Sinner that I am.

It’s odd sometimes, calling oneself a sinner. But for me, I know it to be true.

For anyone that has followed my blog over the past decade+, you’ve read a lot of my story…areas of struggle and weakness, sin, failures, joys, triumphs. I share my story because I believe it’s important to take ownership of your life, the good and the bad. Friend, let me tell you that there is power when you put a voice to the things that could have or tried to defeat you. There is a power when you declare victory of struggles and failures. There is a power when you walk in redemption in the wake of sin and shame.

That is my story.

Throughout Scripture, we see story after story of people who were world class screw ups. Murderers, rapists, self-righteous, proud, arrogant, hateful, selfish, lustful, and more all people that are present in the Bible. And it can be hard to view yourself as among those same people. I haven’t murdered someone, but I’ve hated. I haven’t committed adultery, but I’ve lusted; I was addicted to porn for years (that story is mixed within many of my blogs). I’ve been arrogant and proud and selfish. I’ve been overwhelmed with bitterness and anger to the point where it nearly destroyed who I really was. I’ve been someone who is far from perfect and desperately broken.

Why is this important? Because we all have stories that can be full of shame, grief, pain, fear, and worry that we would never be enough, that we could never be redeemed, and that there is no way that we’d be enough. Whether it’s finding an outlet to bury your shame, only to actually feed it, like I did with porn, or whether it’s your pride and arrogance getting in the way even to the point of thinking you don’t need redemption, we all fit the same narrative: that Jesus came to redeem us all.

The story of the Gospel, of Jesus dying for you and me, is one that is inclusive to us all. But a a choice for us each. Why? Because we all are perfectly imperfect but we are still given the choice to choose him. We each have something that, even if deep down, we know makes us unworthy, makes us a sinner- something that keeps us from Him. But that’s the beauty of the Gospel: Jesus makes us worthy. He makes us enough. And when we find redemption in that part of our story, the rest of our story becomes testimony to what God can do.

I was bound, for years, by shame and guilt of years of porn addiction, if compromises, of so much . I was bound by worry that I’d never be enough, most certainly never for a Godly man. I was a Christian girl who had the hidden secret of porn yet desperately wanted to marry a Christian man and be a Godly woman. I was a Christian girl who secretly struggled with self-image issues, with issues of never being enough, and worth never being something I saw in me. But oh Jesus…Jesus loved me where I was at in my brokenness. And not only did he redeem me, he gave me a voice to share my story, not because I actually wanted to share my darkness, but because I wanted to share what God can do in me.

You are redeemable. You are made worthy. You are enough. And your story matters. And when you embrace the redemption and freedom that comes only in Him, we bring a power to the Gospel over the power once that held us down.

New year and fasting.

Here we are again at yet another new year. Its the inevitable time where everyone is setting goals, making dreams, and creating resolutions. Its also the time of year where people reflect on the past year, all the good, the bad, and the ugly.

I’ve always found New Years to be an interesting time. Every year I see people post their weight loss goals, personal goals for self-edification and growth, and even spiritual goals. But a common denominator is that by February, so many of the goals people have set have already failed or fallen to the wayside. Then repeat the following year. Its a never ending cycle of nothing really changing.

I realized something some years ago when I started being more intentional in my start to the year. Every year, I begin with a 21 day fast. Now, for those of you that are not part of a church, this may be foreign language to you. Many associate fasting with the medical world and fasting before a procedure, testing, or lab work. However, Biblically fasting was significant and came with great purpose. Fasting was a way of connecting deeper with God through prayer and sacrificing food for periods of time for things like repentance, intercession, and striving for deeper understanding of God. Today, the Church also treats fasting as a means to give up something, not even necessarily food, as a sacrifice while also pursuing prayer for the same reasons as listed earlier. Either way, the idea is founded on the principle of seeking God, making sacrifices for further growth, and waiting for God’s responses. Fasting is not giving up food, praying for God to give you something and a guarantee that you’ll get your way. Fasting is pursuit of God and his ways, personally and collectively.

In my own experience, fasting has been one of the greatest disciplines I have ever cultivated in my life. I don’t say that toot my own horn but to encourage that the Christian faith and attempting to walk a holy life that honors God is not always easy. Being a Christian is hard in this world. I have had my own struggles with wanting to give into my personal desires leaving God out of it. I have struggled with making mistakes and outright sinning because I wanted something more than I wanted God. But as a Christian, our goal is strive for holiness, not happiness, and fasting is a phenomenal way to do pursue holiness. It is a discipline…which means its not easy. I have done full fasts where I don’t eat for 7 days, 10 days, and the longest ever 21 days. I have done modified fasts where I’m removing certain foods as well as other things like media. But in all of my fasts, I spend more intentional time reading the Bible, I read some form of devotional book for spiritual growth, and I journal. In my journal, I write prayers, desires, ask God questions, and more. The point is the pursuit of God and letting him work in my life during the fast.

So how do you start or decide what to do? Well, much like the new year resolution to lose weight, you need to have a plan to really be successful. Now you can be successful without a plan, but its also that much harder. Ask any health coach. For fasting, if you jump right in to not eating for 7 days and you’ve done anything like that, it will be extremely difficult but not impossible. While its not necessary, I do think its wise to think ahead of what you will be fasting and for how long. Its accountability for your fast while also pointing you in the direction that you’re wanting to go. What is your purpose for the fast? Do you have specific things you’re seeking God about? Are you just wanting to grow in your relationship with God or recalibrate (so to speak)?

New Years is a great calendar tool to sort of start fresh. But don’t buy into the deception of needing to set goals, be thin, be a better you, or anything else if you are not going to do the handwork to get there. As a Christian, we constantly need to strive for holiness and to live in a way to honor God. And that goal to honor God can be the overarching goal of all the others: the fitness, the health and wellness, the being a better you. All of it. But invite God to be a part of the story. In fact, invite him to take the lead and write the story. What if instead of just arbitrarily making goals, you make goals but also fast and pray for God’s direction for your life in those areas? What if you invited God into your marriage to help make far greater than you could have ever dreamed? What if you invited God to be a part of your health and wellness, to give you strength when you feel weak, and to help you stay on task to be healthy? What if you invited God to show you where in your own life you need to be better, including conviction of sin in your life? I encourage you to consider reframing your thoughts on New Years and maybe start this next year with a different mindset and just see what God can do while having the discipline to pursue his plans for your life.

This day.

As I sit here, despite the beautiful glow of the September sunset, there is also the darkness of this day.

This day…twenty years ago began with a similar glow of sunshine. This day people arose from their slumber not knowing the things to come, that things would change, that four planes would be hijacked and crash, that buildings would crumble. This day, millions of Americans woke up and went about their mornings. Many boarded flights, hopped on trains and the subway, rode the bus, hailed a taxi, drove their car, and walked. This day those millions of Americans had their world shaken. This day changed everything.

This day started much like many others but quickly and violently turned into one of the most catastrophic days in our history. All of those millions of people that went throughout their morning had no idea that terrorists had plot to destroy lives and make America fall. It was a plot full of hatred. It was a plot full of evil. It was a plot that though among the worst we had seen, it almost worked. Almost.

You see, for those millions of us that lived and watched the events of this day unfold, we also watched something else unfold. This day was a day of tremendous loss, shock, grief, heartache, and despair. Oh the despair. The agony so many felt physically and emotionally. But also on this day we saw a nation rise up. We saw the best of humanity step up against the worst. In the face of the great terrible destruction that was brought forth on this day, we saw people all over at the attack sites rise up from the literal ashes to bringing a helping hand.

It is so easy to to stare into the face of the destruction and just feel lost and hopeless. It is easy to be sad and angry looking back at the events of this day and rewatch the footage of the planes crashing into the Towers or the Pentagon. It is easy to watch the videos or look at the images of the people falling from the Towers. I grieve even still thinking of the horror that many had faced in those moments. I cry thinking of the terror so many faced as the Towers came crumbling down to a pile of ashes. It is easy to feel sad, angry, and grieved by those events. But what the terrorists didn’t count on was that humans, not just Americans, are resilient in the face of destruction and tragedy.

On this day, yes we were faced were catastrophe, but we were also gifted with the sacrifices and service of thousands of people. As United Airlines Flight 175 and American Airlines Flight 11 crashed in the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center, you had people immediately begin evacuating, assisting others, ascending the building to help people safely out of the building. Many were saved before the Towers fell because of the heroic efforts of the average Joe in those buildings. As people descended the buildings, there were also hundreds of first responders that grabbed their gear and willfully and faithfully served their community by going into the unknown. Of course no one had a clue the buildings would fall. But they also knew that they had to climb to attempt to save those stranded by the crash sites on the upper floors of the buildings. So they climbed. 343 Firefighters and 71 police officers lost their lives in service to those in need. When American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon, many military servicemen and women immediately jumped into action help those trapped and injured. People from all over the region rushed to Ground Zero, Shanksville and D.C. to do whatever was necessary.

The Great Boatlift is a phenomenal window of history on this day. More than 500,000 people were evacuated from Manahttan via various boats- fishing boats, tugboats, merchant ships, ferries and more, roughly totaling 150 vessels. It is noted as the largest boat evacuation in history. Then you have the heroic sacrifice of the passengers of United Airlines Flight 93. The passengers learned of the hijacking and a few were able to make calls to their families. Todd Beamer was one of those passengers that made a call. During his call, he learned that their flight was bound for D.C. to possibly the White House or Capitol Building. He and the other passengers learned through their calls of the three other crashes that occurred already that morning. While speaking with the operator, Todd then stated that he and some of the passengers were going to try to retake the plane. In his last known words, he stated to the other passengers, “God help me, Jesus help me…are you guys ready? Let’s Roll”. Those famous words echo the courage of those passengers who were willing to fight until their last breath and in doing so, probably saved hundreds, if not thousands of other lives.

As I said, its easy to see the pain and suffering and destruction of this day. But one thing I’ve witnessed and learned from the events to follow the destruction of this day, is that while some humans choose evil, many others choose to rise up and selflessly serve and even sacrifice if needed. Twenty years later we see the hope that rose from the ashes of darkness. We see the redemption of the stories of those that lived on. We see the stories of not just survival but resiliency to move forward and not let the darkness of this day be a continued victory for the terrorists. While I believe it is fundamentally important to remember what happened on this day, I want to also remember that the story wasn’t over. The terrorists had a victory to a degree…but we as a nation were not destroyed. We as a people were not moved. The best of us rose up. No matter what despair and heartache we face in this world, the story doesn’t end at that moment of darkness.

As Todd Beamer said in his prayer, like many recorded testimonies of some of the survivors… God does help. He is an ever present comfort in time of need. He comes alongside us and can bring peace. And while it is hard to understand peace while facing destruction, it is there. Much like the sun was shrouded in the dust and smoke of the horrors at Ground Zero, it was still there. It was present. It still brought forth light into the darkness. God is still there. Story after story of survivors share their hope, many being people of faith, who firmly believe that God was who helped them survive this dark day. Many have continued to share their stories in the two decades since attacks. And we can take the stories of survivors, of the heroes that sacrificed their lives, and the tremendous loss of those that died, and decide to live in a way to honor them. To be a people that love others. To be a people that bring out the best in others. To be people who strive to do good. As Christians, to point people to Jesus in our every breath. This day lives on not because of the horrors, but because of the triumph of those that didn’t let that be the end of the story.

We remember this day.

2,749 people died at the World Trade Center.
87 countries represented (at least)
343 FDNY
84 Port Authority- 37 being police
23 NYPD (71 total law enforcement)

184 people died at the Pentagon
265 people died on the flights (including 19 terrorists)

3,496 people have died since the attacks due to illnesses or injuries specifically related to the terrorist attacks

The Four Flights:
American Airlines 11 – struck North Tower WTC 1 at 8:46am and collapsed at 10:28am
United Airlines 175 – struck South Tower WTC 2 at 9:03 am and collapsed at 9:59
American Airlines 77 – struck the Pentagon at 9:37am
United Airlines 93 – crashed landed in Shanksville, PA at 10:07 am after passengers tried retaking the plane

Peace through difficulty.

I would be lying if I were to say that this past year and change hasn’t been difficult at times. My area of difficulty isn’t even related to the pandemic. It seems as though the timing of the pandemic with things in my professional and personal life had a collision of timing that I could have never planned for. And here I am, almost a year since the beginning of the pandemic shutdowns still unsure of so much. I am sure I am not alone in this.

For me, the shutdowns actually brought a pause in my life that I didn’t realize I desperately needed. I quit my job in the summer because I felt I needed to. Maybe someday I will talk more about that experience. But for now, I will leave you with this: I felt the need to move onward from that job. To be in a place of value, to have a voice, to have a purpose. Though I don’t regret that job, for over six months, I stayed after a terrible experience took place. I was spiritually drained and grieved with what happened. I was professionally stunted. And I was physical and mentally exhausted from fighting for myself.

I needed rest. I needed a break. So I quit. I quit without having direction or answers to where to go next. I felt certain that God opened the means for me to leave that job and that timing. And in the process pay off great debt. Granted, I also thought God was opening the door to another job…one that ended up not choosing me after almost a year of taking me through their process. At first, disappointment weighed heavy. Very heavy. There was a heavy burden and even sadness of not doing what I felt God called me to do. And I was frustrated at God for closing doors on me. I was still saddened by my last job experience. And aching to have better one begin.

But then there is a Peace that comes when we lay down the desires that we have. The frustrations that we have. The anger or the bitterness. The doubt, uncertainty and fear of the unknown. There is a peace that comes when we trust God to actually lead us. You see…during my months of job applications, background processes, interviews, rejections, and now waiting, I have had time to rest. I have had time to breathe. I have had time to work on things in my life. For the better part of last year and my job search, I had also been in physical therapy for injuries that could have been made worse if I were working. I was able to recover and rest and get my body back on a track of wellness. I was able to launch side jobs that brought a little extra income to help around the holidays. And I was even able to spending time training my new dog.

But more than anything, I was able to spend time with God and see that his plans go far deeper and greater than anything I could have tried to plan for myself. I may not understand everything that has happened in this season. I may not like everything that happened. I may not understand why certain things took place. But what I can tell you friend is that God is so abundantly faithful. He is good even when its hard to see. He is steadfast. God aches to be the lead of our lives. We can do everything in our ability to make things in life happen. We can do everything right. And life can still go so wrong. But if we trust God and lean in to him, we can have a peace that transcends anything we face. We can have peace and a confidence that God who has already done so much can do so much more. But we need to humble ourselves- and I mean actually humble ourselves- placing all trust in him. It means repenting of our sin. It means letting him renew our strength when we are weak, and broken, sad, and lost. It means believing that God- who created this world- created you too and has far greater plans for us than anything we can try to forge ourselves. If I have learned anything this past year, God’s story for our lives is far better than anything we could write for ourselves. Dare to trust him with everything you’ve got.

And you will see him move.

Captivity of Grief

In the middle of the Christmas season, it can be so easy to see the lights, the decorations, the presents, the sweets and forget that this season is more appropriately the Advent…the coming of the Christ. By all means continue with the fun of the season, but take moments through it to remember the why behind the season.

I say this because for so many this season is painful. This season is full of heartache, of loss, of disappointment, and even despair. Frankly, I feel like this year has been quite heavy on many of us so this Christmas season just doesn’t feel the same. The burden of so much has become so hard to bear; for some that the Christmas season is just another weight. The pain of this year- and years past- for some in the wake of loss holds them captive. Captive in pain, captive in heartache, captive by grief. And when you are captive by something, you don’t have the freedom to celebrate…not really.

And that’s where my mind is stuck. I see those hurting around me who’ve endured loss. Miscarriages, death of a spouse, death of a parent, death of a sibling. Loss of all income. Brokenness of a marriage.
And I grieve because I see their hurt.

I see your hurt.

You might have experienced something painful. A loss of a close friend or family member, loss of a job and income, loss of relationships in your life, loss of your health. Maybe it wasn’t a loss. Maybe just a painful season for whatever other reasons. And maybe your painful season has been around for years or even decades. And friend, even if I don’t know your hurt, God absolutely does. He grieves with you. But more, he longs to bring you freedom from that which holds you down in despair, and grief, and pain.

And that is the Advent. The coming of Christ who brings us hope, and peace, and love, and joy.

This isn’t a superficial response to our pain. Instead, it is the very thing to heal it all. To redeem it. To take back the days that have been robbed from you. This season is not about presents. It isn’t about dinners or parties. It isn’t about a red-suited man coming down your chimney. It isn’t about watching a ball drop and starting over. None of those things will ever bring healing, hope, peace or joy. Nothing in this world is enough to fix or heal or redeem anything you’ve gone through or lost. And some of you have walked around for years wounded from pains of your youth. Some of you have been walking with your heart so heavily burdened that you forgot or have never known what it is truly like to be free. Some of you have been scarred by the wounds of others. Some of you are lost because the loss of that loved one has nearly destroyed you also. Some of you have wanted to give up because it is too much to hold.

Jesus is the hope. He is the only Hope, the only answer to your hopelessness. He is your only answer to the chaos and storm to bring you Peace. He is the only answer to fulfill you with a Love that never fails, that never wavers, that redeems us of our sin, and that frees so we can live well for Him; a Love that died on a cross for you. And He is the only answer to actually bring you Joy regardless of what is happening around you; an unshakeable joy. The Advent is the testimony of Him coming and changing everything. Its an expectation that we have that firm and solid. Friend, whatever you face right now, I pray you take the burden of your pain, your grief, your disappointment, your hurt…and lay that burden at the One that can actually be everything you’ve ever needed.



I am not sure even where to begin. The past several months have left me with such a deep burden but also anger within me. I’d like to say it was one thing that I could just deal with and be done. But truth of the matter is that I ache today and have for the recent history because I am grieved…deeply grieved by what I see and hear happening all across not just this country but the world. Too many times this year I have found myself weeping in utter pain for the brokenness that has happened.

This year has been one heck of a year. Between the wildfires in Australia to tornadoes and hurricanes and explosions, we have seen catastrophic loss. With Covid-19 making its way globally, we have watched as the world has tried to figure out how to win, all the while worldwide economy, educational systems, and healthcare systems are just trying to make it. And nationally, we have watched as some shootings and killings, police and non-police, make the news…again. From those, we have watched as further division takes place wreaking havoc on our cities, on our communities, and in our homes. Loss of lives, loss of buildings and homes, loss of businesses.

More loss.

That’s where I find myself. I am grieved by the loss we have watched this year. By the destruction both natural and man made. But that’s not where it ends for me. I am further grieved and even angry by the division I see among Christians. I am not writing this to speak to one side of the political aisle. I am not speaking to only whites or only blacks. I am speaking to the people who read this, whatever your race, whatever your politics, whatever your hurt is…we have got to do and be better.

We are too busy wanting to be right than we are willing to listen to the opposing side. We are so quick to speak in our anger, that we fail to wait for more information. We are so quick to condemn anyone who disagrees or believes differently, even those that are unsure of what they believe. Why? Why?


Where is our love? Our joy? Our patience? Our kindness? Our goodness? Our faithfulness? Our gentleness? Our self-control? These are the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22-23). It isn’t conditional on our circumstances. It also isn’t barring you from being angry. It isn’t saying to not respond to the things of this world. But it is something that we need especially when the chaos of this world is overwhelming. We need the Holy Spirit in our lives to bring us this fruit. We need the Holy Spirit to give us wisdom with how and even when to respond to things. Our Christian faith is not about apathy or praying away problems. It is, however, about prayerfully responding in a way that honors Jesus Christ.

In your anger of things happening lately, are you praying about it first?

In your frustration and even disappointment or anger to those that believe differently than you, are you praying for God to show how to still be kind?

In whatever emotions you feel with pretty much anything from this year, are your remaining self-controlled so that God is honored? Again this absolutely isn’t saying to not respond, but to not allow your emotions to be the response.

In all things we do, we are to point people to the Good News- the Gospel- of Jesus Christ. And we need to especially do that with the chaos and the brokenness of this world. We have the greatest joy and hope to offer those around us and we should be ashamed if in the wake of all that happened we have failed to share that joy and hope. People are hurting. People are angry. People are aching for more than any president, politician, organization or aid has to offer.

So when we go into our communities, when we bring aid after a storm, when we see a death make the news, when we see the news remain silent, when we see someone post something on social media we disagree with, when we see someone of a different race respond differently…

…Be immediate to pray. Slow to speak. Quick to listen. And ask God for wisdom in how respond. And in all things, show people Jesus.

Church, just stop.

I have thought for weeks, actually a few months now, how to communicate my frustration with encouragement to Christians in light of our current events. Since the beginning of the year I have seen so many posts of huge declarations that we are in the “end times” because of the Australia wildfire, locusts in Africa, COVID-19, and many other things. Post after post declaring these things and yet little have I seen encouragements of pursuing Christ, sharing testimonies, or persevering in the difficulty. Yes I have seen it don’t get me wrong. But the negative and confident declarations of the “end times” and the fear of such have far outweighed anything else I’ve seen. 

Then he said to them, ‘Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness.
-Luke 21:10-14

So many Christians see this passage and immediately declare it’s “the end times” meaning Jesus’ return is soon and they’re simply waiting. I actually have a big problem with this. This passage isn’t new. Literally 2,000 years ago these things were said, yet we act like we are the generation to be the ones this passage is talking about. First, let’s get something clear. This passage is about the entire time from Jesus life to whenever and however he returns. We aren’t special in that this passage is only about us. Yet generation after generation of Christians suddenly think that because a war is happening, or another famine, or another disease, is a sign of the times and another advancement in technology is the “mark of the beast”.

Stop focusing on the wrong things. Seriously, just stop.

Since Jesus died and rose again, we’ve been living in a period of history of waiting for Jesus to return. We’ve been waiting for perfection and newness. We’ve been waiting. And we will be until whenever he decides whether its tomorrow or another thousand years. The disciples didn’t know what it would look like or when it would happen. They simply just wanted the world to know Jesus. My problem when people today and throughout history use this and other passages along with current events to declare it’s the “end times” is that it means for many they are just waiting for it and doing little else. And then Christians are almost surprised that this world is still evil. Christians are shocked when we hear of another shooting, another war, another genocide, another murder…another evil. Evil has existed since long before Jesus came to earth. It’s why he came to earth.

Church, stop it. Please. Stop being so consumed by the end times. Let’s be honest: we have no clue what that looks like. And let’s get real for a moment: no matter when or how the end times comes or looks, it is YOUR end times because your life is temporary.

Here in Luke 21 Jesus basically says that this world will continue to get worse. Friend, it will get worse because it’s broken and full of evil because sin exists. People will either choose to live for Jesus or reject him and persecute those that do. People will continue to sin or repent. Why are we surprised by evil and the brokenness of this world and all the while just sitting waiting for Jesus to come back? 

I am pretty sure sitting and waiting is not what Jesus wanted. Why would he give us the greatest love story of all time- one of surrender, sacrifice, redemption- just to want us to keep that a secret? He died for the world. Red and yellow, black and white. Yes we wait for him while also living the Great Commission. Our waiting is not inactive.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
-Matthew 28:19-20

Why are we so impatient for his perfection when so many people still need him? Church, if we have chosen to follow Christ then we have the greatest gift to share to the world. Have you even shared the joy you have in Christ? Have you shared your story? Do you try to model your life after Him? I know very much how difficult this season is and I also know it looks different in many ways for each of us. I get that there is unknown, confusion, uncertainty, frustration, disappointment and more in this season. However, remember who Jesus is and what is our calling as Christians. This is an opportunity for us Christians to bear witness to the hope and redemption offered through Jesus. It’s a chance for the broken of this world to turn to him despite the awful around. Jesus never said it’d be easy, convenient or comfortable for Christians to live for him. So instead of focusing so much on the events happening in this world as signs of the times, focus your energy in encouraging people in faith, pointing people to Jesus, and living to the best of your ability to honor Him. And in doing have faith and trust in God. He will bring direction in the unknown. He will be your strength and help. You can persevere and overcome with Him. He will bring peace and cast out fear.

If you aren’t a Christian, and I’m talking about being more than just a church goer- a Christian, someone who has recognized their sin (wrongdoing and life without Christ), repented, and now try to walk with Him. I have a hope that comes solely from Jesus that in spite of the terrible awful evil of this world, I can have peace. If you don’t have peace, if you don’t have hope, maybe just maybe you can put that toward Jesus for real. Go beyond religion. Go beyond church. Go to Jesus and pursue him.

Beyond isolation.

It is no secret that this season has been one that has truly shaken things up for most of us. I’ve watched as public schools have closed their doors for the remainder of the academic years. So many jobs, schedules, social lives, and everything pretty much under the sun seemingly has been disrupted by COVID-19. This is our new normal, at least for now. But also during this time, for the past few weeks now I have watched as friends of mine have isolated and socially distanced themselves to stop the spread of COVID-19 …thank you all seriously for doing your part. It matters.

But in all of these people isolating, many are home with husbands, wives, parents, kids, siblings, roommates. They might be socially isolated but they are not alone.

I’ll be honest, I’ve been a little jealous of my friends who get to be with loved ones during this crazy time. I have seen so many fun videos of my friends and their families; the game nights, the movie nights, the dancing, the couples workouts, and more. It’s a weird paradox for me. I am so happy for them all. Really….how cool is it that people have been able to reconnect with family? I honestly don’t remember another time in my life where so many people were spending such quality time with their families. It’s pretty cool to see. But part of me is still jealous because I do not have that. I don’t have family that live near by. My husband is deployed thousands of miles away. I’m socially distancing as well which means I go to work in my “essential” job and return home…alone…again…and again.

I don’t say this as a pity party. But out of a raw place of where I’m at with our current events. For me, my season of uncertainty, frustration, disappointment, and even at times, isolation, began before coronavirus even was on our radar. The posts I’ve seen on social media that I’ve found most encouragement in are from friends of mine that are military spouses and military families awaiting their loved ones from deployment but also stuck in the same limbo of the unknown return. At the same time, I feel a sense of camaraderie with the single person who is living alone and obeying the stay home orders and doing their best to not feel disconnected from the world. It’s definitely a strange time indeed.

And during this strange time, I have tried so many times and failed to find the words to express the disappointment of this season for me personally, the biggest of all being my husband’s extended deployment. Part of that disappointment comes also with anger at people in the US not taking the restrictions seriously because maybe if people did obey and comply with the orders weeks ago, maybe my husband and the many other troops around the world would still be coming home as planned. This season of disappointment goes beyond the deployment. This is me is one that is a bag of mixed emotion. I am so grateful to have a job and a paycheck and be called “essential” while simultaneously disappointed that the jobs I want and have been in the process with- both of which are amazing and would be incredible have- are on hold. So more job disappointment paired with career disappointment and more waiting. I’m grateful that I’ve been able to continue my physical therapy and recover all the while still frustrated that I am nowhere near 100%. There are so many details small and big that just show me why I want to fast forward this season.

I know not everything has been terrible, but like many people during difficulty, its so easy to get caught in the negative and hear the discouragement, the lies, the deceit that the devil speaks into our ears. I have felt like a strong Christian for my entire adult life, but even in strong faith, I have struggled at times to ignore the voice of the enemy, the devil. And when we are in the midst of the battle, the struggles, the difficulty, we have to try to hear the voice that matters. The voice calling to us, the one offering us the helping hand..

Then I remember that God reminds us so many times in his Word that he hasn’t failed us nor forgotten us. And though at times it seems like he has, I want to remind you all that God is working- we just might not see what is happening. Even when I face the things I’ve written here, and worse things, I know that God is faithful. He has shown up in my life so many times. He has been there through everything. He has gotten me through everything I have ever faced. At my core, despite struggling, my faith is still there and I truly know where the victory lies…only in God. God is our strength. He is our hope. Just because we cannot see what God is doing, doesn’t mean he isn’t working. And especially with struggling in this season, what’s amazing is I have spent so much more time in prayer. I think that’s how it should be…when we struggle, we tell God. We express our hurt, our pain, our struggle, our weakness, our failures, our disappointments. We can yell. We can cry. We can be angry.

God is not intimidated by what we feel no matter how big or small. Just go to him with everything. Then listen. Wait. Seek him and his wisdom, his peace, and friend I can promise you this…he will show up. Whatever your season looks like currently, God is present. He is not absent. He is working. We may not have the whole picture, but he is working. Use this time of uncertainty and mixed emotions and seek him more than you ever have. Spend time in his Word. Take the time to study it and not just read it. Learn his heart. Pray…even if you don’t know how to or where to start…just start speaking to him like you would to anyone else. We don’t know how long this isolation and quarantine season will last. Go beyond isolation and use this time to grow and seek God and trust him to write your story, which for all of us, includes a chapter on the pandemic we all face. But the story doesn’t end here. There is hope.

"That's it?"

I once had a conversation with someone. It began seriously when they told me they had something they wanted to tell me. It was clear that what they wanted to tell me came at great difficulty for them, yet they still shared their news with me.

Sparing the details of that conversation, I want to focus on my response and afterthought. “That’s it?” was all I could really think. What they told me was big and it was serious and of great importance. But even now thinking of that conversation, I think of the question “that’s it?” that has been floating in my head.

Each of us have something in our lives that we regret or feel ashamed of or weigh heavy in guilt. I absolutely know I do. I think most people who have read my blog or book know I am a pretty open and honest person. Most people who talk to me, at some point, learn that almost anything is on the table for conversation. For years, my greatest shame, regret and guilt were my years of porn addiction that I held secretly. My addiction was my darkness. My shame. For years I was afraid for people to learn that secret for fear of being seen at my worst. The shame was so heavy it was almost unbearable. Even almost a decade and half later, with freedom ringing in my life through Jesus, I still have moments where I wish my story looked different. Fast forward to the last guy I dated before I met my husband. Man, sometimes do I wish that my relationship with that guy never existed. It was a relationship that nearly compromised everything I stood for and believed in and one where I found myself listening to lies disguised as truths. And it took months to recover from, not because the relationship being over broke me but because I was so sad for breaking God’s heart. I felt like I massively disappointed him.

But that is the amazing thing about God’s love for us. Our biggest mistakes, our worst failures, our most shameful decisions, our moments of greatest regret do not shake God or waiver his love. And that brings me back to my response to the conversation I had: “that’s it?”. If you have something weighing you down, something that you have carried the heavy burden of sin and shame, regret and guilt, I pray you release that before God. He can bring a freedom that can absolutely change the trajectory of your life. Shame is not something that comes from God. I pray you understand that God’s response to you is “that’s it?” not because the things we have done in our past or present aren’t important or do not have actual consequences, but because our greatest sin, shame, guilt, or regret is so small in comparison to God’s redeeming love. Nothing you have done or could ever do would change his love for you.

The shadow

I’ll be honest, this isn’t how I thought this would be. It is so easy on social media to see the things that people post and assume things are great. You see the smiles and the filters and the “happy”. I have never tried to be one of those people that hide my truth and reality from the world. So here I am being honest and vulnerable once more. This definitely isn’t how I thought this would be, not completely anyway.

You see, at the beginning of the year I made the second best decision of my life- the first being that I made the decision to live for Christ for real and the second being to marry my husband. I knew getting married would be a massive change to every aspect of my life. I knew us getting married meant me leaving the house I had just bought, the job that I fought for and was good at, the church that I loved, and the community that was my rock. I also knew getting married meant stepping into a new role, that of the wife of a service member, which by default, I was now the shadow. Some of my friends that were military spouses told me of the difficulty that comes with the times apart- the trainings, the trips, the deployments.

Though I expected it to be a little hard, my arrogance deceived me. You see, I was single for a long time before getting married. I was independent. I figured the distance wouldn’t be that hard. Then I got married and my world changed, in the best ways but also some of the hardest. I quickly had to learn what it was like to have to say goodbye…a lot. The distance frankly sucks. To learn a routine only to have to learn another one. To take a new job followed by several months of training that I already had done before and only had to do again because I left the job I loved. I have learned how to navigate being independent again while also being married. I have learned what it’s like to long for both where I was before getting married and for life after the military while also longing for time with my husband now. Yup, this isn’t really how I thought marriage would be for me.

This past year has been among the most humbling of my life. Equally the best while also being the hardest. And the crazy thing about it all…I would do it again because I madly love my husband and this is how I serve him right now. And I firmly believe we love our spouse best when we love God most. And despite this year having a lot of difficulty and many humbling moments where my pride got kicked, where many tears fell down my face in the quiet moments by myself, and where I had many nights of little rest, I know God has purposed all of this. Without a doubt I know there is a purpose for this because God’s love for us is deep. And sometimes, in our humanity, it’s hard to see the silver lining or the hope or the joy. I believe that this time, early in our marriage, will be a help to us in later years and difficulties. I believe this time will help us grow because it isn’t easy. And it isn’t fun all the time. Marriage takes work. It takes sacrifice. It takes intentionality. And we are definitely learning these things. Every single day.

With the distance, I have learned a great many things. As a married couple, we have learned the foundations of trust, communication, creativity in showing love, and the simple joys of a quick call or text. This season has challenged me to trust God not only with my marriage now, but with our future. It has challenged me to be honest with both myself and my husband with my struggles, my failings, my weaknesses, my frustrations and more. For a while, something I said earlier, I have felt like I am the shadow of my husband. There are things I gave up because the military basically owns him. But the longer we are married, the more I realized how incorrect that truly was. My life shouldn’t be the shadow of my husband nor should he be mine. We should be in the shadow of God- where the attention goes to Him and we follow closely. Where we are like Him, but not Him. Marriage is hard but when we pursue marriage through the lens that God is the lead, the difficulties, the distance, the hardship, everything…it is all kept in perspective. In His shadow we find peace. For me, seeking God constantly and loving my husband are the answer, not just for this season, but for the rest of my life. No matter what difficulty lies ahead, with being in the shadow of God- the Creator of the world, the God who saw my sin and loved me enough to redeem me- I know everything is alright.

Friend, wherever you find yourself tonight, I pray that you find the peace that only comes from God. The peace that brings comfort when things don’t make sense. The peace that bring resolve to the difficulty. The peace that quiets your soul. God- Jesus- is that peace.