A Notebook Kind of Love

“God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him. Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” -1 John 4:9-10

For those of you who’ve stuck with me since the beginning of Dearly Loved, in my first post I made it pretty clear I’m a hopeless romantic. Six months later that still hasn’t changed! I’m studying abroad in Angers, France for the next six weeks and every time I go to the farmers market I can’t take my eyes of the beautiful assortment of flowers. They are absolutely breathtaking! God completely amazes me with the spectacular creations he has made for our enjoyment that we by no means deserve. Lord willing I will one day be married to someone who most importantly leads me closer to the cross and occasionally brings me a bouquet of flowers – hint, hint 😉

 Loving chick-flicks is obviously a character trait of a hopeless romantic, and I am no exception. In my book, one of the ultimate chick-flicks is The Notebook based on a book by Nicolas Sparks…you bet I’ve read every one of his books and seen the movies! I was the girl during high school English class crying a river while finishing another one of his tear jerking novels. No judging please 🙂

As I was relaxing in my apartment at the end of another merciful day in Angers a few days ago, I popped The Notebook into my laptop to watch it for what seemed to be the millionth time.  A few months ago I played it in the background while I was getting dressed to go two-stepping with some of my buddies and some of the famous quotes took a new form. Rather than coming from the mouth of Noah, one of the main characters, they came from our Heavenly Father.  At the time I noticed it, but in the hustle and bustle of life I let the words pass without much regard.  The other night that changed as I actually slowed down – a rare occurrence – to watch the movie.  Below I have taken the quotes verbatim from the movie and adapted them to the words God spoke to me.

The Notebook: “I wrote you 365 letters. I wrote you everyday for a year.”

God: “I wrote you 66 letters proclaiming my love for you. I wrote you everyday for thousands of years.”

The Notebook: “You wouldn’t be here if there wasn’t something missing.”

God: “I’ve shaped your heart with a hole I fit perfectly. You wouldn’t be at My feet if there wasn’t Something missing, if there wasn’t Something you were searching for.”

The Notebook: So it’s not gonna be easy. It’s going to be really hard; we’re gonna have to work at this everyday, but I want to do that because I want you. I want all of you, forever, everyday. You and me… everyday.

God: Following me isn’t going to be easy. It’s going to be hard. Look at those who have followed me before you. Just as they were persecuted, you will be too. You’re going to have to work on our relationship everyday. I’m willing to patiently wait for you because I love you to the point of sending my Son to die in your place. I want you, My beloved, all of you forever. You and Me… everyday.”

The Notebook: “The best love is the kind that awakens the soul and makes us reach for more, that plants a fire in our hearts and brings peace to our minds. And that’s what you’ve given me. That’s what I’d hoped to give you forever.”

God: “The best love is the kind that awakens the soul and makes us reach for more, that plants a fire in our hearts and brings peace to our minds.  And that’s what I’ve given you. I’ve given you the cross to set ablaze a burning passion to share my love and given you peace in knowing that I hold your life in my hands. These truths are what I hope you find joy in forever. The choice to accept my love is yours.”

God is love perfected. He offers the notebook kind of love so many of us desire and He wants us to find fulness of joy in it. He desires us to be content in Him alone and has given us 66 letters to court us into falling in love with Him. The Bible is proof that you are His bride. He wants you, all of you… forever.

Rest in the warm embrace of a groom more perfect than you could ever imagine.

-Meredith

“Though the mountains move and the hills shake, My love will not be removed from you and My covenant of peace will not be shaken,” says your compassionate Lord.” -Isaiah 54:10

 

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The Battle

Ever feel like there is a constant battle raging inside your body? Like at any moment you could be ripped in half by the sides constantly pulling your arms in a tug-a-war for your attention?

This tug-a-war has been going on for the last few weeks of my life as I constantly feel the desires of the Spirit pulling against the desires of the flesh. On one shoulder I hear God saying “spend time with Me my beloved,” and in the other I hear the flesh seducing me towards Facebook, Twitter, movies, and other earthly things.  When I weigh the options in my mind God is so much more appealing, but I often find myself putting Him off to spend a few more minutes looking at pictures on Facebook and keeping up with my Tweeps.  It sounds silly, but the flesh has amped up its tug the last four days. I’m studying abroad in Angers, France for the next seven weeks. While I know it is going to be an incredible time for my relationship with Christ to grow, I’m also far away from home living on a schedule that is seven hours ahead of all my loved ones. It seems that social media is going to be the only way to stay in contact with those who mean the most to me and is also my worst enemy coaxing me away from the most important and loving relationship I will ever known.

In Galatians, Paul tells us this battle will constantly rage:

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. -Galatians 5:16-17

In the words of Tyler David at the Austin Stone Community Church, we must “Live in the Tension.”  There’s going to be a battle, but as Christians we have Christ walking with us the whole way.  We have a Savior that has been through the tension and conquered it without faltering.  My personal challenge is to choose the Spirit. In moments where I know the Spirit is calling me to dive into the Truth and live out its call to the fullest, I’m not going to submit to the flesh.

Much love,

Meredith

For more about “Living in the Tension” check out Tyler David’s sermon here. It is super great for anyone going through a battle between the Spirit and the flesh!

Storm Warning

To say the least, this year has not gone how I expected. When I moved back to Austin for the fall semester, I was on a mountain top with high hopes for the upcoming school year.  I’d been playing the best volleyball of my life and was surrounded by people that were encouraging my spiritual growth.  I quickly descended into the valley after landing on my setter’s foot in an extra practice session called by some of the team.  A second degree high ankle sprain that threatened to keep me off the court for six weeks was the first of many trials I’d face as the year progressed.

 

Last night I found myself laying in bed talking to God about the past 10 months.  I told Him about all the big plans I’d had for the year and He responded with Jeremiah 29:11.

“‘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 hope and a future.'”

The problem with my plans are in their very foundation. They were MY plans and not God’s – they were destined to fail from the get-go!  Despite the court time I lost in volleyball and all the trials I’ve faced since, I know God has something greater than I can fathom in store for my life.  I just have to take a backseat and let Him take the leading role in my life.  I need to master playing the background.

The past week Austin has been the target of mother nature’s fury (I’d like to take a moment to thank her for all the free car washes – I’m saving money with every rain drop!).  I’ve been woken up many times to the sound of thunder and car alarms set off by close lightening strikes.  In the midst of the dodging rain drops, I’ve realized our lives sometimes mirror that of a storm.  The storm hits hard and then the eye passes over offering a glimpse of peace before the end comes barreling through.  The aftermath is destruction, but there is always reconstruction.  The beauty of a storm, as well as the beauty of the sinless blood shed at the cross, is found in the reconstruction.  Just as a storm washes away the old for reconstruction, the blood of Christ washes away our sins and revives us from our sins.

“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” -Titus 3:4-7

I’m a fan of pinterest and in a moment of procrastination during finals week I stumbled upon the following quote:

If there is anything I can take from my experiences this year it is that once again God has proven His plan is way better than my own (sometimes I need to be knocked in the head a few times before I learn my lesson).  The moment I found myself lying on the gym floor crying my eyes out with an ankle that refused to bear my weight, I entered the valley and had no idea what the Big Man upstairs was up to.  I know in my heart of hearts I was playing for Him. Volleyball wasn’t my idol, yet for some reason starting in our first match wasn’t apart of His plan for me.  As my coaches and teammates checked in on me in the training room I constantly asked God “Why? Why me, again?” I thought I had learned my lesson the year before when my idolization of volleyball was struck down by a strained abdomen that kept me off the court for two weeks.  As Philip Yancey so eloquently put it, “faith means trusting in advance what will only make sense in reverse.” I stopped questioning God and started trusting Him.  At the end of the season God answered my “why”. No, I didn’t get the starting position I desired right after I recovered (praise Jesus for His healing hand – He cut my recovery in half and I found myself practicing a mere three weeks later!). My playing time was scattered, but I was blessed to play a part in my team’s appearance in the NCAA Regional Tournament for the first time in six years.  Despite losing in the first round in 5 sets by two points, it was the experience of a lifetime I got to share with a team and coaching staff I love more than words can describe.  To top it off, in January eight of my teammates attended Fellowship of Christian Athletes’ annual College Advance.  If that would have happened had I not taken that fall I will never know, but it turns out that nasty ankle was a blessing in disguise and His plan made perfect since in REVERSE!

At this moment in life, the storm has passed, there is mass destruction, but I serve a Lord that promises reconstruction.

If you’re going through a storm, weather it knowing good things are waiting in the reconstruction!

Much love,

Meredith

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” -Romans 8:28

Tunnel Vision

Tunnel vision by definition (yep – about to go Webster on ya! I’m a nerd at heart) is the loss of peripheral vision with retention of central vision, resulting in a constricted circular tunnel-like field of vision. When I think about tunnel vision it brings back childhood memories of family skiing vacations to Colorado when we would drive through the mountains in route to our next tourist stop. Everything but the light at the end of the tunnel blacked out and when we resurfaced into the daylight, I was in awe of the beauty revealed on the other side of the tunnel.

A few weeks ago, I co-led a Bible study about Mary and Martha.  Both sisters were intimate friends with Christ and often housed Him and the 12 disciples when they were passing through Bethany on their way to Jerusalem. Although they shared the same bloodline and both loved Christ, their relationships with Him varied greatly.  In the scene played out in Luke 10, Martha is running around like a chicken with its head cut off preparing their home and serving Jesus and the disciples while Mary simply sits as Jesus’ feet.  A frustrated Martha, being the more vocal of the sisters, asks Jesus if He even cares that Mary has left all the household duties on her shoulders.  Upon initial reading, you may think that it is unfair and rude of Mary to leave the dishes for her sister to tend to, but in Luke 10:41-42 Jesus responds to Martha’s question by saying “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has made the right choice, and it will not be taken from her.” Martha’s vision hadn’t been impaired by the presence of Jesus, but Mary’s had.  Mary had tunnel vision set on Christ alone.  While Martha thought Mary should be condemned for not helping her with the worldly tasks of preparing her home for Jesus, Jesus in turn praises Mary for sitting and listening to Him rather than focusing on what the world says she should take care of.

Through diving into Martha and Mary’s story, I realized I was a Modern Day Martha running around like a mad woman worrying about the next paper, exam, or presentation written down on my schedule. Although earning my degree will eventually help me grow the Kingdom in my chosen career, the most important thing I can do with my life is simply be still and listen.  In the hustle and bustle that coincides with the end of the semester (For my football fans – I like to refer to it as the fourth quarter) I simply wasn’t sitting at the feet of Christ absorbing what He wanted me to hear.

Our walk with Christ should mirror the tunnels cutting through the Colorado mountains and the life of Mary who took a breather to sit at the feet of Jesus and eagerly listened to every word He said.  Although there are worldly things that attempt to block our paths, we must keep our sights set on the light at the end of the tunnel.  Everything else should fade away in comparison to the Son lighting our way. Our vision should essentially be impaired by the awe of God’s grace and the love of Jesus Christ.

Grab your Bible, take a seat, and listen to our loving Savior,

Meredith

“I pursue as my gold the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.” -Philippians 3:14

Be Bold.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” -2 Timothy 1:7

 Recently, God’s been teaching me to be better, to be bold.  I’ve been the girl who is afraid to step on peoples toes and stand up for what I know is right when it might lead to disagreements.  I’ve had a fearful and timid spirit and am taking baby steps  (sometimes I think my steps are more of a crawl, but none the less, I’m moving forward!) towards a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline mentioned in 2 Timothy 1:7.  One of my first steps has been using my platform and God-given talents as a journalist to write a sports commentary in Hilltop Views, my university’s campus newspaper.

Click here to read about amazing athletes who proclaim their faith and live up to the Christian calling: http://bit.ly/JDfl3c

Be better. Be bold.

-Meredith

Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed!

“But the angel told the women, “Don’t be afraid, because I know you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here! For He has been resurrected, just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay.” -Matthew 28:5-6

The past month I’ve spent a lot of time in cemeteries. Over spring break I helped clean a cemetery in Memphis, Tennessee and today I visited my grandma’s grave with my family after church.

As a kid cemeteries scared me, but as I’ve grown older and my walk with Christ has strengthened they aren’t as intimidating. Actually, I don’t fear them at all. Why? Because of an empty tomb. Death was conquered by my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I don’t have to fear death (or cemeteries) because Jesus conquered death by death.

The first place I visited after my birth was the nursing home to see my grandma and until December 11, 1998 I went to the nursing home every Sunday after church with my grandpa. I have never heard the sound of my grandma’s voice (she had a stroke before I was born), but as I laid next to her in bed — and played with the pets the nurses would let me sneak in… they were wrapped around my finger 😉 — my grandpa would read to her from a daily devotional book handed out at church. She may not have been able to verbalize her thoughts, but from her expressions I could tell every word was sinking in. I have no doubt her soul has found its eternal resting place in Heaven.

Today in the cemetery those beautiful memories from my childhood flooded my mind and caused tears to form. Here’s the cool thing, they weren’t tears of sadness, but of joy!

“For this day of victory makes everyday a gift” was printed in today’s church bulletin and has stuck with me. Christ’s victory over death for our salvation is the most amazing gift and it keeps on giving. Each day I get to wake up and live for the glory of the One who gave it all for me. These gifts from God are a scandal that I keep receiving abundantly. I deserve to burn, but He chose the nails. As I reflect on the meaning of Easter I have realized part of death losing it’s sting is that when my time on earth comes to a close I’m not only going to spend eternity in the presence of my mighty and loving God (which is going to be totally awesome…I’ve heard there ain’t no party like a Holy Ghost party cause a Holy Ghost party don’t stop, WHAT!), but that for the first time in my existence I will hear the sound of my grandma’s voice as she sings praises to our King. I won’t only hear her voice, I will hear her sing. What a gift.

As we celebrate Christ’s resurrection today I pray we don’t undervalue the free gift given to us at the cross and those God continues to bless us with everyday.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

Happy Resurrection Day,

Meredith

“Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting?” -1 Corinthians 15:55

Die Daily

A cross – I wear one daily, but do I really live out the call of my life defined by the cross? It’s not an easy question to ask myself and really makes me examine the state of my heart.

Over the past two weeks Luke 9:23-24 has literally popped up in my life everyday, multiple times.

“Then He said to them all. ‘If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it.'”

This is a little different message than the traditional “Jesus died for you! You’re saved by grace!” Although those messages are true, there’s a crux. We must DENY our flesh and CARRY A CROSS.

In Jesus’ time, a cross was a symbol of shame. Crucifixion was reserved for those the Roman government wanted to publicly humiliate in death. Jesus wasn’t just nailed to a cross, although that would be more than my pain tolerance could bear. He had a crown of thorns crushed into His skull, was tied to a post and beaten with a whip, and then forced to carry a 125 pound wooden post on his back – Remember that whipping? Yeah, that meant he carried 125 pounds on open wounds – along a road called Via Dolarosa (the way of suffering). After that, he was finally nailed to a cross and stabbed in the side with a spear to make sure he had taken his last breath. The cross was a symbol of death. A death he suffered for you. A death he suffered for me. They were bloody and back then we certainly wouldn’t be wearing one around our necks.

My challenge to us as believers is to not devalue the cross and the call to follow Christ. I’ve been reading a book called “Not a Fan” by Kyle Idleman. It is all about being a follower of Christ rather than a fan. Being a fan cost you nothing, being a follower costs you everything. Followers deny themselves and carry their cross daily. They lose their life to save it.

In evaluating the state of my own heart I’ve realized there are seasons in my life where I’m dying daily and following Christ. Unfortunately, there are other times when my flesh wins and I’m merely a fan. Following Christ five days of the week isn’t enough, He wants all day everyday for the rest of my life. I’m challenging myself to die daily and I’d like to encourage you to join me! I’m tired of just wearing my cross. It’s time for me to carry it. Dying doesn’t sound very appealing, but that’s what is amazing about our God. We die to ourselves and in return are given an abundant life. We aren’t committing our lives to misery, we are giving it up for a life we’ve desperately wanted all along!

Today is Good Friday. Today we wear a cross that reminds us of the love shown for us at Calvary. Today we remember the blood of our sinless Savior that was shed on a cross 2,000 years ago for the forgiveness of our sins. Today we remember that when only love could make a way Jesus gave His life in a beautiful exchange. Today we carry our cross and walk with Jesus down a road leading to our own death in exchange for an eternal crown.

God Bless,

Meredith 🙂

In the words of Lecrae: “Jesus saved my life, HALLELUJAH! “

Happy Hunger Games

“And may the odds be ever in your favor.” – Effie Trinket, The Hunger Games

As pretty much everyone knows, The Hunger Games debuted this weekend and made a statement in the box office.

I saw the movie trailer for the first time when my volleyball team went to see Breaking Dawn in November – I must admit, the trailer looked awesome so I decided to read the books. Over Christmas Break and Spring Break I finished the series and eagerly awaited the movie’s premiere.  What captured my attention while reading was the way Suzanne Collins developed the characters…I instantly became emotionally attached. Although the overall theme is pretty dark – sending kids into an arena to fight until the death on national television for entertainment value and authoritarian control is pretty sick if you ask me – it was an interesting story line and a true tale of what it means to lay down your life for someone you love. When reading the books, nothing really stood out to me, but during the movie Friday night as I saw the Capitol citizens on the big screen I was struck by how much they epitomized what it means to collect treasures on earth.

Their ornate clothing, abundant wealth, heavy makeup and disregard for human life is completely of this world. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the books and the movie, but I definitely think we can learn a lesson from what the Capitol symbolizes.  

In Matthew 6:19-21, Jesus says:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

In essence, don’t be like the Capitol citizens who collect treasures that won’t last. As Christians, we’re seeking an eternal prize and our ultimate treasure isn’t of this world. Our treasure is found in the moment we our reunited with our one true love and rejoice for all eternity in the presence of our Mighty King.  Don’t get caught up in what you have or don’t have on this earth.  At the end of the day if Jesus is all you’ve got, you already have more than you’ll ever need.

A little food for thought: Where are you storing your treasures?

Happy Hunger Games,

Meredith  

 

What you’re looking for, is my sweet, sweet Jesus…

Are you feeling a void in your life and searching for something to fill it? If so, are you trying to fill it with relationships and treasures of this earth? Stop the search – “What you’re looking for is my sweet, sweet Jesus. What you’re looking for is my sweet Lord.” When God created you, He designed your heart for a relationship with Him. There is a God shaped piece of your heart only He can fill. The moment you let Him in, on your worst day, you still have everything you’ll ever need.

 

Have you ever wanted to be someone else
Have you ever wanted to be someone
Have you ever wanted to reach your dreams
Have you ever wanted life to be more than it seems
I have tasted of a love so wide
That it stops all my time
I have tasted of a love so deep
That it blows my mind
Have you ever wanted to reach up and touch the sky
Have you ever wanted to pack it up and say good-bye
Have you ever wanted someone to care
Have you ever wanted someone to be there
I have tasted of a love so wide
That it stops all my time
I have tasted of a love so deep
That it blows my mind
He is sweet, He is sweet
What your looking for
Is my sweet, sweet Jesus
What You’re looking for
Is my sweet Lord

“Have You Ever?” -Shawn McDonald

Enjoy and God Bless,

Meredith

“…Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” -Matthew 22:37

Mission to Memphis: Day 6

“Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.” -James 1:2-4

As I’m writing this, it’s 1:38am and our crew just finished playing sardines and signs throughout the church. My alarm is set for 5am to pack and head back to Tejas…it’s going to be a struggle to wake up, but that’s beside the point!

Another phenomenal day has come to a close in Memphis. Today we served at a church organizing rooms, libraries, wiping down walls, picking up “spiky balls” in the front yard and conversing with people who stopped by for the free lunches provided by our partners in crime from Iowa.

The highlight of the day was a conversation I was blessed to have with a mother and daughter. As we began to talk, the pair opened up about their lives and how they got where they are. My heart broke as the mother recalled being beaten by her boyfriend causing her to become disabled and miscarry her child. It took just about everything I had to hold back tears and continue listening. I couldn’t get past the pain this beautiful woman of God had endured.

When the pair left briefly, Jenny turned to me and pointed out how joyful the mother is despite many trials. That struck a cord as I recalled her finishing the tragic story and immediately following it by singing one of her favorite Beyonce songs. While I was consumed in her misfortunes, she had already moved on to discuss how much she loved music. What a beautiful display of JOY!

To top the conversation off, the daughter revealed her plans to attend college to study science and also shares her mother’s love for music. Hope and joy abound from two lovely ladies.

I’ll forever owe the two women a huge “thank you” for giving me a whole new perspective on what it means to be joyful through trials!

Grace and Peace from Memphis,

Mer 🙂