Redeeming Light.

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Growing up in Arizona, we use to joke that summer days don’t actually start until about 9PM. Although the summer heat was still a strong force, the harsh sun had gone to bed and our adventures were guided by nothing more than a few street lights and a vast blanket of stars. This picture seems to be a spot on representation of the season of life I find myself in. God is a strong and warm force, even though His light seems nothing more than stars light-years away. He’s close, I can feel it, but the glimpses of the Kingdom seem so far to my little eyes. Yet somehow, I’m finding my way home.

Before time began, God dreamed up each and every one of us. He thought of me. He knit me in my mother’s womb so specifically. He knew every decision generations of people had to make for me to end up here right now breathing and typing this story out. He made ME for such a time as this…

But why? 

The last year of my life has been filled with a lot of questions. “Why…” seems to be the most frequent. I have asked God a lot of hard, doubtful, and scary questions. There are so many broken pieces that I want to be cleaned up already, but I’m glad they’re not. God’s timing is something I have always struggled with, yet here I am realizing just how much I need it to be in His control.

During my time in India, our gracious host Sharola was waiting for her baby to arrive. Her doctor had asked if she wanted to be induced, but she knew her sweet daughter just wasn’t ready yet. Her maternal instincts told her to wait, she knew her daughter, and she knew she wasn’t ready. In this simple, common place,  circumstance God spoke to the depths of my being. God knows me more than anyone else. He created me, gave me my mother, gave me breath; so what if every time I thought He gave me no answer, He was really saying “I know you my daughter and I know you’re not ready.” 

So easily I forget that He is mindful of me. He provides the wind beneath the wings of birds, and if I am more precious than they, then of course His light, no matter how dim, guides the path before me. Because even those stars, a  million light-years away, shimmer so radiantly against the dark sky. Suddenly I find the question being asked of me: Why Spencer? Why haven’t you trusted me? Why have you hidden the light I gave you? Have I not made you a city on a hill? Have I not shown you time and time again how light delivers the lost out of darkness? Where are you being light in dark places?

The beauty of God’s redemption is that He invites us to not only be redeemed ourselves, but to lead others into redemptive narratives. I may not be ready for an answer or an action, because God is writing a story that demands I live fully in all circumstances in order to fuel a brighter light. To be more like Christ, my heart has to break and it has to overcome by His strength alone.

Mordecai told Esther that God would deliver the Jews, with or without her, but maybe, just maybe, she was placed in the palace for such a time…
Ruth told Naomi “your people will be my people, your God will be my God…”
Mary sang praises to God even when she knew the world would ridicule her…
Mary Magdalene wanted to honor Jesus even in her mourning…

Esther faced potential death, but she saved the Jews.
Ruth found a new life in Boaz and became part of Jesus’ bloodline.
Mary bore the Savior of the World.
Mary Magdalene was the first to see the resurrected Jesus and proclaim the greatest news in history.

In the face of fear, uncertainty, and mourning these women followed God and participated in the redemptive narrative of the world. Could God not be asking the same of you and me? To simply say yes, even when we wish the light was brighter? Even when we wish we had an answer? Even when others say no? God wants a yes. Fear, guilt, shame: they are all lies. Thank God He is the author of truth.

I have seen the light and how my soul delights in it. My story is still being written, but God doesn’t get writers block. I will not be stuck in a dark chapter, because the Light of the World goes before me and He has set my soul ablaze.

Today, I’m saying yes to the Redeemer of all things, that He would be gracious enough to invite me in.

Love is for the Strong.

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I’ve always been the one that loves too much too quickly.  From people & places to ideas & dreams bigger than the sea.  I hold deeply in my heart a fierce love for people. The one thing I’ve never shied away from was the chance to love.

God showers us in an unexplainable love that shifts the fabrics of reality.  No matter how hard I try, my love will never be capable of such wonders.  I have spent a long time pouring out my deepest wells to people, all the while quietly whispering, “if I love them enough this… if I love them enough that…”  The harsh reality I faced is I was the one needing to be loved.  I ignore my own insecurities and brokenness, so I loved others without God’s guidance.  Yes, my love will bring joy, comfort, and so much more to those in my life, but no longer will I think it can weave their life together as beautifully as the Lord.

One of the biggest things God is teaching me in this season is about love.  The Lord is teaching me to be on guard.  Whether it be friends, family, a significant other, I need to protect my heart.  You see, growing up does not require us to love any less, but it does require us to love wisely.  God has asked me to love wisely because, too often I think my love will fix it.  The loneliness, the brokenness, the sorrow…  It may help, but it will never heal like the love of the Father.

The Lord has asked me to love Him with every fiber of my being & love my neighbor as myself.  I need to love myself fiercely & tenderly, with boundaries & honesty.  These things will not only keep me healthy, but will build a solid framework on how to love others.  Author & speaker Bob Goff encourages people to “give love away like you’re made of it.”  I love this quote because we are made of love.  We bear the image of God, the God of Love, we are an expression of His love.  In order to fully express the love God has called me to, I need to guard my heart.

But don’t get it twisted, Jesus’ love was radical.  He threw Himself into the midst of heartache & pain.  Jesus showed us that if you love, you will suffer.  But you’ll never live a fulfilling life without it.

Love is work. Love is sacrifice. Love is humbling. Love is not for the faint of heart.

Love is for the strong.

So where do we find balance?  How do we live a life filled with a healthy does of love & a healthy dose of guarding your heart?  You live out the gospel, that’s how.

You get your heart & soul wrapped up in the Creator of all, you commit to doing His will, and He will give you an abundantly loving life.  He will ask you to love people that are hard to love.  He will ask you to pour out your deepest wells to people, but if you’re drinking from Living Water you never have to worry.  Not only will He heal you, He’ll take it one step further & redeem it for His own glory.  He will use your suffering in His love story to humanity.

You are made for love.  You are made of love.  You are loved.
Now go love the world like Jesus said to.
You’ll never be the same.

 

 

thanks for the photo unsplash

Get a Prayer, Not a Resolution.

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Resolution: 1. A firm decision to do or not to do something.  2. the action of solving a problem, dispute, or contentious matter

Happy Birthday Planet Earth! (this is a joke.)

But seriously, wow, 2017! This post is about how I hate New Year’s Resolutions, but I promise it is not just a bunch of sass.

Hear my heart guys, resolutions are made for failure. Often times, we make them on whims out of guilt or shame, out of a desperate need to be like others. #NewYearNewMe More like, #NewYearGottaBeLikeEveryoneElse. You know what happens when we fall off the wagon? We create more guilt & shame. We create more jealousy towards those that are still (at least seemingly) going strong. We create low self-esteem & anxiety. Why on earth would you buy into that cycle!? I for one have had enough. It’s time for some self-love & amazing grace.

So here’s my mantra for 2017: Get a Prayer, Not a Resolution.

I have high hopes, crazy plans, and big huge dreams for this year. Hopes that God has tucked into my heart, plans He has laid out before me, and dreams that will never come true if I’m not close to His heart. No resolution will change our lives as much a simple prayer to our Creator. I asked Him to give me a prayer & He gave a word. In an unexpected, unique, & tangible way. I knew it was meant to be.

So in 2017, more than anything, I am praying for courage.

I need courage to get moving. I need courage to study hard. I need courage to travel across the world for God’s Kingdom. I need courage to love fearlessly. I need courage to have difficult conversations. You get the picture: Homegirl needs a LOT of stinkin’ courage!

What do you need this year? Wisdom. Peace. Love. Restoration. Courage?
Whatever it may be, my prayer for you is that you take hold of it. Grab it tightly & don’t let go. But remember the beauty of our God is that He’s constant, even when you’re not. So even if you forget the truths He’s tucked inside of your being, remember He’s not walking away. His mercies are new every morning. This year is 365 chances to meet God. Every morning He will give you courage, wisdom, peace, love, restoration… He will give it all, if you’d only ask Him.

Lamentations 3:21-25
Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this:
The faithful love of the Lord never ends! 
His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!”
The Lord is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him.

The Beach House.

hlv41hgzv1y-khurt-williamsYou’re lying on a beach. The warm rays of the sun kissing your skin, the sand exfoliating your toes, the salty sea breeze breathing serenity into your world. Or maybe you’re bundled up on a sofa in front of a stone fire-place, the smell of hot cocoa filling your senses, fresh snow outside is like the scene of a beautiful painting. Who doesn’t love a good vacation? An escape from reality. Whether it’s an open beach house on the coast or a cozy cabin hidden in the mountains, everyone has a dream vacation house.

In church today, we heard an amazing message about the hope of home. Emmanuel, God with us, came to this earth. He didn’t have to come, but He did & He still does. Through the Holy Spirit, He makes our hearts home. He did this to show us what it means to be home. The bleeding woman didn’t feel home in her body, but her faith in Christ healed her. She made Him her home.

How often have I made Christ my vacation house instead of my home? I come to Him to find rest and comfort, which is not a bad thing, but I hold back. I don’t give Jesus my whole life & I only take from Him what I want. Why do we use Jesus to escape from reality when He literally is reality? Our lives, our circumstances; past, present, & future, it is all because of Christ. In the midst of my issues with body image & the struggles of mental illness, I have run so far away from home. I’ve camped out long weekends in a vacation house Christ, but I have failed to make Him a home.He has invited me in, to sit at His table and communion with Him, yet so many times I’ve accepted a cheaper idealistic version.

Ya see, the thing about vacation houses is, they’re not home. No matter how much fun you’re having, how peaceful you feel, how much you say “I could stay here forever!” you’re still longing for something. You’re longing for the place that carries your deepest joys and pains, the place your life is woven together, you’re missing home.

Jesus should not be the vacation house I use to catch a breath from my busy life: He should be my home. The place I take all my guilty, all my busy, all my worry, all my joy, all my life, all the time: He Is Home!

Jesus doesn’t need me to clean up my life. He takes me dirty laundry and all. Our lives are messy. Homes are messy. The cross was messy, but it always invites us home.

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.” – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

(Thanks for the photo, unsplash!)

Running.

It was in one of my favorite places on earth that my life was turned upside down. I was in a place where I feel overflowing joy and the peace of the Lord. On a cool June night, I got a phone call from my brother, his voice held the weight of a heartbreak he was about to lay upon me. This call changed my heart. This call brought me one of the deepest sorrows I had ever felt. Delivered from the mouth of someone I love with every fiber of my being, someone who knows my heart better than most, I could hear the grief in his voice. Three words changed my heart.
“Spencer,  Angie died.”

When I was in middle school, I met a fire-cracker of a human. Her outgoing personality and spunky jokes intimidated me, but we somehow made a connection. We found out we both grew up in Southern California and had moved to Yuma the same year. We loved the same tv shows & music, No Doubt’s Running became our anthem. For the first time, I had felt home. Her friendship was my home. Every weekend was spent together, from sleepovers and movies to late night phone calls, she was my best friend. As high school started, we started to drift apart, like most middle school friends. But we still had a connection, when my brother was sick and other trials of life, she was the first one by my side. We could pick up right where we left off, like no time had passed at all. This girl knew my heart and soul, every part of me that was hard to tell others, she understood. She taught me how to live more genuinely and love fearlessly. I never told her how thankful I am.

Here I am now, starting my Senior year in university with a heavy heart. For years, I’ve been living without truly embracing it all. I am so unbelievably lucky. How blessed am I to be part of a family that lives out unconditional love. To have a mother who shows me sacrificial love daily and a father who’s heart is guided by kindness & love. To have brothers who teach me what it means to live passionate lives and a sister who sees beauty where my blind spots are.

To be overwhelmed with love by the Maker of the Stars, to think He knows my name. To open my eyes each morning & see a world full of possibility. To breathe in second chances every morning. To be given the opportunity to fully live each morning. Oh how blind I had been. It was only in my deepest sorrows that I saw, oh how I truly saw, what it means to be grateful for today. It took losing someone so dear to my heart to wake me up from my complacency. If only I had learned that a long time ago. I pray that’s not what it takes for you.

As for me, I will take each day for what it is, a gift. I will love courageously for the first.

run, running all the time, running to the future: with you right by my side…

I played my best for Him.

As dead week comes to a close and finals knock at our doors decked with holly (because who isn’t anxiously awaiting Christmas!?), I find myself living in tension. I stress over the piles of papers that still need to be written and the dozens of notecards that need to be memorized, I am also simultaneously acknowledging the season of Advent. A time of waiting for God’s Son, a promise of His second coming magnificently displayed through the celebration of His first. This my friends, is the greatest gift humanity has ever received. A gift we never deserved to receive, so how on earth do I give something in return to this King? Here, I take some wise words from the Little Drummer Boy.

“I have no gift to bring
Pa rum pum pum pum
That’s fit to give our king
Pa rum pum pum pum

I played my drum for him
Pa rum pum pum pum
I played my best for him
Pa rum pum pum pum”

What does a college student in her twenties give to The King of All? I give Him my best. In this time of finals and stress, I study, I write, I read, I speak, I play my best for Him. That is the only offering I can bring. Thankfully it is exactly what He wants. I give Him my life, my everything, playing my best for Him. So no matter what grade, praises or criticisms, or anything of this world I receive, as long as I walk away from this semester singing proudly “I played my best for Him,” I think I’ll be okay. Because I like to think that just as baby Jesus smiled at the Little Drummer Boy in that sweet song, He smiles at me. Even when I stumble through the notes, He still loves my song. He still loves me. And He is thankful for my best.

Pa rum pum pum pum…

You Make Me Come Alive.

Live Move Breathe

One of the most defining moments in my faith happened in the midst of an anxiety attack. God wrapped me in His arms, pulled me close to His heart, and whispered pure shalom into my soul. I will never forget that feeling of pure love radiating throughout the depths of my being. That was the day I completely trusted God with my mental illness.

Mental Illness. A lot of people stumble over those words, because mental illness is scary. It unfortunately has a lot of stigma around it and is filled with uncertainty. If I’ve learned anything from this crazy mess, it is that there is power in putting a name on it. Like a breath of fresh air after being underwater too long, it can hurt at first. It feels forced, urgent, and rough. But once your lungs feel how rejuvenating that oxygen is… man, the air is so sweet.

Seeking help was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Because that meant admitting to myself, my family, friends, and doctors that I wasn’t okay. I was scared that it meant I had lost faith in God or that I didn’t believe He could heal me. I want to tell you right now, those are lies straight from the enemy. Seeking help has made me so much healthier spiritually, as well as physically and emotionally. God has used doctors to help me and I believe whole heartedly that is just as praise worthy as parting the sea.

I’ve been in the valley, I’ve been on the mountain top, and I’ve been at sea level just floating along. It is even okay to experience these in ups and downs. I’ve made the mistake of thinking “I was doing so well, so I can’t get bad again. That’s not allowed.” Friend, that is so okay. All are valid and have value in God’s kingdom. Mental illness is a process, a daily battle. One of my favorite songs says this “Your love is my battle cry, the anthem for all my life.” That is the outlook I pray to have everyday as I face this journey.

When we lean into God, we find life in the fullest. Even in the chaos of mental illness, God is an ever present help. When we give it all to Him, He shows up in ways we never thought possible. I pray that you take heart and have courage, know He has overcome. The Lord is present in your situation. God has shown up on my journey. He’s shown up in the prayers of my family & friends. He’s shown up in the caring words of encouragement given by professors and the kind eyes of nurses. He’s shown up in the tough therapy sessions and in the laughs I’ve held on to. He is living, moving, and breathing in my situation. I know this to be true, because I am alive in Him.

In Him we live & move & have our being”  Acts 17:38

I Will Follow

I have read many articles about women in ministry that grew up in churches that taught against this and the struggles they faced. As a student trying to find where The Lord is leading my life, I too find myself amidst this unique journey.

I became a follower of Christ when I was fourteen. Since then, I have been actively working to cultivate a relationship of true depth & intimacy with The Lord. During my high school years, I had my fair share of struggles and mishaps, but I was also blessed with many instances of seeing God’s signs for the direction my life is currently shaping. The more I dug deeper into myself: the strengths & weaknesses, the failures & triumphs, the passions & annoyances, the more I felt called into a life of ministry. At this time in my life I had never personally met a woman pastor before, but I didn’t know the reasoning behind it. I knew that everyone was called to serve God in different ways based on their own unique talents, so having never met a woman pastor, I simply attributed it to the fact that none of the women in my church must have felt called to that.

I had never been told women could not be pastors until my senior year of high school. Busy sending out college applications, I prayed I would not only get into the schools I wanted, but also that God would show me the way in picking a major. During this time a conversation occurred that was very “cookie cutter” for that season of life. I was asked about future plans & what I intended to study, I had replied “Youth Ministry, I hope I can be a youth pastor one day.” That’s when the words hit my heart for the first time: “You can’t do that, you’re a woman.” After a few more words were exchanged, I left that conversation completely confused and lost. I want you all to understand something, I was not naive to the fact that people would tell me I could not accomplish this, but never in a million years had it crossed my mind that their reasoning would be my gender. I had not even embarked on the journey yet, but I was being told I was already disqualified because of my anatomy that was handcrafted by The Creator of All.

If I really wanted to, now is where I would go into a long rant about why I believe that women can indeed serve in the church leadership and what not. I would speak of Old Testament prophets and heroines, of the women who faithfully followed Jesus and those He extended such wondrous grace towards. I would dig deeper in context and culture, but honestly I’m tired. I am so tired. I do not have the energy to battle anymore, especially because at the end of it all I feel immense judgment towards my life & calling. I have come to the realization that people who believe this may never change their minds and they will never change mine. It hurts my heart that when people ask the question “what do you want to be when you grow up?” I shy away from answering Youth Pastor. Instead I just kind of shrug & mumble, “I don’t know, I just want to love Jesus & work with youth in some way.” Why am I selling myself short? Because I like to save myself the awkwardness that silently occurs when someone does not like my answer. Am I saying I am going to go along quietly the rest of my life? No way, I will advocate for this until the day I meet Jesus face to face. However, it’s hard to live a life worthy of the call, like we’re told in Ephesians 4, when others are telling you you’re not. I do not understand why we spend so much time telling each other “no,” instead of pressing on to finish the race, to expand The Kingdom.

And here I’m at a loss for words. I guess what I am trying to get at here is this: I have a calling from Christ & I am going to follow it.

Over the last year the verse that has really stuck on my heart has been Luke 14:25-27 “Many people were traveling with Jesus. He said to them, “If you come to me but will not leave your family, you cannot be my follower. You must love me more than your father, mother, wife, children, brothers, and sisters—even more than your own life! Whoever will not carry the cross that is given to them when they follow me cannot be my follower.”  Not only has this verse challenged me, but it has also given me peace. I do not follow Christ for the satisfaction of others, nor myself, I do it for the satisfaction of Him.

There are people who don’t even know me that do not support my calling and that’s okay. I know there are people whom love me dearly that do not support my calling and that’s okay too. I also know there are people who do not know me and people whom love me dearly that do support me. Whatever side you may be on, I ask for your prayers as God leads me. I also ask that you have grace and patience for me, because this season is not as easy as it looks. Every day I am growing & changing, becoming the woman God wants me to be, but one thing remains & that’s my desire to serve Him.

Dear Sister

Dear Sister,

As I scroll through my feeds on social media, my heart is breaking. I’m looking into the world you are preparing to brave in a mixed state of joyous excitement and utter terror. On the one hand, exciting things are happening in the world and I cannot wait to see what you contribute to it. But it is when I see women posting about wanting to look sickly thin in order to feel good about themselves that I start to worry. I see women worried they are nothing more than a body on display. They pay no mind to their gifts and talents. As you enter your pre-teen years, you are slowly dipping your feet into one of the hardest seasons of life. You will question everything about yourself: from your hair & clothes to your favorite color & TV show, you will try to change everything in order to fit in to what the world tells you is best. It is the realization that you are growing older every day and although I wish I could, I cannot protect you from the world.

Unique Sister, I am writing to tell you something important. You Are Wonderfully Made. I know you’ve heard it before and I hope you never stop hearing it, but more importantly: I pray you believe it. I pray you know the beauty of your created self is not just skin deep, the brilliance of your design sinks deep into the depths of your being. That your mind, body, soul, and spirit were handcrafted into something more meaningful than any of us can ever imagine. When God spoke this earth into motion, He knew you. He thought of you, He wanted you, He loved you. And even better: He still knows you. He still thinks of you, He still wants you, He still love you.

Sweet Sister, when I look at you I see the future. You’re young, energetic, and learning more about yourself every day. I’m both happy and sad to say that it will take time to really figure yourself out. I have eight years on you and there are still days I wonder who I really am. You have so much to look forward to and so much I wish you could skip. The sad truth is this world is going to do everything it can to rip you apart. There will be days you look in the mirror and wish the face looking back was different. There will be times you work harder than you ever have on a project and no one will give you the high-five you deserve. There will be people who tell you lies and people you push you around. There will be people and situations that break your heart. There will be times you question if you really matter at all and there will be times you wonder if you really were created for a purpose. It is pains like these I wish you would never have to face.

Brave Sister, fear not and take heart, for Love truly overcomes. It starts with loving God. It starts with seeking Him above the world, with forming friendships based on Him, with trusting Him always. He will teach you to love yourself. He wants you to love yourself, each and every bit of it, from head to toe & mind to soul. You will love the soft brown of your eyes and the freckles that kiss your skin. You will love your uncontrollable giggles and your voice lifted in praise. You will love your ability to quote random movies and vast vocabulary. You will love the way you feel deeply for others and speak love through hugs.

Beautiful Sister, it pains me to say, but we live in a world ruled by looks. There are people who will make comments about your body that will hurt and I want you to know that these words do not matter. They have no control over you. If anyone, man or woman, says you are any less because you decided to do something with your body, they are not worth your time. You are not disgusting for looking a certain way or wearing certain clothes. If you want to wear a t-shirt and jeans, do it. If you want to wear a dress, do it. Do it for yourself and not anyone else. Remember that your outer appearance does not define your worth. Your worth has already been taken care of through Christ, you are His daughter and that far exceeds any earthly value.

Valuable Sister, my dreams for you are vast and my love for you exceeds that. I pray for your heart every day: that hurt will make you better not bitter, that you never lose yourself to a false persona, and that you find home in God’s love. I pray you live a grand adventure, one filled with mystery and wonder that makes you thirst for more of Him and less of this world. Make noise and leave your mark on the world. I pray you love with reckless abandon and that your soul always dances in His presence. I believe in you and I pray you believe in yourself. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, You Are Wonderfully Made. I love you Little Sister.

Love,

Your Sister