[Reflection] Walking Tall

Today marks the end of a season of waiting. For a year, I’ve been allowed to trust The Lord more than I’ve ever experienced before. Notice that I’ve been allowed to trust The Lord. I could say I was forced to trust God during a year’s worth of interesting circumstances, but that makes it sound like God doesn’t give us the option to follow and trust in His divine plan. We have two options in every situation: to follow, or not to follow. I could have easily wiped my hands of God when the going got tough, but pressure creates diamonds. This year has been a refining processes. I’m still flawed, but I walk taller and with more pep in my step knowing that God is worthy of unwavering trust.

If you asked me on December 15, 2012 how the next year would unfold, I would have responded with internships leading to full time positions, a cozy apartment in Austin draped with excessive decorations, and a comfortable salary. Today, I woke up on a pullout couch, am starting a new job in an unfamiliar place (which I’m ecstatic about!) and will be moving into an apartment with minimal furnishings soon. My cup overflows in ways I was not expecting, and I couldn’t be more thrilled that the The Lords plans trumped my own.

The heart of man plans his way,
but the Lord establishes his steps. Proverbs 16:9

My heart wanted comfort, The Lord wanted my trust. I haven’t seen my bed in a year. I’ve lived in a condo, the spare bedroom of a family’s home, and a photography studio. I’ve interned at a university and minor league baseball team. I’ve worked for a non-profit, wedding planner, and photographer. I’ve spent a week in a third world country. I’ve made life-long friends. I’ve laughed. I’ve cried. I’ve prayed. And The Lord has been trustworthy through it all. I’ve often sang “You are faithful,” and now my heart believes it. When I replay the events of this last year, I see God’s fingerprints in every frame. I’m thankful for every unexpected turn, every closed door and every moment I’ve had the option to stay in the boat or walk in faith across unchartered waters.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

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[Reflection] Abounding Grace

I’m constantly blown away by God’s grace towards rebellious people. We repeatedly miss the mark, yet He continues offering us grace after grace. When I was new to the Faith, the Old Testament terrified me. Why? Because it tells stories that reveal God’s power to destroy disobedience. As I’ve matured, I now see these stories in a new light – laced with grace and hope in the coming Savior, rather than wrath. Traces of grace can be seen throughout the entire Old Testament, beginning with the moment we first tasted death.

At the fall (Genesis 3), God had every right to kick Adam and Eve out of Eden without caring about their livelihood. He didn’t even owe them a “Sayonara!” God clearly stated they were not to touch or eat the fruit from the forbidden tree, and all it took was a serpent spitting promises of false wisdom for them to break God’s only ground rule. I’m not a parent, but I’ve spent several summers coaching. I’ve felt disappointment towards athletes I’ve invested in when they’ve disregarded clearly stated instructions, and can only imagine how much more disappointment and anger God felt towards the very people He breathed into existence. He had no reason to show an ounce of compassion towards Adam and Eve, but…

…the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. -Genesis. 3:21

The very same God who was betrayed, showed grace. My heart can only praise Him for that undeserved gift and what it foreshadowed…Jesus.

At the fall, we became incapable of communion with God because of our sinful nature. We needed someone or something to bridge the gap. We needed to be clothed by robes of righteousness, not rags of corruption. A little over 2,000 years ago a man named Jesus was born, lived a perfect life, preached the Word of God, was beaten to the point of being unrecognizable, spat on by the very people He came to save, and hung on a cross to die with criminals. Three days later He conquered the death we ate in Eden and bridged the gap.

At the cross, God clothed us – again. The leather garbs from Eden foreshadowed the coming of a greater garment – the righteous robes of Jesus Christ. Those who’ve confessed with their mouths and believed in their hearts that Jesus is Lord are no longer draped in rancid rags, but instead are covered in the righteousness of Christ. We’re given grace upon grace upon grace. Hallelujah, what a Savior!

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with jewels. -Isaiah 61:10

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. -2 Corinthians 5:21

Battlefield

I’ve struggled writing this post because I cannot fathom how my words can possibly grasp and convey the glory and power of God. After wrestling with what to say to portray the way He revealed Himself in the small Haitian village of Source Matelas I came to this conclusion – they can’t. All I can do is channel the raw emotions I experienced and let the Holy Spirit do the rest.

I’ve seen God do miraculous things. I’ve seen Him change hard hearts. I’ve seen Him heal. I’ve seen Him provide in perfect timing. And I’ve seen Him send down His Spirit in a way that makes it impossible to doubt His power, grace, and goodness. That’s the story I want to share.

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March 12, 2013:

The morning was physically, spiritually and emotionally exhausting. I have never seen more pain or a greater need for a miracle. It was our first village outreach day in Haiti and I expected to walk the streets, play with children, pray with people, share the Good News of Jesus. We did all of those things, but what I didn’t expect was the roller coaster of emotions and exhaustion I felt at the end of the day.

The first lady we talked to was a street vendor. After asking enough questions to know her name and make her feel comfortable around us we began asking her about her faith, her family and her struggles. Her eyes revealed the deep hurt she felt. She was barren after 20 years of marriage. Her husband left her to work in Miami. She was alone and desperately desired a child. Lindsey (one of our incredible adult leaders) related to her pain and so did I. Last year Lindsey and her husband, Joseph, wanted to start their family, but after miscarriages and a current pregnancy Lindsey worried about her son who was still in the womb until God spoke into her heart and gave her peace that John David was going to make it. Today their “little bean” is learning to crawl and hamming it up every time me and the other girls come over for a visit. John David is proof that God is bigger than barrenness. In that moment, as Lindsey shared her story, I lost it. I wept uncontrollably as I thought about how much Lindsey’s story related to my own parent’s. I am a result of God being bigger than barrenness. I thought about Hannah, who was barren and cried out to God for a child. God answered her cries and blessed her with Samuel. She dedicated Samuel to God and he became a prophet and judge of Israel (1 Samuel 1). Samuel was used for God’s glory, John David is being used for God’s glory, I am being used for God’s glory. The magnitude of those Truths hit my heart hard and the day had just begun.

Our group of 18 split into smaller groups of six and we continued our walk through the village. My group had trekked about 50 feet from the vendor before being summoned to a woman’s home. We were welcomed into her concrete home without hesitation. A puppy greeted us on the front porch as we walked through the front door. The only light in the home shone through the windows. The first room was the family’s dining and living room. We thought that was going to be where our journey ended, but then the woman motioned to a bedroom off to the right of the living space. I was one of the first to enter the room and stopped abruptly at the sight of a small, disfigured body lying in bed. Maxon-louie was 11 years old and had never spoken. The only noise he made was a quiet grinding of his teeth. His head was swollen to the size of a volleyball and His arms and legs were two to three inches in diameter.

Tears. I was speechless and felt completely helpless. When we asked his mother whether she had accepted Jesus as her Savior, she said she wanted to but needed to clean up her life before she could believe in Jesus. We followed up by asking why she asked us to pray for her family if she didn’t believe. She responded with a shrug of the shoulders. She didn’t know why she asked, but it was evident that she saw a Power in us that could heal her son. We laid our hands on Maxon-louie and prayed. We wept. And when we didn’t have the words to say, we sang.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

When we’ve been here ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun.
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’ve first begun.

I wish I could tell you that Maxon-louie spoke for the first time and got out of bed to walk. He didn’t. Although we fully believed that God could heal him of his illness, it wasn’t His plan for that moment. He wanted us to love this little boy and his family for that brief period of time and leave them with part of our hearts and our prayers. My heart broke for this family and for this little boy who has never known the joy of playing soccer with his fellow villagers. I left more broken than I came, but was hopeful that this family would realize they don’t have to clean up their lives before accepting Jesus. He takes us as we are and makes us new.

By lunchtime my emotions were on a roller coaster ride. Joy, pain, happiness, awe, hurt. You name it, I felt it over the course of a couple hours. I didn’t think I could take anymore. After meeting the vendor and Maxon-louie we played with school kids and prayed with a woman who accepted Jesus that morning. It was a beautiful sight to see her drop to her knees in awe of the grace and love she received from Jesus. We walked back to our canter along a stream. In Haiti, there are goats and chickens roaming freely throughout the villages, but on this walk we noticed a pig. When we got back from our lunch break our group marched back through the village along stream. We saw the same pig, in the exact same spot, but this time we noticed a huge tree the pig was resting by. How we didn’t notice the tree the first time is an act of God. Haiti is 98% deforested and this tree was GINORMOUS! You don’t miss this tree unless God really wants you to miss it.

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Naturally the five year old in all of us came out and we started climbing the tree. After a few minutes of climbing and taking this picture we heard a voice start yelling at us in Creole.

Crap. The jig is up.

In the yard next to the tree was a woman. Short ombre micro-braids fading from black to gold fell from her scalp. Two necklaces hung from her neck, one depicting an image of Christ. The atmosphere changed the moment she walked over to us. The cold look in her eyes instantly warned us that something about this place was dark. She came out of her yard and started asking us what we are doing. Our translators explained that we were missionaries from the United States that were praying for people and talking to them about Jesus. The translators informed us that she was a Voodoo Priestess and that the tree we were just climbing was used for Voodoo worship. The following conversation ensued:

Us: Do you believe in Jesus?

Voodoo Priestess: No.

Us: Why not?

Voodoo Priestess: I can’t. 

Us: Why can’t you?

Voodoo Priestess: Because I’m afraid.

Us: Why are you afraid?

Voodoo Priestess: There are evil spirits in the tree. I’ve lost seven children and every time I’ve tried to go to church I’ve fallen down and can’t make it.

Translator: Is it alright if they share a story about Jesus with you?

Voodoo Priestess: Yes.

Translator: Does anyone have a story about Jesus they would like to share?

Alicia, one of our group members, started sharing this story from Mark 9:14-29.

And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?”

 And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.”

And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?”

And he said, “From childhood. And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”

And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can!’ All things are possible for one who believes.”

Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”

And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.

And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?”

And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”

Most of our group had started praying while Alicia was telling the story. It was evident that this woman had a battle between good and evil raging inside her. My eyes were closed until Alicia finished telling the story and when I looked up the Voodoo Priestess was gone. Our translator remarked that she had been moved. She gave Alicia an out-of-this-world look and stormed off after hearing God’s Word. We prayed over the tree and her home, began singing “Whom Shall I Fear” by Chris Tomlin and continued our journey through the village. The encounter frightened me, but by the time we made it back to the Mission of Hope campus, an afternoon of playing soccer in a skirt and racing with a small child on my back had successfully distracted me from my fears.

During our debrief that evening we talked about our experiences with the Voodoo Priestess. After the meeting, I was unsettled and sent a message to a few family members and friends in the States asking for prayer for the Voodoo Priestess. I had never witnessed such extreme spiritual warfare. I was afraid and wanted to stay as far away from Source Matelas and the Voodoo Priestess as possible. One emotion began to paralyze me.

Fear.

(to be continued…)

Always Enough

It was a little less than two years ago in a hotel room in Fort Smith, Arkansas after a volleyball game as I sat in bed across the room from one of my teammates, Elissa, when I knew I had met a lifelong friend. We had won the match against our conference rival, keeping an undefeated conference record in reach, but that wasn’t the center of our conversation. It was the first time we had roomed together and instead of getting caught up in the details of our recent victory, we started talking about playing for God’s glory. And that’s when it happened. A friendship blossomed. Fast-forward to today and we’re doing life together. We’ve reached the point where we can ask each other the tough questions that tug at the issues of our hearts. We pray through the hard times and praise at the smallest victories. This past Spring Break, Elissa went to South Padre Island for Beach Reach. After hearing about her experiences and seeing the twinkle in her eyes that clearly conveyed her awe of God’s goodness, I also had the pleasure of reading a paper she wrote for class about her trip. After shedding a few tears, I knew this was a story that needed to be shared.

 

Grab a cup of coffee, get cozy, and bask in the glory of God and how He is moving in some of the most unlikely circumstances. He is so good!

A Personal Essay:

Being at a party sober is like being that one confused puppy at the dog park that tries to keep up when out of nowhere the community tennis ball smacks him in the face and he’s nearly run over by the herd racing after it.

I guess that’s kind of how I felt standing in the middle of Coca-Cola Beach on the last day of Spring Break at South Padre Island. Surrounded by blaring music, erotic dancing, unusual partying mechanisms, and   hundreds of wasted college students, the party had nearly doubled in size since the day before.

“Hi, what’s your name? Where are you from? Oh, that’s cool” had been the introduction to my attempt at being friendly most of the week. As a natural introvert, talking to strangers is usually completely out of the question for me. You have your life, I have mine. Maybe I’ll smile at a familiar face while walking to class, but to actually have a conversation with someone of whom I know nothing about and appear to have nothing in common with. That’s a definite no.

As is turns out, people visiting South Padre during Spring Break are some of the friendliest you’ll ever meet. Especially if they’ve had a bit to drink.

At one point during my South Padre adventures, a couple of friends and I decided to start a classic game of “volleyball” with our new stranger-friends. In reality, it was more like stand around in a circle-like shape and attempt to keep the ball from hitting the ground by awkwardly punching at it while wearing a bikini and laughing uncontrollably.

As a collegiate volleyball player, I can assure you that’s not how you play volleyball. But regardless, this volleyball experience was one of the most fun and unique I’ve ever had. People would see us playing and jump right in, acting like they were going to compete in the Olympics or something. Then they swing and miss. Well at least you’re trying, right? Just when I was ready to give up, our circle managed to keep the rally going for more than 2 contacts. This remarkable achievement prompted an impressive cheer before one of the stranger-friend guys in the group decided to make the game a little more interesting. And the volleyball drinking game begins.

As if talking to a stranger wasn’t uncomfortable enough. Now I have to play with the fear that if I make a mistake I will be forced to take a lovely, or rather not-so-lovely, drink of vodka and backwash from the bottle in the middle of the circle.

Don’t mess up, Don’t mess up, Don’t mess up.

Crap.

The ball goes racing over my head as I reach up a second too late. Next thing I know the vodka bottle is being shoved in my face by the guy that came up with this genius idea. Everyone’s chanting drink, drink, drink. I stand there holding the bottle and mumble some lame excuse, but no one is listening. So with the cap still on, I tip the bottle up, set it back down, and fake a nice big swallow faster than you can say South Padre Island. I never tasted a drop.

I don’t like vodka. Strangers scare me. It smells like pot. What in the world am I doing here?

It all made sense before I left.

This spring break, I’m going to go to South Padre Island with a group of students from my church and we are going to make a difference. That was my plan.

Every spring break, groups of college students from universities all over Texas chose to spend their spring break helping others on South Padre Island rather than participating in the partying. We gave out free food and safe rides across the island. We hung out and played volleyball with people. We had conversations with people. We prayed for people.

But standing there in a sea of drunken chaos, I doubted my ability to make a difference. I doubted God’s ability to make a difference. Even after I got there, I was a little unsure of why I’d decided to go and throughout the week I struggled to see the good is such an ugly situation.

And then I met a girl named Stephanie.

It was the last night of the week and my group was scheduled to give van rides from 10 p.m. till 3 a.m. At this point in the week, most people recognized our vans and would call in if they needed a ride. But everything had become so crazy that most of the time we just picked up groups from the main club on the island.

After dropping off one particularly crazy group, I sat there in the brief moment of silence, thinking. Five minutes earlier our van had been packed beyond capacity with sweaty intoxicated strangers. One girl was practically sitting on my lap while another guy breathed heavily over my shoulder.  I smiled through the disrespectful comments. I laughed as they talked about partying on the beach. But after they got off my heart hurt.

Every direction I looked, I saw wild, out-of-control madness. The street was a parking lot of drunk drivers. Dancing, screaming, laughing people gathered in masses outside. People banged on our windows when we stopped and flipped us off when we couldn’t pick them up.

In that moment everything around me turned into a blur of slow-motion and I was left trying to figure out how in the world I had gotten myself into such an awful, dangerous situation. Everything in me wanted to give up, to pack and go home, to accept that I couldn’t make a difference. But, no, that wasn’t an option. We still had two hours left in our shift. So I pulled myself together and prayed for strength.

A few minutes later our van pulled up to a hotel and a group of about five students climbed into our van.

Louis’, that’s where they were going. It’s a five minute drive on a normal day, but at least 30 minutes in the traffic.

“Hi, what’s your name?” I asked the petite girl that sat beside me.

“Stephanie,” she answered.

That was the start to the most real conversation I’ve ever had with a complete stranger. We started talking about school, life, spring break, the usual small talk. But something in me told me to ask her about her faith. When I did, I got to hear her story.

She told me about growing up Catholic. About how she stopped going to church in college and had recently started going again. She told me about her family and about her struggles. She told me about how far away God seemed to be sometimes.

Her story wasn’t abnormal or spectacular, but it was real. She asked tough questions and I didn’t have all the answers. All I could tell her was how Jesus had changed my life. I didn’t preach a rehearsed version of my theological viewpoints. I simply had a conversation and allowed my faith shine through.

When we arrived at their destination I asked her if I could pray for her before she got off the van. She said yes and asked that I pray for her family and her safety. I prayed a short prayer, said Amen, and prepared to say goodbye.

But then something beautiful happened.

“Wait,” she said. “Sometimes I doubt that God is real and that he hears my prayers. But right now I know that he is real.”

So with all of her friends already standing outside, she asked me to pray again that we wouldn’t doubt. So I prayed. Not just for her doubt, but for mine. All week, I had doubted the power and goodness of God and in that moment I realized how wrong I had been. She had been able to see the goodness of God exactly where I had thought it impossible.

After she got off, I cried. I cried for the brokenness for the world. I cried overcome by the goodness of God. It felt so good to just cry.

I went there to serve people and help my peers, because I thought they were the ones that needed help.  But I realized that in reality, I need help just as much as the next guy. Sometimes, what people need most is simply someone to listen to their story and accept them for their mistakes.

I went there hoping to make a difference, but it wasn’t me who made a difference on that island. Alone, nothing I said would have made a difference. But with the power of Christ, my words had the ability to change a life. Not because they were coming from a moral person. Not because I had done anything good. But because I, a broken person, received grace.

Stephanie is a real person. Callie, Thomas, Cambria, Lauren, Brent, Morgan, Kendra. They’re real people. They have real problems. They feel real pain. But the good news is that there is a real God who knows that pain and died for that pain.

That truth will always be enough to make a difference.

-Elissa

A Game of Grace

“The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.” – Psalm 103:8

An act of grace that I experience everyday, but often overlook, blind-sighted me this past week.

I’m a collegiate volleyball player with only a handful of matches left before I join the NARP (Non-Athletic Regular Person – no offense intended) life. I have played 122 games under the guidance of my coaches before realizing their forgiving and gracious nature that so closely mirrors that of Jesus (If you’re reading this, thank you for doing way more than what’s required. You both are awesome!).

My coaches are disciplined. If you wear the wrong shirt to practice, or wear it inside-out in some of my teammates’ cases, you run. If the team falls short of a goal, we run. If you forget your team notebook, also jokingly referred to as the volleyball bible, you run. If you forget to collect grade reports from your professors, you run. And the list goes on and on. We have rules that we are expected to follow, and when we fall short – and all of us have – we run. After completing the fun-time (don’t let the name fool you), egg, or suicide, the incident is forgotten and we move on.

I don’t know if you’re catching my drift, after all it took me almost four complete years to realize it, but that is a pretty darn good example of God’s grace. In the Old Testament we’re given rules to follow, but we cannot live up to the expectations of those rules. Knowing that we couldn’t walk in righteousness without a crutch, God sent His son to follow all the rules in flawless fashion. What a stud. After 33 perfect years, Jesus died a criminal’s death on a cross that WE deserved as sacrifice for all of our sins – past, present, and future. All we have to do is declare and BELIEVE Jesus is Lord and that He resurrected from the dead and our sins are graciously forgiven.

Although my coaches display grace and forgiveness, our debt for breaking the rules still has to be paid. Here’s where God’s grace becomes an absolute steal for Christ followers. While my coaches say do *insert consequence* when we mess up, Jesus says our mistakes have already been forgiven at the cross. We don’t have to pay back our wages of sin because “the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Yes, God wants us to realize our mistakes, but He doesn’t want us to dwell on them. He simply wants us to repent and believe.

Although our debt has been paid, that doesn’t mean we won’t sin. Just like I have forgotten to turn in grade reports and my team has failed to reach a goal, in our walks with Christ we will face bumps in the road. During those hard times, and the good times, we’re repeatedly given God’s grace through Jesus as a crutch to help us limp through the pearly gates onto the streets of gold.

I can’t praise God enough for the beautiful example of His grace displayed through my coaches. As thankful as I am for their presence in my life, I am eternally grateful for the grace shown at the cross.

Grace and Peace,

Meredith

“But God, who is abundant in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. By grace you are saved!”                       -Ephesians 2:4-5

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

 

When they see me, do they see You?

Music convicts me.  I love singing at the top of my lungs to my King (it’s not pretty, but its certainly joyful!). During worship, my surroundings fade away and the only thing I can focus on is Him. It’s cliche, but I love standing with arms high and heart abandoned in awe of God. In these moments I feel closest to Him.

The most convicting song to me of recent is “Live Like That” by Sidewalk Prophets. I want to be remembered for sharing the good news of the Gospel and living a Christ-like life. I want my life to be a reflection of the love Christ has shown for me. I want my life to be an arrow pointing straight to the cross. I want to be a light in the dark. I want to be more of Him and less of me. “Live Like That” reminds me of my life’s ultimate goal. It reminds me that to that one person, I may be the only glimpse of Jesus they ever see and that it can be life altering if my life is evidence of the grace of God. I want to live like that.

Sometimes I think
What will people say of me
When I’m only just a memory
When I’m home where my soul belongs

Was I love
When no one else would show up
Was I Jesus to the least of those
Was my worship more than just a song

I want to live like that
And give it all I have
So that everything I say and do
Points to You

If love is who I am
Then this is where I’ll stand
Recklessly abandoned
Never holding back

I want to live like that
I want to live like that

Am I proof
That You are who you say You are
That grace can really change a heart
Do I live like Your love is true

People pass
And even if they don’t know my name
Is there evidence that I’ve been changed
When they see me, do they see You

I want to live like that
And give it all I have
So that everything I say and do
Points to You

If love is who I am
Then this is where I’ll stand
Recklessly abandoned
Never holding back

I want to live like that
I want to live like that

I want to show the world the love You gave for me
I’m longing for the world to know the glory of the King

I want to live like that
And give it all I have
So that everything I say and do
Points to You

If love is who I am
Then this is where I’ll stand
Recklessly abandoned
Never holding back

I want to live like that
I want to live like that

“Live Like That” – Sidewalk Prophets

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