5 Minute Friday

dance.

(This post is part of a community post. Every Friday, a one-word prompt is announced. You get to free-write for five minutes. No editing, no out-lining. Just writing the thoughts as they come. If you’d like to participate, you can find all the info you need here.)

Dance. When I’ve heard this word in the past a few things have come to mind, such as inspirational quotes like “dance like no one’s watching”,  “dance like there’s no tomorrow”,  and “life is about learning to dance in the rain.” I can remember being in 8th grade and singing “I hope you dannceeee” in the locker room with my friends.

But lately that word is coming alive to me in a different way.

One of my favorite scriptures has always been Zephaniah 3:17 – For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With His love, He will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs. (NLT) To me this is such a beautiful picture of God’s deep love for us. How much He cares and how near and present He desires to be. How He doesn’t just have some general love for human kind as a whole, but His love tears through everything in its way to pursue me and you individually. What a breathtaking love that is.

What’s even more incredible though is that the Hebrew phrase “rejoice over you” can be more closely translated as “to spin around.” Or in other words, dance“He will dance over you with joyful songs.”

Can we let that sink in for a minute?

Our God dances over us. He delights in us. He wants us. He desires us. When we feel like we aren’t good enough, He’s dancing over us. When we messed up again, He’s dancing over us. When we struggle with fear, doubt, worry, anxiety, and uncertainty, He’s dancing over us. When we don’t know what to do, He’s dancing over us.

Find peace in that knowledge today. Whatever happened or is happening at the moment doesn’t change the fact that your God knows you, sees you, desires you, and is pursuing you. And at this very moment, He is dancing over you.

On Having the Bravery to Share Your Story

On having the bravery to share your story

I love stories. I always have. For as long as I can remember, I have been intrigued by other people’s lives and the things that they have gone through and encountered. I could spend countless hours talking to someone about their life – their past, their victories, their failures, what they have overcome. It’s an incredible thing to me to watch someone open up, expose their raw and messy self, and be vulnerable with others. It’s a brave thing to be honest, to share pieces of your life and your heart. Very brave.

It’s also very powerful.

Your personal story is so much more than just facts and good anecdotes – it’s the evidence you present to the world about a God who loves, redeems, restores, and protects. Our stories reveal the nature and character of God. They point to who God is and create a bridge for other people to experience Him in the same way. When we are willing to share our stories, we create room for faith and expectancy to be planted in the hearts of the people around us.

Our stories are a resounding reminder to a broken and hurting world that Jesus is alive, He is near and present and moving. He is the author of resurrection, healing, hope, mercy, redemption and freedom. He can turn a valley of trouble into a door of hope, and He always provides a way of escape.

So many times the enemy uses our stories to become a source of personal shame. We don’t want to talk about our pasts for fear of judgment and rejection. We bury our stories and refuse to talk about what we have been through and experienced, trying to polish ourselves so that we appear a certain way to others. But the truth is that when we deny our stories, we give way for shame to grow, pain to become our identities, and for us to be rendered ineffective for the Kingdom. The simplest way for the enemy to steal from us, kill us, and destroy us is to silence us.

I know that vulnerability and rawness is hard, friends. But the good news is that there is no shame in Christ’s love! Refuse to let anyone or anything shame you, silence you, or stop the redeeming work of Christ in your life.

So we have to develop a lifestyle of telling anyone we can about everything that God has done for us. We each have had unique experiences. We have gone through different things, some of us more dark than others – but the truth in all of our stories is that God in His mercy and grace came to us in the midst of our brokenness and did for us what we could never do for ourselves. He saved us from ourselves.

Your story can be the key that unlocks someone’s prison. It’s good news, pointing people to Christ. When sharing about your life, just be honest. The world doesn’t need extravagant, made up, and manicured stories, the world needs honest stories because the truth is what sets people free.

So be brave. Be honest. Be vulnerable. Expose the messiest parts of yourself to the people who need it, and watch as God redeems every part of your life.

When Church Hurts

It’s been a rough few weeks. All too familiar feelings of anger mixed with sadness and a little bit of discouragement have tried to demand that I entertain them. I have had knots in my stomach and have spent time wrestling with my own convictions and beliefs as well as shaking my head in frustration at the opinions of others. What triggered all of this you ask? The revealing of the Duggar family scandal. Absolutely nothing makes me angrier than child abuse, friends. But I’m not writing this to share my thoughts about the Duggars- I’m not naive enough to believe that we still know every detail about the situation and therefore I can’t speak with authority about it (Plus, others have already written everything that I feel far better than I can. Read this – http://www.elizabethesther.com/journal/2015/5/27/its-not-just-about-josh-duggar-its-about-an-entire-system-of-abuse). But what the entire mess highlights to me is another example of spiritual abuse. I cried while reading different articles, all saying the same thing – the Duggar’s church leaders did absolutely nothing when the abuse was revealed to them. Mandatory reporters of abuse sat idly by and did nothing to ensure the safety of young children. It has been so disheartening to me that once again, we are seeing another example of powerful people whitewashing abuse and using the name of Jesus to cover-up scandal. I’m so tired of hearing stories about the church failing to (or refusing to) protect the lives that have been entrusted to them. It’s spiritual abuse guys, and we have to do better.

Spiritual abuse is not a new concept. Scripture is full of examples of religious leaders taking advantage of others and using their position to fulfill selfish desires. One of the easiest examples would be of the Pharisees. In Matthew 23, Jesus warned the crowd about not following in the Pharisee’s footsteps because they do not practice what they preach. Our Savior called the Pharisees “hypocrites”, “blind guides”, and “fools.” He told them that they shut the door to the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces, they place heavy loads on people’s shoulders that they themselves are unwilling to help carry, and my personal favorite “You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.” (vs.15). Jesus had a lot to say about a system that was more concerned with dogma than it was with people, a system that was more interested in culture wars than in washing feet. Jesus didn’t seem to tolerate the people that He came to this earth to die for being mistreated by religious leaders.

I have spent the last few weeks reading article after article, blog after blog, from people sharing their stories about the spiritual abuse they have experienced. Women placed under “church discipline” for divorcing their emotionally and sexually abusive husbands, children raped by their pastors and then asked to keep silent to protect the church’s reputation. The stories would amaze you. Innocent faith is being destroyed every single day and all in the name of what? Grace? Saving face? Protecting an institution?

WE HAVE TO DO BETTER THAN THIS. We have to stop acting as if the kingdom of God can be shaken, as if God can be dethroned. Silence in matters of abuse does not represent Christ and what He stood for and why He came to this earth. We have to stop acting as if a church institution should be protected at any cost and rather live as if we really believe that people should be saved at any cost. If we want to better represent the heart of our Father than we must be an army that is willing to stand up and say that WE ARE NOT OKAY WITH INNOCENT LIVES BEING VICTIMIZED. That we are willing to ask questions and talk about the hard things and stand up for the victims and speak the truth always.

The church is supposed to be a safe haven for the hurting, a hospital for the sick, a lifeline for the drowning. People should be able to walk through the doors of every single Christian church and feel accepted, loved, and a sense of belonging. They should be safe. An overwhelming “we are so glad you are here” should be the church’s response. People should be able to bring their doubts, fears, insecurities, and baggage and find refuge,  peace, and protection. Their experiences, problems, or abuse should never be looked at as something to be swept under the rug or ignored because of a “bigger picture” to defend. Sadly, this is just not the case in a lot of churches. Many times, people walk into a church and find judgment and legalism, shame instead of love. People in positions of authority use their power to victimize and damage innocent souls and then throw around words like grace, mercy, and redemption to downplay abuse, as if forgiveness and accountability are mutually exclusive.  Sadly, a lot of times, church hurts like hell.

A few years ago, I experienced the worst emotional pain of my life at the hands of my church. The spiritual abuse that I experienced sent me spiraling into a depression and placed a weight of shame on my shoulders that I thought was going to destroy me.  For months, I walked around feeling like I could barely breathe or even stand up straight. The pain felt so unbearable at times that I didn’t even want to wake up in the morning. I’m a girl who grew up in church, who has a long history of loving the church and serving faithfully and always doing my part to ensure her success; yet, despite all of that, the church had become my greatest source of pain.

It’s a normal response to want to run away when you are hurting. When rumors and lies have destroyed your reputation, when too many people know the painful and sacred details of your story, it seems like the only answer is to go far away where no one knows you. I begged God to let me leave my church, to send me somewhere else. I promised Him that I would continue to serve, that I would stay plugged in and wouldn’t let what happened to me cause me to turn my back on Him – I just wanted to do it all somewhere else. Anywhere else. Over and over again I tried to bargain with Him, and over and over again He responded with a simple “no.” God asked me to do one of the hardest things that I have ever done, to stay planted in the place that hurt me. He promised me restoration, but only if I stayed put.  Four years later, I can honestly say that this truth has never been more real to me – He who promised is faithful (Hebrews 10:23).

If you have ever been hurt by the church or have experienced spiritual abuse, I am so so sorry. You didn’t deserve it. Please know that what you went through is not your fault and is not the heart of God for you. Regardless of what anyone tells you, your feelings are valid and you have the right to hurt. Just don’t lose heart my friends. Yes, church can hurt so bad. It can break your heart and leave you questioning everything you thought you believed in. But there is always hope. God is so near, He deeply cares about what you have gone through, and He is grieving with you. Your pain matters to Him. If you let Him, He will fight this battle for you (Exodus 14:14). Lean on Him, turn to Him, and ask Him for guidance during this season. Take a break from church if you have to, just don’t ever leave His side. Seek Him like never before and take comfort in knowing that He is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18). You may not know how to move forward, and that’s okay. God knows, and the Spirit will reveal it to you when it’s time. And then if God says go, run as fast as you can until He says stop. But if He says stay, you anchor yourself to His promises and take a deep breath – you can do this. Your fear and anxiety are liars, you were made to do hard things. Just trust Him. (and if you have to cry in your car for 5 minutes before you can go inside the church like I did, that’s okay too). Please, just don’t ever give up.

For every story that you read about abuse in the church, there’s a community of people somewhere else who are loving people well, making a real difference, and representing Christ the best that they can. People who know how to walk with you through  pain and aren’t afraid to sit in the dark, murky trenches of life. People who will grab you by the hands and listen to your story and understand that you have the right to your healing process, whatever that looks like, because Jesus paid for it. People who refuse to use the name of Christ as a weapon and believe that the casualties in our culture wars aren’t worth it. Keep searching, keep looking. These people are out there, and they are waiting for you.

Church can hurt. But church can also be a place of healing, restoration, joy, peace, community, friendship, love, and safety. And sometimes, God will take the place that was your greatest source of pain and turn it into your greatest source of redemption.

After all, He is the author of resurrection.

**If you are wondering what the church’s role should be in cases of abuse, read this : http://www.russellmoore.com/2015/05/22/what-should-the-duggar-scandal-teach-the-church/**

Linda.

It was 1:30am when the surgeon came into your ER triage room and said that you needed emergency surgery. From where I was sitting on the floor, all I could see was you turn your head to the side to deal with the news. I laid back down on the floor, trying not to let fear take over, and the first thing that I could say was “God, I can’t lose my mom.” Mama, I have never been more aware of how thankful I am for you than I was the moment the surgeon found us in the waiting room and told us that you were okay.

11015198_10152889386706547_8382444724477378994_nI have often said that you are one of the most stubborn people I know, but that tenacity has also translated into a steadfast example of living with integrity and faith. Your commitment to your family and unwavering love and support for your children is ingrained into the very foundation of my daily life. I know that who I am is a direct reflection of your prayers and sacrifices.

You have been the rock in our family through hard times. You are a beautiful woman and have been a living example to all your children, but especially your daughters, of how to be strong and independent. Your famous motto “if it’s not for sale, don’t put it on display” has instilled a sense of self-respect and self-worth in me that refuses to allow me to settle for anything less than all God has for me (even though I still laugh every time you say it.)

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You love your people well, mama. Not just your family – every single person God puts in your life leaves your presence a little bit better, a little bit stronger, a little more hopeful. You are an unshakable pillar in the life of everyone who calls you friend.

Throughout my life I have watched you do the right thing. Always. Regardless of how it feels or what sacrifices you have to make, you always do the right thing. You show up every single time, ready to help and to give of yourself and your time and your resources without a second thought about yourself and your own needs. What a self-less woman you are.

You have taught me so much, mama. So many important lessons about faith, commitment, and hard-work. But the most important lesson you have taught me is how to love my people. How to be there for them. How to show up when it’s hard and just be with people in their pain. You have shown me that how you sit with the broken says more about you than how you walk with the great. You have taught me that love often means doing the hardest things, putting yourself last, and pushing your own feelings aside. You don’t have to worry about your children, mama. Because of you, we know how to show up for each other. We know how to love one another.

FullSizeRender-71514544_10152707107861547_8792944897031709083_nMama, my prayer for you is that you would know how deeply loved and treasured you are. That you would never doubt for a second the legacy you are leaving, the impact you are making. Your everyday life of showing up and loving well is making an eternal difference, and we all know that’s the only kind that really matters.

Happy Mother’s Day to my friend and role model. I love you.

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I regard no man as poor who has a Godly mother – Abraham Lincoln

28.

So last week I turned 28. As has been true every year since I turned 24, I expected to feel anxiety and dread about getting older. I waited for it to kick in, that part of me that begins comparing myself to others and wondering if I’m messing this entire thing up. Imagine how surprised I was during the days leading up to my birthday when I felt nothing but peace and thankfulness. I actually found myself looking forward to getting older and getting closer and closer to some of the things that God has planned. I know that this variance from my normal behavior is directly because God has been so faithful the past few weeks to provide so much encouragement, ensuring me that I am exactly where I need to be at this time in my life. He’s just good like that. So rather than feeling stressed and worried, I have had a chance to just sit back and reflect over the past few years and pen some of the most important lessons I feel that I have learned.

It has definitely been an interesting 28 years. My life has never really looked “normal” and now at 28 it definitely doesn’t look anything like what I thought it would. But I serve a God who knows me better than I know myself, and He has taken me on a journey that I never would have chosen for myself but that I would not change for anything. I have walked through the hardest of seasons but have also experienced the greatest of joys and through it all, He has been near – teaching me, growing me, and stretching me. He has forced me out of my comfort zones and used the messiness of life to speak truth into my heart.

I have taken time to write out what I feel are some of the 28 most important lessons I have learned in my 28 years of life. I can only hope that what I have walked through and what I have learned breathes hope, insight, and encouragement into weary parts of your soul.

28 Life Lessons I Have Learned in 28 Years:

1. Jesus is a constant friend.

2. Family matters most. I understand that not everyone has a good family, and some people need to set personal boundaries for themselves and separate themselves from family at times. But if you are like me and you have a great family, don’t take them for granted. At the end of it all, family truly does matter the most. Love your people well.

3. You have to learn to accept an apology you will never get, allow God to heal your heart, and move on. Unforgiveness will destroy your soul and unhealed pain will eventually become your identity.

4. But if not, He is still good. 

5. If you don’t learn to die to the opinion of man, you will eventually die from the opinion of man. Your freedom will be determined by whether or not you allow what God thinks and says about you to matter more than what others think or say about you

6. Community matters.  I tried to do it on my own. I had been hurt by the church and was burnt out on “church culture.” But something was missing. We weren’t created to do this on our own. Find your community and be a pillar for your people.

7. Age is just a number.  Stop stressing out about getting older. Your only other option is death. Babies and children die every single day. Getting old is a privilege that many people are denied. Age might bring with it more wrinkles and gray hair, but it also brings more wisdom and a deeper relationship with Christ.

8. There’s a difference between being nice and being kind. Be kind.

9. There’s no such thing as a life for you that is better than your own when you keep your eyes focused on Christ and seek His will for you.  Run your race with endurance and stay in your lane.

10. Ice cream is never a bad idea.

11. Your life doesn’t have to make sense to others.  Anchor yourself  to the promises of Christ and just be faithful.

12. Never place your identity in things that are fleeting (youth, success, popularity, money, career, looks, etc).  Eventually all of those things will fade away and then what? Anything other than desperate dependence on God is simply false security. Jesus Christ is the only solid foundation.

13. Ordinary moments hold just as much glory as seemingly extraordinary moments. I have hiked up mountains, seen wild horses running free in their natural habitat, seen the bluest blue oceans, danced with locals in the streets of Guatemala, talked to people living in cardboard boxes in the dumps of Mexico, and helped rebuild a family’s tornado shelter after tragedy struck. I am grateful for every amazing experience I have had. But the older I get, the more I understand that God is just as present right here in the everyday moments of life. When my nephew gives me fishy kisses, when I talk to a teenage girl about how to hear from God, when I stand outside just to feel the cool breeze on my skin – He is here. All is grace, and that in itself is extraordinary.

14. The pain of healing is sometimes even harder than the pain of bondage, but your freedom is worth it.

15. There’s a difference between character and charisma. Don’t be deceived by the two. Character will take you where charisma never can.

16. When you view everything as a gift – every moment, every relationship, every hurt – and learn to give thanks in ALL things, it becomes impossible for the enemy to steal your joy

17. The Godly entrust their cases to the courts of heaven. God will fight for you.

18. The word “fat” should not be used as an adjective. You may have fat, but you are not fat. You are all lovely, amazing, and full of purpose. You are disciples, daughters, sisters, aunts, friends. You are so much more than a number on the scale.

19. Sometimes you really just need to take a nap.  And that’s okay. Stop feeling guilty for letting yourself rest.

20. In a world constantly on the go, learn to be still. Give your best yes to the things that really matter and then let other things fall to the side. You can’t hear the quiet whisper of God when you’re making too much noise.

21. You need to watch Rocky IV.

22. It’s okay to like what you like and not follow every new fad or trend.

23. Let life be hard. We don’t have to be immediately rescued from every situation. Pain produces brokenness which produces life. Learn how to sit with pain and be still and KNOW that He is God. Stand on the promise that redemption is your song. You are held.

24. There’s not much more beautiful than a woman who loves the Lord and is completely, unapologetically herself.  And there’s no greater gift you can give someone than the ability to be completely themselves in your presence.

25. Jesus can handle all of your doubts, fear, worries, insecurities, and questions. Don’t feel the need to hide those things from Him. He knows. He sees. He understands. He is near.

26. There’s always more room at the Table.

27. Single is not a dirty word.  Husbands are not prizes for girls who have it all together. Godly, loving, self-less, prepared women are single all over the world. God is not keeping a character trait list for you and checking things off one by one until you’ve finally proven that you deserve a partner and marriage. Sorry, but that’s just dumb. Singleness in the church is not a problem to be fixed. (also my dear married church people – some of your marriages absolutely terrify us single ladies and if that’s what marriage is like, we aren’t interested.)

28. All dogs go to Heaven. I’m 100% certain that I will get to spend eternity with my dogs. Don’t try to change my mind :)

My life so far has been so full. I plan to embrace the last 2 years of my twenties with my head held high, looking everything I face straight in the eye, confident in who I am and whose I am. So cheers to you 28! I think you’re going to be a good one :)

Just Show Up

Last year I signed up to run a 5k with my mom in November that supported our local chapter of CASA (www.casaforchildren.org). Little did I know when I registered that I would soon after be involved in a car accident that fractured my tailbone. I had to stop running for awhile while I healed, but decided to show up and run the race with my mom anyway.

It was 35 degrees the morning of the race. I hadn’t been able to run in almost 2 months   and my fracture didn’t seem to be healing properly. I had told my mom I would do it with her though and was committed to finishing the race with her (secretly I was hoping I could convince her to walk). It was clear about 3 minutes in that I wasn’t going to be able to run with her. My tailbone seemed to only hurt worse because of how cold it was and I was in pretty bad pain. So my mom took off without me while I started walking. Even walking hurt that morning though, so I ended up venturing off the trail and finding a secluded bench where I could sit. When my mom had about 200 yards left to run, I got up and ran to the finish line with her. All total I only completed about half of the race but didn’t really care since the registration fee went to a good organization.

We hung around after the race for the awards ceremony. My sister and nephew had run that morning also and were excited to see if they won any awards. When they announced the winners for my age category, my entire family was shocked when they heard my name for 1st place. I actually laughed out loud and the poor announcer thought I was laughing at his mispronunciation of my last name. I couldn’t believe that I didn’t even complete the entire race but somehow ended up going home with a 1st place medal. Apparently, no one else in my age group showed up that morning. No one but me.

I learned an important lesson that morning. It would have been easy to use my injury as an excuse and sleep in instead of waking up at 6:30 on a Saturday to attempt to run. I could have told my mom that I couldn’t go with her. But I chose to show up. And because I did, my miserable attempt to finish the course was still rewarded.

Too many times in life we choose to sit out because we don’t feel good enough, we feel like we are still too broken, or we are just too afraid. We wait for the “right” moment when we will feel whole and ready, but the reality is that we will never feel completely prepared for what God is calling us to do. Following Christ is about being uncomfortable, stretched, and not feeling ready but showing up anyway. It’s in the sacredness of our brokenness that His glory is revealed through us. His grace is most beautifully expressed when “His strength is made perfect in our weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Do you have something you feel called to do but don’t feel prepared for? Just show up! The reward will surprise you.

On Valentine’s Day

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Seriously though. Today marks the 8th Valentine’s Day in a row that I have had to buy my own chocolate (so if you’re secretly interested in me, now’s the time to speak up).

I have celebrated Valentine’s Day while in a serious relationship and have celebrated while seriously single and I would love to tell you what’s different about the two.

You ready for it?? Here goes….

Absolutely nothing.

When I had a boyfriend (and by that I mean the 2 out of 4 Valentine’s days we were together that he actually thought to try and make the day special ), I celebrated the love in my life.

The past 8 years without a boyfriend, I have celebrated the love in my life.

And all of it was beautiful.

There are so many different types of love, and I don’t believe that Valentine’s day is a day to only celebrate romantic love. Last year I babysat my nephew and still remember the day that we had together and watching him explore and laugh and crawl around my house. A few years ago, a group of single friends of mine got dressed up, went to a nice dinner, and then went to take Salsa lessons together, celebrating life and our relationships with one another. Today, the youth at my church are going to volunteer at a local emergency shelter for kids removed from their homes and ensure that these kids feel loved and valued. And almost every year since I can remember, my mom has made sure that I had a valentine present. Even though I moved out of her house years ago, I always wake up Valentines morning with a gift and card on my kitchen table. These are the kinds of moments and relationships worth celebrating today and every day.

If you are single today, IT’S OKAY! Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be a day where you feel bad about yourself or doubt who you are or feel like you don’t have anything to offer. Please remember that your value and worth is in no way determined by whether or not you have a “Valentine” today. Choose to celebrate all the love you do have in your life; the sustaining love of an amazing Savior, and wonderful family and friends. Celebrate the relationships God has blessed you with. He is too good to us for us to do anything but rejoice in Him always!

So to my fellow single ladies, instead of eating ice cream straight from the carton and binge watching sappy Lifetime movies, try something different today.

  • Get dressed up and go eat dinner with your closest friends! And then celebrate one another and the friendships that you have
  • Offer to watch your nieces or nephews and then snuggle them for hours and thank God for the gift it is to be an aunt
  • Go volunteer somewhere and share the love of Christ with others who are hurting today
  • Take a road trip by yourself. Explore a new place. Thank God for the gift of life.
  • Send your friends funny pictures to remind them that they are single too ;)

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Life is beautiful friends. Every day is a gift. Don’t waste what could be an amazing day feeling bad about yourself. You are fabulous, and I think that you all deserve someone to buy you flowers and chocolate, but it’s okay if this year that person is you. Buy the prettiest flowers you can find and remind yourself how loved you really are. And just incase you don’t have anyone else to tell you this today…

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And if this post still doesn’t make you feel better, just remember that tomorrow all the chocolate will be half-price.

XOXO, Angela

Archie

“Nobody can fully understand the meaning of love unless he’s owned a dog. A dog can show you more honest affection with a flick of his tail than a man can gather through a lifetime of handshakes.”  Gene Hill

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I didn’t know when you woke up Sunday morning that it would be your last good day. It was a gorgeous day and you got to spend it doing your favorite things – sunbathing, barking at the annoying dog next door through the fence, and sticking your head through the spot in the fence with the missing board. When I came home that afternoon to check on you, you were laying in your favorite spot on the porch, ears alert and tail wagging. You always were such a happy boy.

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You were 6 weeks old when you joined our family. My dad and brother went to pick you out and said that you and your sister were the only puppies who ran out of the kennel and started playing with them. It was almost as if you were the one who chose us. It was evident from the very beginning what a gentle, loving, and loyal dog you were. You were fiercely protective of those you loved and provided me with a sense of security everyday.

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Watching you age was a beautiful journey.  The changes were seemingly slow until one day everything was different. One day you could jump up on everything, the next you had trouble. The red on your coat faded in some spots, mainly on your face, and white took its place. The skin on your face began to sag, so much so that water would dribble out of the side of your mouth whenever you would drink. But through it all, you remained the same happy, amazing dog that you always were.

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I miss you buddy. I miss the way you were my little shadow and would follow me all around the house. I miss looking down and seeing you at my feet. I miss seeing your face through the glass on the front door every time I pull into the driveway. I miss the way you would ever so softly bite my hand in the mornings when you needed to go outside. Even when you needed something you were always so polite. I miss the way you would completely burrow yourself into someone whenever you wanted to cuddle or the way you would rest your head on my knee when I was working. I miss hearing you walk on the hardwood floors throughout the night when you would pace and protect your home. I miss the way you would sit by the front door but then come peek your head into the bedroom to make sure I was ok before settling down in the hallway. I miss finding you in the most ridiculous places anytime it was raining and thundering.

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I’ll miss how excited you would get when we had company over, especially if it was the rest of your family. Family dinners were your favorite. I’ll miss watching how gentle you were with my nieces and nephew, even when they got on your nerves. I’ll miss the way you became like a little puppy again anytime my dad or brothers were around you. I’ll miss the way you let me put silly things on your head and celebrate different occasions with you.

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For 12 years, you were my pal. A constant friend. You were by my side through graduations, hurts, new jobs, lost relationships, and new friendships. You let me know everyday that you loved me. Losing you marks the end of a season for me, and things will never quite be the same. My grandpa once said that there are some things that you can only tell a loving God and a loving dog. I don’t know that there could be anything truer said of you.

You started getting sick 6 months ago. We weren’t sure what was wrong but it was so hard to deal with knowing that you wouldn’t be with us much longer. Every time you had a bad spell, we thought that maybe this was it, but you somehow were able to bounce back. During the week of Thanksgiving you had your worst spell. Your whole family came over to tell you goodbye. We cuddled you and told you what a good boy you were. I asked God to let you die peacefully and pain free at your own home. I couldn’t stand the thought of having to make the decision to put you down. Somehow you got your strength back and lived for 2 more months. We celebrated your 12th birthday in December, and you got to spend one more Christmas with your family.

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Even in your death God showed His faithfulness to me and proved once again that He cares about the things we care about and is intimately involved in every detail of our lives. When you woke up on Monday morning, I knew something was wrong. You were sick again, but this time it was different than the other times. The life in your eyes was gone. I got the chance to love on you and tell you what a good dog you were. You made eye contact with me, the first time that day, and then I watched you breathe your last breath. I like to think you were telling me goodbye.

My sweet Archie boy, I consider it a gift to have been your mama for 12 years. You taught me so much about unconditional love, and I can only hope that you knew how loved you were as well. Rest in peace little buddy. You were the best dog a girl could have. Thank you for being so loyal, loving, protective, and gentle. You had a kind heart and sweet spirit, and I am 100% certain that there will never again be another dog like you. I’ll miss you. 

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December 18, 2002 – January 26, 2015

 

Lean In

I can’t believe January is already half way over. If this month has been any indicator of how fast this year will go by, we will be celebrating a new year and planning new goals and dreams before we know it. I have sat down several times over the past few weeks in an attempt to write some kind of inspiring new years post about the resolutions I have set for myself this year and my “one word” for 2015 but have found myself to be in a place where I didn’t really know what those were yet. I feel like 2015 crept up on me and I didn’t even have the time to stop and reflect on the past year and really seek God for His plans for 2015.

Over the past 2 weeks I have had the chance to take a minute and really think about this new year and write down a few goals and dreams that I have. 2014 was an interesting year  for me, one that was full of a lot of celebrations and happiness yet also full of disappointments and perceived setbacks. If I was honest, starting a new year was hard for me because I feel like I’m further behind than I was at the beginning of 2014. I felt so discouraged on New Years Eve that it was hard to celebrate the new year. I didn’t feel ready and just kept wishing I could turn back time and re-do 2014.

What I have realized about myself this past year and in the disappointment that I felt several times throughout 2014 was that I still struggle so much with tying my self-worth to my accomplishments. I make lists and resolutions, all in the vain attempt to create a “better” version of myself in order to feel like I matter more or am more worthy of being loved and accepted.  I measure my success as a Christian based off of how hard I am pursuing God’s will and the visible evidence of His favor in my life. So when I have years like 2014 and I seem to have taken 20 steps backwards instead of forward, I feel as if I have disappointed God in some way which creates feelings of guilt and shame. The last few months of the year I basically pushed God away, neglecting to spend time with Him because I couldn’t deal with feeling like I let Him down by not accomplishing enough that year. I didn’t want to expose my vulnerable heart to Him just in case He didn’t like what He saw.

So a new year is here. I have prayed and listened and waited, expecting to hear my word for 2015. What does God want me to focus on, work towards, and pursue this year? I read blogs from women that I admire and respect and felt jealous as they shared their words for the New Year : give, love, go, fun, hope, faithful – beautiful words that speak to God’s purposes for their lives. So again I waited and asked God to show me what He wants from me this year. I have gone through the past 2 weeks completely frustrated feeling like I didn’t have a plan yet for the year, feeling like I was already falling behind those who knew their mission for the year and took off on January 1st ready to conquer their worlds.

I was driving home this past Wednesday night when a song came on that I hadn’t heard in awhile. It’ s an old hymn and the first words sung were “Be still my soul, the Lord is on your side.” Immediately I started crying and knew right then what I need to focus on this year. Rather than constantly analyzing what I am doing for God, I need to lean in to the work He is doing and partner with Him to accomplish His will. I tend to get too caught up in what I am doing FOR God that sometimes I forget to just be WITH God. Too many times I act like my walk with God is me “performing” while He marks things off a checklist rather than remembering that I simply need to abide with God and work with Him to see His purpose fulfilled on this earth. I need to open up my heart to the Healer and allow Him to speak life and truth over the broken pieces that still try to earn His love and grace. I need to be set free from any part of me that still needs my life to look a certain way in order to gain the approval of others, because you can either learn to die TO the opinion of man, or you will eventually die FROM the opinion of man. I will refocus my eyes on Jesus and let all things fade away until it is just me and Him. I have tasted and seen that the Lord is good, He has proven that He is trustworthy to me over and over again, and this year I will walk in the abundant life that is being one with Christ. I will stop feeling like a failure and allowing that to stop any progress I’m making any time I mess up but rather give myself the grace to live free and know that He is on my side and we are working together to bring His light and love to this earth. Sure I have goals for this year and things I would like to accomplish, but none of those things matter unless they are the result of my partnership with Christ rather than my attempt to earn His affections. So everyday I will repeat these words to myself until they are sealed in my heart – Lean in Angela. Lean in.

Ok 2015. I’m a little late to the game, but I’m ready for you.

Keep Standing Still

Patience has never been my greatest quality. When I was younger I would read Galatians 5:22 and gloss over that fruit of the Spirit, knowing that I struggled immensely in that area. I didn’t like the concept of patience. I always needed and had a plan, I always had the next step figured out, was always ready to jump into a new thing and keep moving forward. I never wanted to be still, always fearing mediocrity and ineffectiveness.

When I was 20 years old, I made the  decision to break up with my boyfriend of 5 years, the guy I thought I was going to marry, who I had my entire future planned out with. It was the right decision to make, but so difficult nonetheless. That night, God spoke to me and told me that if I would be patient and wait on Him, the next guy that I dated would be my husband. That was 7 years ago.

When I was 21 years old, 1 year before graduating with my bachelors in social work, I went on my first mission trip and God completely messed up the plans I had made for myself – to move away from home after I graduated, get my masters degree, and then work in non-profit management. One night while on my mission trip, God showed me that getting a masters was not a part of His plan, that He was going to send me out to do missions and use my social work background to advocate for specific community needs around the world. I was so excited thinking that when I graduated at 22 I would be sent off and get to travel the world and experience different cultures, all while helping meet the needs of different community groups. That was 6 years ago.

It’s funny the way God chooses to work sometimes. The very quality that I always struggled with is the very one I have had to exercise every single day for the last 7 years while waiting on the promises of God to come to pass in my life. Patience. It sounds so easy but in reality has been very difficult.  Not only has He asked me to be patient and wait, but He has also put me in different jobs throughout the past few years that I never wanted to do.  I would have dreams at night about being in different countries, helping communities find resources, sharing the love of Christ with the broken all over the world, and then wake up in the morning and go to a job I never would have chosen for myself. There were times that it just felt like a cruel game that I kept losing. I have gotten angry with God, yelled at God, cried, taken matters into my own hands, and have even ignored Him at times when it just felt too difficult to deal with anymore. The past 7 years have been riddled with doubt, fear, and feeling forgotten. Is God really working on my behalf? Am I being punished for past mistakes? Did I hear from Him correctly/Can I really hear from Him? Am I even in His will? I would love to say that I have graciously walked through this season as a completely spirit-led woman of valor, holding my head up high and fully confident in my Savior, but unfortunately that would be a lie. This season has been a messy one.

A few weeks ago I went to an elder in my church for prayer after a Sunday morning service. I had felt a lot of angst for about 2 months and was struggling with the thought that rather than patiently waiting on God I was stagnantly doing nothing. Some things that had happened made me feel like I was going backwards instead of moving forward, causing me to think that I had messed up and was no longer in His will. I had feared that somewhere along the way I had missed the call, missed when He said “go.” Before I could even finish telling her what I needed prayer for, she interrupted me and said that the word of God for me was to “keep standing still.” My immediate response was NO!! I don’t want to keep standing still God. I’m ready to move, ready to “really” be doing something for You, ready to see some of these promises come to pass. I’m ready to be on the other side of this, to be able to say “Look what the Lord has done!

But then it hit me. I am already able to shout about what God has done in my life. (Mainly because the cross is always enough). But also because despite my times of unbelief, God has been so faithful to speak into my life and to bring constant encouragement and reminders of His promises to me. He has beckoned me to trust Him deeper every day. He has shown me how His love alone can sustain and carry, even in the darkest of times. His presence has become more real to me then ever before. As I have watched others around me get the things that my heart desires so strongly, He has urged me to keep my eyes focused on Him and Him alone, letting everything else grow dim and fade away. Jesus has been a constant friend, a source of companionship, a great comforter. He has been so good to me. He doesn’t have to, but He stills my soul and lets me know that I am right where I am supposed to be, giving me a peace that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to have.

Can I encourage you today? If you are in a season of waiting (which in some way we all probably are), KEEP STANDING STILL! God is fighting for you. He makes a way where there doesn’t seem to be a way. He makes the crooked paths straight and guides and directs every step we take. Waiting is hard – I know this all too well. But it is worth it because eye has not seen and ear has not heard the things that God has planned for those who love Him. If you are actively seeking God’s will for your life, you can’t miss it! He’s too good for that. If you feel that you have messed up or misstepped somewhere, you are in good company with so many others who have gone before you and felt that same way. Just ask for God’s guidance and realign yourself with His will. You haven’t been disqualified from His plan and purpose for your life. Stop being so hard on yourself. He loves you! No really, let that sink in – HE LOVES YOU! Stand firm on the promises He has given you. Let them be a secure anchor for your soul, and then just rest in Him. He is faithful to complete the work that He has begun – so keep standing still.

The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. – Lamentations 3:25

About

I'm a daughter, sister, aunt, friend, Jesus Feminist, and social justice wanna-be. I believe in women finding their freedom and living out their callings without permission or apology.

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