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Deny Your Accuser.

I sat against the black fabric of the chairs at church, pen dead still as my pastor asked us about our obedience. I closed my eyes, knowing my secret answer.

Are you being obedient?

It is not a question with pretty wording. It does not sound like it will make any kind of imprint on one’s life. It is something I can and should be asking myself every day. Are you being obedient?

I knew that the answer was no. I knew exactly where I was not being obedient.

I don’t trust God.

It was a freeing and convicting moment. It was a moment where God showed me something about myself that I had been blind of for so long though it sat at the surface of my life.

Two days later, I woke up with a heavy heart. I don’t trust God. Can I ever really trust God? Am I capable of that? Of course I am not. How can God ever love someone who trusts him as little as I do?

Then I woke up the next day with the same mindset, and again the next day, and the next again.

The next week at church, I was ultra-aware of my short comings. I was ready to jot down every word our pastor expressed with precision that I might be made new in my own trust. Then he said something even more convicting than the week before:

Do you ever wake up feeling accused?

Yes. Every day this week.

I had become ultra-aware of my sinful nature and tendencies.

I had been walking through the day wondering if a perfect God could possibly love me–a sinner who has transgressed again and again against the perfect lamb’s blood.

But what the heck was I supposed to do with that?! Was I to ignore my conviction to trust in God? I knew that was from him! OR was I to continue living as if Jesus’s blood couldn’t free me from my sin? How could I ever tell the difference between conviction and accusation?

So once again, my knees hit the floor, and I begged God to teach me the difference. I prayed that he would give me a spirit to know what was His Holy Spirit’s whisper and what was the Devil’s prowl; however, as He always does, He gave me something much better than I asked for.

I was listening to a sermon by Charles Stanley this morning where he explained that conviction by the Holy Spirit is intentional. It’s pointed. Accusation from Satan is ambiguous. It does nothing buy make you question the worth that Jesus’s blood freely gives you.

If I am feeling convicted for the way treated my husband within my frustration with work, I am going to feel that specifically.

If I am feeling accused by Satan, it will be overarching. I won’t know what exactly I can repent from.

In both of these situations, I was made aware of my sin. They were simultaneously chipping away at something, and they felt very similar! The conviction was chipping away at my sin while the accusation was chipping away at my confidence in Christ.

Beloved, when Satan begins chipping, we must act! We have got to strap on our Spiritual armor and fight like we have never fought before.

Declare God’s Word

The word “declare” can have such a negative connotation in the church. We tend to tie it to the theology of prosperity where we “declare” whatever kind of wealth and health we want, and then it come to pass.

Mind you, this theology is not correct, but I wonder if we have lost the art of declaring the Word of God as truth.

Ephesians 1:13-14: In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

Colossians 1:16: For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.

Titus 1:2: In hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began.

Romans 3:23-25: For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.

Y’all, the list goes on and on and on. All the Scriptures are lined with reminders that yes, without the blood of Jesus, we cannot be worthy of anything except punishment for sin.

But with it, we will not stand accused!!

Deny Satan

Sisters, we have to get used to looking into the face of our accuser and reminding him of his own future. We have to remind him that we–God’s children–are the ones who will reign with Him one day. That he will be cast away into death forever!

 

When we encounter accusation, let us not cower in defeat. Let us not even stop at declaring scripture! Let us fight back. Let us directly attack the one who’s goal it is to steal, kill, and destroy our confidence in Jesus.

Defeat Pride

Oh, Christian. At the end of the day, the enemy is all about expanding our pride in the sneakiest of ways. By making us think so lowly of ourselves that we diminish the saving power of the blood of Christ, we become obsessed with ourselves! We become engrossed in our own abilities and make our salvation into a works-based, grace-diminishing kind of thing that God did to make us feel bad about ourselves.

That is the opposite of what it is.

That is making it more about us than it is about a holy God who left His glorious throne to pursue His bride. To pursue us.

It is so good to feel conviction. It is refreshing to know that we are granted knowledge to know when we could be chasing Christ better. But we must not forget that He did chase us first. He created this plan and was not forced into dying on the cross because of us. He chose to. He gives us the might to fight temptation and flee the Devil!

Satan does not want us to know that. He wants us to think that we are capable of nothing other than moping in our sin.

So yes. I should be convicted that I do not trust God like I should.

Then I should get up, refocus myself on Jesus, and let the Holy Spirit show me how to actively trust God.

James 1:5: But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

Ask Him, oh Christian. Then deny your accuser. Remind Him that your future is not in question. It is in Jesus.

 

An Anthem Worth Falling For

Earlier this week, Austin and I were listening to worship music when the following lyrics caught my attention:

“This will be my anthem song: Jesus we love you, oh how we love you. You are the one our hearts adore.”

You can probably guess that it was the word “anthem” that caught my ear. It is a word we have heard over and over and over again in the media, on Facebook, and from the mouths of our coworkers and fellow students all week. There is argument and harshness surrounding this word right now.

Then I heard it in this context.

The context of simply loving Jesus. The political jargon was removed. The heartache was left at the door. It was just Jesus. Only Jesus. Only adoration.

Merriam-Webster defines Anthem this way: a usually rousing popular song that typifies or is identified with a particular subculture, movement, or point of view.

All over scripture, we see believers worshiping in anthem song to the Father. In Psalm, David creates anthems that the nation of Israel uses to worship God. In Revelation, believers are united with the Father once again and we sing an anthem to Him alone. And in the following story, a woman demonstrates anthem worship by identifying herself as an unlikely child of God.

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And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”

“A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

(Luke 7:37-50 ESV)

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You see, anthems are our identifiers. They are what set us apart as a member of something. It may be the alma-mater of a school or it could set us apart as a citizen of lover of a country.

Today, I want to challenge our idea of anthem–not to take a stand on the anthem argument of our country; rather, I want us to begin questioning who and what we are setting ourselves apart for.

Let’s begin with some context about what is going on here.

  1. Simon is the Pharisee who had invited Jesus into his home. Usually, when we think of Pharisees, we think of the evil religious leaders who hated Jesus and everything he stood for. However, here we see a religious leader who was genuinely interested in who Jesus was. Jesus entered his home to teach him as he did the tax collectors and sinners alike.
  2. This woman was most likely a prostitute–someone that a religious leader could spot from a mile away. Someone who was not to be touched or interacted with. Someone that religious leaders would never expect God in the flesh to touch, much less forgive.
  3. The oil, tears, and hair that she worshiped Jesus with was all she had.
  4. Jesus and the woman had most likely had some kind of interaction previously that we are not told about. And since we are not told about it, clearly, God did not mean for us to know about it.

The Pharisee and woman were the same amount of sinful.

In this story, we have two characters. First, you have the religious leader who knows he is a sinner, but cannot seem to wrap his head around how deprived of holiness he actually is. Second, you have a woman who’s sins have been abundantly made known to the world. She is ultra aware of her unholiness. She is reminded of it daily–even hourly. Sometimes every moment.

Though these two characters are from the ancient of days, are they not each one of us?

I don’t think we understand what we have been forgiven of.

Admittedly, I often fall into the category of the Pharisee. I was raised in church. I have always held roles in various ministries. Some might even call me a leader in my inner circle of faith. I know the rules. I know how I am to live.

Most importantly? I know how to hide my sin. I know how to look as if I am the perfect Christian–following all the rules and exacerbating my holiness.

Because I am really good at that, I can sometimes trick myself into believing that my sins are somehow less than the person who the world looks at as some kind of “greater” sinner.

Our faith is ALL we have.

In reality, there is going to come a day when I am standing at the feet of Jesus, and every good work I did on this earth will be just as known as every sin I spent my life trying to hide. I will stand before the Father accused by the tempter. At that point, I won’t have anything to stand behind or be covered by except the blood of Jesus. All my sin will be in the open.

It will be obvious and clear and all will be aware of it.

We won’t be able to say, “well I went to church every Sunday!”, or “I led worship for the kids,” or “well that person sinned worse than I did!”

We will just have Jesus and the fact that He has given us a faith to grasp for in the face of sin.

We will have His blood and sacrifice as our sole cover for our transgressions.

Our faith must be our Anthem.

So when we think about Anthems, let’s begin considering them as the thing in which they are: the song that sets us apart.

Am I saying we should never stand for any kind of anthem: alma-mater or national song? Absolutely not.

Am I saying we should consider what our first loyalty is? Absolutely.

I am saying that when we put God and country on the same level, we diminish that which we have been forgiven of. We forget that it is not our country that makes us less sinful or better than another. It is Jesus’s blood alone.

This post is not about taking a stand. It is about taking time to fall. To fall on our faces before Jesus and asking Him that we might be taken out of our selves. It is about recognizing our vast unholiness. It is about knowing that no matter how hard we fight for this country, it will fade. We won’t care one bit about our state of freedom when we are worshiping Jesus for eternity. We will only be concerned with the freedom He has given us.

We will be standing and jumping and kneeling and falling before the face of our Savior.

Let’s start practicing that now. Let’s spend more time in worship than in worry. Let’s put on blinders for Jesus and give Him all glory for any good thing we might have.

While we are at that, sisters and brothers, let’s ask Him how we are being a witness for him for those who are afflicted and oppressed. We will begin to hear and understand the hearts of those who we do not understand. Our hearts will be broken for the injustices of this world. 

That was His heart.

He looked at the woman who the world saw as a sinner and said, “your sins are forgiven.”

Her anthem was heard. Her heart was made know.

Her eternity will be spent forever repeating that anthem song.

What is your anthem song? Is it a passage of scripture? Is it a worship song? If it has little to do with Jesus, we have a problem. We have an anthem that is meant for this world and this world alone.

More importantly, if we are allowing that anthem to cause us to speak down to one another, to hold ourselves as higher or more holy than our fellow believers, we are putting the kingdoms of this world over the kingdom of God.

Let our anthem be our faith. Our love for Jesus. Our excitement for His kingdom alone. Other things may be important to us here and now. I do not want to deny that. But be warned, oh Christian: they will surely fade. 

When Marriage Was Not the Vacation I Imagined

I heard a line the other day in a spoken word poem that really resonated with me: …because dating feels like vacation and marriage is a job.

You could not have convinced me that this was true while Austin and I were dating–or even engaged!! I just know that marriage would be 10,000 times “better” than dating.

Don’t get me wrong, it so is. But it is a much different kind of better than I expected. One that is endlessly joyful. One that is endlessly hard. One that takes more work than I could have ever imagined.

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We sat on the couch in the aftermath of our first fight. We had only been married one month. ONE month! I had never been so mad at him for saying the things he did. I had also never loved him more. My heart had never felt these things–not within my family, not when we were dating, not ever. 

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We stood in our living room after two weeks slam packed with mourning. The first week, I sat at my grandfather’s deathbed every day while my husband drove two hours back and forth to work. The second week, we processed. We lived in my Papa’s home without him. Now we were back home. We were alone. I was angry with sin and death and he was on edge, unsure of how to speak to me. Could I be comforted? How do you comfort your wife when you have never had a wife to comfort before?

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I sat on my kitchen floor while my husband sobbed on our bed. He mourned the loss of this relationship he held so dear. I mourned the fact that had we not gotten married, this relationship would still be intact. I had never seen him like this. I had never felt so one in mourning and simultaneously, so alone. 

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I laid in bed after kissing my husband goodnight. One year ago, when we had only been married a month, that good night kiss felt new and exciting each time. It was the beginning of the best time of our lives. Now it was routine. Our love hadn’t changed–if anything, it was stronger! But the kiss didn’t feel new and exciting unless I dwelled on it. Is this what marriage is like?

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Each of these thoughts has been felt with every part of my soul since August 6, 2016. You see, when marriage happens, real life happens. You are combining your hearts. You are becoming one in every sense of the word. You feel the same and new all at once, and it is great when everything around you is great.

Then the storm hits.

Once you are facing something together, you have two choices. You can let the wind and crashing waves knock you down and keep you from walking further into the blessing of marriage.

Or you can walk together on the water toward Jesus.

There is one easy answer, and it is not the second. Here are some reasons why.

The hurting hurts worse and the loving loves harder.

I hit on this so often, but I think it is worth reminding (myself, at least) about once every week. Emotions are heightened18301557_10209090094506416_469224149126652777_n in marriage. When you give your whole self to another, everything is more. The love is more intense and the little jabs hurt like deadly wounds.

That is what intensified our fights initially.

With everything, I questioned his choice to marry me, even if I didn’t voice it.

You see, the enemy works hard to attack where we are exposed. 

He is constantly whispering into my hears my greatest insecurities. He only married you because of the timing. You’re not good enough for him. He will eventually see you for who you really are. 

Neither of us will ever be able to perfectly comfort the other.

I didn’t expect this one. In the first six months of our marriage, my grandfather lost his battle with cancer, and Austin lost a relationship that meant the world to him. We were both hurting in the midst of each of these storms. Yet neither of us knew exactly what the other felt like. It was so weird.

I felt as one with Him.

But I couldn’t feel what he was feeling. I couldn’t mourn with him in the way I wanted to.

We wanted nothing more than to comfort one another, but the tests didn’t wait for us to learn how to pass. They just came with no warning.

The sparks take intentionality.

Marriage is like any other relationship in one way: it is far too easy to get used to. You learn the other like the back of your hand. You know when their day has been bad and good and when someone rubs them the wrong way. It is easier to talk down to them.

It is also easy to forget that the physical part has to be just as intentional as the emotional part.

So here we are at the crossroads of treating a marriage like a vacation or a job. We can simply leave–mentally or physically–because the waters begin rising, or we can stick it out. We can fight and work and remind ourselves that the enemy is where the battle begins. If you’re ready to fight, start with the most basic thing you can do as a believing couple: go before God together.

Pray with one another. Pray over one another. Set reminders on your phone throughout the day to lift the other up.

It is really hard to grow apart from someone you are actively interceding for before the Father. Then allow God to speak to you together.

I always find it funny that so often, my quiet times are filled with my own babbling. The next thing I am asking you feels a little hypocritical because guess what? We have never done it.

We should be opening our Scripture together. We should be reading them aloud. Then sitting in silence. Do it for five minutes of for thirty minutes or for hours on end. Let’s open our hands to the heavens and ask God to speak to us together as one under His authority. Let’s allow Him to remind us of our spouse’s worth by the blood of Jesus that we might have more patience.

Finally, we have got to stop placing false expectations 12650796_10205769890983403_1164935111516144634_n.jpgupon our partners. The week I was walking through death with my grandfather, I almost expected Austin to know what to say and how to say it every day. He didn’t.

As he has walked through his own loss, I have stumbled over my words more times than I can count. I have miserably failed when I was trying to comfort him and trying to love him well. Do you want to know why? Because I am a sinful, fallen human who is not yet completed under the new heaven and new earth.

I have false understandings.

I have more pride than I know what to do with.

I am stubborn.

I am often well-meaning and often sinful within that “well-meaningness”

I am unforgiving of those who hurt him and sometimes down-right mean.

I am also in the process of being made holy under Jesus’s blood. So is he.

Here is the point of this whole post: Marriage is the most sanctifying experience there is. We (and the person we like most in this world) become ultra-aware of our shortfalls. Then there is all this work to do!

So my dear sisters who are wives, pick up your marriage and walk toward the fire. Walk toward the hard work. For in the fire, God sustains. God heals. God redeems.

My dear sisters who are fiance’s and girlfriends, do not expect everything to become perfect when you get married! He will be just as sinful then as he is now! Plus, he won’t be able to hide it anymore–and neither will you.

My sweet single sisters, a marriage is not the thing that will fill you once again.

The only One who brings fulfillment, the only One who completes anything, is Jesus Christ. He won’t let you down. He won’t forsake you. He will only love you. He will be the only one who can comfort you. He will be the only one you will never get used to!

This is the marriage that is worth waiting for.

Our husbands here are great, but they are people just as we are.

Take heart, beloved. Earthly marriage is not the end goal. Jesus is. It is not a cake walk. But it is a beautiful blessing that takes work and effort and the love and grace of Christ. It is like any other good gift God created: something that was meant to point to Him and Him alone.

Jesus, Calm My Storm

Everywhere we look these days we are getting news of storms.

Whether it is a physical storm like Hurricane Harvey or Irma or the sudden passing of a family member or just feeling like we cannot catch up with our schedules,

As the season of fall approaches, I can’t help but consider what these months have so long meant to my family.

As a child, there was a stretch of time where every tragedy that hit seemed to hit between the months of August and November. My grandmother died. My best friend’s father died. My aunt had a debilitating aneurysm. My mom’s best friend needed a kidney transplant. In fall 2015, my husband lost relationship with some of his closest family. Last fall my grandfather went to be with Jesus.

It just seems to be a season of storms.

Right now, I am sitting at my kitchen table sipping my coffee, using the spare thirty minutes I have to jot down my thoughts. My current storm isn’t a tragedy, but rather, a continuously rotating schedule.

You see, your storm doesn’t have to be destructive to your life, but it might be disruptive. It might be your own desire to please. It might be all the commitments you have clung to. It might be a loss or a disease or a very physical storm that has destroyed your home and everything you know.

Whatever it is, when we look up, the face of Jesus is clouded gray fog. We cannot seem to look past our current situation, and eventually,  we want to just stop and look ahead. After all, our necks are tired and nothing seems to clarify Him.

These storms are what Satan uses to steal our joy, to kill our hope, and to destroy our witness. They seem to be never ending and their effects are like the shadow that blocks all light and hope.

The storm of a busy schedule.

This is my current state–the storm that is disruptive. It is the enemy’s kingdomway of stealing. This is the storm that you don’t even realize you are caught in until you sit down to rest for a few minutes. We open your scripture and immediately consider all the things that need to be done. It’s overwhelming. Overworking. We put things aside and tell ourselves we will get to them later.

Most of the time, those things include intimacy with Jesus and time meditating on Him. They include sharpening our own gifts to His glory.

We may neglect to spend intentional time with your husband or your children or to share the Gospel with our neighbors.

We heart feels pulled in ten-thousand different directions. Rarely will we choose the direction of Jesus.

The storm of loss.

This is the storm that is disabling. It is the enemy’s way of killing. He came to kill any hope of eternal life and harmony with God. It is the family member that returns to dust. It is Hurricane Irma or Harvey or Katrina that have left so many without a next move. We don’t know what to do with our heart.

We spend lots of time with God, but usually, it is to cry out in pain. We don’t understand why and we let Him know. We are tempted to walk away from Him long-term promises and chase after something that will satisfy us now. We give into lust and greediness and self-glorification.

Or maybe we don’t act out at all. Maybe we don’t do anything except sit and wonder why the world is the way it is. We may be paralyzed with fear or anger.

Mostly we wonder when life will get back to normal, dwelling in what was and longing for restoration.

The storm of anger.

This is the storm that destroys. It destroys our witness and the enemy uses it to draw people away from the love of the Father. It keeps us from sinking into the Father’s love and causes us to dwell on our own desires.

It is the storm that tears apart relationships.

It causes families to break.

It keeps us captive to our own idea of what love is.

It is the storm of abuse.

It is the storm of hatered.

It stems from pride–expecting that we deserve something we are simply not receiving.

Yet no matter how we realize that this storm is destroying us from the inside out, we cannot seem to shake it off. The littlest thing might remind us of our bitterness. We are triggered just as we begin to feel better. We know how we should be feeling, but we cannot seem to get there on our own.

The Calmer in the storm.

But that is just the point. We cannot and will not get there on our own. Even those who fled from Hurricane Irma will still return to flooded homes. We will all face our storm’s destruction. But we do not all have to be destroyed by our storm.

There were two instances (that we know of) where Jesus was a calmer amidst the winds and waves of a storm.

Once He was asleep while His disciples cried for His help

Another time He stayed back though He knew there would be a storm.

In the first instance, He came up, told the storm to stop, and questioned why the Disciples ever feared in the first place.

In the second instance, He walked upon the water to meet His disciples, and beckoned Peter onto the crashing waves.

calmer.jpgIn neither instance did He calm the storm immediately.

In neither instance did He tell His disciples that it was okay to focus on the storm.

Their eyes were focused on the waves. They were settled on the destruction. They couldn’t get past the grey clouds and the falling rain.

Or consider this: when Peter walked upon the water toward Jesus, the storm did not stop. The waves still crashed. The wind still rolled. And yet Jesus was still calming; He was calming Peter. Not the storm.

You see, Jesus is just as much the calmer in the storm as He is the calmer of the storm. Our job is not always to beg Him to take away the pain, though He may, but it is always to look through the clouds into His shining face that IS there.

While the enemy seeks to steal away our time, Jesus reminds us that nothing should trouble us except spending time with Him.

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Ephesians 5:15-17

When the enemy is having His way with death on this earth, Jesus reminds us that he has been defeated by eternal life.

“O death, where is your victory?
    O death, where is your sting?”

 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:55-57

When the enemy tries to destroy our witness through our own anger, Jesus’s word reminds us that the only way to fight anger is to be planted in Scripture.

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.

Psalm 1:1-3

Do not be shamed in this storm, oh Christian. The storms are part of the fall. They define the evil, corrupt, sinful world in which we reside.

If your storm is busyness, death, anger, a hurricane that has disrupted your life, or anything else, use this time to see this world in the way it really is. Use it as a time to look to Jesus that He may be your calmer in the midst of wind and waves. Remember, the story has already been written.

The enemy and his storms do not win.

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My Favorite Things about My New Marriage

Oh my goodness! The last month of my life has been insane. I started my new job, began an online business, and have been diving head first into seminary each week. That being said, this blog has unfortunately taken the back burner. 

That being said, I am so grateful for one of my favorite friends in this world, Shelby Newton, who has written the sweetest guest post about engagement & adjusting to life as a newly married woman. Ladies, each marriage will be different. They will come with their own challenges and perspectives, but we serve a consistent Savior.

Let us lean on one another and learn from one another and we abundantly love one another. 

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Just over a year ago, I had the honor of standing beside Lauren on her wedding day [TRUE}. This year, I was honored to have Lauren stand with me on my own. It has been more than two months since that day, and marriage has been such a blast!

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We love to be together.

Shelby: After being together five years before getting married, it has been wonderful for Justin and me to come home to our home each night instead of parting ways and going back to separate apartments. After work, we both get to come home and enjoy our time together.

We love to adventure.

In addition to getting married this summer, we also moved! Even before we were engaged, we knew that we wanted to move when we got married. Having both grown up in Bowling Green, KY, we wanted a new experience as newlyweds. It has been so fun and exciting to explore our new town – and to show friends and family around when they visit! (I could write an entire post about the local bakery and other local restaurants we love!) Starting marriage in a new city has taught us both to rely on one another.

I love to be his.

I love being Mrs. Turner! Not only do I get to introduce myself as Shelby Turner, but I also have classes full of students calling me “Mrs. Turner” at school–it’s my first year of teaching. It is always a fun reminder of finally being married to my favorite person and my best friend.

We have experienced provision.

Engagement brought its own lessons, such as trusting the Lord to provide. After months of prayer (and having no answer to the question “Where will you live after you get married?”), both Justin and I got job offers within hours of each other one day. We searched for what seemed like forever for a place to live, but we didn’t feel right about any of our options. Finally, the Lord provided us the most perfect apartment.

We have learned not to expect ease.

Marriage is also providing its own lessons, too. There have been logistical adjustments, like sleeping in the same bed as another person and doing dishes constantly (we don’t have a dishwasher). I have also had to work for spiritual growth. For years and years, I spent time in prayer and reading my Bible before I went to bed. After being married for14570212_10207162303112352_629039260158653787_n.jpg a few weeks, I realized it had been over a week since I had cracked open my Bible. Every night, I spend as much time as I can with my husband, but it has never been in my nature to stop and spend my time with the Lord in the morning. (I am not a morning person, and I had always slept until the last minute before jumping up and getting ready as fast as I could.) However, I have learned that I need to get up earlier than I think I need to, drink some coffee, and spend time in prayer and growing in the Lord.

Of course, I have so much to learn and so many areas to grow in, but I am lucky to have godly parents and in-laws that are constantly praying for us and sharing their wisdom with us. We are also lucky to have other young married couples in our lives that we can lean on and enjoy life with.

At school, I often have my students rate their day or week on a scale of one to ten just to see how everything is going for them. I would give marriage so far a 10/10, and I would definitely marry Justin again in a heartbeat.

. . . . . . . . . . .

Though I have only been married one year longer than sweet Shelby, I am reminded of the unique joys and trials that face every newly married couple. Girls. Pinterest isn’t real. 

The best moments are not picture-perfect. 

They are messy and sweet. 

They are sometimes painful and confusing. 

They are always rewarding. They always draw you closer to one another and closer to the Creator. 

If you are new to this whole marriage gig, write down your favorite moments. Write down what you are learning and what you hope to learn. Write down your challenges and trials and loves and dreams. Hold them tight. The first year flies by, and I can only imagine that the years to follow do too. 

Let us learn from ourselves. Let us learn from one another. Let us lean into our God. 

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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.

We’ve Been Married for a Year and This is What We’ve Learned

Married for a year. This is fiercely weird to say.

It seems as if it were five minutes ago that I was driving frantically around Bowling Green, Kentucky the night before my wedding trying to find our marriage license (yes, that happened). It seems as if it were just the other day that we were lounging on the beach during our honeymoon when the storm alarm began sounding across the city of Destin, FL. It seems like it was just yesterday that my man carried me into our first home, awaiting the marriage that would soon ensue.

And yet it also seems like he has always been my husband.

Yesterday, as we celebrated, I was ironically reminded of what our entire year had looked like. We began the day worshiping the Lord with our local body of believers, we went to Long Horn and used a gift card (cause the first year married has us poor), then we got on the road to begin our day that Austin had scheduled out.

First, we would go mini golfing and settle a two-year long tie. Then, we would go to the Soda Parlor and get ice cream floats. Finally, we would walk around downtown Nashville before eating at a fancy restaurant we had no business stepping foot in.

However.

When we got on the road to go mini golfing, we began hearing a loud sound coming from under our car. A little nervous, we pulled over, only to smell some serious burning. Low and behold, one of our tires was not only flat but absolutely shredded to the core. Austin grinned, relieved that it was only a tire and headed to the trunk where he would show me how my man could change a tire in just a few minutes. He had the confidence of the NASCAR crew. Only, instead of finding what he needed, he found a tire that was literally stuck to our car and a tool case with no tools in it.

Did I mention it was 90 degrees outside and we were on an interstate?

Needless to say, the day was not picture perfect or Instagram worthy. It was real though! We cackled on the side of the road as we waited for roadside assistance to show up. We sweated through our clothes trying to beat one another at mini golf. We walked into 5th and Taylor (fancy restaurant) in jeans (which is apparently not something you do), then we laid on the couch watching America’s Got Talent.

Oddly enough, it was one of the most fun days I have ever had.

And that is what I believe marriage is. Making the weird, and often hard, moments enjoyable for the other. It’s putting aside your own discomforts for the comfort of your partner. It’s remembering back to the time you lost your temper because something didn’t go perfectly and using that as motivation to react differently now. It is not what social media tells you it is, and it is often not even what I tell you it is, but it is the greatest gift God has ever given me. I am so excited to share with you what He has shared with me over this last year.

Everything was not as big a deal as it felt.

The first month of our marriage was a breeze. I loved him more than I thought possible–and it was the fairy-tale, happy-all-the-time, over-the-top kind of love. The honeymoon stage was REAL y’all. Then month two happened, and we began to settle into things.

15032336_10207710552218721_2018233938094522195_n.jpgI became comfortable with talking to him however I wanted.

He became comfortable with looking at his phone instead of listening to me.

And then it started. We bickered and argued over small, stupid things. Things that should not matter at all. After months of wondering why it was that we seemed to be in an argument rut, the Lord revealed to me what was going on in my heart.

Newly weds! Listen up!

When you make the kind of commitment that marriage makes, everything gets way more personal. The love is much bigger and the hurt is much deeper. Yes, it evens out over time, but in the moment, the Lord has taught me to stop and remember whose I am. Not Austin’s but His.

It puts everything back into perspective. It reminds me that I am here in this life and in this marriage for the glory of Jesus Christ and not to fulfill some kind of dream marriage or to even fulfill all my husband’s desires. Our eyes cannot be on ourselves or even on anything in this world but on our God. I’ll touch on that more in a minute.

Weddings are fun. Marriage is better.

If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me if I was sad that the wedding was over, I would have all the money in the world to pay for seminary this fall! (#RealWorldProbs). Yes, the wedding was fun. However. Marriage is better! The wedding day is just that: a day. It comes and goes just like any other day in your life15032065_10207710317452852_2418948156771825846_n BUT much faster.

Honestly, my favorite part about having had the wedding is hearing about how much my friends enjoyed themselves. It was enjoying one another in community and celebration of our God and His picture of marriage! Oh, it was fun, guys.

But I would not trade a day of being married to my man for another big party. He is too good, too kind, and this daily sleepover kind of thing is way too fun for all that.

Caring for something (or someone) makes my marriage more fulfilling.

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Okay, I might get judged for this one. We did get a dog and it was one of the best decisions we have made! I am not saying that everyone should get a dog for their first

little stint of marriage, and I am definitely not saying that a marriage without something to care for is any less fulfilling than mine. I am, however, saying that we love to watch one another love on something.

We love to have a common goal and to take responsibility for something together.

And it’s just plain fun!

Though I am positive that caring for a dog will be nothing like caring for our own children one day, I freakin love my dog, and I love that my husband loves my dog. It brings in a whole lot more love to what is already a whole lot of love. 10/10 would recommend.

When Jesus isn’t the center, we have nothing stable to hold onto.

We have struggled, friends. And not just simple struggles like being stranded on the side of the road! We have struggled with staying in our word consistently. We have struggled with our spiritual disciplines. We have just plain struggled. Funny how the times that we struggle spiritually are the times we are struggling in our marriage.

You might ask, well did you try things like bringing in better communication or making a list of why you love him? Yes, we have tried some logistical things, but Jesus is what it always comes back to. And it is always going to be! If He was the thing we built our marriage upon, if He was the reason we stepped out in a big kind of faith to get married when and at the cost we did, He has to be what we center of our whole relationship. I mean all of it. The decisions we make financially, the relationships we pour ourselves into, the jobs we take, the time we spend, and everything in between must come back to Him or we will crumble. We will turn into ourselves or become obsessed with “pleasing” the other to a point of self-destruction. When we are right with Him, we are right with one another. Always.

Pinterest doesn’t tell the truth.

I am sitting in a very cluttered apartment right now, and you wanna know why? Pinterest. (And Facebook and Instagram and any other social media site that tells me all the stuff I need). Log off! Trust me. We are about to spend about two weeks purging our apartment because most of the stuff we have is not necessary. It has created unrealistic expectations in our household and it has brought unneeded shame and stress into our lives. Do yourself a favor and put it away.

Build a home that YOU love and that reflects your faith from the moment guests enter the door.

I can’t wait for a lifetime with this man.15094310_10207710551298698_977603201733002791_n

This year has been the best of my life. It has not been the easiest; in fact, it has also been the most challenging. But the Lord has stretched my little family in ways that have given us no other choice than to cling tightly to Him.

That has been what has grown my love for Austin so much. Not the pretty, Pinterest-worthy moments, but the gritty, hard, “you only have each other and Jesus” kind of moments. I pray that God gives me more time with this human than I know what to do with. I pray that we walk alongside one another it life’s beautiful moments as well as its beautifully devastating moments. I pray that we encounter the Holy Spirit daily and that we have kids who love Jesus more than we do.

Year one of marriage has come and gone. It goes by fast, girls. Savor it. Love Him. Get ready for what’s next.

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