to the girl who looks in the mirror

For my harvest-story friend and anyone else who looks in the mirror

To the girl who looks in the mirror and tears up at the reflection.

To the girl who looks in the mirror and wants to hide from what she sees, embarrassed and self-conscious.

To the girl who looks in the mirror and hates what looks back at her, hates all of what she sees. Wishes she was made differently.

To the girl who stares at that reflection day after day hoping that one day it’ll look different. Hoping that one day she will feel something different.

To the girl who stands before the mirror and picks apart everything that’s wrong, everything that makes you unworthy.

To the girl who stands in a leotard and tights day after day comparing what she sees on her frame to the bodies around her. It’s all too big. You want to turn away, but there’s no way to avoid the mirror.

To the girl who looks in the mirror, what do you see?

You see mistakes. You see failure. You see defeat and disappointment. You see what’s too big and what’s too flabby. You see what jiggles and what’s not defined. You see imperfections and flaws. You see all that’s not good enough.

Here’s what I see.

When I see you, I see redemption. I see beauty. I see grace. I see love mixed with pain. I see hurt in those eyes, but also fight. I see joy and sorrow intertwined. I see you choosing bravery. I see you choosing Truth. I see you using your mind to speak kindly to others. I see you using your body to hug friends and read books and laugh late and be a dancing light. I see you being the hands and feet of Jesus. When I see you, I see worthiness and value. I see Jesus loving through you.

And here is what HE sees.

When God looks at you, He sees your beauty, the beauty you have because you were made in the perfect image of Christ. He sees the glory of the Father reflecting back. He sees His daughter, His bride, His beloved, the one He experienced Hell for and the one He still pursues with a fury. When He looks at your body, He sees all of the lives you have and will touch with your hands, your heart and your words. He sees the one He chose from the darkness and brought into the Light. He sees you as precious and powerful, pleasing to His sight. He looks at you and remembers the great price He paid as your ransom and He declares that He would do it all again just to have you as His very own. When He looks upon your body, He sees it as a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit, His temple.  What He sees when He looks at you is incomparable, entirely unexplainable, impossible to replicate. He sees you as brave and beloved.

Next time you stand before a mirror think about what God would say if He were there with you, because He is. Next time you look at your reflection, give thanks for the body you were blessed with and all of the things it allows you to do. And next time you’re tempted to believe the lie that your body is not good enough, remind yourself that your body is balanced and beautiful in Jesus name.

searching for a savior

Some days the world just really hits us in the gut. Every picture, every news title, every thing media related. It all screams of anger, greed, judgement and injustice. It’s all coated in depravity and sin. And it’s everywhere. You cannot escape it. You cannot hide from it. It’s everywhere. We live in a fallen world. We live in a world that is depraved, because it’s desperate. It’s desperate for a savior.

The world and everyone in it is on a perpetual search for something to save them. I see it everyday. I see it in myself, my friends and family and every human on this planet. We search and search for something to fulfill us. We turn to fame and power to make us feel loved, alive, in control. We turn to money as the answer to all of our problems. We look to drugs as the magic pill and alcohol as the only means to having fun. We sleep around in search of someone who will fulfill us intimately, someone who will save us. We look to food and exercise to numb, to cope, to fit in. We search for a savior in friends and partying, in more clothes, newer technology, a bigger house, nicer stuff, a better job, thinner legs, more likes. And when this search inevitably leads us nowhere we, the world, get more desperate.

The world is both desperate enough and lost enough in it’s search for a savior that it has turned to heartbreaking crimes against each other, against all things good and beautiful, against God Himself. The world is desperate enough to sell young girls for sex. Desperate enough to sell tiny babies as nothing more than “parts.” It’s desperate enough to kill people simply because they’re a different color. Desperate enough to bomb buildings and murder thousands. It’s desperate enough to defile sex into a perverted, demeaning, relationship-killing industry. Desperate enough in it’s search for a savior to worship all that is evil and the evil one himself. The world is desperate indeed. Desperate enough to participate in these kinds of things, yet not quite desperate enough, and far too stubborn, to turn to the Savior that already came.

It’s easy to be depressed by the state of the world, the state of man, the state of ourselves, but as Christians we cannot afford to live paralyzed by sin. We cannot afford to cease hoping, cease living like Jesus. We cannot afford to stop praying for His Kingdom to come. We cannot afford to forget that He has already won, He has already crushed the head of the serpent with His heel. He has already overcome the world and all of the desperate actions it has taken and will take.

So we don’t lose hope. Instead we choose to pray that man would continue to search. That he would search to the ends of the earth if he has to until he discovers that the Savior has been here all along. We pray that he would search the world until he realizes that there is nothing of this world that can save him, for Christ is not of this world. We do not pray that the world’s desperation would cease, but instead that it would become more desperate. We need to pray that the world would become desperate enough to stop the violence and choose to love. Desperate enough to quit pornography and pre-marital sex and commit to God honoring marriage. Desperate enough to choose love over hate and mercy over judgement. Desperate enough to make the hard choices that go against the grain. Desperate enough to turn from evil and cling to the One who is good.

I pray that our desperation would lead us to Christ, instead of away. I pray that our search for a savior would reveal the truth that only Jesus Christ, the Savior of all the world, can save us. He is the Savior that the world is searching for.


I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.  John 16:33

a harvest story

Most of life is spent planting seeds. Planting seeds of faith, hope, joy and love. Planting seeds and praying they grow. Praying that someone waters them. Praying that the seeds fall on soft soil hearts. Beyond the initial planting and occasional watering and prayer we are removed from the growth process. But sometimes you get to experience the harvest and let me tell you harvest time is my favorite time!

After a long ten days being a camp counselor, I was tired. I loved each of my campers and was learning so much from them, but I was definitely doubting my influence. I was praying to be content with simply seed planting in my campers, trusting that God would do the watering. But then God decided to show off and let me be a part of another one of His incredible harvest stories.

“Let us not grow weary or lose heart in doing good, for in due time and at the appointed season we will reap a harvest if we do not grow weary.” Galatians 6:9

A friend sat us down and said we needed to share, so share we did. I told my story. She told hers. Our mutual brokenness quickly bonded us. She was vulnerable and real and the raw hurt of it all ran deep. But Jesus ran deeper. I could feel her pain, because her pain had been my pain a couple years ago. But that reminded me that my pain, our pain, is always His pain too. My heart broke for her, but His heart had been broken for us both because He loves His daughters that deeply. Just as I wished I could give this girl a glimpse of the complete freedom to come in surrendering everything to Christ, so the Lord desires to show us all that we have in Him. For everything I felt, He has felt it a million times over again for all of eternity.

In the simple act of sharing our stories with each other, His mighty healing power brought redemption beyond my imaginings. I, and then we, prayed freedom & hope over her in Jesus name and He delivered wildly. He lavished freedom upon her, because that’s just who He is. In His great love for this dear girl, He rained hope & grace & redemption on her. He set her feet upon the path to freedom and ignited the Spirit within her. The joy she suddenly had in the Lord was written across her face and it was beautiful. I was content. I was in awe.

As if that wasn’t enough, a few days ago I got a text from this sweet new God-friend, that reminded me again just how powerful our God is. I’m writing about it here, because I can’t help but brag on God. Only He can do things like this.

“I don’t even know what to say. I am so thankful that the Lord saved YOU and I hope you know how greatly you have changed my life with your story, encouragement, and truth. I will forever treasure the words you have spoken over me and that you have written. You have shown me for the first time what freedom and bravery look like and I am overflowing with hope and joy that I haven’t felt in SO long. After reading your letter I threw away my hidden self-harm blades which I NEVER thought I would be able to do. The Lord is working through you in mighty ways, Arden, and I hope you never doubt your influence because it is more powerful than you know. “

Yes, praise the LORD, you read that correctly. She threw them away. Those blades she kept hidden for times when she needed to inflict the depth of pain she felt inside. Those blades that had cut deeply into flesh with the hope of inflicting some kind of pain that might possibly mimic the intense self-hate she felt. The blades that were used when the voices got too loud and the hopelessness and worthlessness overwhelmed. She threw them away. She did what I couldn’t fully do for years and I’m in tears. I happy danced and happy-cried and gave thanks in my room, because GOD IS SO GOOD. He is mighty to save.

But she didn’t just throw away the blades she used to hurt herself. She threw away her old self that was coated in fear, shame and hopelessness from years of bondage to anxiety, depression and anorexia. She threw away the old and embraced the new that God offered. He had been patiently waiting for her to take the complete newness she received at her salvation. She took hold of hope and joy. She’s clinging to Truth in the face of lies. She’s throwing all kinds of chains off and dancing out in freedom.

She wrote “bravery is a choice” on her hand everyday for two weeks. But she did more than that. She actually made the choice to be brave. In throwing away what she had used to cope with pain & hopelessness & the devils lies, she chose brave. The enormity of that action still leaves me speechless. I don’t know if anyone who hasn’t experienced this kind of bondage can understand just how brave you have to be to make such a choice. She chose to believe the Truth when the lies where much easier to believe. She chose hope when most would choose hopelessness. She is BRAVE because she is choosing Jesus and He is always the bravest choice we can make. 

I could go on and on about this girl, this story, this God. But there are a few things I want you to take away from this story. First, and most importantly, GOD IS AWESOME. He deserves all honor and glory in everything, but especially in these moments. These moments where our lives are used by Him are beautiful. They are another opportunity to point back to Him who did all the work. We are just His instruments. I am simply an instrument in His complex orchestra. And I will praise Him forever for the opportunity to have a front row seat to see the way He works. Second, the Holy Spirit is real. He is alive and working within us and around us. I never want to forget how the Holy Spirit moved in this situation, how thickly he saturated every aspect of it. I pray I never forget that He’s working right this very moment. I pray I never cease being blown away by the power of the Spirit. Lastly, I want you to see the power of shared stories in the hands of the Author of life. God wrote your story and it needs to be read. You need to share it, because other people need to hear it. Others need to see living, breathing testimonies of God’s redemption. Sometimes it seems pointless, but as a wise Audrey once said “never doubt your influence.” Never doubt the impact your story can have on another’s story.

Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.  2 Corinthians 9:6-9

This girl blessed me more than she knows, because just as she was given hope through me, so was I given hope through her. It’s not everyday that I get to see this kind of fruit. Most days are seed planting days. But God throws in these joyful harvest days to remind us that we do not labor in vain and that He is constantly at work. Every smile, every word, every action are seeds planted, parts of the stories being written around you.

So I thought camp was seed planting season, but apparently God had other plans. Keep planting seeds in Jesus name. I promise God will blow you away when you get to experience the harvest moments and be a part of a joyful harvest story such as this one.

what brave looks like…

A young girl, barely a teen, yet carrying enough fears to last her a lifetime. Sitting in a lamp lit office clutching a pillow. The one way she hid. Time and time again. Week after week. Month after month. Sitting in her safe place. The one place where she could let her walls down and let herself be seen. The one place where she did not fear being vulnerable, being real, being honest. The one place where anxiety held no ground. She was not brave. She was tired and afraid. 

A couple years had passed since that initial visit. So much change and redemption had occurred. But her office remained my safe place.

Because years had passed and she had watched and guided me through them from her chair and her prayer, she knew the words I needed to hear.

Amidst my seemingly endless fear, she knew that I needed to be encouraged. I felt hopeless still, despite so much healing. I was discouraged and disheartened at my own anxiety, my own inability and weakness. I wanted to be strong. I wanted anorexia and its co-occurring “friends” to be in the past, but I couldn’t seem to shake them. Not entirely.
It was at the end of a session, amidst this season of wrestling for freedom, that she spoke Hope & Truth over me. She leaned in from her grey arm chair, looked me right in the eyes and said the words that are printed in leather on my wrist & in my heart: “Arden, this is what brave* looks like. This, this right here, this pain & struggle, is what brave looks like. You’re brave not because you don’t fear or fail, but because you are afraid and you have failed but you keep fighting.”

That struck me to the core and has stuck with me since. It’s truth, those words she spoke over me. And they’re the same words being spoken over all of us.

Because my brave isn’t that different than yours. My brave is giving thanks in every circumstance. My brave is smiling through disappointment and rejection. My brave is trying again when I fail. My brave is fighting for freedom when bondage and sin and fear and bitterness and despair and doubt are easier. My brave is giving up control and trusting God with my body, my future, my dreams, fears. My brave is doing what’s best for me even if other people don’t understand. My brave is being vulnerable and sharing the story that God has written with my life. My brave is standing secure in who Christ made me to be and claiming my inheritance in Him. My brave is choosing life. So you see, my brave really isn’t that different from yours.

Listen to me, YOU are brave too. That struggle you’re dealing with. That disappointment you feel. That grief that threatens to overwhelm. That fear that is debilitating. That sadness that numbs you to the world. It’s all part of what makes you brave, not what makes you afraid.

This is what brave looks like. I know that the moments we need to hear those words the most are the very moments where those words are the hardest for us to hear. In the midst of fear and failure the last thing we would ever call ourselves is brave, but let me tell you that is when you are most brave.

When you are at your lowest but choose to look up, that’s brave. When you examine who you are as a human and hate everything you see, but choose to give yourself grace, that’s brave. When you are afraid, but choose to step out in faith regardless, that’s brave. When you think God made a mistake with you, but choose to believe what He says about you, that’s brave.

The list could go on and on, but notice something about every statement above. It’s a choice. Bravery is a choice. You have to choose to be brave. It doesn’t just happen. It’s hard, messy work, but it’s worthy work.

So you who feels like you are the furthest thing from brave, hear me out. If you are choosing to keep fighting when surrender would be easier or choosing to endure danger** and pain when there is a safer option then, by definition, you are choosing brave. If you are choosing grace, love, and forgiveness when the world is telling you anger, and bitterness are more rewarding options, then you are choosing brave. I really believe that if you are wholeheartedly choosing JESUS and the life we have in Him through the cross then you are choosing BRAVE.

And that choice, that brave Jesus choice, leaves you a force to be reckoned with.

 

*brave: ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage

**danger: the possibility of something unwelcome or unpleasant

 

 

 

when you ask me “how’s college?”…

…I’ll probably answer any or all of the statements below…

It’s great. It’s awesome. It’s been the best year yet. It’s been bursting at the seams with opportunity and growth. It’s a been a tiring, exciting whirlwind that I’d do all over again and it’s just beginning.

…but not for the typical reasons…the best party I went to was a welcome home party thrown at the  campus ministry retreat and the best drink I had this year was some kombucha tea from Frothy Monkey and the best (only?) “date” I had was to my social club’s formal where we awkwardly danced to rap songs I’d never heard before…

…these, these people and more, are the reasons why I loved my freshman year…

I’ve seen God orchestrate in ways that still leave me in awe. From the very beginning God’s hand was in my decision to go to Lipscomb and as my aunt says, “there couldn’t have been a more perfect place for you!” When I walked into my dorm on move in day I was a little afraid. Definitely nervous excitement. Here I am 1,000 miles away from home moving in with 7 other girls that I’ve only texted. But that suite, suite 212, became home and those girls I didn’t know became like family. They became the people I laughed with and teased. The girls I was the most silly and stupid with (like when I laughed hysterically on Laurel’s bed for at least 5 solid minutes at NOTHING  or stepped on a prized 5 Daughter’s doughnut or talked about my nutrition stuff while they, with permission, pretended to listen), but never got any judgement (okay maybe some, haha). They thoroughly supported my obsession with nut butters and didn’t laugh at my dorky pajamas. We talked about some WEIRD things, but man did I learn a lot from these girls hearts, minds and humors.

I met Jess at a prayer breakfast and we immediately bonded over our passion for food & people & Jesus (what’s a better combination, right?). She taught me about Christ-centered community and gratitude with her faithful presence and prayer, her inclusivity to a girl three years younger (this includes Claire and Jenn too for their welcome in 306 rain or shine – much love), her constant quest for more of HIM by giving thanks in all things. She’s inspired me to go after the things I’m passionate about and showed me what it means to truly have a heart for ALL of God’s people.

Audrey was my mentor and is now also a dear dear friend. She can’t really be summed up, but God sure has shown me intentional friendship through her. He showed me more of Himself through her sacrifice of time to get to know a random girl that campus ministry paired her with. He showed me through Audrey what stepping out in faith looks like, the beauty of praying together and the power that is a young woman who says YES to the Holy Spirit’s leading even when it scares you to death (BOLDNESS!).

God did some fancy footwork to make Olivia and I spill our guts in the student center, but once we did, well, I guess you could say it was instant sisterhood. Our stories parallel each others and have given us a bond that is a serious blessing. God has taught me the power of vulnerability through her. I’ve seen how important openness and honesty are. She has been a constant source of compassion, gentleness and encouragement this past semester.

Allie and Alleah are two that show me how important it is to just be with people and how God can work in the coolest ways when we say yes to people. They both have a knack at finding adventure and humor in all of life. I’d like to be more like them.

Brooke, Brookie-cookie as Instagram knows her, is one strong young woman and my friend. She fights harder than most and teaches me what serious perseverance through the Refiner’s fire looks like. She dances through her mourning to the beat of Jesus’ drum and it’s a truly beautiful sight to behold.

One can’t leave out the one who is both friend, sister, chaplain and mom-away-from-mom. Few people can mother me because I’m the designated “mom figure” in most of my friend groups, but Heather is a different story. She listens and calms me down and doesn’t judge me (pledge week, sorry !) and gives awesome hugs. She loves so expressively you can’t miss it (you can’t really miss someone who’s sitting on your lap hehe). You can’t feel unloved in her presence, because she oozes love. Actually, I think that’s the best description of her, she oozes love and joy and presence and exuberance and that’s all because Jesus has set her free and she lives bravely in that. Don’t ever graduate, okay!

To my pledge class, you guys are the best. I don’t really have any words. I love how much fun we had together and how much fun we will have in the next few years. Lipscomb is a better place for having each of you on its campus.

And Charlotte, she’s a friend I didn’t know I needed. God has shown me what it means to be inclusive and welcoming to people (an area I’m not strong in). She’s showed me what it looks like to take the verse “love your neighbor as yourself” and run with it into all different camps of people. She loves well. She listens well. She sees the people that might be on the sidelines and brings them into the game. She thinks hard and laughs often and she sure is teaching me a lot even if she doesn’t know it.

God worked in my spur of the moment decision to awkwardly introduce myself in the Campus Ministry office, where I met some great people (hey Caroline & Cyrus!) that have encouraged and befriended me. I didn’t know then, but that introduction led to relationships with new friends, opportunities to serve my peers on campus and lead a focus chapel that both greatly challenged and encouraged me.

Everyone who smiled at me, hugged me, laughed with (at?) me, pledged with me, danced with me, ate Jeni’s ice cream with me, partied in the library & played in the snow with me, listened to me & basically was a part of my life, made this year a great start.

So when you ask me “how’s college?” I’ll probably respond with a quick statement, but that’s only because the answer simply can’t be explained  without meeting and knowing the amazingly beautiful, passionate people I was blessed enough to do freshman year with.

p.s. you’re welcome for saving you from having to sit through me talk about every. single. AWESOME person/part of freshman year 😉

 

A letter to the girl who listened…

To the girl who listened. From the God who always listens.

You did the hard thing. You said no, when all you wanted was to say yes. You took the hard way, instead of the easy way. You took the road much less traveled, when the easy road was right there with your name written all over it. Chances are friends were telling you to pick the easy road. It was a good road. I would’ve been there. You would’ve seen me.

But instead you picked the hard road. There are only a few people on this road. It’s not quite a party. A few friends advised you to take it and a few friends might be travelling it with you. Your name wasn’t written anywhere on this road, but My name was. That’s why you picked it. It seemed like the wrong choice, but you saw My footprints and you knew.

You heard My Spirit’s promptings at the gate and you listened. You listened when it was much easier to tune Me out. You said “yes” to me when you could have easily said “no” without major consequences.

Do you know how happy you made Me? Yes, I’m the God of every living being and am forever being praised in Heaven and on earth, but do you know that YOU brought me joy when you said yes to Me? Hearing you choose Me over him made me smile. I chose you over My Son because I love you that much and I love that you chose Me over man, because you love Me that much.

I know you think you caused hurt beyond repair, but I’m a God who redeems and heals all brokenness. This is no exception.

I know you think you broke a heart, but actually you’re part of the building. Sometimes things, people, have to be broken down before they can be built back up. It hurts, but it’s worth it.

So the decision you made was a hard one, but you made it because you listened to my Spirit. I want you to know I see this. I see your obedience and I will honor it (Jeremiah 7:23).

So you chose not what was necessarily “right” but what was right for you. That is one of the hardest decisions to make. However, I promise I’m enough for you. In fact, I’m more than enough. I could never reveal to you all that I am, because it is simply too much (Exodus 33).

So you said no to something good in order to wait for something better. You may not see it now, but your hard decision will be worth it as you see the work that I am doing and will do in your heart. I will not leave you undone. I will finish the refining work in you (Genesis 28:15).

So you kind of regret your decision. You think maybe you heard the wrong voice and made the wrong choice. Maybe people are saying you were wrong, but if they are it’s because they don’t understand My thoughts and plans for you. They can’t. They don’t know that this is part of the making of My people. This is part of Me refining you into the most beautiful gold (Micah 4:11-12).

So you’re on the hard road now. Maybe you’re wondering why you  chose to listen. Maybe you’re looking over at the easy road and wishing you were there. The grass is always greener, right? But let me tell you something. That road over there was a good road. I would’ve been there. You would’ve seen me. But this road is a better road for you because on this road you won’t just see me, you’ll feel me.  You’ll know me more. You’ll depend on me. You’ll have no choice but to cling to me and let me carry you.

To the girl who listened…let me continue to speak to you. Let me satisfy your every need. Let me heal your heart. Let me love you. 

 

 

Craving Connection

Hey you. We might know each other. We might not. But, regardless, there are 5 things that I know for sure about you. You want to be seen. You want to be heard. You want to be known & understood. You want to be loved.

And you and I are very similar, we want the same things. We both want to be seen, heard, known, understood and loved. Everyone wants the same thing. Everyone is searching, seeking out and craving the same thing. We are all craving connection.

This craving unites us. You can look at anyone and know that at your cores you both desire the same things. You know why? Because you were made to crave these things. You were made to crave connection. But you were made to crave The Connection. It’s only under this ultimate connection that our craving is satisfied.

You want to be seen. You want people to notice when you walk in the room. You want people to smile at you when they pass by. You want people to give hugs and high fives. You want people to notice when you fix your hair or get new glasses. You just want to be seen. We all just want to be seen.

You want to be heard. You want friends to listen to your rambling stories and stupid jokes. You want family to listen while you relay the events of your day in great detail. You want your opinions and ideas to be heard and considered by those around you. You want to have a say in things concerning you. You really want to be heard. We all really want to be heard.

You want to be known & understood. You want to be known by those around you. You want close relationships that mean you can talk without words and laugh without retelling the inside joke. You want loved ones to know you so well that they can tell how you’re doing before you speak. You want your story to be known, so that you can be understood better. You want people to “get” you. That’s what we all want, to be known & understood.

You want to be loved. You do. You want to be loved for your flaws, your mistakes, your insecurities and weird quirks. You want to be loved even though you’re no good at sports and you laugh too loud (maybe even snort!) at the worst possible times. You want to be loved because you’re a good listener and a great story-teller. You want to be loved for your adventurous side and your book reading side. You want to be loved for everything you are and everything you are not. We all want to be loved for these reasons plus a million more.

Don’t think these desires make you weak or needy. You were designed this way. You were designed to want and need other people. “It is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). But we weren’t just made to be physically present with other people, we were made to connect deeply and honestly with other people. We were made to laugh and cry with others. “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Corinthians 12:26). “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). We were made to share our lives with others, to encourage & speak Truth to those around us. “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). We are supposed to live in connected community as the body of Christ. That’s what we were made for. That’s why we crave it.

If we were made for deep connection with others, then why do relationships with man, even the very best ones, not satisfy us?

Because while we were made for connection with man, we were first made for intimate connection with God (hello, Garden of Eden!). He is who our hearts ultimately crave. Connection to other people is good, beautiful, even necessary, but connection to God is irreplaceable.

“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
    my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
    as in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1)

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, my God” (Psalm 42:1)

“For He has satisfied the thirsty soul, And the hungry soul He has filled with what is good.” (Psalm 107:9)

Only Jesus parches our thirst and satisfies our craving for connection, because He is the Living Water and the deep relationship that we were made for. In John chapter 4 Jesus responds to the Samaritan woman at the well and says, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again (will not be satisfied); but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst (because the Living Water satisfies our craving); but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14). Jesus is what who we crave. He is the connection we desire. He is the one who will always listen, always see us. He is the only one who will ever fully know and understand us. He is the one who loves us unconditionally. And it is out of this deeply connected, satisfying relationship with Him, that all else should flow.

So you over there on the other side of the screen. Three things to take away from this:

  1. You were made to crave connection. You are not weak or needy or less than. You are human, made in the image of God who is the epitome of connection.
  2. Other people will never satisfy your craving for connection. You will never be heard enough, seen enough, loved enough, or understood enough by people. Similarly, you will never listen enough, love enough, understand enough or know enough. 
  3. God will always satisfy your craving for connection. Always. I promise.

You are seen, known, heard, and desperately loved forever and always by the One who really matters. Rest in that.

 

The Cross & The Tomb

If I’m being honest this semester has been hard. So good, but hard. It’s led me to be amazed by Jesus, but also appalled by own sin. But God remains faithful. He sent just what I needed through a simple text that held two questions that have wrecked my narrow, self-centered mind and brought me back to my knees.

What has the Cross set you free from? And what has the empty tomb set you free to do?

That’s it. Two short, self-explanatory questions. But they hold so much meaning. So much freedom when taken to heart.

These questions were asked for the specific purpose of video to be shown at a Good Friday service on campus, but they have meant so much more to me. I’ve thought about them all week long and I hope I never stop asking myself these questions, because they point straight to the Gospel and to the heart of Jesus.

The answer to these questions is the point of Jesus death and resurrection. He didn’t die to make a big scene or rise again to freak people out. He didn’t go through Hell (literally) and experience the crushing weight of every single human beings sin just so we would throw parties every spring. No, he died and rose again to set you and me free. That’s all. That was His purpose. That was the will of the Father, to set his children free of sin by the death and resurrection of his most beloved Son.

God looked at you in your brokenness and said, “You are worth my most beloved Son.” Jesus accepted the will of His Father because He thinks, “You are worth Him dying the most shameful, excruciating death imaginable.” Your freedom is worth that much. Do you understand? You are worth that much! If you had been the only person on earth, Christ still would have died for you, because you’re worth it. I’m worth it. We are worth it.

And now by the power of His blood we walk in freedom. But let us not be a people that take the Cross and the freedom it gave us for granted. Let us not be complacent with our freedom. Let us not remain in our jail cell, in our sin and shame, when Jesus has unlocked the door and invited us to walk out of the darkness into the Light with Him.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).

Here are my declarations of Freedom and I encourage you to write your own!

The Cross has set me free from fear. From the fear of failure and the fear of not being enough for anyone or anything. The empty tomb has set me free to share peace with others and let them know just how ENOUGH they are because of Whose they are.

The Cross has set me free from the shame of my sin, my past. And the tomb has set me free to walk confidently in the forgiveness and redemption that is graciously given to me everyday.

The Cross has set me free from the bondage of expectations. I no longer have to strive to live up to my own and others expectations in order to be loved. And the tomb has set me free to give myself and others grace when we fail.

The Cross has set me free from the need to be perfect. Because the Son of Man chose to become flesh and blood in order to die for my imperfections, I can live an imperfect life while being loved by a perfect God. And the tomb has set me free to do just that.

The Cross has set me free from the bondage to lies about who I am and whose I am. The tomb has set me free to walk in complete freedom trusting that I was made for such a time as this, by a God whose plans know no bounds.

The Cross has set me free from a life of timidity and fear of man. And the tomb has set me free to live a BOLD and BRAVE life for Him, sharing the Gospel without fear of man.

Verses to read: Romans 8:16, Isaiah 61:1-3, 1 Corinthians 15:9-10, John 16:33

To the Girl Who Steps on the Scale…

To the girl who steps on the scale before hitting the gym. Before beating herself up for not being as fit as the girl next to her.

To the girl who steps on the scale before running until her vision goes blurry. Trying to outrun breakfast, lunch, dinner. Outrun anxiety, depression, shame.

To the girl who steps on the scale, hiding her eyes from the result. Hiding from the result because it determines whether she will have a good or bad day.

To the girl who steps on the scale, pleased with the number. Yet unpleased with the image before her.

To the girl who steps on the scale, only to burst into tears. The tears rain down because she’s never enough.

To the girl who steps on the scale, knowing she’s already failed. She’s already failed because she’s fighting an impossible battle.

To the girl who steps on the scale, before leaning over the toilet. She leans over the toilet to empty herself of all of her wrongdoing, her shame, her lack of control.

To the girl who steps on the scale to see if her comfort, her refuge, her pastime is showing on her physique. Is it showing on her hips, her thighs, her stomach? Can the world see?

To the girl who steps on the scale, knowing what she will do afterwards to cover the emotions. She covers them with sweet & salty snacks, with ooey & gooey items. Her shame dipped in chocolate. Her hopelessness and despair the icing on the cake.

To the girl who steps on the scale only to realize she is still falling short of her goal. Her goal of perfection and beauty.

To the girl who steps on the scale to see if the dress, the jeans will fit. Translated: to see if she is a failure or not, in control or not.

To the girl who steps on the scale to give her hope that one day he will give her more than a glance. To see if she is desirable, wanted, noticed.

To the girl who steps on the scale anxiously awaiting her death sentence. Will it be 6 miles, 10 miles, 300 of this or that? What will the punishment be?

To the girl who steps on the scale hoping beyond hope that it will tell her she is loved, chosen, known. Hoping that the screen will tell her she’s more loveable.

To the girl who steps on the scale, praying all the while. Praying that the earth’s gravitational pull on her mass will be less and she will therefore be more. More beautiful. More loved. More worthy.

To the girl who steps on the scale because the voice in her head says she must. She must know the numbers so she can compensate, punish, pay.

To the girl who steps on the scale futilely seeking approval. Approval from her dad, her mom, her boyfriend, her husband. Maybe if she weighed less, they would care more, stick around more, be present and invested in her. Just maybe.

To the girl who steps on the scale waiting to see the numbers. Waiting to know her worth.

To the girl who steps on the scale, I’m crying inside as I watch you. I’m hurting as I see you hurt. The disappointment on your face, the despair in your eyes and the hopelessness in the sagging of your shoulders. It all screams of your brokenness and I know your broken place all too well.

As I listen to the talk of weight gain and loss, I want to shake them, to make them see. See that the scale has no power, beyond what we give it. The scale is not a measure of anything except the gravity between you and earth. It cannot tell how funny or friendly you are. It cannot share how passionate, gifted or determined you are. Those numbers you see they are lies. They are lies from the father of lies himself. They are planted to lead you astray. They are there to make you believe you are not enough for anyone or anything. To make you believe you are too much for everyone and everything. But those lies hold no power in the Light of His Truth. So hold them up. Let His Light shine in the dark corner where you keep those lies. For His Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not, cannot, will not overcome His marvelous Light (John 1:5).

To you, you who place your worth in numbers, listen to me. You are valuable. You are more valuable than gold and jewels. You are more valuable than the comfort of the Son of both God and Man. You are more valuable than the life of the King of Kings. You were bought at a terribly, wonderfully, grace-filled cost. And you were bought, ransomed, paid for in full because you are wanted, loved, needed and desired.

To the girl who steps on the scale, please, dear girl, just step off.