Whatever is Lovely

This. This is my life verse.

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I didn't even realize I had a life verse until discussing it with our church recently... but this is the one! I have become passionate about thinking intentionally, for I have learned how powerful our thoughts can be; that they are the driving force for why we do and say things and act the way we do. I try to keep control of my mind whenever I can. It's intentional, diligent work that can at times feel like an uphill battle.

Here are the full verses that did not fit on my letterfolk board. (; 

"Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy -- meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you." -Philippians 4:8-9

Sometimes I dwell WAY too long on the awful things that could happen to Sam and Lucy. Sometimes I have fearful thoughts that run rampant in my tired-mind as I'm trying to fall asleep. Sometimes I entertain lies of comparison that Satan is whispering into my ear for way too long. I have a lot of fearful thoughts that kind of slink into my mind without me even realizing it until I find my fists clenched, breath held and am choking back tears as if my thoughts have actually become reality. But as soon as I realize that my thoughts have gotten away from me, the words whatever is lovely stop every one of those in their tracks. I become reminded of this scripture and that none of those thoughts are from the Lord, which means they should have no place in my mind.

I love that the very first sentence in this passage is to focus on whatever is TRUE. That alone has been foundational for me throughout my season of infertility and now motherhood. As humans, we are often naturally run by our emotions. This can have some really detrimental repercussions. If we can remember to keep "whatever is true" at the forefront of our minds, can you imagine how much different our lives would look? Worry would likely be far from our minds and therefore we'd be thinking A LOT more clearly. We'd be able to focus on Jesus and His promises, and our faith would be strengthened. We live in a world that can feel very scary. There are days I have lost all hope in humanity and feel that its best if I just keep my loved ones in a tiny corner of my house and never go anywhere. But God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and of a sound mind. It's not very sound to hole myself away for fear of what "might" happen outside my door.

In order to be obedient to this passage, we must first learn how to get control of our minds... and that's where it gets tough. We have tons of sources vying for our attention at literally every turn, the media being one of the biggest sources of input we allow into our lives. It's no wonder anxiety and depression are at an all-time high with all the fabrications social media and television can create (but that's another discussion for another day). (; We must be extremely careful about what we let into our lives because it has influence over our lives whether we realize it or not. So, how can we stay in control of our thoughts and be mindful of meditating on whatever is true, noble, just, lovely, of good report, virtuous and praiseworthy? Here's where to start:

1) BE AWARE: Keeping control of your thoughts is a tremendous amount of work. We daydream, we fantasize, we dwell on the things we wish we had, the things that have happened to us, the choices we've made, we envy other people's lives and we worry about the future. This is why we need to be very protective of who and what we let into our lives.

2) FIND YOUR INPUT: Take a step back from your life and examine who you spend most of your time with, what you spend most of your time doing, what you listen to, what you watch. Do you realize just how much influence these have on your life? Are you spending time in your word and in prayer? If you don't have positive and more importantly, biblical input pouring into your life DAILY, your life is not really your own. You're at the mercy of whatever you give your mind and your time to. Bad company corrupts good morals every single time -- that doesn't only mean people. There are tons of sources of "bad company"; be aware and be intentional.

3) PURGE: As far as it is within your control, purge anything and everyone that has negative influence in your life. Limit your time on social media, limit your time or cut out people who don't speak life over you and into you, avoid tv shows/movies that may instill a spirit of fear into you, stop reading articles and stories of awful tragedies if they are going to run your emotions off a cliff. Yes we are to expect trials as the book of James tells us, but even more so are we to focus on the goodness and sovereignty of a God who is at all times in control.

Truthfully, I've sat down multiple times to write this blog and for some reason, the words haven't really flowed until now. I know that means God has kept me from completing this because the time wasn't right. One of you needs to hear these words and take this scripture to heart. To follow the steps above and change your life. To choose joy over fear intentionally, every day, despite circumstance. I hope you find life in this verse!

What tools or scriptures do you access when you're feeling fear, depression, anxiety or hopelessness? How do you keep truth at the forefront of your mind? I'd love to hear in the comments below! And thank you guys for reading. I cherish each of you! 

The Rescue

I read this excerpt over 8 years ago in a book I was reading, but for some reason only ever recorded the excerpt and not the details of the book it came from. But, this is my absolute favorite perspective of the crucifixion that I have ever read and I had to share it:

THE RESCUE

"The face that Moses had begged to see--was forbidden to see--was slapped bloody (Exodus 33:19-20). The thorns that God had sent to curse the earth's rebellion now twisted around his own brow...

"On your back with you!" One raises a mallet to sink in the spike. But the soldier's heart must continue pumping as he readies the prisoner's wrist. Someone must sustain the soldier's life minute by minute, for no man has this power on his own. Who supplies breath to his lungs? Who gives energy to his cells? Who holds his molecules together? Only by the Son do "all things hold together" )Colossians 1:17). The victim wills that the soldier live on--he grants the warriors continued existence. The man swings.

As the man swings, the Son recalls how he and the Father first designed the medial nerve of the human forearm--the sensations it would be capable of. The design proves flawless--the nerves perform exquisitely. "Up you go!" They lift the cross. God is on display in his underwear and can scarcely breathe.

But these pains are a mere warm-up to his other and growing dread. He begins to feel a foreign sensation. Somewhere during this day an unearthly foul odor began to waft, not around his nose, but his heart. He feels dirty. Human wickedness starts to crawl upon his spotless being--the living excrement from our souls. The apple of his Father's eye turns brown with rot.

His Father! He must face his Father like this!

From heaven the Father now rouses himself like a lion disturbed, shakes his mane, and roars against the shriveling remnant of a man hanging on a cross. Never has the Son seen the Father look at him so, never felt even the least of his hot breath. But the roar shakes the unseen world and darkens the visible sky. The Son does not recognize these eyes.

"Son of Man! Why have you behaved so? You have cheated, lusted, stolen, gossiped--murdered, envied, hated, lied. You have cursed, robbed, overspent, overeaten--fornicated, disobeyed, embezzled, and blasphemed. Oh, the duties you have shirked, the children you have abandoned! Who has ever so ignored the poor, so played the coward, so belittled my name? Have you ever held your razor tongue? What a self-righteous, pitiful drunk--you, who molest young boys, peddle killer drugs, travel in cliques and mock your parents. Who gave you the boldness to rig elections, foment revolutions, torture animals, and worship demons? Does the list never end! Splitting families, raping virgins, acting smugly, playing the pimp--buying politicians, practicing exhortation, filming pornography, accepting bribes. You have burned down buildings, perfected terrorist tactics, founded false religions, traded in slaves--relishing each morsel and bragging about it all. I hate, loathe, these things in you! Disgust for everything about you consumes me! Can you not feel my wrath?"

Of course the Son is innocent. He is blamelessness itself. The Father knows this. But the divine pair have an agreement, and the unthinkable must now take place. Jesus will be treated as if personally responsible for every sin EVER committed.

The Father watches as his heart's treasure, the mirror image of himself, sinks drowning into raw, liquid sin. Jehovah's stored rage against humankind from every century explodes in a single direction.

"Father! Father! Why have you forsaken me?!" But heaven stops its ears. The Son stares up at the One who cannot, who will not, reach down or reply. The Trinity had planned it. The Son endured it. The spirit enabled him. The Father rejected the Son whom he loved. Jesus the God-man from Nazareth, perished. The Father accepted his sacrifice for sin and was satisfied.


The Rescue was accomplished."

t h i r t y - o n e

What is it about turning a new age that causes so much self-reflection? We seem to gather our thoughts on our past year of life and either greet our new age with arms wide open or lament our previous year as we grow older. 

I've been the lamenting type and I've had the painful years where birthdays were a reminder of things that were yet to come, but this year I'm the girl with the arms wide open. I. LOVED. THIRTY. And I want to shout it from the rooftops.

Photo by  Kandis Marino

Photo by Kandis Marino

I look around at teenagers today and truly feel for them. It was so hard to be a teenager. Who even are you? Where do you fit in? What's your purpose here? And then you enter your 20s ready-or-not and still feel like a high-schooler only now you're expected to land a solid career and have your life figured out, get married and have 1-3 children all before you turn 30. Right? Cultural stigmas and pressures are so real.

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But then you reach 30. Big, bright and wonderful 30... the year that used to haunt me because I felt like 30 was somehow the end. But OH MY GOSH it has been the beginning for me. I feel like a veil has been lifted from my eyes. Thirty has been my favorite age of my life so far and I wish I could hold on to it forever... but then again I don't. Because I'm growing so much every day it's crazy. And you want to know why I'm growing so much? Because I'm seeking the Lord like never before. And I'm making a point to search for lessons in difficult moments. I'm loving harder, having more deep & meaningful conversations, attempting to be more generous whenever I see a need and I'm reminding myself constantly about what is truly important in life. I'm giving people the benefit of the doubt, doing my best to stay out of judgment and in my own circle of holiness where I just focus on M E . 

Someone in our fellowship lost their sister to cancer recently and our pastor has been speaking recently about the two things she talked about most while on her deathbed: faith and family. Why does it take us so long... or why does it sometimes take a terrible tragedy for us to look up from a busy life and put what's important back at the forefront of our lives? Faith and family. 

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Photo by  Kandis Marino

Photo by Kandis Marino

Am I rambling? My thoughts are probably totally out of order. But I'm just so flingin' flangin' excited to be 31. I don't know what this year holds. It could bring pain, it could bring surprise, it could bring prosperity, it could bring me to my knees. But so far... it's gained knowledge of the Lord, a couple of miracles, some new endeavors and a whole lot of love. 

Photo by  Emmy Quinn

Photo by Emmy Quinn

I embrace this wonderful new year and thank God for my age because I know its a privilege to have had 31 years of life.

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What's in a Name?

"Mama!!!" "Mamaaaa." "Mum." After a looooong wait (13 months, really), Lucy FINALLY says my name. *heart flutter* And she gets super excited when she learns a new word and repeats it all day and night... so I'm one happy Mama! 

She exclaims my name when she's excited to see me or remembers I'm in the room with her.

She whines my name when she is hungry or tired or just needs to be loved. 

She sweetly says my name when she wants to share something with me. 

And sometimes, my favorite... she says my name out loud just because. 

I have never experienced a greater period of reflection on Jesus than this entire past 14 months that I have been a parent. I could even venture to add the 10 months before that that I carried her in my womb because the Lord was sweetly sharing new things with me about His character even then. A tremendous amount of things Lucy does and situations parenthood naturally brings seem to remind me of the love Christ has for me. (And the PATIENCE. (; )

My heart leaps when Lucy says my name... because I know my name means something to her. "Mama" brings comfort, joy, food, familiarity, reassurance, love, home, safety & security... and hopefully one day, friend and confidant. She knows that when she says Mama, I will respond to her.

In the song Rising Sun by All Sons & Daughters, there is a line that says, "Simply to speak Your name is praise." I think now that Lucy can say my name, I understand just a fraction of how Jesus feels when I call upon His.

What a powerful truth. The Lord delights in me. And in you. He rejoices over us with joyful songs. I don't know about you, but I don't feel like singing unless I'm in a great mood! The bible is chock-full of verses that proclaim how deep and how wide His love is for His children -- us -- and How He feels about us; the very death of His only son was the greatest act of love in the history of the world. How's that for proof that He loves us? Would YOU sacrifice your only child for any person, let alone to save the world? I could sacrifice myself I think, but to offer Lucy's life... I couldn't even fathom it.

But when we take the time to even just say His name, He knows we believe, He knows our needs (even before we ask for them, see Matt. 6:7-8), and He responds... because He cares and He is a good, good Father. Like Lucy, I have exclaimed JESUS!! in moments of excitement and pure elation, whispered Jesus in moments of pain and desperation, and prayed JESUS over loved ones in authority.

What does the name of Jesus mean to you? I'd love to hear in the comments below! I encourage each of you to sit in silence and say His name out loud. It may sound like something silly to do, but when you let yourself dwell on what His name means... all the power and glory and splendor behind what He has accomplished (and is accomplishing, hello?!) because of His name... You may just find the rest, comfort, peace and hope you've been so desperately yearning for. I know for me, when I sit in the mornings and begin to pray... simply saying His name out loud makes me take a deep breath and reminds me of who I belong to -- the most powerful Name there ever was or will be.

Misery Loves Company

I thought a lot about the statement "Misery loves company" while I was battling infertility. Everything in me would never wish the journey of not being able to get pregnant on anyone - but somehow, at the same time and deep down, I did want that. How awful am I? I would just cringe and scoff (and cry) whenever someone posted about an "accidental" pregnancy, or feel so much anger when people got pregnant just by blinking their eyes.

Guys, trials bring out all that ugly crap that's hiding deep beneath the part of you that thinks you've got it all together. And when it surfaces, its really embarrassing. Especially because when all that surfaced for me, I was shocked at how awful I felt for thinking the way I did; my pain had taken completely over any logical part of my brain and just sat in judgment about how Sam and I deserved to be pregnant more than so and so. 

I think the reason misery loves company is because misery feels so lonely. Misery wants company to sit with it, understand it, relate to it. 

It's only when I began to examine my heart that I started to understand this deep truth. How could we go through some of the most awful, horrific trials and sometimes come to sneer at those who seemingly live such a happy life? I'm sure many people have thought mine and Sam's lives were totally perfect; in fact, I've even had friends tell me they used to think that until I opened up about our infertility journey. 

It's so hard to accept that the hand every person is dealt varies extremely from the next person. Just because someone didn't struggle to become pregnant (or stay pregnant), doesn't mean they don't struggle financially or have trouble keeping a job or is killing themselves working 2 jobs as a single mom. Sometimes it does seem that a mountain of tragedy seems to fall on one person while others seem to skate leisurely through life with ten thousand lucky rabbit foots tied around their neck. That's not for us to judge. Life doesn't just dish out tragedy equally amongst us -- little bit of miscarriage over here, little bit of lose-your-job over there... and we have to learn to accept what our journey is and strive to find the joy along the way. I am so guilty of trying to rush through a season to get to the next one -- comparison is my biggest struggle! And as a mother, the comparison factor is off the charts. Milestones. Crankiness. Sleep schedules. Food habits. Sometimes I drive myself mad with how much I want people to just be miserable alongside me. 

I hope you've read this and will extend grace to me as I expose and share the parts of my heart that I'm not proud of -- the struggles that I fight daily. Writing is an outlet for me, and when I hear from you guys (in the comments below, in a text, on a phone call, in person)... it reminds me that my transparency always has a purpose and I thank God for that. I plan to pray over each blog just before I post it so the Lord will guide it to whomever needs it most. 

Misery loves company - but it just doesn't want to be alone and so I seek to remind others of how far from alone they are. Since my goal is to continue to examine my heart, here is my prayer: "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." - Psalm 51:10

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this below! Do you agree, disagree?