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 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 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, 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 felt like I was the shadow of my husband. The 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.

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Yes I will.

The past six months have been quite the journey. Six months ago I stood on a stage in a campground amphitheater looking surrounded by mountains saying “I do forever” to my now husband. Some possibly bad weather was imminent and the temperature was already colder than expected for the day. It was mere minutes after our wedding ceremony ended that the heavy rain came. It’s funny now six months since that day, here I am thinking on what I have learned and what I can share.

For anyone that knows me well, knows that I think deeply and process even the simplest of things to see what I can gain from that specific event, experience, conversation, movie, or whatever else, no matter how trivial; I want to learn what God is teaching me from everything. I think of my wedding day and how incredible it was truly. Everything mostly went to plan. The rain changed some things that we just had to adapt to and move forward in spite of but it didn’t ruin anything. And the more I think of what these first married months look like, I think of the rain and weather we dealt with for not just our wedding but also our mini honeymoon. We got snowed out of the Grand Canyon- me for the second time! We had a flight excursion planned that was canceled due to the harsh conditions. We couldn’t hike Bryce Canyon because the snow was too deep for plows.

What a beautiful picture of marriage though. You can make plans, you can have dreams. None of that is bad. But life will happen and you have to choose to adapt and move forward or you’ll just be stuck or totally miss out. Granted, we haven’t had some major life altering event happen yet in our marriage, but I can tell you that these six months of marriage have surely not been without great challenge. I can definitely attest to the fact that if you let the difficult moments defeat you, you will be miserable and miss out on so much that God has for you.

A week after we got married, we moved me and my belongings across the country so that we could live together as spouses. We were both sick for almost the first two weeks of marriage. When we arrived to our home to unload the U-haul with my belongings, we found that the heavy rains had ran into the trailer and gotten half of my stuff wet and some damaged. Two weeks after we got married, my husband left for three weeks for a training. Those first three weeks were incredibly hard. I was in a new city, new state, new house. I had no friends, no community, no church, no job. Talk about feeling isolated and alone and missing my new husband. It honestly, in part, didn’t even feel like I was married because we had such a brief time together before he left. My husband came home for ten days then left again for five weeks. He returned and was home for about three weeks, only to leave again for another training for two weeks. When he returned home from that trip, he was home for two weeks only to be told to leave over a week early for another trip and would be gone for seven weeks total. I saw him one day during that trip when we each drove four hours to spend 24 hours together on a Saturday. He’s home but leaves again, today. And I know this isn’t just hard for me. I see his face every time he leaves sad to say goodbye. I see the disappointment of missing time together. I see the longing to just be home.

Military life is hard. Marriage is even harder. We’ve been distance for over half of our marriage so far and I have gained the greatest respect for people who have been a part of military families for much longer than I. But what I have learned from these six months married just brings me back to our a wedding day and honeymoon. We have learned to adapt. The rain didn’t ruin our wedding. The snow and literal blizzard didn’t ruin our honeymoon. Yeah, plans had to change. Yeah some rough things happened. But I have learned greatly that in spite of the difficulty we have faced so far, that the constant in everything is that God is with us and leading us. I have learned much from the quiet nights alone in my house before or after the call I get to have with my husband when he is gone. I have learned much from having to navigate military life a lot by myself. I have learned that my marriage is the most important thing in my life and one of the most difficult at times. The challenges, difficulties, and struggles we have faced have only caused me to pursue Jesus more in our marriage.

I think that’s how it should be. Whatever we face, whether simple or traumatic, seemingly insignificant to someone else or major news, we have to learn to trust Jesus in the process. We have to learn how to trust that God hasn’t forgotten us, that he is leading us, but we also have listen and follow his voice. We can get so caught up by the things we face that we miss his voice in the noise of life. If I didn’t have God in my life, I don’t know how I would be handling the distance of marriage, the training of my new job, the adjustment of being in a totally new place with new people. Jesus needs to be the center of your personal life for him to be the center of your marriage. To be able to face the moments in life that beat you down, discourage you, hurt you, or nearly break you, you need Jesus to hold you, pick you up, and whisper new life in your ear. He will give you strength to face whatever you are going through, whether single or married. He will give you the ability to fight for your marriage, because friend I can tell you that a marriage that honors God is one worth fighting for. I can tell you that living in a way that is allowing God to be your strength instead of trying to be your own strength is a way better option. Whatever you face, know that God has not and will not forget you. He has not left you wayside. Choose to praise, to glorify God, to trust that he will lead you in the best he has for you. Trust that he is your source when you’re empty, your strength in weakness, your light in darkness, your hope in helplessness, your comfort in grief, your peace in chaos.

This song has become a regular in my daily listening. Yes I will…

Praying for my city.

I sit here tonight trying to process something that has been going through my mind all weekend. Just over 48 hours ago, someone did something terrible and because of it, lives were lost. I can’t help but grieve the loss of not just the lives of the people who died in the Virginia Beach shooting, but also the suffering and trauma of those that survived, of the family members and friends left behind, of the family of the gunman left with so many questions. I grieve because I know this city and the people in it will never be the same.

Earlier in the day, I prayed a prayer while at my job, a job that I am not very fond of and have been navigating why God has me there. I am still in law enforcement just not where I want to be. And I feel like despite the past months being great being newly married, I am still left in the wake of the unknown. I don’t know why I am at the agency I am, I don’t know why I am at the church I am, I don’t know what my purpose is exactly, or what my ministry will look like. I just know I am here with my husband trying to figure this all out.

So with so many thoughts and feelings about things in my life, I prayed on Friday afternoon asking God to show me purpose and to give me vision. I asked him to give me peace on things that I am unsettled or discontented. I asked him to give me resolve. God reminded me of a section of the Bible that I love, Jeremiah 29. Everyone loves to quote verse 11 “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future”. It’s a great verse. People love quoting that for pretty much anything but so many fail to pay attention to the previous verses. The people of Israel- the Hebrews- were slaves, captives of another kingdom. Jeremiah 29 begins with a letter to the people declaring for them to be settled where God has them, to build houses, get married, be present. It wasn’t going to be a quick season, but instead 70 years of captivity. Jeremiah then says pray for the prosperity in the city in which I have placed you”. Then the famous verse 11 declaration takes place. But it continues with an encouragement to seek God because he will be found, he will be near, and he will redeem. So as I was walking around doing my job, I was thinking of this passage of the Bible and simply prayed for God to help me love my city better. To pray for Him to be known by more people, for people to seek him and find him, for people to find hope in despite their circumstances.

Little did I know that an hour later the Virginia Beach Municipal Center would have a mass casualty shooting.

I believe this was not a coincidence but a moment where God prepared me. I believe that God grieves with those that are broken from Friday’s shooting, along with anyone else broken all over the world. It is so easy to find blame in God for bad things like this happening. It is also so far off. Part of the beauty of God’s love for us is that it’s free and we have the choice to love him, or not. And when bad things like this happen, it is because someone chose to not love God and their brokenness and sin revealed. And God grieves this. He grieves the gunman’s choice. He grieves the loss of every life. He grieves the evil. But even still God has purpose and he will be glorified. And he will redeem. He will restore. He will bring hope to people that are hopeless.

The things we face do not define us. And they do not have to defeat us. The difference is whether or not will seek God in the midst of it. Will we seek God when all else remains in chaos? Will we seek God when we feel defeated? Will we seek God when we feel hopeless and lost and in despair? Will we trust that God does have a plan and purpose, hope and future for our lives? I wrote about it before in a previous post when the Las Vegas shooting occurred. But I gave my life to Christ as a direct result of the Columbine High School shooting. I knew as a young teen that I wanted to love God better and trust him with my life just as several students killed that day knew with great certainty. I knew I wanted to love him with everything that I was. I believe God works in the midst of even the darkest of days. I believe he also brings the light that removes even the shadows of darkness. Virginia Beach grieves tonight still. We mourn. We are sad. Many are hopeless. Many are lost. But take heart because God is here. He is present. He brings a comfort, a hope, a wholeness, a healing that nothing else ever can. And there will be good that births from this horror. As a testament of someone whose life was changed by another’s life being lost, I believe that other people will find God as a result of seeking him because of this tragedy. God will work out good despite evil thinking it prevailed.

The story isn’t over.

I do not know that man.

I fear too many times in my life I have said this with my actions and a version of it with my words. I fear too many times when the mockery has been loud, when the fear has been strong, and the uncertainty has been has been great, I have said something to this effect.

And that breaks my heart.

You see, two thousand years ago, Peter, the disciple of Jesus, was sitting in the temple court of Caiaphas watching the trial of his beloved teacher and dear friend Jesus. Earlier he had proclaimed that Jesus was the Christ- the Messiah long awaited by his people. He had seen miracles. He had a relationship with Jesus. He knew who Jesus was yet that night was different. The night began with Passover which any Jewish man and woman would be very accustomed to, but then Jesus spoke again of his nearing death. Peter even proclaimed that he would never betray him. No way would Peter believe that he would betray Jesus. Even at the arrest, Peter attacked one of the servants of Caiaphas the high priest.

But then Jesus was on trial and Peter stayed near the back of the crowd. Three separate times in the likely hours of this trial individuals accused Peter of knowing Jesus. They claimed to have seen him with Jesus. They claimed to recognize his accent from the same region of Jesus. Peter got to the point of being so angry that he cursed them and stated “I do not know that man” (Matthew 26:74). For three years, Peter was with Jesus and had total life change because of it. Because of Jesus. And here Peter knowingly betrayed him, not once but three times.

I can’t help but see myself in this story. I can’t help but see myself as Peter in so many ways. I have been a Christian for a long time. But I haven’t always served him well. In fact, there have been a few moments in my life where I knowingly did a version of what Peter did that night in the courtyard. There have been times where, despite knowing who Jesus has been in my life, I have denied knowing him. Sometimes it was because of temptation to do other things I knew Jesus wouldn’t be proud of (i.e. sin). Sometimes it was because the peer pressure of those around me and my desire to be liked by them meant more than loving my Jesus. Sometimes in anger and lack of understanding of things in my life, I have said this.

Luckily the story for Peter didn’t end in the courtyard. Luckily his story continued because later we see the redemption. I will explore that another time in another blog. For now, on Good Friday, the day that reminds us of the suffering of Jesus, I ask that you focus on this part of the story. We are all Peter in some way. We all have said “I do not know that man”. We have all lived our lives denying Jesus in some way, even if only temporary. Some of you still might. I can tell you this, when Peter eventually was redeemed, we know that he also grieved greatly his sin. And I can also tell you in my life, those moments where I denied Jesus with my life, my words, my actions, I have had to grieve and grieve greatly. Good Friday is not a day to celebrate. It is a day to remember that Jesus chose a cross and we have chosen denial. That he chose to love us despite knowing that there would be times when we would claim we didn’t know him. We cannot celebrate the resurrection of Jesus if we are not willing to grieve our sin and his suffering. Only then can we celebrate Sunday’s coming.

Steward your influence well

The past few days I have struggled with this concept. I can’t seem to get it out of my head. Even our greatest in leadership are human and many fail. Even if someone doesn’t hold a leadership position, they are a person of influence to someone. Think about it for a second for your own life. Are you a leader in an aspect? Are you someone who others look up to for wisdom, guidance, prayer, and counsel? Are you a person of influence?

You are a person of influence…to someone. You are a person who someone, somewhere looks at. They watch your lifestyle. They observe your postings on social media. You might be their parent. You might be their church leader or pastor. You might be their teacher. You might just be someone a little older than them. But whether you like it or not, you have influence in this world to someone. And my heart is grieved when those with larger audiences ignore the burden of their influence.

It may seem like nothing to you, but what you do matters. What you say matters. How you approach conflict and criticism matters, especially the larger your platform. Friend, whether you’re a pastor of a mega church or a stay at home parent, you need to be held accountable. You need to allow yourself room for someone else to shape you into the best person you can be, especially as a Christian. And to be clear: you don’t have to be a Christian to be a person of influence; my readers just tend to be a lot of Christians and pastors. Allow people access to your life to be your accountability; the ones that can be your support system but also the people that will call you on your crap. Allow people to speak life into you even and especially when it seems like little life actually exists. You are human and you will face circumstances that make you want to act out foolishly, take revenge, speak gossip, or whatever else. Choose wisely how you respond even when life isn’t the greatest because someone is watching you. Your kids, your students, your congregants, your neighbors, your siblings and so many others are watching you, especially those of you who profess to be Christians. They are watching to see your response.

Some just fail more loudly than others.

Don’t fail into the trap of social media tirades. Don’t gossip about it especially if you haven’t prayed about it. Everything we do is a point of influence and if we aren’t careful, we might not be influencing others the way we would actually want. I know for me personally, especially as a minister, I am not only a professed Christian, but someone who others come to for counsel, prayer, and wisdom. In my grief, anger, brokenness and anything else I face, I still have a choice to be human and go through the processes I need to without damaging my influence. I firmly believe a huge goal in our lives as Christians is to point people to Jesus with how we live our lives, the good and the bad. One poor social media post, one inappropriate conversation with someone at work, one act lacking integrity, one flirtation with someone married…the list can go on but it comes down to the fact that one thing can destroy credibility, your voice, your influence.

Your influence can always be redeemed. Jesus can redeem anything. But friend, I urge you to be cautious, especially those with the bigger platform of influence. If you mess up, if you sin greatly or publicly, if you destroy everything that was once your influence, that doesn’t have to be the end of your story. Allow accountability again. Allow correction. Be humble. Ask for forgiveness with those you hurt. Whatever your failure might look like, it is redeemable. But you have to want it. If you haven’t messed up greatly, that’s amazing. Steward your influence well. Make the conscious continued choice to live well, to allow yourself to still be refined, to allow yourself to be human, but to also recognize that you are an example to those around you of your beliefs. You get to choose how you respond to things which ultimately shapes your influence.

The best day.

Pictures from the best day of my life so far. Well, sort of. Let me explain briefly. The best day of my life was when I decided to live my life for Jesus. This was the second best day of my life. I’ve prayed for my wedding, but even more prayed for my marriage. So to be able to have a dream wedding with a man far beyond my dreams…oh man. Our wedding was stunning and went smooth. We weren’t stressed. We went hiking. We enjoyed ourselves. Ultimately, our wedding wasn’t what was important; our marriage was. Our marriage was the purpose of the wedding and everything else was just detail. God brought us together and as a bonus we were honored to be able to get married in Zion National Park in Springdale, Utah. What better way to symbolize marriage. You will have highs and lows, joy and sorrow, good and bad. Heck, it rained on our wedding day. It didn’t ruin it for us though. Zion was the perfect way to capture how we felt. A big God loves us so much that he brought us together. And that same God created Zion also created the world around us. I was constantly humbled during our time in Utah and Arizona looking at the landscape. What a beautiful architect to design everything from the smallest to the greatest details. Our wedding was a dream come true. A prayer answered. And just plain fun. Enjoy our pictures. And if you ever want an awesome vacation, check out the National Park Service and visit amazing and breathtaking places like Zion, the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and more. Get outside and experience the world around you. And bonus, it’s way more fun to do life with those you love than by yourself. Find your people, your tribe, your love, and go live life well.

(All pictures are compliments of my amazing photographers and dear friends All My Love Photography: Jeff and Joelle Cope.)

A decade.

A decade of prayer, and I’m here. Finally. Let me rewind.

Ten years ago almost to the date, I began intentionally praying for my husband, who at the time, was a distant stranger. I began praying for him for a few reasons. I was saddened after a breakup. I was longing for marriage. And I was lost. I felt like I had no direction and it seemed all of my other friends were in serious relationships and getting married. And there I was the newly single friend. But I felt such a clarity at that time, ten years ago. I knew God was good on his Word as I had seen his faithfulness so many other times. I was 21 years old about to finish college. I thought I knew so much. And in some ways I did. However, looking through my lens now I see how God shaped a 21 year old girl who was unsure, lonely (at times), confident yet paradoxically insecure and molded her to be a woman that prayed for her biggest dream.

You see, ten years ago, in my singleness, I hit a point where I was desperate. I couldn’t understand what God was doing, but I was convinced that God had a man out there somewhere just for me. I was convinced that God gave me that promise. I was convinced that God would show up. Granted…I didn’t think it would take ten years. I didn’t think I’d have to wait so long.

Then again…neither did Abraham and Sarah.

You see, they had a dream. And they were heartbroken probably for a long time because their dream seemed to come up empty. Then God showed up and made them a clear promise that they would not only have a child, but a legacy far greater than they could have imagined. They had to wait a lot longer than I did to see their promise come to fruition. During their time of waiting, they tried making it happen on their own. I wrote about that more here when they settled with a surrogate to God’s promise, a counterfeit. A fraud. God still used their mistake for his glory. And then one day…the promise came. After decades of waiting, and in their beyond-elderly years, Sarah became pregnant. It had to have felt like a dream. It must have been surreal for the dream to now be tangible.

And that is how I have been feeling for the better part of a year, but especially the past month. You see three weeks ago I married the man that was beyond all the prayers I had prayed for my husband. He exceeded expectations. When the Bible talks about God doing abundantly beyond what we can ask or imagine, I can honestly say it is actually what God did for me when it comes to my husband. Ten years ago when I began praying for my husband (forgive me as I am still excited to actually say “my husband”), I began something else very intentionally. Ten years ago, on a plane to Israel for my study abroad, I had a journal. Anyone who knows me well enough knows that I not only love writing, but I process things when I write. I have prayer journals that I have written in for almost fifteen years. They’re basically my prayer genealogy- prayers prayed and answered. It’s incredible to look back and see what God has done. But this journal was different. I took a leap of faith. I was trusting God with my most vulnerable part of me- my heart. I longed to be married and become a wife and live life, ministry, adventure, and more with my husband, a man of mystery. So I decided since at the time I didn’t know my husband, and I was very single, why not journal letters to my future husband. He could still hear (read) about my life and things that were happening. He could still be a part of the years prior to our meeting. And then I met my husband for real. No other man in my life, past or present, was like him. And it was almost instantly (a few weeks honestly) that I felt that he was man that I had been writing letters to all these years. Nine years before meeting him. I prayed everyday for my husband for a decade.

What blows my mind about this and why I constantly feel so humbled is that God was faithful. He not only was faithful in a dream I had, a prayer I had, and a hope I held deep in my heart, he showed up and surprised me with someone far greater than I imagined. Friend, I don’t tell you all of this to brag about my life. I tell you this as someone who went through every seeming emotion over the course of nine years of singleness, one brief but terrible relationship, and still held onto a prayer. I tell you this as someone who held that prayer before God every day because I believed he would do something. I even prayed that if God didn’t want me to be married, he would give me peace in the indefinite singleness. And for a while that’s exactly what he did. Friend I tell you this because three weeks ago I said “I do” as the finality of a long season of waiting and prayer and preparation for a dream that God did all to still believe it was worth it. It was worth every day waiting. Every day wondering “when”. God not only was faithful in his word to me, he surpassed my prayers. You see, God didn’t have to give me a husband for me to be serving him still. I learned through that season that God was good despite my circumstances. I learned that God loved me massively beyond what I could comprehend. But I also learned obedience and prayer, and though I may have struggled at times, I believe God saw my heart and knew his promise, much like that of Abraham and Sarah, and decided that now was the best time for me to see it come to pass. And what’s amazing is that this isn’t even the end of the story. It’s just the beginning of a new chapter.

Wherever you find yourself tonight, trust that God has a plan for you and story he is writing that is far better than one you could write on your own. We are not our best storyteller or writer. God is. And I can tell you that waiting on God’s promise is beautifully humbling. Trust him, and the only way to do that is to get to know him. Spend the time to get to know him. Spend the time to learn his Word and see what he has to say in your life. And then be obedient. Let him lead your life. And when you do, I can promise you this: it will be worth it in every way. After a decade of waiting and trusting God, and now seeing his handiwork, I can absolutely tell you it is worth every moment of following God.

Happily never after. The idol of a spouse.

beyond the mundane

About a month ago, I shared my heart a little bit with you all in my post Honest Words From A Single. In that post, I wanted to both encourage singles and the Church. Single-hood is valid. It is part of what helped launch the Early Church. But at the same time, marriage- Gospel centered marriage, is just as valid. When we begin to think one is greater than the other, we miss out on a large group of people that God has invited to be a part of his story. So today, I wanted to write another post, focused on spouses, whether you’re a single person in search of a spouse, or someone married who already has a spouse, this blog is for you.

For so many of us single people, we long for spouses. I can’t honestly speak for everyone, however, I know how I feel. I…

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New.

Here we are at the end of yet another year. For some this year has been the hardest one full of challenges, heartaches, pain, suffering, and disappointment. For others, it has been among the best in their life, full of hopes fulfilled, joy, dreams coming true, and more. For all of us, we each inevitably face the new year, we face whatever is coming while looking back at our past year. And we reflect.

It’s funny for me. This time last year, I was preparing and gearing up to work in just a few hours on New Years Eve. Honestly I had no plans and didn’t want to be alone on New Years, not because I can’t handle being alone at the holidays but because I wanted to be focused on starting fresh without wallowing in the pain of the past. For me, last year ending was so needed. A year full of compromise, brokenness, disobedience to God, but ending with painful yet beautiful redemption…I was insanely ready to have new goals, dreams, and purposes. So as everyone else rang in the new year, I had been on a traffic stop when I heard our dispatch welcome everyone into 2018. As I walked into the year, I had no clue just how polarizing it would be to 2017. I had no idea that less than two weeks into the year, I’d meet the man I’d marry this year, a man far beyond my dreams. I had no idea I would be gaining some amazing (almost) family members by this man. I also lost family members. I had a friend I considered one of my closest, walk away from our years of friendship. I published the first edition of my book, Naked and Bare,…a dream longtime coming came true. I completed my 4th Tough Mudder with my roommate. I paid down a ton of debt! I lost weight and went down pant sizes…no idea how many pounds or inches because I don’t really care. I only care that I’ve gotten in better shape, gotten stronger, and eat healthier. I’ve continued to grow in my field as a cop. I’ve served at my church and seen lives changed by Jesus.

This year has had so many amazing moments. Moments that surprised me, humbled me and blindsided me. There have been some rough moments, but honestly, the good of this year far exceeds the bad. I don’t say this to brag at all. Nothing I did made this year great. God absolutely gets the credit. He took a girl that despite some mistakes, failings, disobedience, and pain from the year before, and make a year beautiful because he is redemptive and loving. He is kind. And he knows more than I do. To you reader, I encourage you in this. Whatever good or bad you have faced in this year, know that God loves you tremendously. His love outweighs the bad and nothing you have done could make him love you less. But he does have more purpose for you than you even know. He longs for a deeper and stronger relationship with you. He longs to lead you to a better, holier, more fulfilling and purposeful life. Even if you’ve had the best year ever, can you imagine for a moment, what more God could have for you? If your year was bad for whatever reason, God does have more for you beyond the struggle and difficulty and pain. And for all of us, regardless of what this next year brings, if you keep God at your center and continue to pursue him, there is nothing that will defeat you. It doesn’t mean you won’t face hardship or pain. But it means God will walk alongside you on your journey and give you strength, peace, wholeness, and perseverance. Be humbled today as you have yet another day, and hopefully, another year to live not just your best life, but your best life for God and become part of a bigger and better story than one you could write for yourself.

Humbled heart.

There have been so many times the past year I have attempted to write something on here and words have failed me, not because of lack but almost because there is so much I want to say. Just over a year ago, I was praying prayers of brokenness, confusion, regret, grief. On this day last year, I was finally moved into my new house, a dream fulfilled, a prayer answered. It was such a redemptive way to end a crappy year. For me, buying my house in the midst of the unknown, was God’s way of telling me he remembered my dreams and prayers. That I wasn’t forgotten. For those that don’t follow my writings, here are just a few to catch you up to the mess of 2017: In the midst of pain, A hug, A fight worth having, and When God breaks your heart.

Little did I actually know that the house was just a small gift from God to show me his promises and the beginning of the blindsiding glory of his goodness this year. I ended 2017 hopeful with expectation not because I actually had a clue for what God would do but because I knew that I loved God. And if I’m totally honest, for part of 2017 I didn’t love him very well and I was so thankful to be back in a place of loving him, pursuing him, praying, reading my Bible, letting him speak into my everyday. So when 2017 ended, I was in such a place of desire for what God actually had for me, not the counterfeits, not the compromises, not the messes I might make. I wanted only what God had- his best- for me. I began 2018 in a 21 day fast like my church (and many others). This time I wanted to just pursue God. No specific prayers of anything. Just Jesus. Man, did God not only remind me of his massive love for me, he answered a prayer that I have been praying for a decade. I met my soon-to-be husband. I met him 12 days into the 21 day fast. And almost a year to the date of meeting him, I will vow my love and life to him before loved ones and most importantly, God, the One who made it happen. What’s awesome is that meeting him, dating and getting engaged aren’t even the only amazing things that God did this year. That would have been enough to keep me happy for a long time. But He brought me almost in-laws that are amazing; another answer to a prayer I’ve prayed. I have grown in my career and absolutely love my job. I also published my book (Naked and Bare), a dream that I’ve slowly worked on for years. I always found reasons to not publish- excuses I’d make up because honestly, I knew publishing meant my story was officially out there. It meant being vulnerable with the darkest parts of my story. But God helped me finally get through the fear and the doubt and publish, no excuse this time. The amazing stories I have heard since publishing from strangers, friends, and family have blown me away. Honestly, I am humbled.

Humbled.

That seems to be the word I keep coming back to this year. I am constantly humbled. I am constantly stunned by the goodness of God, who loves me far better and far beyond I have ever loved him. I am amazed that God has brought to fruition prayers- promises I believed in for years. Now, let me clear. Not everything we pray for does God give us. He knows far better than we can imagine what is best for us. There have been so many times over the past 10 years that while I prayed for my husband, I found a counterfeit, a stand-in, a fraud. So many broken nights full of tears, longing, and wondering when God would allow me to meet and marry the man I have prayed for for so long. Meeting Tab made every single one of those moments in waiting worth it because he is the one God had for me. He was the promise. The years I put off publishing my book only allowed for God to open up the right timing for it to be read by the right people. The days and nights of my job are often long and difficult and yet I have an unwavering peace and confidence that this field is where God has me. And for so many people that is crazy because I am a minister, a woman, short, and about a hundred other reasons. But I know what God has called me to with an undeniable peace. The pain of last year, as much as I hate so much of what happened, I wouldn’t trade what I learned, what I experienced, how I have grown, because God brought me from that pain. God forgave my sin. God redeemed me from the mess I made. He renewed me.

More than anything friend, I have learned just how much his love is constant. How much his love revives what feels dead. How his forgiveness removes the shame and guilt of our sin and mess. How disobedience to him only brings pain and suffering. How grieving our sin and then allowing God to move in us is one of the most freeing things we can do. Friend, whatever your story, whatever your year has looked like, I encourage you as you close out that few weeks of this year to consider yourself before God. Who is he to you? My year wasn’t great because of me. It was amazing and humbling because God is just so good and he worked in my life despite me not feeling worthy. The difference between this and last year is one was filled with obedience, prayer, consideration of his heart in everything…and one year was filled with selfishness, sin, pride. Choose how you want to live but know one of these is not good. God has far more for you than you can imagine if you dare to trust him with all that you are and everything that you have. I can tell you from experience, that God is the greatest adventure and most worthy journey you will ever go on.