like along the way.

We aren’t the youngest couple to ever get married, and we definitely aren’t experts. We do have first-hand experience with the challenges and joys of getting married young and love to share with others and answer questions! So that’s the format I’m taking with the rest of this post; answering your questions!

Q: How do you communicate when you’re both mad/upset at each other?

Our initial response to this question was a giggly “we don’t.” Or at least, we didn’t at first. We are both the type to shut down and bottle feelings into a sassy silent treatment. But after a few vice versa instances where we got a taste of our medicine, I think we got too desperate to know what the other was thinking and started to break this mold by asking questions and building the habit of listening until the other was completely finished sharing. (still working on that).

We both still need a little time to let off steam, but we’re learning that it’s not worth the time we lose enjoying each other to hold onto our anger. Breaking the silence usually starts with one of us coming to sit in the same room as the other and asking, “What are you feeling right now?” and working out what the root of the problem is that needs to be apologized for and addressed going forward.

We recently added a tool to our marriage arsenal called The Marriage Journal(not an affiliate link <— I simply love & want to share this resource) it has a set of questions we ask each other weekly. Knowing this time is set aside to build our communication skills and our understanding of the other person’s feelings & desires has helped us not to sweat the small stuff and have uninterrupted time to discuss the big stuff. Now this doesn’t mean we hold onto all our hurts & issues for the week, but it has helped us create a space to work through them.

Q: What to do in a time of waiting for the person you’ll marry?

I think it’s been said many times, but be content in the Lord.  He is going to provide the person, the job, the clarity and whatever else you feel like you’re waiting for, but He’s already provided Himself. If you’re not content with Him while you’re single, you won’t be content with Him in marriage.  Ultimately, you’ll never find contentment apart from Him. Take advantage of this time to build your relationship with Him! Get to know Him, learn to recognize His voice, and let Him teach you who He designed you to be. Also, let Him build your character; become the person you’re looking for, is looking for.

Study scripture, practice forgiveness, & build friendships that will support & challenge you. Pray for the person you’ll marry, before you know them, and not just for what you want them to be, but for whatever they’re learning or experiencing. Pray that they feel God’s love, that they’re content in Him, that they have strength for whatever trials they could be facing, etc. Pray for them as a person, not just to be your person.

Q: How to decide that you’re in the appropriate season of life to get married?

I love how this question was phrased because there really is no ‘right’ or ‘perfect’ time to get married!  God has a unique relationship designed for each couple so the appropriate season can look different for everyone

First off, prayer. If you know your Heavenly Father’s voice, you’ll know if He’s asking you to be still or move forward.  

Secondly, assuming you’re dating and deciding to get engaged, conversation.  A relationship headed toward marriage requires transparency. If you’re sharing honestly your past, dreams, and praying together you’ll know what conversations still need to be had or growth still needs to happen.  I don’t think there are any particular prerequisites for marriage like finishing college or traveling to x amount of countries, or having x amount of savings in the bank. Many of those things are ways to build your life together, but they can also be a measurement of your maturity. If you have some goals, set them, pursue them, and knock those out first!

I pray this testimony encourages you & brings you clarity.  Feel free to comment or e-mail your questions for future posts you’d like to read!

7.31.2019

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God Is My Refuge

“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!”

Psalm 34:8 (ESV)

I’ve always found such comfort in God being my refuge to run to during times of uncertainty. In every trial, He is there. In every storm, He is there. After each of my failures, He is there with arms wide open. Lately I’ve been dwelling on this verse and the fact that God has always been and will always be there, that His past faithfulness demands my present trust, that He’ll always come in and surprise me with His goodness if I lean on His strength rather than attempt to live on my own.

Then the foundation of this verse struck me. How can I be so blessed by this unconditionally loving Father, if there is nothing to take refuge from?

I reached a point where I was tired of the trials. Tired of having to forgive, tired of asking forgiveness for the same thing again & again, tired of collapsing at Jesus’ feet and feeling like the trials would never stop.

God would be an absolutely useless refuge if we had no trials, no fears, no challenges to take refuge from. I believe He ordains these things in our lives to draw us even closer to Him, to show us how desperately we need Him.

Now when the trials come, it’s not the same sinking feeling of having to run to Jesus and be protected, it’s an opportunity to run to Him, glorify Him, and be blessed by Him. Don’t get me wrong, trials are still difficult. But when you see purpose in them, they take a much smaller toll.

What are some trials you’re facing right now? Let yourself vent to Jesus, run to Him and be blessed within the refuge. How is this trial an opportunity for you to glorify Him and grow in the process? Thank Him for this trial and for the time it allowed you to have a deeper level of intimacy with Him.

6.30.2019

Bloom Where You Are Planted // Taking Root

“Bloom where you are planted.”

I’ve always struggled with this phrase.  As much as I like analogies and the image of us humans like delicate flowers or flourishing trees that sprout, grow, bloom or bear fruit, I didn’t want to picture myself stuck in one garden forever; living a life with one gift, working in one ministry, restricted to one career. It seemed too “new age” for me to justify with reality, too much like a fence and I hated feeling trapped by it.

But now God has shown me a correlation with His Word & made this over-instagram-captioned phrase a sequel to “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).  

He has been reminding me of the word “season” in my life and for a long while I wasn’t sure why.  It seems to be such a common word in Christian communities, but now I think He’s revealing the type of season He wants me in and how much more depth this analogy carries.

Each plant goes through seasons, but the identity of the plant remains the same. A sunflower is always a sunflower, a lily is always a lily, a gardenia is always a gardenia no matter where it’s planted, and each bloom will be unique according to its design. Different plants also require different saturation to see growth.

But the most important thing I’m learning about blooming where I’m planted is the first step; taking root.  Taking root is the challenging part to an adventurous heart.  It makes it more difficult to wander, but once rooted, it makes it easier to abide in Jesus (John 15), and to connect yourself with the community you are planted in, your root system intertwined with that of other believers.

If I don’t take root, I won’t grow in this garden, and if I don’t go through an entire season of growing in this garden, I won’t be strong enough to move to the next one when that time comes.  Community & accountability are essential to growth.

“Bind my wandering heart to thee”

Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing – Robert Robinson

For those who (like me) feel lost in all the different branches of this metaphor (pun absolutely intended), I decided to study some literal plants to help clarify. Here are some of their characteristics that helped me understand my own growing process.

In different seasons, plants direct their resources where it’s most necessary.  Depending on the time of year, they’re either directing all their energy to deepening their roots or using their roots to create the stunning blooms we get to appreciate in the spring.

It’s also critical that plants are moved only during a certain break between these seasons.  Moving a plant involves breaking some of the roots. Once it is moved, it has to take hold of the new soil all over again. The deeper its roots go the better the plant is going to bloom, but the more it will hurt to be moved if it is moved out of season.

“Plants in flower or about to flower hate being moved. It’s a big no-no in their world. All their resources are going in to producing a flower so they can create seed, not new roots.”

Alys Fowler

“Moving a plant means breaking roots – usually the fine root hairs that do the job of exploring the soil to find moisture.”

Alys Fowler

I think I’ve been disappointed that I’m not blooming, that I’m awaiting my next spiritual spring and I’ve been looking to other gardens longing for that to come.  God is teaching me to be content in this season, with a hope & joy for the future that doesn’t distract from enjoying where He has me now.

With this reminder, throwing yet another pile of my cares on the Lord, I kept digging….

Not only has God designed plants to be stationary as they take root and grow, but He’s designed them to REST in order to grow!  Plants don’t ‘sleep’, but they do require the atmosphere of dark in order to perform work within their roots.

“When your plants aren’t performing efficiently due to the lack of true night hours, no equipment in the world can cure what ails them. So, make sure they have the required break from light and the right amount of hours for each stage of growth.”

Tammy Clayton – Garden Culture Magazine

“Be still” doesn’t mean, ‘do nothing.’  To be still requires work underneath the surface that often requires the dark, silence, & stillness of the night.  This is why the second half of this verse is so important, “know that I am God.”  Our part of the work is to know God is in control and sovereign over our circumstances.  We grow in the season He’s placed us in when we grow in Him; in love for Him, trust in Him, & joy in Him.

In this season, God is doing more to grow me then I could ever dream to do for myself hopping around from one garden to another. He’s plowing, turning over the layers of soil in my heart, removing weeds, bringing fresh nutrients, and burying me so deep in His love & His presence that I can grow where He has me now and bloom where I’ve been planted.

Now I know, even when I do move from one garden to another, one season to another, I have to be still by continuously trusting Him, seeking Him & filling myself with His Word.  HE is my gardener, HIS hands will move me.  He’s teaching me that we will change gardens when the time is right, not while he has us rooted for growth, and if we’ve just moved, we have to take the time to grow new roots.  Be still. 

“Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad;
Let the sea roar, and all its fullness;
Let the field be joyful, and all that is in it.
Then all the trees of the woods will rejoice before the Lord.
For He is coming, for He is coming to judge the earth.
He shall judge the world with righteousness,
And the peoples with His truth.”

Psalm 96:11-12 NKJV

I’d like to encourage you reading this, if you’re feeling unstable, unrooted, or not in the garden of your choice; spend time in prayer. God will make it clear whether or not you’re in His will. If He keeps you where you’re at, take root; plug into your church, sign up for that class, grow your community, start a Bible study, join a Bible study, set up an accountability relationship, or whatever step God is asking you to take in order to plant yourself deeper into Him. Read scripture, journal your thoughts, write songs of worship, record the songs you’ve written, & be still by knowing that HE is GOD.

5.30.2019

One Year Later // Hand-in-Hand

It’s still sinking in that in April we passed the first year mark of our marriage! In some ways it feels as though the year flew by like the wind on these south Florida spring days. In other moments, it feels like together is so precisely how we were supposed to be that it’s difficult to believe we haven’t been in this rhythm of life even longer. It’s hard to remember a life without ‘us’.

Marriage is challenging. It has brought me face to face with my sin & reminded me that I married a sinner Every. Single. Day. But it’s also been such a blessing! It brings a new depth of joy to life & reminds me of how unconditionally my Heavenly Father loves me, despite my sin,
Every! Single! Day!

This year we have learned a LOT.

We experienced a lot of the typical newly-wed trials; navigating making two lives one, communication, skewed & unmet expectations, communication, budgeting together, & did I mention navigating communication?

But we also faced some unexpected challenges, from a job change, to a totaled car & an ER visit, to other medical challenges; we faced a lot of things that were external of our relationship, but required us to be united.

One of the strongest lessons I took away from our first year was to always face challenges hand-in-hand. If we are truly one as man & wife, this is where it gets practical; we have to act in unity.

This reminded me of one of my favorite sermons on marriage I head about four years ago. Pastor Fidel Gomez of Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale taught, though he may have been quoting someone else,

“You don’t have to see eye-to-eye to walk hand-in-hand.”

This applies to most of our relationships in life, but I’ve found it to be critical to the intimacy & unity of marriage. No matter what we face, the trials of life or the challenges of making our two lives one; we can disagree, we can have different expectations, & we can have differing opinions, but we have to hold hands as we step.

For me as the wife, this can occasionally lead to the practice of submitting; trusting that my husband is seeking God & allowing him to lead & make a decision I may not entirely agree with. This doesn’t mean I walk behind Him when we disagree on something. It means that we still move forward, because I trust him enough to do so hand-in-hand.

Today I discovered a beautiful parallel in my devotional reading

“We are married to God… just as a wife will often take her husband’s name, God gives us the name of Jesus, which is ‘the name which is above every name’. (Phil. 2:9)”

“the only way to enjoy the privileges that come with Jesus’ name is to move beyond a casual relationship and become fully committed.”

James | Biblical Commentary – Joyce Meyer

Just as we brides take the name of our husband when we marry, as Christians we take on the name of Christ when we commit our hearts to Him, just as we vow our lives to our husbands on our wedding day. What a beautiful reminder of our identity change, not just in marriage, but in Christ as our Savior. Both examples of unity come with joyful privileges.

A lot of great things happened to us this year too! We traveled quite a bit, welcomed another niece (who is also our God-daughter!) into the world, bought a new-to-us car, adopted a kitten, & laughed more together than I ever remember laughing when we were apart.

It’s been a blessing of a year, & we’re ecstatic to be tackling year two, hand-in-hand!

4.30.2019

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Koinōnia

For the past four & a half years I’ve been a part of a Bible study that for most of it’s life span was just ‘Sunday’s Bible Study’ but was eventually titled, Koinonia. We started as just 8 friends, all wanting to pursue the Lord & learn together. We met weekly, studied scripture together, worshipped together, prayed together, served together, traveled together, learned together, failed together, & grew together. Koinonia’s numbers grew over the years, people came & went in seasons, but the intent always stayed the same.

In March we held the last of Koinonia’s weekly meetings. I won’t say Koinonia ended, because it’s so much more than the name of one particular meeting.

We chose the name Koinōnia because it’s the Greek word used in Acts 2 that describes the function & growth of the early church as “fellowship” which is precisely what we were doing. But Koinōnia has an even deeper meaning than simply a group of people socializing or sharing meals together. It is a bond for a united purpose which in the context of scripture, is to pursue godliness, bring glory to God, and fulfill the command of the Great Commission (Matthew 28).  Koinōnia describes an intimate fellowship that shows joint participation, community, and partnership and describes the intimate fellowship that Christians experience with God through His Son Jesus Christ and through the Holy Spirit.

Koinōnia is intentional. It is bearing one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2),  studying the Bible together, opening-up about our lives and allowing others to speak into them, and praying over each other. Koinonia requires a teachable spirit, it requires hearts that are honest, humble, and hopeful, or at least, willing to become honest, humble, & hopeful.

The goal of Koinōnia is to do ministry together.  To engage, serve, and grow as one body in Christ.  That is our common purpose.  We seek to lift each other up close to Christ, to honor one another, to live in harmony have compassion for one another (Ephesians 4:32), encourage one another, spur one another on toward good deeds (Hebrews 10:24-25), to confess when we have sinned and forgive those who sin against us (Matthew 6:12-15, Matthew 18:22).

As seasons changed, we discovered that we didn’t need to meet weekly in our familiar group for this to happen. In fact, we found it might happen more if we started to spread out in our various churches, communities, & workplaces.

I’ve been struggling to get all the feelings, memories, & lessons that could go into this post into comprehensible words because Koinonia has been a second home for me. It was born at a time I was just beginning to plug into a new church, it’s where I ran in many difficult moments, & it’s where I felt comfort on nights I didn’t even know I needed it. It’s where I faced conviction & found deep joy because it’s where I spent time in the entire body of Christ. Not only was I meeting with my Heavenly Father as I do all throughout the week, I was meeting with the rest of His children in the most vulnerable, encouraging, & nurturing environment.

Koinonia is where I met my husband! It’s where we became friends, nurtured our relationship, where we served together, & where lots of our accountability & encouragement was found.

It wasn’t always comfortable. Whether it was the heat of the garage we met in one summer, or the heat of conviction & tough love spoken in truth. We often grew out of struggle. We resolved conflict together because we had conflict with one another.

Not having the consistency of Koinonia’s weekly meetings feels like a foundational element in my life is suddenly missing. But I’m learning now that it’s not missing, just going to transpire differently.

Looking back at my Koinonia journals doodled in & filled with notes from the years of studies, testimonies, travels, & events, I started to reflect on what God has taught me. So many of my notes are in shapes or drawings or large fonts that help me to remember the context of the lesson & how it applied to me. I realized through all the scriptures & topics covered, of all the little lessons & practices I learned, God had woven one throughout them all during the years. The notes I remember best are the ones not restrained by lines just as God’s love for us knows no restraint. God has given us so many creative ways to live out Koinonia, so many ways to love Him, & so many ways to know His love for us. God taught me to love Him more deeply and to love His people more effectively; to love outside the lines

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
1 John 4:7-11

So as I move forward without the consistent meeting time to depend on, Koinonia & the friendships it fostered continue onward as well. Koinonia is not a Sunday night meeting, though I will miss that part of it deeply for the rest of my days. Koinonia is the body of Christ constantly letting Him shine outwardly through us and seeking to share the Gospel in our community.

If you ever even once attended Koinonia, served on the worship team, taught a lesson, shared your testimony, ran sounds or slides, came as a guest speaker, allowed us to meet in your home or garage or building, or prayed for us; if you ever missed me on a Sunday night because I already had plans, but supported me going anyway; thank you. Koinonia has helped make me who I am today, and so have you.

3.31.2019

Learning to Pray like Jesus

Over the years I’ve gone through many seasons with prayer. Some were strong & constant while others were convicting & quiet.

Prayer is not just a suggested habit or “pro-tip” for peaceful living, it’s a command from God for us as His children to communicate with Him & intercede for others. It’s a required discipline that feels natural at some times and is a struggle at others, but must always be done.

Lately I’ve been working on making a better curated habit of prayer while not curating the prayers themselves. Prayer is messy. Prayer is not a poem or a song or a perfectly crafted soliloquy. Prayer is a conversation. It needs to be candid, open, honest, transparent, confident, and speak of your true fears. It needs to be real.

Sometimes it’s a whisper, sometimes it’s written on paper, sometimes it’s begging and tears and sometimes it’s screaming in tears. For prayer to receive any answer and actually prove productive in our lives it needs to be genuine & trusting.

The more it is crafted, simplified, smoothed, and polished, the less it is truly prayer. If it’s watered down it’s not a real conversation, it’s just stating how you feel or what you want and not leaving room for debate, for response, for a change of mind, perspective, or growth. For prayer to be true it has to be raw. For prayer to be productive it might be messy. Leave silence for God to respond.

God hears your prayers. Whether crafted, forced, natural, scattered, or outlined. Most importantly, God knows your heart. I find I need to grow in prayer, but I feel so swept up in grace when I remember that God is watching & listening to me while I grow. He doesn’t wait for us to be at any perfect level or conversation style, He always listens.

Often times we just fail to listen to Him. Make time within your prayers to listen. This communication is not just something we do obediently, it’s something we do to replicate the character of Jesus; to constantly become more like Him. We’re made in His image & have the perfect example of how to live our prayer lives in the example of Jesus; He is CONSTANTLY showing us how to pray!

He prayed for His father to be glorified in His work. John 17:1-5

He prayed for His Disciples & that they would have joy. John 17:6-19

He prayed for all believers to truly know the Father & be in eternity with Him. John 17:20-26.

Jesus was still & knew His Father was God. He prayed in solitude. Luke 5:16, Matthew 14:23, Mark 1:35

Jesus prayed for the Father’s will, accepting that the answer wouldn’t always be what He expected or desired. Matthew 26:36-42

He taught us to pray. Luke 11:1-4

Jesus prayed openly, honestly, in trust, & with great faith; and I want to pray like that, like my Jesus.

2.28.2019

If you need prayer comment below or e-mail me, I’d love to pray for you!