Dear White Christian

Dear white Christian,

I am you.

I am overwhelmingly and uncomfortably aware right now that racism is still alive and well in our country.

Yet I have not always been this way.

If you haven’t perused this blog, you may not know that I have been married to a black man for a little over a year now. I am ashamed to say that my relationship with my husband is the first real, deep, interpersonal relationship I ever had with a person of color. I always pushed that fact aside, saying that it was because of where I was raised.

Yet no part of me ever sought to get to know anyone who was not like me. I sat where I was comfortable. I avoided uncomfortable conversations. I kept my mouth shut.

I said things like, “If I were around during slavery, I would have never stood for that.”

And “I just don’t understand racism.”

And the beloved, “I don’t see color.”

Yet by the same breath, I would easily say something like, “You speak so well and articulately,” and (I am so very ashamed to type this) “You’re like an oreo: black on the outside but white on the inside.”

As if whiteness is something to be desired—the goal—and blackness is just the barrier standing in the way of true goodness.

I believed that our country had truly come strides and that we were pretty good.

Then I met Austin (and all my other awesome friends of color from speech. Thank you.)

I began to hear words and phrases like, “institutional racism” and learned that “colorblindness” was not, in fact, a good thing. I listened to all my people explain how they had to do so much more to be trusted. My husband, boyfriend at the time, explained that he spends the majority of his time smiling just so he doesn’t come across like “that guy on the news.” He revealed how tired he was.

Unfortunately, like most of us are, I was questioning at first. All my mind saw during Black Lives Matter rally’s was the little bit of violence that was happening. I didn’t stop and ask myself why it was that they felt that was the option. I didn’t look into the eyes of the mothers of black children that sat in the background. I didn’t heed to the exhaustion my friends of color expressed.

White Christian, I am begging you to catch on more quickly than I did. I am begging you to look at what just happened and recognize that this is not a random act of hatred. It was methodically planned. The ideas that these people hold were approved by our leadership.

Take this for example: When the governor of Virginia was addressing the rioters, he told them that they were not real patriots. That the real patriots were George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. He completely neglected the fact that these men owned black people as property. They are the ones we are so quickly to worship and also the ones who instigated the kind of violent ideas these people build their ideologies upon.

It is those kind of statements—the kind of statements that we make subconsciously—that make people of color feel unsafe in the home that people who look like us dragged them to.

I could go on for years. But I will ask that, instead, you take these steps toward being the kind ally that I believe Christ calls us to be. It all comes down to one action.

Respond.

Respond in prayer and repentance.

First and foremost, let’s ask God that He would show us our own evil hearts. Sisters and brothers, we will never walk a day in black skin. We will not know the fear when sirens sound. We will never know what it is like to have to question the choice of wearing a sweatshirt over a sweater vest. We will never know what it is like to listen to the stories of our parents and grandparents being hosed down in the streets or hung from trees because of the skin they were born in.

A few weeks ago, I attended the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. As I walked through the section detailing the horrors of segregation and Jim Crow, the man in front of me said, “Yes! This is exactly what my school looked like. I remember this well.” The man was in his 60s at the latest.

Friends, this is not buried deep in history. We have sisters and brothers who have lived and are still living in hatred that you and I will never experience. That’s what the Lord revealed to me in that moment. Tears. Instantly. This reality should produce nothing less that just that!

Christian, ask Jesus to show you your prejudices. You have them. I have them still. Ask Jesus to remind you of the injustice that He experienced. Ask Him to reveal to you the unique hatred that this land of the free freely poured out onto the backs of innocent black lives.

Then repent.

Turn! Write those prejudices down that you might remember their lies. Satan wants nothing more than for us to be divided, and he will do everything in his power to pull you away from the conviction that our Father will bring about.

Respond on your platforms.

Here is food for thought: if you posted something about how “unpatriotic” Collin Kapernick was when he refused to sing the National Anthem, why aren’t you posting about the horrendous nature of this—the exact thing he was fighting against!

Brothers and sisters, we should be horrified to admit that this is surprising on social media. It is what Black Lives Matter has been warning us about as we have been calling them a terrorist organization! When I say respond on social media, this is what I mean:

Do what I did in the paragraphs above. Admit where you have been prejudice. Let others know that you are not beyond reproach. Turn the blame off of the protestors and remember the fact that, if we are in Christ, we believe that we hold the same amount of sin they do. Let’s turn our focus to what we can do. What we have been doing wrong. How we have been slowly (and for some unknowingly) perpetuating this kind of thought.

Respond in your conversations.

Look for opportunities to talk about how God feels about racial injustice. Remember that when John looked into heaven, he SAW people from every tribe, tongue, and nation—meaning they looked different! Color is not the problem, friends. It is beautiful. Our skin tones are exactly what God has given us. They are unique and strong and give us platform for His glory.

Let’s talk about some ways to respond to some specific phrases you might hear.

“The only race is the human race.” Or “I don’t see color.”

You could say, “I know that you mean that we are all one in Christ, but by saying that, we are neglecting the unique, horrible, recent hardships that most of our friends of color have had to experience. Yes, we should absolutely treat all people with respect no matter their skin color. That point you make is correct! But part of treating someone with respect is understanding and recognizing the struggles they face because of their skin color.”

“Black Lives Matter just needs to get over it.”

You could say, “What makes you say that? Would you look at someone who has faced any other hardship and say that? What if a widow who had lost her husband years ago grieved him actively right now? You would aid her. You would come to her side and love on her. You would listen to her.”

“They have just as much of an opportunity to be successful as anyone else.”

You should say, “Now that is not true. I am not saying that white people haven’t had to struggle for success, but I am saying that our great grandparents weren’t considered 3/5’s human. That is recent! The African American community is just now seeing a generation that actively seeks out school. There has been a lot of catching up to do that people who look like us haven’t had to deal with.”

“I am just so shocked that white supremacists still exist.”

Please ask, “Why? There have been lynching’s this year. Our black brothers and sisters are crying out in pain all around us, and our first inclination is to push aside their frustrations (see above statements). We didn’t listen when people of color were heart broken when Trump won the Presidency. They saw this coming. They warned us over and over and over! We should all be pushing our jaws back up and looking at the warning signs we have been ignoring by people made in the image of God.”

Respond in your listening

Finally, brothers and sisters, let us listen.

If you have a friend of color, buy them a cup of coffee and ask them to educate you. Refrain from the words, “yeah, but…”.

Look up Christian authors and pastors who are excited about racial reconciliation. Log onto the website, The Front Porch, and just read and read and read.

You might be skeptical, but I ask that you please, please set that aside and open your ears. We preach over and over that “there is neither Jew nor Greek,” and believe that by saying that we are pulling races together. Sisters and brothers, we are pushing aside the concerns of our sisters and brothers! We are saying, “the only perspective that matters is mine, and you should just conform.”

I am not saying that any one person is always right, but why do we have such a hard time with giving someone the courtesy to share their heart?

This weekend opened my eyes.

It opened my eyes to the fact that yes, most of us can agree that this extreme kind of racism should not be tolerated. But what about the subtle racism? What about when someone says to my husband, “I don’t usually like black people, but I like you.” Yes, that has been said to him. What if it is just something as simple as the things I said before I was educated? Those phrases, those words are hurtful, and when we use the, we misrepresent our Jesus.

We don’t want people made in the image of God. We want them made in the image of us.

How to Road Trip from Nashville to LA (Or Just Across the Country in General)

At the beginning of the summer, my husband approached me about a little vacation he wanted to take–and I am ALL about vacation. However, this one freaked me out a little bit. He wanted to travel across the country and visit his siblings in Los Angeles. LOS ANGELES. It’s a whopping 1,800 miles away, plane tickets are SO expensive, we would have had to rent a car (and neither of us is 25 yet), and we just got a puppy.

Needless to say, I nixed the idea.

Almost immediately, I felt conviction. I know what you’re thinking. “Conviction? That seems a little extreme.”

But it was straight up, no question conviction. You see, we had the means and we had the time. The only problem was that I wasn’t comfortable with spending that kind of money. On anything. One day, while Austin was at work, the Lord almost audibly reminded me that this was about something bigger and better than what we would spend. It was about giving my man the chance to see his family. It was about spending time with Him day after day without home’s distractions.

It was also about being good stewards of our money.

So without hesitation, I texted my siblings-in-law and asked for their help. How could we make this happen without breaking the bank? After weeks of research and a little bit of guessing, I had a game plan and we were jumping in the car–yes, we decided to road trip 1,800 miles. Here’s what I learned so you can do the same.

Break your travel up. A lot.

The trick to a road trip is not becoming exhausted by spending too much time in the car. You’re gonna get car-crazy. I may have made that up, but trust me, it’s a thing. When I plugged our destination into maps, it gave me two routes. To keep the drives from becoming boring, we decided to go the long way on our way to LA and the shorter way on the way home.

Our first journey was broken up into four days: Dallas, El Paso, Phoenix, and finally LA!

20031630_10209598111126514_8561381891233274563_nOur second was suppose to be broken up into three days: Williams (Grand Canyon), Oklahoma City, then home! (That actually didn’t happen. We booked it home after the Grand Canyon).

Our first trip was AMAZING. We took our dog with us, so we explored the dog parks of each city, discovered the hidden secret that is El Paso–and now my favorite city in the US–and got to eat different types of Mexican food all over the country. Our longest day was ten hours, and our shortest was six.

Our second trip was much harder. Clearly, we were tired from all our excursions, and we were ready to get back to our own bed. The 20-hour ride from Williams to Nashville was right for us, but I definitely wouldn’t recommend it if you are the least bit uncertain.

Choose cheap hotels.

Okay so if you are staying in Hiltons all the way to across the country, you probably aren’t gonna save a ton of money. We went the under $70 route. Also, (again) we had our dog, so we had to take that into consideration. Our favorite chain we stayed in was the Quality Inn. It was super clean and perfect for our pup!

Don’t think about it too much.

If you have made it this far, you’re thinking one of two things: they’re crazy or sign me up! Here’s the thing: it is a lot of hours in the car, but those hours don’t seem so bad if you’re with your favorite person. Over the last two weeks, I have gotten to know my husband more intimately and intentionally than I have before. Had I focused on hours in the car or strange cities, I would have missed on an experience of a lifetime.

Air BnB (the smart way).

So we tried Air BnB twice: once in Phoenix and for our stay in LA. I’ll start with the bad.

The first Air BnB we stayed at looked great on paper! It was in the heart of Phoenix, spacious, and an awesome price. However, when we got in, the AC was working–but only a little–and the ceiling fan was about to come down. Oh, and it was 115 degrees that day.

Needless to say, we called that money a loss and headed to the local quality inn.

The second Air BnB was awesome! We splurged a little on it, but it was so worth it. The host also owned a dog resort where we let our puppy play during the days while we 19961103_10209608895876126_7788495055228055254_n.jpgwere exploring. It had plenty of room for hosting our siblings to come hand out, and there was a washer and dryer so we could catch up on laundry throughout the week.

The best part is that it only cost what the cheap hotels did for each night. The moral of the story is this: if you go for Air BnB, stick with ones that you KNOW are legit. No looking at the price before triple checking that the basic needs will be met.

Be realistic about eating out.

Y’all, food is the best part about traveling! We ate at Vietnamese Cajun, Korean BBQ, all the taco joints, and had gluten free snacks everywhere. I would absolutely recommend that you spend more money on the food you enjoy than the place you sleep (just be safe).

See all the stuff. This is not a vacation. It’s an adventure!

When you’re in a city of that size, there are more things to do than just lay around at a beach. Don’t get me wrong, I am the world’s best beach layer, and we did spend a couple of days in the sand. But my favorite experiences were the ones where we hiked up the hills of Hollywood to look out over the city. They were getting up at 4:30 am to see the sunrise at the Grand Canyon. They were driving an hour to eat at a BOUJEE restaurant on the beach at Malibu and biking down three miles of beach on janky bikes and spending a little too much money to tour the Warner Brothers set.

Remember, the point of this trip is the memories you will make.

But seriously, go to the Warner Brothers set. Did you know that Rosewood from Pretty Little Liars and Stars Hollow from Gilmore Girls are the exact same set?! Like the gazebos in the middle of the towns are the same thing. And you get to sit in the coffee shop from Friends. Mind. Blown. Go see the stuff.

Take your dog.

19989269_10209608880195734_4722093571426662502_n.jpgOr don’t. But we did, and we didn’t have to pay to board her or miss out on loving her for two weeks. My vet recommended a great calming tablet to help her out with the first little bit of the car ride each day, but she acclimated beautifully. Enjoy this baller picture of her owning the back seat of our Corolla.

Put social media away.

With the exception of snap chat. I used snap chat to document each thing we were doing and posted some of them to my story. Mostly, though, I just saved them to my camera roll. A few days after we left, I let the world into the highlights of our journey in a Facebook album.

Yet throughout the trip, we decided to keep our joy to ourselves. We decided not to focus on likes or page views or anything in the virtual world. I even hopped off here for a week or so! A trip like this should not be about how many times someone looks at your picture and wishes they were in your shoes. It should be about enjoying one another’s presence and experiencing the world in a new way.

Just do it.

The point of this post is not to say that everyone needs to get up and go across the country randomly. It is not to convince you to take the vacation we did. It is to remind us all, myself included, to get up and do something. Get out of your house and take an adventure with your spouse–or family or best friend or whoever.

Spend this year putting money back.

Choose not to upgrade your car. 20108212_10209593812219044_1204732789275693872_n.jpg

Don’t buy the new iPhone when it comes out.

Trust me. Time spent with family is of much more value than the next gadget or a new rug or whatever the world is telling us we need.

We need to get out of ourselves for a little while. We need to lather our loved ones with intentionality. Responsibly, of course. But none-the-less, regularly.

Don’t copy our vacation verbatim, but do let our adventure inspire an adventure of your own. Maybe it is a cabin an hour away or maybe it is a twist on your usual time at the beach. Get out. Go see the world.

For all my believers out there, there is so much creation beyond the hometown you love. There are mountains and valleys and prayer to be done in every crevice of the earth. Be a good steward of your money while being a good steward of your relationships. Value the experiences that build your love rather than the new couch that your friends will see. I am stingy. I am learning to open my hands. This was the first step. We will be saving up quite a bit over the next year, but you better bet that a portion of that will be going to another intentional get away with my man. And probably my dog too.

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Almost But Not Yet

It seems like from the age of seventeen on, we are continuously in the “almost but not yet.” Almost graduated from high school or college, but not yet. Almost working our dream job, just not yet. Almost dating, almost engaged, almost married, but slow down, not yet. Almost parents or homeowners, but not quite yet. Almost here, but not here. Almost there, but not yet there.

Not yet.

Imagine that you can see your future. You see the next few years of your life. It is filled with newness, wonder, and adventure. It has been promised to you your whole life. You have been waiting for it. You have been working for it. And now, you have been given some kind of sure knowledge that it is coming.

And just like that, you are placed in waiting. But not just any kind of waiting: desert waiting.

The kind where it is hot and sticky, where there is no food and water is scarce. It is the kind where your legs grow tired and the beating heat seems to suck all of the energy from you.

I know of two places that this occurred in Scripture: the Israelites wandered for forty years and Jesus wandered for forty days.

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They were just on the other side of their promise land and He was just on the other side of His ministry. Yet these two scenarios represent two very different kinds of almost but not yet. The Israelites represent flesh.

 

Their story is filled with groaning and complaining. It is what our desert periods often resemble. Jesus’s story is filled with grace and resistance. It is strong and beautiful and what we so want within our waiting. It is also what we are least likely to do.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written,

“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
    but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

(Matthew 4:1-4 ESV)

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

While they went begrudgingly, He went faithfully.

The Israelites clearly and rightfully did not want to wander the desert for forty years. Yet they had to because of their disobedience. Their lack of faith. Jesus, on the other hand, went into His forty because He needed it. He needed time alone with the Father. He desperately desired that there would be no distractions before Him and that He would only rely on God’s glory to sustain himself within temptation.

Most of us have been in both of these situations. We have been disobedient and made to wait. We have listened to the call of God and stepped into a time of waiting obediently. No matter the reason, let us remember that we have a choice. We have a choice to either go with the knowledge that He will provide or be pushed into a desert. We can either drink of the Living Water or spend years searching for the waters of this earth.

They moaned.

He prayed.

They feared.

He prayed.

While they distanced themselves from God, He communed with God.

Which brings us here. The Israelites–though they were being punished–had a sweet, sweet opportunity to cling to God and grow with Him. They had forty years of seeking His presence.

Yet they searched for other idols. They complained about where they were. They wanted more from Him though they prayed to everything except Him.

And yet Jesus fasted. FullSizeRender 38.jpg

He could have walked back into the city and eaten whenever He wanted, but He chose to stay. He chose to wander. He knew that His Father would provide. He was God, and yet He still prayed earnestly. He could have made Himself full whenever He wanted, yet He chose hunger because He wanted to be filled only by God.

While they sold themselves to temptation, He resisted the Devil.

As the Israelites wandered, they took the jewelry they had from Egypt–the gifts God had given them–and melted them down to make a new god. They took their riches and flung it toward empty promises and vast sin.

Jesus faced Satan Himself and still didn’t budge.

He used His knowledge of God and Scripture to stand firm against the temptations of the Devil. You see, Satan understands the concept of weak spots. He gets that humans will be swayed by human things. He knew Jesus’s physical body thirsted deeply for food and water. But what He didn’t expect was His supernatural power to overcome. He didn’t see that that power is the same power that the Holy Spirit brings during times of temptation. He didn’t plan that Jesus would use His own words to push away His human desires.

While they cowered with fear, He moved with confidence.

And then God said, “Go.”

He showed the Israelites the way to the promise land. He showed Jesus that it was time to begin His ministry. He gave the go ahead. He whispered, “Now is the time.”

Just as you might expect, the Israelites responded to go with no. They were scared. They didn’t trust God to overcome what looked like barriers and bring them to the luxurious milk and honey that He had been promising for so long.

Jesus, on the other hand, knew what He was getting into. He knew that He was going to begin the three-year journey that would eventually lead to His cruel death. It would lead to His torture and betrayal. He would soon be without a home or any sort of consistency. He would be called horrible things and spat upon. But He went and He did not look back.

Now you are probably thinking, “Of course Jesus did all of that! He’s Jesus.”

To which I respond, then why do we doubt His Spirit in us to do the same?

Screen Shot 2017-06-07 at 4.53.49 PM.pngHere is the difference between God’s people pre-Jesus and post-Jesus: His dwelling place. Before Jesus died and rose, God dwelled in the inmost part of the temple. Post-Jesus, God dwells in the inmost being of His children. If you have confessed with you mouth that Jesus is Lord and believed in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you have His Spirit living within you.

The same Spirit that went faithfully.

The same Spirit that communed with God.

The same Spirit that resisted the Devil.

The same Spirit that moved with confidence.

Our waiting time may be forty days. It may be forty years. It may even just be forty minutes! But we can choose how we sit within them. Do we give into our flesh? Or do we let the Spirit within us take over?

Do we question Him? Or do we trust Him? Do we spend our gifts on our own success? Or do we save them for His glory? Do we cower in fear and sit in our waiting? Or do we move when He tells us to?

We can choose the second because He chose the cross.

So choose the second, Sister. Always the second.

I imagine that if you are reading this, you are in an almost but not yet phase of your life. Can I just encourage you for a minute? Can I just remind you that what He has for us is beautiful? That He has granted us a hope and a future? That His presence is our promise land?

I am not saying that He will give us exactly what we think we want. I am saying that He will give us what is right and what is good. I am saying that He will fill our cup and be our Living Water and Bread of Life. I am saying that He will make you look more like Himself if you give your whole self to Him in this desert. I know it feels dry. I know it is hard and your legs are heavy. I know your lips thirst. Mine do too, and that is all the more reason to drink of Him. Sip His grace, Beloved. Drink His goodness.

Let Him teach you about Himself and let His Spirit guide you through this. He has already promised to.

To My Little Sister (And All Other High School Graduates)

Congratulations! You have officially worn the hat and turned the tassel. You have closed your locker, walked down the grand staircase in the front lobby, and said goodbye to some people who have impacted your life even more than you even know right now.

You have made it past some drama.

You have been forced into creating time management skills.

You have gone from child to adult in only four short years.

And here you stand. I imagine you are excited to take on this world. I also imagine youScreen Shot 2017-06-01 at 4.13.34 PM.png are a little terrified as you enter the following chapter. You know what is funny, I just graduated college and I am too. It is a feeling that never really goes away when you are stepping out of a season and into the next, but it is also that feeling that is going to drive you to make moves–and lots of them.

Sister, I tell you this, because you I know you love Jesus with everything in you. I know you want so desperately to do what you can to glorify His name, but you don’t know where the balance between His kingdom and the world coincide. Take heart for His word has given us the answers.

Do not be persuaded by the luring of the world’s success.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him… The world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

1 John 2:15, 17

For the past four years, both test scores and the dreaded GPA have defined your success. Fashion sense has dictated popularity and friend groups determined invitations. You are going to enter a season where success is defined by paycheck and possessions. You will look at other people and be able to guess what they are doing with their own lives. You will fear that they will look at you. That they will see right through you. That they will question your choices. You will be pressured to find the perfect answer when someone asks, “so what do you want to do with that?”

Your major might sound great now, but you will be done with school before you know it. You may walk into the sweetest of jobs, but one day you will retire. You may make more money than you can even fathom, but you can’t take it with you.

Begin resisting the temptations and desires of this world now.

Don’t allow your success to be defined by the number of activities you can take place in because that will lead to believing your life is defined by a tax bracket. Define your life by relationships, yes with people, but more importantly, with Jesus.

Beloved, it is so much easier to resist desire for the world before you are in love with it than to push it away afterward. This time is integral. Use it to foster desires that matter, that place others before yourself, and that impact the kingdom of God.

No one has their life together–no matter how it looks.

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

Colossians 3:2

I don’t think anyone would have been able to convince me of this one when I was a freshman in college. When you are young, everything seems so much bigger and better than what you have now. College seniors are about to start their lives. Many are planning for marriage, some even have their own dog.

Screen Shot 2017-06-01 at 4.16.39 PM.pngHear me. If you do not have a family or career plan by the time you think you should–and you are seeking The Lord–you are not behind. The girl who gets married right out of college (or during if you’re me) is just as clueless about the next step as anyone else. Your friend who has internships every summer still worries about her competitive career realm.

Do not fix your eyes on a person you want to be like. Fix your eyes on Jesus: the Founder and Finisher of our Faith.

Fix your eyes on the one who made you, fearfully and wonderfully.

Walk in His ways, and He will give you His desires. He will make His will the only thing you want to run toward. The comparisons will diminish. His word and way will endure. The anxieties about the next step will fade because you will know that He is holding you. You will rest in His timing alone.

Create goals and implement discipline.

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:13-14

As young adults, our brains are entering into the final stage of development. This is our last chance to take advantage of that sweet gift God has given us: the gift of easily developing habits. I have never, never spoken to a mature Christian who did not encourage getting into scripture and prayer regularly as a teenager or young adult.

Here’s an example.

It took me absolutely zero time in school to develop a habit of drinking coffee. I don’t even have to think about getting up in the morning and brewing a cup. I developed the habit of going to the gym in the early morning when I was preparing for my wedding. I developed the habit of turning on Netflix before I go to bed and calling my boyfriend (now husband) when I was frustrated and all kinds of things.

It was easy. It was easy because everything is new, so why not this?

Screen Shot 2017-06-01 at 4.18.11 PMSet goals. Yes, goals for your career and grades and logistical things. But first set goals for your relationship with Jesus. Set goals for your time with Him. Commit to reading scripture more than you read for class. Memorize a verse before you have your morning coffee. Pray for twenty minutes before bed instead of watching Gossip Girl.

You may regret your discipline in drinking coffee. You will very likely regret hours binge-watching TV. I can promise you, however, you will not regret spending time with Jesus. He promises to bless that time. He promises that those blessings will be eternal.

Know that the best is yet to come.

And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

John 14:3

Finally, do not be swayed by the voices that tell you that this is it. That this is the last time you have in life to have fun. That these days will be the greatest.

Remind yourself, over and over, that the best and greatest of days have not been reserved for this earth. They are on the other side of eternity. They will be known for harmony. There won’t be compatition or comparison–only worship.

We were placed in this time and in this generation so specifically by our God. Not so that we can make the most money or even make the most difference, but so that we can proclaim His name in this place. Sister, in this place, in this time, you have been set apart by God. He knows the names of the people you will encounter. He knows the organizations you will take part in. He knows the sin you will struggle with. He knows the moments you will choose Him as well as the moments you will stray.

Dive head first into these years, but do it because you know that they will make an eternal mark on this place. Know that you are here to share the Gospel and everything else is just a stepping stone to that.

You may change your major 10 times.

You may struggle to find the right friend group.

You will probably have to re-learn how to eat healthy your sophomore year.

You will change. You will grow. It won’t be a walk in the park.

Make every decision, not for convenience, but for the Kingdom of God. Share your testimony with the one who struggles. Teach yourself about His word. Be disciplined by someone who will walk you through the struggles. Do it because you know that there is a world that will be far better than this one. Do it because you do not want to make a home here for it is only temporary. Be present where you are for the sake of Jesus–not worldly success.

I pray that this time is the most life-giving, joyous experience of your life. And I also pray that the next is greater. I pray it’s better because you love Him more and know Him better.

I pray you fall in love with your Bible.

I pray you can’t talk about Him enough.

I pray that He gives you strength to stay up later studying because you just couldn’t stop telling Him about your day.

I pray that others might know Him because they knew you.

 

The Absurdity of Young Marriage

Well, if you are at all familiar with me or this blog, you know that I haven’t been able to shut up about my recent move from my hometown into a near city. Besides getting married nine months ago, this has been the greatest transition I have experienced thus far.

In the past nine months, I entered into a life covenant with my best friend, I have watched him commute an hour to work every day, I have finished my last bit of school, and I have moved away from everything I know to start a new adventure.

If you were just looking at our life on a piece of paper, you might tell us we were crazy for getting married when we did–even absurd.

I had a year of school left. He would be working in a different city from where we laid our heads at night. Neither of us had much of anything saved up. Oh, and we lived in LAlifestyle_0181WEBstudent housing on my college campus.

When we shared our plans with people before we got married, eyebrows would always furrow. The word “Huh..” became common to our ears. We were advised in every-which-way besides the one to which we felt called. In fact, one time I tried to google “the advantages of getting married young” and it said, “did you mean disadvantages?”

Now here I am nine months later. I am sitting on our new red couch in a new city waiting on my (still) new husband to walk through the door and tell me about his day. We made it through the student housing. We made it through the funny looks when I said I was still in school. We made it through the commute. We made it here.

It was one of the most joyous experiences I have ever held. It has also been one of the hardest.

You see, young marriage is no fairy tale. The whole world seems to doubt our capability. We are told that we’re just using it as an excuse to live together. We’re deemed irresponsible. So soon enough, we start to doubt our own abilities. But even more scary is when we start to doubt the creator who called us into this lifestyle.

Some are reading this and thinking, “marriage is the last thing on my mind.”

Some are reading this and thinking, “you’re crazy. I would never get married without all the answers!”

Some are reading this and thinking, “I want that. But God is not giving it to me.”

Some are reading this, cheering and snapping their fingers in agreement.

Whoever you are–whatever your story–oh, child of God, it is valuable. And if you are called to this kind of story, it is absolutely absurd.

But man, do I love absurd.

Remember that the world’s standards are not our God’s standards.

I never thought I would be the “type of girl” to get married before I was out of school. I always deemed that “irresponsible” or in Christian terms, being a “bad steward.”

Oh Christian, please recognize that the only “irresponsible steward” of what God has gifted us with is he or she who does not coat every decision made in abundant prayer–and I mean abundant. Romans 12:2 teaches, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (ESV)

The renewing of our mind is prayer. It is immersing ourselves in God’s beautiful word. It is pouring out our hearts to Him so He might pour Himself back into us.

Screen Shot 2017-05-11 at 1.32.11 PM.pngMarriage is a big deal. It is a decision that will affect every aspect of every crevice of the rest of our lives. Therefore, the standard by which we decide to enter that covenant cannot be made out of convenience. It may be convenient. It may be perfect timing. But do not go there without prayer. Wait if He tells you. Jump all in if He tells you. Either way, renew your mind. Set your feet in His Spirit. Then and only then will the standards by which we make our decisions be perfectly aligned with His will.

Remember that what God is working together for good, the enemy is seeking to destroy.

Once we set our eyes on the Spirit, once we discover the direction He is sending us, the enemy is going to set up roadblocks all along the way.  While God is working all things together for “the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose,” Satan wants nothing else than to “steal, kill, and destroy.”

He wants us to be blinded by convenience.

He wants us to seek others’ well wishes.

He wants us to want the approval of the world.

He wants us to look responsible.

He wants nothing to do with God’s standards.

He wants us to look safe–not absurd–because He doesn’t want us to stand out.

When Austin and I first made the decision to get married, we had nothing together. We did not know where he would work. We had no clue where we would live. We barely knew whether or not He would be able to buy a ring. But we knew what He was calling us to. We knew because He had been on His face in prayer in Kentucky and I had been on my face in prayer while working a camp in North Carolina. We knew because the other people who were interceding for us had peace about it.

Then the enemy stepped in. The enemy stepped in disguised as disapproving parents. He stepped in disguised as rolling eyes. He stepped in disguised as uncertainty. He told me that I might not want to follow in the way Austin was going. He told Austin that He might want to go in a different direction. That we both needed to live our own lives first.

I wanted to give up.

I wanted to give in.

I wanted to wait until it was more “responsible.” Then things might be smoother. We might not lose relationships. We might get to live our lives like the world said we should.

Young people who are thinking about marriage: seek Jesus. Only Jesus. That is how we discern. That is how we do the absurd thing.

Without His clear calling upon my life and Austin’s life, we would have buckled. We would have given into what the world was telling us was smart.

But we have reaped such joy, such blessing, from doing the absurd thing. We have joinedLAlifestyle_0046WEB our lives together before they have had much chance to take off on their own. We have learned how to pay bills and manage money together. We have stayed up hours on end talking about God’s Word and its implications in our lives. We are hyper-aware that this life–this life that started in a 600 square foot student apartment building–was set apart for us from the foundations of the world.

Beloved child of God, you may be called to this life. Embrace it. You may not. Embrace others who are. Pray for them. Love on them. Encourage them. Do not tell them they are being irresponsible unless it is abundantly and prayerfully obvious that they are.

I want to invite you into my first home.

I want to shout out to all my sweet young marrieds, whether you are living in that world, about to enter it, or looking back fondly. I want people to see that this is a blessing. This is something God has given us. There is nothing fancy about these pictures. There were boxes shoved in our closets and these are the clothes we had left after packing most of our other pieces of clothing up. Our walls are lined in scripture, not because we are super-Christians, but because we need to be reminded over and over again to speak with kindness and embrace one another with gentleness.

If you are going to do this absurd thing, coat it in Jesus. Get up early in the morning and worship Him together. Love Him more than you love one another. Give yourself to Him. Give your 600 square foot apartment to Him. Give Him your job and your commute to work. Give Him your life. It won’t be easy. It is definitely going to be hard. Your grip will have to be loosened. But praise God, it is worth it.

 

Messing up My Order

At the start of my last semester of college, I sent in what I thought would be my best paper yet. It was for my advanced composition class, so I wanted the professor to know that I was indeed advanced. It was beautifully laced with headings, and each paragraph argued for the thesis. The grammatical errors were few. The sentences sung off the pages.

Days later, my email lit up, notifying me that the grade for my paper had been added. Confident in the A that I would receive, I opened to the website.

Only to find a C.

If you haven’t picked up on this yet, I really like to write. It is an ability I often pride myself on, a task in which I am confident. So receiving a C really stings.

Immediately, I ravaged the web page to find the reasoning behind the grade. What could I have possibly done wrong? After reading my professor’s explanation and sipping on a cup of coffee to calm my nerves—because coffee does that for me—I sat back down to look over my paper. In the comments, my professor said, I appreciate your organization, Screen Shot 2017-04-28 at 5.35.14 PM.pngbut through trying to order everything so perfectly, you forgot to analyze how each section affects the other. Sometimes perfect organization is not the right order.

Order.

I giggled. Order is my thing. I looked back over my paper and realized that I had tried to fit every point in a perfect, two-paragraph-sized box. I neglected to let the words flow musically into and on top of one another. I organized my arguments in my own way. I should have let the instructions take control. It wouldn’t have looked as perfect as I wanted, but it would have been a better paper.

Two days ago, I sat across a table from a friend who has been one of my greatest joys in college (shout out to you, Kenz). As we chatted about the past year of my life, the last year of college, and as I encouraged her on how she should approach her final year of college, some words slipped out of my mouth.

“I would have never ordered this year in the way it has turned out. But thank God that He knew better than me.”

As I insinuated in my previous post about transitions, we human beings tend to be a constant state of change. In the moments where life seems stagnant, we are looking to something else. When we are in school, we are constantly being told to figure out our next step. When the kiddos are little, we are saving for college. When we are single, we think about our future relationships. There is always an ebb and flow to our lives. They are short. They are ever-changing. They are filled with new people by the day.

Upon entering college, I had a plan. Just like my paper, it consisted of pretty boxes and perfect organization that I could control. (My room, on the other hand, consisted of no organization whatsoever).

I would take my classes. I would spend my time doing speech. I would learn as much about writing, researching, and public speaking as I could through this activity. I would spend my freshman year learning, my sophomore year beginning to take on some leadership roles, my junior year would be filled with academic and competitive success, and my senior year, I would be helping run a church ministry and focusing on achieving a job afterward. I might have a boyfriend or two in between. I might even get married after college. But I would first finish my degree and implant myself into my own field. If he fit, he fit. If not, he wouldn’t get to continue on with me.

Two months into my freshman year, my whole world was turned upside down—in such a beautiful way. I met a boy.

This boy would not overtake my plans, but he would be the reason my plans were overtaken. Here is how it actually went down:

I took my classes. I spent my time doing speech. I learned about writing, researching, andScreen Shot 2017-04-28 at 5.32.11 PM public speaking. I spent my freshman year learning and getting to know the man who now leads me so beautifully. I spent my sophomore year fighting pride and learning to live in relationship with a human being—a really sinful but really great human being. Then it happened. He told me he wanted to marry me, but he did not feel that he needed to wait. We would get married a year before school was over. That summer, I wrestled with the Lord over whether or not it was wise to commit my life to someone while I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to do. He told me yes. He told me to go. I was still terrified. My life no longer fit into the perfect box. It would be ridiculed by people who thought I was being a foolish girl in love with a foolish boy. I spend my junior year engaged and fighting my need to prove myself to everyone. I spent it unsure of how Austin and I would make money, unsure of where we might live, but I was positive that the Lord was leading us in this way.

All my order—my perfect organization for what I thought would be a picture perfect life—got turned upside down. Not in a bad way. Oh, not at all. It was scary though. My nerves were rattled wondering if we were really doing the right thing. The enemy whispered lies into my ears over and over, telling me that I was just being silly. He told me that we would end up bankrupt because people aren’t supposed to get married until after college. He told me that Austin’s degree would get us nowhere and that mine was even more worthless.

Beloved child of God, your world will, too, get turned upside down. Your plans will get shattered. You will be asked to wade into uncharted waters. The enemy will whisper lies into your ears. He will tell you that the perfect boxes that society gives us are right. That they are good.

But while the enemy is whispering, Jesus will be calling. He will be all around you while the enemy can only be beside one ear. Listen to the voice that is louder, the voice whose Spirit lives within you.

When I went back to rewrite my paper, I carefully studied my rubric once more, only to find that I had completely missed the point of the paper. I had been so focused on making my paper pretty that I had lost sight of the goal. I unlaced the headings. I mixed together all my argumentation. I finished with something that I would not have written on my own volition, but that stated a much stronger point and highlighted my strengths better than I could have ever done on my own.

I wonder how often we miss the point of the lives we lead. How often we try to lead a pretty, Facebook-perfect life. I wonder how much we look to people who look like they have everything together, all the while forgetting that everything in this world is messy.

Christian, unlace your life.

Let’s stop organizing everything into our perfect squares that fit into faded Instagram filters.

Screen Shot 2017-04-28 at 5.36.35 PMLet’s recognize that Jesus often messes with our plans because He holds the answer key. It may not look like what we want it to. It may be really hard. It could look like being single forever. It could look like trusting a man when everyone before has let you down. It could look like moving to a new city alone. It could look like jumping into ministry when you had a career path planned out before. It could be starting a family before you planned or not getting to start one at all. Whatever it is, however, our ideas are being torn apart, we already have the rubric: His voice, His word.

20 Ways to Intentionally Love your Wife: a Husband’s Thoughts.

In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

(Ephesians 5:28 ESV)

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

This week I decided to meld together my guest post and marriage post from the voice of my favorite human: Austin Groves. After asking him what he would consider the twenty best ways to intentionally love me, I sat, meditating over these words and why exactly they grant such a feeling of affection.

Husbands, husbands-to-be, and men who are seeking marriage. This man is wise beyond his years and has gleaned from men much wiser than he. Drink in his advice to you and my commentary.

Here’s the thing: this only nicks the surface of intentional love in a marriage. My reasons Screen Shot 2017-03-11 at 11.28.08 AMfor why these are so valid are only the ideas of one wife.

Here’s the other thing: when he does these things, I get to see the Gospel picture happening in the walls of our little apartment and in the throws of our brand new marriage. It is the coolest thing and so clearly only through God’s power.

1. “Listen to her.”

And we will feel valued. In fact, I would argue that as wives, there is not a time we feel more valued than when your actions say, I love what you have to say, and I want to hear you.

2. “Tell her I love her.”

Husbands, when you do this with intention, we will not consider these words to be routine. They will be precious to us. They will be more new and exciting than the last time we heard them.

3. “Show willingness to favor her preferences.”

When you do this, husbands, we will feel appreciated.

4. “Admit my faults.”

… So we might be encouraged to do the same. For those reading who do not know this, Austin and I met by competing on the same speech and debate team–a place where a common goal is finding the best kinds of argumentation. Therefore, both our needs to be right are over and over the hardest part of this marriage. Husbands, when we see you stepping back and admitting where you are wrong, we will be reminded of where we can be better all the more.

5. “Show effort to fight my faults.”

And is this not always the next step? We would neither want to admit to something we don’t plan on changing nor have you admit to something you did not want to change. Together, we are broken, dirty, dusty sinners. Husbands, we are so grateful that we can know that together and place effort into being sanctified together.

6. “Tell her why I love her.”

And we will be charmed by you all over again.

7. “Ask her questions–her opinion matters.”

When you demonstrate that you admire our opinion, we will feel adored. As a wife whose main job in our marriage is to ensure everything around the house is done, I can often lose my sense of worth. I become bogged down, convinced that once I leave school and get a job, then I will be doing something of value. Moments like these–where you verbalize that our hearts are valuable to you–are some of the sweetest, most affirming moments of our days.

Screen Shot 2017-03-11 at 11.26.24 AM.png8. “Share deep sinful struggles that others might not detect.”

When you do this, we feel trusted. We are reminded that this marriage is so much more than a relationship with ‘the guys’ or even family. It is a covenant that we have entrusted to one another completely by choice. We are reminded that we share with one another because there is not a person in the world we would rather have praying for us or interceding our sins.

9. “Tell her, thank you for your effort in this marriage.”

Husbands, when you say this, we feel honored. Honored to have dusted the furniture. Honored to have cooked dinner. Honored to have brought home a paycheck. But even more so, honored to have encouraged you, to have lifted you up, to have spoken words of kindness when we really didn’t want to. We feel honored to have served you and overwhelmingly grateful for the ways you serve us.

10. “Pray with her.”

And we will feel esteemed.

11. “Encourage her in her giftings.”

And we feel revived in how we are called to the Kingdom of God.

12. “Show her a willingness to sacrifice.”

Husbands, future husbands, and men considering marriage, when you do this, we feel priceless. I can’t wait to tell Austin that this is probably my favorite. We have already been sacrificed for on a Friday-night-bloody cross. So when we hear you say that you would sacrifice for us as well, it subtly reminds us that you are seeking to love us as Christ loves the Church. 

13. “Extend the benefit of the doubt.”

When you extend this grace–this grace when we say something we shouldn’t have or neglect to show grace to you–we feel credible. We feel that you know our hearts and know that we mess up sometimes. And you better bet that next time this happens, we will remember and think before we act.

14. “Ask, how can I help?”

…And our time and efforts will feel cherished.

15. “When asked to do something, respond in joy.”

Our sweet partners in marriage, when you respond in joy, so will we! Oh, how this makes for a fun, playful relationship, even when we are caught up in responsibilities.

16. “Pray for her spiritual safety.”

We will feel it in our bones. Your prayer will pour over us because our Savior is faithful to provide when we pray for His desires.

17. “Press on her heart for a deep tScreen Shot 2017-03-11 at 11.29.44 AM.pngheological understanding of Christ and how that’s changing her.”

When you press in this way, we will feel challenged. We will feel ready to grow, to build our relationship with the Lord that we might be able to share it with you. We will feel rejuvenated when discussing the implications of “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” It will spark conversation that will never end because His word is eternal.

18. “Go to work thinking about her over my job.”

And we will know that our individual identities do not lie within a workplace, but our workplaces are valued in providing for our marriage. I know few better ways to help one another feel important than this.

19. “Affirm her in Christ, challenge her outside of Christ.”

It’s hard to hear reproof–especially from someone whom you love so dearly. However, it is necessary for sanctification. I may respond poorly at first. I may push back on being challenged when I am acting outside of Him at first, but when you press on me with truth and love, I will be better trained in righteousness.

20. “Most importantly, we need to love Jesus more than her, because I’m certain that it’s in those moments that she feels most loved :).”

Amen on amen on amen. Husbands, there is no one–not you or our friends or our families–that will make us feel more loved that Jesus Christ. He is it. He is the standard. He is the constant. When you love Him more than us, you will inherently become more like Him. You will be able to love us more like Him.

I pray that my relationship with Austin is absolutely nothing in comparison to his relationship with Christ.

Screen Shot 2017-03-11 at 11.33.13 AMI can’t even describe to you how clearly God’s design for us shows when he sees Jesus shining first. His heart becomes one of, I love Him so dearly that I want to be just like him in everything. He wants to listen closely. He wants to sacrifice his time and resources. He wants to challenge and encourage me and love me so intentionally that I cannot imagine being loved more by any human being on the face of this earth.