The Chasing

We chase what we want.

But sometimes we chase what we do not want at all. Sometimes we chase what falls in front of us. Sometimes we chase what we fall over. We chase what chases us. We chase what catches our eye.

So easily, we fall, stumbling over something that is not at all what we were chasing after to begin with.

We look up, wondering how we fell down. What did we trip over? What were we chasing after?

Isn’t that a great question.

What are we chasing after?

I find that often my heart lies to me. (Jeremiah 17:9) My heart is deceitful. It tells me that what I’m chasing is good and right. I deserve it, and it will make me happy. It tells me to be better. It tells me to try to be like her. It tells me if you do x, y, and z you will be happy. It tells me that I am better than her because I (fill in the blank). My heart lies to me, and sometimes I am blind, and I believe it.

Lie, after lie, after lie. That is where the stumble comes in. Catching that first lie is the tricky part. I’ve always heard that once you tell one lie, you have to tell another one. So it is a snowball effect. Makes sense, right? The more lies you believe, the more lies you tell yourself, even more lies you believe.

The first lie. What is your first lie? The one you believe the quickest? The one that is easiest to compromise on? The one that you make excuses for? The one that you cannot shake?

Knowing this lie, your lie, is foundational in your walk with God. Lies are straight from Satan, but he sure makes them look pretty. He makes them enticing and reasonable. He makes them look real good, y’all.

Don’t fret. God turns these weaknesses into the most beautiful rays of redemption.

I really do believe that lies are a foundation of our sin. Lies are where sin makes it’s home. Kind of makes me sick.

*Where are you in this cycle? First lie? Third lie? On the ground?

1. Tell Satan to BACK OFF.

2. Pray that God would open your eyes to your first lie/s and protect you from further belief of these lies. Thank you, LORD.

3. Repent. Turn away from the path you are going and pursue the things and promises of God.

Excuse me while I go repent and repeat steps 1-3.

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Identity: Endowed with Splendor

A few weeks ago I wrote about my past struggle with identity, but I want to take the time to share about our identity in Christ. Like I mentioned, I am constantly learning about my identity in Christ. I’ve been reading Isaiah and just finished Isaiah 61. “Splendor” kept jumping out at me. “Endowed with splendor” “a display of his splendor.” I realized this is a part of my identity in Christ. Like, woah. What is this Love?

What is splendor? I compared the ESV and NIV. They interchangeably use the words splendor, beauty, and glory. This glory, beauty and splendor begins with God. In my understanding, His glory is his radiance and beauty, and he allows us access.

“Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” – 2 Corinthians‬ ‭3:15-18‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The glory of the Lord is a gift he imparts to us when we turn to him. God tore the veil when Christ was crucified, and therefore we have access to his glory. But in addition to that, we are being transformed in his glory more and more. We behold his glory with no veil. We look upon his glory. We watch and see it. We experience it wash over us in his presence. We are free in his Spirit. Free to say “no” to the old and “yes” to the new. Free to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord. Free to participate in his kingdom purposes. Free to live in Him and not the bondage of this world. Free to accept truth and abolish lies. Free to live in surrender and not control. Free to live in victory instead of defeat. What we see now is just a small part of what we will see one day in FULL.

We earn no part of this. There is no good in this world that I could do that would earn this-not one thing. “But God being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ-by grace you have been saved- and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus… For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” – Ephesians 2:4-6, 8

This is part of who I am. This is part of who he made me to be. This is my identity. The veil torn before me through Jesus Christ alone, and I stand in his radiance, in his glory. I witness it over and over again in my life. I experience his redemption and cleansing. He makes me new and makes me right with him. He chisels away the old and sometimes it hurts, but I’m reminded of who I am, of whose I am, of what he says about me.

I embrace that identity in Him because he embraces me. I can’t possibly throw that identity away! It is too precious. It is too expensive. My new identity was bought with the blood of precious, worthy Jesus.

This world tries to sneak in and make my new identity dirty and impure. It seeks to strip it away. God protects me. I choose to be reminded of my identity in his word because I trust Him. The Spirit reminds me over and over again. I trust what he says is true because he has never failed me. He has redeemed me from the pit of destruction. He lifts me from the mire. He sets my feet on a rock and gives me a sturdy place to stand on (Psalm 40:2). I need nothing else in this world, though my flesh sometimes disagrees. He is so gracious and patient with me.

This week, may we be reminded of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. May we rejoice in what he has sacrificed for us. May we rejoice in what that means for our identity. We have something to rejoice in every second of this life!

How have you seen God’s glory? How have you experienced God’s beauty? It’s all around us. It’s in Scripture. It’s in us. And it’s lived out through us. Let us reflect upon his beauty. Let us look upon his radiance so that we, too, may be radiant.

Hallelujah! Christ rose! The veil is torn!

Identity: Miscellaneous

Have you ever seen an elementary school’s lost and found?

It is quite a sight, especially after the winter months.  Piles of jackets, shirts, glasses, and other odds and ins.  These items have been forgotten about multiple times.  Even when you announce to the whole school to make sure and check through it and see if anything belongs to them, though it dwindles some, more piles on.  “How is this no one’s jacket?”  It is truly a mystery in elementary school.

Will anyone claim these items?  They do belong to someone, but they have been piled up, forgotten, and hidden.  They will probably stay there until someone throws them away or takes them to a thrift store.

My identity was once a pile of lost and found.  A pile of people’s things they threw on me, and I caught each time.  I took each piece to heart.  Though it was thrown about carelessly, and often not meant to be left there long, it lingered all the more.

I began to really look through all of the things laid on me.  Why were they there?  I didn’t want them there.  I didn’t put them there.  I did, however, allow them to remain there.

This world, friends, will label you and place expectations on you and demand of you and plaster false identities all over your heart until you realize you don’t even know who you are anymore.

What I learned next was life changing for me.

I began to realize that though I believed a lot about God, I didn’t really believe all of the things that God said was true about me.  I believed them about my sister, my neighbor, and my friend, but I didn’t believe them about me.

THIS, dear friends, this was the issue.  I had NOTHING to stand on.  I had no rock.  I had no defenses, so I let everything in.  I had an identity of “miscellaneous.”

Have you been there before?  Feeling like a big pile of “miscellaneous”?  Feeling like you’ve been tossed around by others?  Though others definitely have an effect on us, we have to take responsibility for what is piled on us.  They are not going to come pick it up.  They may not even know it is there.

The fact is, our identity is not “miscellaneous.”  Our identity is clear, purposeful, light, and beautiful.  It won’t be handed to us though.  Miscellaneous will be handed to us.  Our identity in Christ has to be desired and sought out.  It is there in the Scriptures.  It has to be found by you.

Ready to throw all that junk away?  It’s been there for forever!

Ready to stand in the light of Christ in freedom?  THAT’s the forever I want!

(That kind of sounded like an infomercial. LOL…sorry guys, but I’m leaving it.)

Ever since my realization, I began this wondrous journey of seeking Christ and in turn, seeking who I am BECAUSE of Christ.

Though every single day I am learning more about my identity in Christ and even experiencing shifts in my beliefs about my identity, there are some things I have learned thus far from seeking my identity in Christ.

  1. When you are finding your identity, it will take time.  It doesn’t happen in a few days or months.  It didn’t in me at least.  It has taken me years to shake off all that was thrown at me.  Though I did have great moments of clarity, I didn’t get a firm grip of my identity in Christ until years after studying
  2. When you are finding your identity, it will take prayer.  Praying to our Father who gives us our identity helps us find our identity.  Makes total sense, right?
  3. When you are finding your identity, it will take studying.  The Bible is FULL of promises from God about our identity, and I continue to find them over and over again.
  4. When you are finding your identity, it will take FIGHTING.  Satan doesn’t like you finding your identity, and he sure will come after your weak spots.  Fight back with Scripture and what you have learned to be true about yourself.
  5. When you are finding your identity, it will take daily surrender.  Those false identities were my default setting.  They were my comfort zone.  It takes a daily acknowledgement of who God is to let go of those things so that he can work in my life and my heart.

–>Let’s shake off all that has been put on us, and let’s put on Christ.  Every day, y’all. Praise God who has brought us out of darkness, into his MARVELOUS light!

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

1 Peter 2:9

The Fight for Quiet

“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”  Mark 6:31 NIV

This verse gripped my very core back in the fall.  The title in my Bible says “Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand.”  You’ve heard this story right?  I have heard and read this story more times than I can count.  After I read these words in verse 31, however, I had to stop.  I read them again and again.  It’s like I couldn’t believe what I was reading- that God’s Word was speaking this to me.  It was freeing yet challenging.  God anointing my head with this grace.

In this story Jesus does feed the five thousand, however, I was glued to the disciples.  In verse 30 the disciples were telling Jesus about all they had done and taught.  It says in verse 12 that they “drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.”  No doubt the disciples were busy and in high demand as word spread about what they were doing.  So I imagine them being excited telling Jesus all they had done.  But Jesus saw need in them, “so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat.”  They were hungry and tired.  They had been very busy.  This place where they were even reporting to Jesus was busy- people all around.  Jesus knew they needed some time alone.  They needed time to be with Jesus.  So they head off to a solitary place.

Then, in verse 32 it says they were on their way to this desolate place when people “recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them.”  They can’t catch a break!  So again, there are people everywhere and Jesus had compassion on them because they were lost.  Jesus began to teach them and knew they were hungry.   Jesus gives the disciples an opportunity to feed them when he says, “You give them something to eat.”  They return with a logical answer that they didn’t have enough money to feed them.  I imagine Jesus saying “Oh you of little faith,” and then he feeds them with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish.

After Jesus fed them, it says in verses 45 and 46 “Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat… he went up on a mountainside to pray.”  It was urgent to Jesus that they get away.  (Then, Jesus proceeds to walk on the water… nbd.)

So what?

  1. Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith, and I cannot neglect him for good deeds and ministry.  Hebrews 12:2-3 “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus…”
  2. When I get caught up in the busyness, I forget my need for Jesus.  I tend to get caught up in the doing instead of the being.  This can lead to selfishness and pride and self-dependency.
  3. When I get caught up in the busyness, I forget the power living in me!  I begin to think in the realm of possibility within my power instead of the power of God.  The disciples totally fell into this, and boy do I fall into this!  I forget God is the source of life and healing and provision.  I also forget my identity and start believing what the world wants for me.  It can truly turn terrifying.  When opportunities arise, I miss them or have no strength to act.
  4. When I am not purposeful about spending time with the Father,  it will never come.  Opportunities to do things are ALWAYS there.  There are a thousand excuses and alternatives that I can choose.  People will demand things from you endlessly.  Jesus sought quiet and sought rest.  I need quiet and rest, and I have to plan it and make it happen.  I have to say “yes” to it.
  5. When I am purposeful with spending time with the Father, it is easier to discern what I should say “no” to and what I should say “yes” to.  Sometimes I feel empty because I take on too much, but sometimes I am empty because I take on things by my strength instead of depending on God.

At the end of this story EVEN Jesus had to be purposeful about his time with the Father.  He went to a place where he knew no one would be, and he prayed.

Jesus is speaking to you and me face to face, “Come with me by yourself to a quiet place and get some rest.”

If you have kids, I know this can be tricky.  And no, I do not know what that life is like.  But what I do know, is that time with the Father is worth fighting for in our busy and loud and crazy lives.

Y’all, this world is loud and obnoxious, and it’s always telling you how to eat and cook and dress and shop and spend your money and act and be a parent and get a boyfriend or girlfriend…  BLAH BLAH BLAHHHHHHHH.

It’s time to fight for quiet.

Where can you go for rest? Outside? Drive in the car? Early in the morning? After the kids go to bed? In the bathroom?… moms, you know.

Maybe we need to turn off the tv, phone, or radio.  Maybe you need to call the babysitter.

Maybe you’re thinking, “I have all kinds of quiet time!”  Well, BLESS YOU, and please share that blessing with others.  Maybe you can help provide quiet for someone else. Let’s be willing to give and even receive so we can all have some quiet.

Let’s fight for some quiet in our lives.  Together.

For Richer or Poorer

Dearest faithful readers,

First of all I wanted to say thank you to you readers.   I want you to know that God gives me strength through you.  You are truly my family and my friends.  I write because of you lovely people.  I write because God has given me great joy in writing to you.  I write because I want us to grow together and learn from each other.  I also write because God has laid this on my heart to do.  I welcome you to question me or grab a cup of coffee with me to talk things over and get to know each other.  I truly seek to grow and not to be right.  I picture us having a cup of coffee together as I say all these words.  I have no desire to have the final word.

Looking forward, I decided to make a few small changes to my blog.  The title “For Richer or Poorer” came to my mind when I wasn’t searching for a name at all.  I have been wanting to make some changes for some time.  There have been times where I purposefully sat down and searched for this new name, praying that God would give me guidance.  I have done this a few times in the past few months.  All of a sudden, I was sitting on my couch the other day and God laid this before me.

“For Richer or Poorer”: This probably sounds familiar to you as many couples recite this before God as they vow to marry.  I am not married to a man on this earth,

but I am married to God.

Our covenant relationship began long before I was born.  He sought me before I was able to speak or talk.  He loved me before I consciously knew his name.  He knew my name before my parents gave it to me.  He created me to stand in victory with His Son.  He created me to love him and to know him.  He created me to behold his beauty.  He created me for his glory.  He knows me and loves me so perfectly…

but Lauren is full of mess.  Bless her heart.  She does things she does not want to do, and she doesn’t do things she does want to do.  She gets caught up in this world too often.  She gets distracted by other people and their journeys.  She says things she regrets.  She questions God’s goodness when she seeks understanding in tragedy.  She fears bad decisions and failure.

BUT GOD is full of beauty.  Bless his holy name.  He covers Lauren with his grace.  He gave his only Son so she may feel and know love and freedom from sin, and so she can have a relationship with God.  He is her life and breath.  God is her sustainer.  God forgives Lauren and is patient with her.  God disciplines her as any good father does.  He calls her… daughter, beloved, friend, forgiven .  She calls him Father, Healer, Lord, Merciful.  He writes truths on her forgetful heart.  He walks with her when she is blinded by lies.  He sets beauty around her so she is reminded of him when she is caught up in “doing.”  Everything God has is Lauren’s.  He gives her words to speak when she seeks them.  He teaches her when she listens.  He gives her strength to speak when she is scared and boldness to speak truth into dark places.  He is near her even when she doesn’t feel it.  God is doing beautiful things in her life when she sees chaos and struggles to trust him.

He is for you and for me.  Seeking us out in this messy life.  And he redeems all the messy things.

This next year, may we behold his beauty more.  May we seek God in all phases of emotions and choose him and his truth above our greatest desires on this earth.  May we choose silence more than noise and truth more than lies.  May we be devoted to Him for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, for better or worse, no matter what this year may bring or what we leave behind.  May we take courage to do that hard thing.  May we compare less and exalt each other in his love more! May we love those around us and far away with humility and abandonment knowing our Heavenly Father loves even us and loves them too.  This is my prayer for you and me.

Help us, Father.

“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”  1 Corinthians 13:12

In Him forever,

Lauren

 

This Thanksgiving Day: A poem

This Thanksgiving Day: 
I’m thinking of you this Thanksgiving Day.
“Who?” You may ask, and it’s hard to say.
The turkey, the pie, the stuffing divine
Don’t touch the heart when things are just “fine.”

I’m thinking of you if your heart is in pieces.
This world seems cruel where hate only increases.
Disease, violence, pain, and regret
Flood our minds with heaviness we cannot forget.

I’m thinking of you if you’re missing someone-
A hole in your heart that can’t be undone.
A grandparent, a friend, a sister, or brother
A father, a husband, a wife, or a mother.

I’m thinking of you if you’re far away
Working so hard for the next pay day.
You might be near with a mind long gone
Depression and anxiety you can depend on.

I’m thinking of you if your world fell apart-
Ripping all the good things from your heart.
Some are in bondage in the struggle of power
Left feeling alone in a cold dark tower.

Thinking of you this Thanksgiving Day.
Laughter and love for you I pray.
I pray you can choose truth and throw away the lies.
I pray for strength and peace when emotions arise.

I pray that he touches your heart with his hand
And heals you in ways you don’t understand.
I pray that you believe and know that he cares.
“I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” He declares.

Dear Reader, please know He cares for you.
He sees you and knows you and loves you, it’s true.
Our Father is present, He meets you right here.
Freedom will find you as you persevere.

I know not your heartache, frustration, or pain 
But I know He brings life like the spring rain.
His redemption is coming, still He’s present; our stay-
Restoring hope to all nations this Thanksgiving Day.

*Isaiah 43

The Interruption of Band-Aids

My first year of teaching I received an unimaginable amount of Band-Aids from parents.   I thought, “Wow, I hope I don’t have to use all of these!” And I have used a lot more than I ever thought I would.  I continue to be stocked, and it is amazing because our Band-Aid moments are dear to my heart.  I love Band-Aids.  I could probably make a commercial.

In one of my student teaching placements the teacher had a bag of Band-Aids that the students could access.  I thought this was a genius idea.  It hung on the door, and if a student ever thought they needed one, they could go get one.  The teacher is not bothered.  The students eventually get over the freedom of it.  The teacher is freed from the time consumer that this becomes.  Great classroom management piece.

I thought about doing this, but I decided against it.

When a student inquires about a Band-Aid, they show me where it hurts or is bleeding.  I ask about their hurt.  We talk about what happened, where it happened, when it happened.  Sometimes they simply need that attention, even if it is a small scratch.  Sometimes they need to know you will stop what you are doing and attend to their hurt.  They may not have any Band-Aids at home.  They may not have anyone at home that will put a Band-Aid on their scratch.  They might have both!  But I bend down, peel the paper off, and put a Band-Aid on their hurt.  Sometimes we have discussions about not picking a scabs, them running in their back yard, fighting with their siblings, falling out of a tree, falling off their bike, getting hit with a baseball.  It turns into a window of opportunity to know them.  To know them, is to love them.

We all need Band-Aids sometimes, right?  Even if our heartache, problem, or scratch looks small to someone else, no one knows what it feels like or how long it is taking to heal or even how many other hurts have been covered up for some time.  We may not understand why someone is hurting.  Let’s not become hardened to someone else’s hurt because we think it shouldn’t hurt that bad.  We don’t know where they have been or how long they have been there.

No, the Band-Aid doesn’t make the hurt go away.  They don’t just need a Band-Aid.  The person putting on the Band-Aid however can be comfort just by being present and bending down to show that they are seen and heard and that their hurt is acknowledged. We can’t assume that someone else will probably stop and help/listen to them.  We don’t know how long they have been ignored or pushed to the side.

This seems like a heavy task, doesn’t it?  It certainly can be heavy.  People’s lives, struggles, pain are heavy.  That’s okay.  That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t share your hurt or you can’t bear to hear another painful story.

What I have to remember is that I am not the Savior.  I am not the Redeemer.  This brings my heart freedom in the puddle of someone else’s pain.  All I can do is love them, be present for them, provide for them where I can, pray for them, and point them to the Father, all while bowing my knee to the Father.

The abundant life Jesus offers is lived when we choose to love like Jesus.

Sometimes Satan tells you that you are wasting your time.

You might get bloody, dirty, and you might even cry and mourn.

Somehow the freedom and glory Jesus shares during these times are the fullest moments we know on this earth.  Moments full of dependency on him.  Moments full of grace and the gospel.

Jesus offers not just moments of abundant life, but an entire life full of abundance.

Sometimes a child says my name several times before I realize it because I am so busy helping student A.  Sometimes I say I will give them a Band-Aid, and I forget because I get busy doing something else.  Sometimes I even take a deep breath because I am being interrupted when I am in the middle of something, and some days just feel like one big interruption.

No, friend, this isn’t really about the Band-Aids.

Slow down, Lauren.

Lean in to the reality of Jesus, where interruptions become opportunities.