The Souls That Captivate Me

I love people. Everywhere I go, I know people. I hug people. I laugh with people. I talk, smile and listen. I love most people but some people I fall in love with. It is as if all of the sudden my invisible radar picks up a spark of magic in their soul and I am in love. My heart aches with theirs, breaks with theirs, takes their life and makes it mine.

I remember this one soul I fell in love with. It was a soul aching and trembling under the pressure of a difficult past needing to prove a positive future while fighting a war against submitting to God. I knew I was there to share Jesus with that soul. I knew I was there to love fiercely with a selfless love. It was beautiful but then it ended, with one last PM it was over. I did not know why but I knew it was. Months later, I was driving home from work and with a sad aching pain, I told God that I missed them "SO much". Immediately, I was comforted with the reality that God knew and then it hit me from out of no where - I must miss them this much if I were to have loved them that much. Jesus must be shared with love and when the task of sharing is over and the person gone, sometimes the love still remains.

Dear Girl, maybe you know that feeling of having loved without the return you prayed for. Remember, the love you had was a gift from God to be used for his glory. Let's never let the loss of love plant seeds of bitterness that become a weapon we use against God. Let's not let it fill us with bitterness when it does not bring us what we wanted. Dear Girl, mostly do not lose that fierceness, because a fierce love is a beautiful love.

My First DUI

We like our products neatly packaged and beautifully wrapped in America. We buy our chocolate wrapped in gold foil and our advertisements in the mail come with scratch off scents to help us know if we want to buy the product. Neat packaging took on a whole new meaning for me, however, when I encountered my first DUI.

PTSD, OCD, DUI, sometimes these letters just become a way of wrapping up the unknown pain of another and fitting it into our everyday vocabulary. I remember the first time I knew someone with PTSD. It meant any-time-of-the-day panic attacks. It meant tears and fear. It was not just a textbook diagnosis but an everyday heartbreak. I remember when I first met the three letters DUI. I had only known those three letters as representing someone who broke the law and risked the safety of others. For the first time in my life that faceless crime had a name and it was "hopeless", "afraid", "lost".  I saw that people who got DUI's did not do it for fun but that those three ugly letters were the neat title we had stamped on their pain and insecurity. I saw a successful friend embraced by a new identity.

I am not condoning drunk driving. I am confessing my own ignorance to the every day battle of those in our society who struggle with mental illness or addiction. Meeting these capitalized and sterilized letters in the faces of people has been more than educational, it has been humbling. It has taught me about grace. It has challenged the way I view others.

I am reminded about the importance of living life with eyes wide open. It is so easy for me to see my own pain. It is so easy for me to understand the complexities of my own struggle and its everyday hindrances. It is so easy for me to focus on myself but the problem is that I can only focus intently on one thing at a time. Let's try to focus on Jesus, that way your pain and my pain will become catalysis to love Him better and thus love one another better.

To My 18 Year Old Self

Eighteen was the hardest year of my life. I lost someone I was very close to and grieved for the first time while hiding my pain from the world around me. Through all the pain and grief I was disappointed in myself. I just knew that I could be doing this whole thing better. This is the letter I would have written to the girl back then. P.S. Yes, that is a picture of me at 18.

Dear Moriah,

You will not look a day older at 20 but your world will be drastically different than it is now. It will scare you at first but in the end, you will find yourself soaring on wings you did not know existed. I see you know and realize that you do not know any other way of living than to open your heart to the whole world and let it in. That is beautiful, though you will also find out it is painful.

I know this has been a hard year. Maybe the hardest one you have lived through but it is going to be okay. You are okay. I am really proud of you for being such a fighter. I am proud of you for who you want to be. I know life is not easy and you are disappointed in yourself. You cannot figure out the why, when, and how. You are so young you have not yet realized how weak you are . . .  but you will. When you do, you will smile at yourself. You will even start giving yourself the grace that you so badly need right now. That is the word I want to give you - grace.

It is okay that you do not have all the answers. It is okay that you are sobbing your heart out. It is okay that this hurts so bad. It is okay that you are confused. It is okay that you cannot do this. Take a breath because it is okay. You were not meant to be perfect you were meant to be perfected. That is what this is - the work of being perfected. Yes, it is messy. Yes, it is ugly. Yes, you are imperfect but that is kind of the point.

You are surprised, though. We all are. We realize we are imperfect but we did not know we were this imperfect. Jesus is not surprised one bit, however, and He loves you more than you can imagine. I know you cannot feel it right now but one day I promise you that you will look back and see a love you did not know existed, a love much greater than the one you are grieving right now.

When Hard Truths Are Hard

The other day I had the opportunity to speak to a group of young adults on heartbreak. One of the things I talked about is when hard truths are hard. We know God is good. We know there is a purpose to every season in life. We know, we know, we know . . .  but we are still feeling an aching loneliness creep in as we reach for an extra piece of chocolate. This letter is for those days, the days when hard truths are hard.

Dear Suffering Sister,

I know because I have been there too and it is okay. I know that you know God is good. I know you know that God is righteous. I am sure that you have heard the verse which says that our God works all things together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). I am sure you remember that God has a purpose for the pain and that in our weakness we can lean on His strength. If you talked to me and I had the chance to pipe in with my own advice, you have probably heard about discerning between truths and lies. I probably told you about recognizing the lies that you have been believing and combating them with truths. I am sure you have heard it all at this point. It is all good advice. Sometimes, though, it is hard. It is hard because while we are nodding vigorously at the truths we hear we can be secretly wondering why it still aches so bad. Maybe you are starting to feel a sense of guilt over the fact that all the good is not curing the ache in your heart. We wonder, "Is there a truth to combat that?"

I remember aching. I remember too much emotion to pray. Here is the one thing I wish someone would have told me: Jesus is weeping with you. He knows all the hard truths and He is still weeping with you. Minutes before He raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11:17-44) He asked Martha if she believed (John 11:25-26) and then He wept. Jesus knew they believed the truth. He knew he would perform a miracle and yet He still wept. It is that same Jesus that is walking through this mess with you.

Yes, the hard truths are true but they are clothed in the grace of a God who weeps with His hurting children.

Living With "What-if?"

He was angry and he stormed out of the house. Twenty minutes later, a police officer knocked on the front door with news that this angry teenager was not ever coming home.

She sat on the edge of her bed. Her whole body was shaking as tears streamed down her face blurring the flippant text, "we're over. sorry, this isn't working for me," and she had thought there might be a diamond ring by Christmas.

It's stories like these that leave us asking "what-if". "What-if he'd never been provoked to anger?" "What-if she'd never carried her heart on her sleeve?" "What-if he hadn't?" "What-if she hadn't?" "What-if they hadn't?"

I have my own what-if. What-ifs can be a funny thing. They will be quiet for the longest time and then, at the worst moment, they are floating in front of you like a frightening ghost on an already terrifyingly dark night. What-ifs seem to show up with the express purpose of haunting the human soul until it's lost its joy.

What if we fought what-if's with our own what-if's? Why don't we ask, "what-if this was the best thing that ever happened to me?" "What-if this tragedy is my door to triumph?" "What-if this heartbreak is my chance to learn true wholeness?" What if all our doubts are smoke and mirrors that blind us from seeing the true beauty behind the pain? I'd like to say that last one a bit more strongly. All our fears and doubts ARE smoke and mirrors that blind us from seeing the true beauty and purpose behind the pain. It's not a question of "what-if this is bad" or "what-if this is good". It's a question of "do I believe God reigns". Will I be so bold as to stop asking what-if and start boldly living truth?

"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

When Life Dissapoints

We had just gotten home from a funeral (the first of three for that week) and I was a mess. You couldn't tell I was a mess but I was. I closed my bedroom door, plopped down onto my bed and let the hot tears start falling. Something at the funeral had shaken me. A few minutes later, my mom knocked on the door to check on me (I guess I'm not so good at hiding my mess after all). As she sat there listening to me, I finally said what had been on my heart for so long but what I had failed to recognize.

"Life didn't turn out the way I wanted it to," I told her.

Life didn't and it hasn't turned out the way I wanted it to. I'm guessing that maybe it hasn't turned out how you wanted it to either. So, what do we do?

I have this friend who talks about recognizing the lies that are affecting us. I think one lie that I start believing in times like the one I just shared is that what I wanted is what was best. Here's the truth, "The Lord is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all he does." (Psalm 145:17). I have not been ripped off. I have not been cheated out of a good life. I am not living a less-than-plan. I am living a what's-good-and-right-for-me-plan. That is a truth I can cling to. That is a truth I can choose to take comfort in.

When Your World Shakes but Your Heart Heals

I sat on my bed and my whole body was shaking. I never thought I would lose this friend. I never thought this person that I cared about would desert me but they had. I remember, one day, telling God something about being deserted AND betrayed. There was horror in my heart. Did anyone know what this felt like!? Then there came this whisper to my heart that Jesus knew what it felt like. Jesus was deserted by his disciples and betrayed by his friend. Knowing, in that moment, that my horrible pain was understood gave me a sense of peace. That was years ago and it was the first time I grieved. Since that day, I have had to say goodbye too soon far too many times. We live in a society of farewells and it's part of the ache that's breaking the heart of this world. But as much as we ache we never have to do it alone. Jesus wept with the weeping and then brought life where there looked to be only death. My whole world was shaking, but my heart was starting to heal. The good news? Yours can too.

Dear sister, I don't know where you are at today or how your hurting but I do know you don't have to do it alone.

Grace Over Perfection

Okay folks, it's time for a little dose of reality in a much too polished world of perfection. Last summer, I needed some head shots for my website. My amazing photographer met me at a local park. We were there to capture joyful, feminine, and whimsical portraits. Then, an uninvited guest showed up. Actually, it was uninvited guests (plural).

I'm allergic to mosquito bites. So, the little beasts thought they'd tell the whole world about it. Yep. Huge red swollen bites decided to grace this session. You can't tell from the photos (because my photographer and stage artist are that cool) but I had a huge bite on my face. At the moment, it wasn't what I would have considered ideal but now I love it. I love how creating a perfect presentation ran smack dab into reality.

You know why I don't like perfection? It's fake. NO ONE on earth is perfect. NOTHING on earth is perfect. When we pull out the smoke and mirrors of perfection, we wash away the need for grace. My need for grace is a megaphone of my need for Jesus. My need for grace turns into evidence of just how gracious my God is. He doesn't ask me to be perfect, instead, he covers me in his perfect righteousness. He's given me a place in his kingdom and calls me his precious daughter.

What about you? Are you ready to toss out the smoke and mirrors of perfection to embrace a need for grace and a testimony of God's goodness? From me to you - it's the most liberating truth you'll embrace.

When Christmas Isn't Perfect

It's the Christmas season once again and the war is on. It's a war between buying happiness, taping down corners to create perfection, attending every social gathering to check off success and slowing down to soak up the meaning of a baby in a manger.

I'm not going to lie, I looove Christmas. I love the twinkling lights, the music, and the smell of gingerbread. That said, I've had my share of less than perfect Christmases. There have been stressful holiday gatherings and missed family get-togethers because the flu has poor timing. That first Christmas was a little less than perfect too. A brand new baby with soft pink skin lying on a prickly bed of straw couldn't be considered ideal. Before that, though, there is the young girl, Mary, giving birth for the very first time in a stable. Somehow I don't think a Bethlehem stable would have been up to twenty-first-century sanitary codes. We have Joseph too. Joseph is on a trip back home to get his taxes figured out. I'm pretty sure it wasn't an ideal time for him to be having his first kid. Looks can be deceiving, though. On an imperfect night, in imperfect circumstances, with two imperfect people, perfection was born. Did you see that? Perfection and it wasn't you and it wasn't me, it was Jesus. This Christmas, let's quit chasing the perfection of perfect family get-togethers, Pinterest inspired wrapped gifts and magazine worthy Christmas dinners. Let's spend more time sitting in the presence of the Perfect One who came to save us from the exhaustion of being perfect on our own.

Surrender, throw in the towel. Let those dirty dishes pile up, buy that dollar store wrapping paper, leave the bow on that gift crooked and bring store bought cookies to the party because folks it's Christmas!!!! It's time for less stress and a whole lot more holiday cheer!
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