Category Archives: Kuert Life

To All Mommas, From an Outsider

To All Mommas

Hi Mommas,

Mother’s Day is this weekend and I’ve been thinking about writing this for too long now, so this forces a deadline on me. I am not a mom yet, but I hope to be soon and I wanted to write this while I’m still an outsider looking in.

I realize that your time is limited, so I promise not to take up too much of it. I also realize that you’re likely reading this while parked in the school pick up line, procrastinating folding laundry while the kids are all in school, or those ever long but needed bathroom breaks (what was my mom doing in there for soooooo long?) so I’ll get to the point.

I just wanted to let you know that as an outsider, I think you all are remarkable and I have some encouragement for you!

I often think that my friends think I’m just being kind when I say what I just said, but I’m honestly shocked at how incredible you all are!! You not only made a human, but carried them for 9 months, and then (oh my goodness) you birthed them or had major surgery to have said human(s). Now you’re doing the 24/7 always on the clock job of mothering!!

Seriously, hats off to you…I’m in a standing ovation applauding you over here, as this is no small thing. Stephen and I love kids and we want to be parents, but we don’t by any means think it’s a walk in the park.

We see your struggles and we salute you! There’s so much competition these days and parents already have plenty to deal with without adding Pinterest perfect parties into the mix!

We always say, if your kids are alive, you’re alive and you’re not negligent, abusive, or dealing with substance abuse, you’re doing a good job!

(We often say this in a light-hearted way to encourage our friends, but even if you fit the struggles I just mentioned, there is help out there for you and it’s not too late to become a better parent :) )

I realize for you it might not always seem like you’re amazing, so here’s a few of my encouragements I hope you can carry into Mother’s Day;

1. Stop the comparison trap

She stopped breastfeeding her baby when they were 6 months old and your child was old enough to ask you to stop.
She never allows screen time and you carry three types of portable charging stations to keep all of your devices powered.
She went back to work after a month and you’d never consider leaving your little one.

These are all choices and shouldn’t be reasons to be ashamed or to shame others.

Yes there are overall wise steps one can take and doctor’s advice that can best help your baby and growing children, but at the end of the day you’re presented with millions of choices and you have to do what works best for your family and what you’re willing to accept responsibility for.

There is research I’ve seen that says that young moms today are more stressed today than in their parent’s generation. It’s no wonder when social media seems to fuel this mommy comparison trap. I now have several friends apologizing for posting two pictures instead of one about their kid’s birthday or other cute things.

When did this become a thing?

I can’t speak for others, but I for one am not a Instagram or Facebook police who goes around counting posts to see how many times you’ve posted in the last day or two… “ain’t nobody got time for that” ok?

I just scroll, read, and like posts (I’m currently overusing the Facebook reactions—help!) and I love pictures of you being a mommy and your cute kiddos! Since we travel all of the time we mostly keep updated with people on social media and it helps me know more of what’s going on in your lives and how to pray for you.

So mommas, if you want to post 1,000 pictures of your children everyday, do it! As I mentioned before, you carried them, brought them into this world and are their full-time caretaker, so don’t apologize.

Remember if someone else has a problem with you “overgramming” then they can unfollow you ;-) This leads me to #2.

2. Stop apologizing to me. 

Yes, your child interrupted me while I was speaking and asked you a question. It’s ok, I’m 29 and they’re 4, one of us has had more time to understand social interactions. I know they’re learning and you’re doing a great job teaching them.

Yes you just gave an entire Starbucks cookie to feed to your tiny child, but I realize you just changed a diaper blow out after walking out of the door and you forgot to grab a healthier snack. If you don’t feed them something, you’ll have to leave all together while they have a melt down that makes you lock yourself in the bathroom. By all means, get their blood sugar up ;-)

No, I don’t think you’re a bad mom for wanting to talk to me and giving your kids 5 back to back Shaun the Sheep episodes (can I just say how much Stephen and I adore Shaun?!?) so we can talk for an hour.

I know what a crazy season of life looks like without kids, so I have grace for what you’re dealing with by adding kids into such a season.  You have to make do with the season you’re in, which leads me to #3.

3.Stop cleaning up for me.

You are not doing me any service by putting on a fake representation of how motherhood will be. I know that  you want things to be ideal for us to hang out or for people to visit your home and I appreciate that.

If by some random chance your home is always 100% tidy, your kids never interrupt you while you’re talking and food always stays neatly on a table verses finding sticky syrup everywhere, then continue in that way. However, if things are sometimes messy and out-of-place and you’re on your 4th cup of coffee at 2pm, don’t hide that either.

That’s real and that is the rawness and beauty of motherhood. I want to glimpse into that. I also want to spend time with you and I don’t mind distractions.

Motherhood is hard work and you’re a beast at your job, don’t make it look effortless–show off your skills! Some of your days are full of dipper blowouts, everyone including you are in tears, and you go walk aimlessly through Target when your husband comes home just to gain some sanity.

I know because I’ve been there to experience some of these and remember my sweet mom very graciously raising two brothers and myself.

All of that is ok. You’re doing something incredible and absolutely precious. Treasure that. Let me in and outsiders like me who love you and support you. If you are going through challenges, ask for prayer or for help. You’re not expected to do this alone and even outsiders or not –yet mommies can help by being friends and praying for you.

I’m not asking you to clean up the smashed and crusty bananas from your couch cushions or even brush your teeth for me (drink that coffee girl!). I want you to be a great wife (to the mommas who are married), a fabulous momma, and with what you can be, a loving friend who shares her life with others.

You don’t need to be perfect for me or anyone, just be you!

You’re doing great mommas and I’m cheering you on!

Also—can some of you remind me of this in upcoming years please?? 

My Grandmother’s Dandelions

dandelion (1)

My grandmother, my mom’s mom, sent me an email of a comic strip this week.

She’s 88 and not only does she use an iPhone, Facebook, and Instagram, but she has a better memory than I do sometimes. Maybe this happens because she’s fully present in a given moment and makes you feel like you’re the center of her world. I always joke with her that she’s not that old because my memory is worse than hers.

When I opened the comic, I had no idea why this was relevant. I asked her why she had sent it and she recalled an exchange between she and I a few weeks previously.

Most of my mom’s side of the family had been in together celebrating Easter and some birthdays so we all went out in the backyard to take a family picture to capture the moment.

Upon coming around the corner from her patio, I noticed Spring had indeed sprung up with a bunch of dandelions scattered all over her yard.

I said, “Wow look at all of those dandelions!” which were literally everywhere. I said this in a negative way as I was thinking of the toil involved in removing them.

My sweet grandmother says as giddy and thankful as possible, “Oh…Thank you God!!”

Perplexed, I asked, “You’re thankful for the weeds?”

She said, “Yes (giggled) they’re beautiful”.

The Hi and Lois comic she sent me had a little baby admiring the dandelions calling them pretty flowers and assuming that the mother must like them too because she was picking all of them. The mom is then shown gathering the weeds and quite flustered and complaining.

One saw the beauty in the evidence of Spring and another experienced the toil and nuisance of Spring.

I laughed that my grandmother remembered this and I wondered how I had forgotten it so quickly.

I assume if I had the perspective that she had that I would’ve remembered it because I would’ve been thankful like she was.

This made me ponder about how many times I’ve chosen to look at situations with an ungrateful heart and missed out on a moment to be thankful and to stop “smell the roses”( or dandelions as the case may be).

How many times have I acted old but not wise in my age? How many times do I not see with the simple faith of a child?

While I joke with my grandmother about truly being younger than me at times, I think that she has learned to have faith like a child. Even though there is a 59 year age difference where I am obviously younger, I often see things like the mom in the comic strip and instead of being thankful, I become frustrated.

After the exchange between my grandmother and I, my youngest cousin picked up a dandelion that just had seeds and blew it all over the ground.

Yes, that created more dandelions if they took root, but she seized the moment to be thankful too and created a memory instead  of losing a moment like I had. 

This little reminder with the dandelions is helpful to slow down and see the beauty even in things that are annoying and will require a little extra effort.

If you’re anything like me, stop and appreciate the small things of beauty. I immediately saw a task that needed attention instead of the fun and beauty that dandelions can produce. I forgot a moment with my precious grandmother when she savored that moment.

Also, if you have dandelions, once you’ve admired them, then go get your lawn mower or some weed killer because clearly your yard needs some attention ;-)

Happy Spring! 

The Selfies My Husband and I Take

*snap*

Another picture taken of my husband and I.

Not by the paparazzi of course, but by my own hands.

“Babe…you didn’t even smile”-Me

*snap* again…

“Haha! What are you doing here? You’re hilarious! I love you!”-Me

What my loving and definitely humorous husband is doing in these moments is more than showing me love.

By taking pictures with me, my husband is making memories with me.

We don’t just take selfies while sitting on the couch at home. We take them when we are doing life and creating memories we want to remember.

The other night we were standing outside the Denver airport awaiting our ride. I had my phone out and decided to snap a picture of us.

I captured the moment because we were both thinking of standing there together almost 5 years ago when I got to meet some of his family for the first time.

While we waited there in 2011 in the same spot, there was this bizarre swarm of flies everywhere. We wondered if we were in Africa or Colorado. Every time we find ourselves in that same spot we laugh about that memory.

The pictures are a way of remembering good times and continuing to build happy memories upon them. I take pictures of us because I want to remember the happy times.

I’m not just seizing a moment, I’m reliving other great memories and forming more for the many times I’ll reflect on that picture in the future.

Romans 12:8-9 “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.”

I want to hold tightly to what is good.

I want to make memories worth reflecting on.
My husband is honoring me with great love by taking pictures with me.

They become a living memory to view over and over again.
They will represent endless smiles for when the days are trying.
They’ll be warmth to my heart when we find ourselves in different locations and I miss him.

As I see his handsome face and often his goofy expressions, I’m reminded of why I said yes to marrying him.

I see the heart of an incredible man and the one who I’ll always stand with. I’m humbled by his love for me and I love being reminded of this.

This is why we take “selfies” and why we’ll keep on taking them. Even if the lighting is poor and I only get a goofy expression, they’re beautiful moments lived with the one I love.

By the way, I’ve been taking pictures like this for years before they were called “selfies” haha! 

Go take a selfie with your spouse. Tell him or her that it’s a love note that they won’t have to write or a nice dinner they don’t have to plan.

Oh and guys–give her a smile when she asks for one or at the very least put up a goofy expression ☺️

Selfies

Confessions of a Not So Newlywed

CONFESSIONS

As I recently drove past a church on a main road on a Saturday night, a limo pulled out onto the oncoming lane and left behind lots of nicely dressed people waving goodbye with bubbles celebrating the newlyweds. I smiled and watched the limo disappear over the hill in my rear view mirror. I had flashbacks to the day I married Stephen. The overwhelming joy, my dress, our friends and family, how perfect it all was. I thought about what I’d tell this young couple if I had the chance to talk to them.

Stephen and I have been married now a little over 3 years. This puts us in what I’d call the “not so newlywed” stage. This is the phase where you’re out of the “honeymoon” stage and where you’ve sent out quite a few Christmas and thank you cards as a couple, but where you still find yourself staring at your spouse wondering, “Am I REALLY married to you??” both in good as well as confused ways.

Let me preface this blog by saying I am certainly NOT an expert on marriage. At 29 years of age, I am constantly learning more and more about everything. These are just some thoughts that Stephen and I’ve written over the last year or so of our marriage.

1. Marriage is not easy

(and all of my married readers shouted “AMEN”)

I honestly came into marriage with what I thought were fairly realistic expectations. I didn’t think it would be “happily ever after” or “picture perfect”, but I also didn’t expect it to be SO much work!

It’s not that marriage isn’t amazing, because it is! I’d HATE to scare any single friends out there. But I will say, it is hard work when you’re both TRULY committed to one another and have each other’s best interests at heart. You are two entirely different people who’ve lived two separate lives (even if you’ve been dating since the 8th grade).

Marriage is a collision of worlds, both in glorious ways and in ways that conflict.

It takes a lot of intentional focus and effort to make marriage work and it requires you to die to yourself daily like no other relationship. This is work that you both have to fully commit to in order for it to happen. It’s not something that can be delegated or be disregarded.

If you find yourself frustrated or freaking out because communication isn’t as easy as it was when you were dating or engaged, you can’t seem to agree on anything, or you feel like you’ve married a stranger—relax! You’re not alone! I congratulate you on being on a WONDERFUL journey where you get to grow and learn together.

2. Infatuation will end

Psychologists say that infatuation, or those “oooo” and “ahhhh” feelings last at most for 18 months. They say that after that time you will never ever experience those same feelings ever again.

That sounds like a heart breaking and traumatizing statement! However, those infatuating feelings are what keep some couples together and help them make a commitment to marriage.

Instead of the fickle feelings your relationship started with early on, you get to build upon true love. A self-sacrificing, self-denying, preferring one another kind of L—O—V—E. This love can still give you fun “oooo” and “ahhh” feelings, but it’s built upon a deeper mutual respect and trust.

To say that I was disappointed when I fell extremely ill on our honeymoon or got in a bad car accident shortly after being married is an understatement. We didn’t experience a great honeymoon or a “honeymoon” stage. For the longest time I was very upset and I felt like I had been robbed of what I thought I was entitled to as a newlywed.

I came to realize that Stephen and I get to build a foundation for our marriage that few get to  so early on through the hardships we’ve already faced. We get to choose love in the darkest, scariest, and most trying moments. We don’t choose to stay only in the realm of our feelings, which change day-to-day and from moment to moment. We have the opportunity before us daily to choose to love with a greater love than we could ever be capable of on our own.

3. Some days I want to be single again

I don’t mean to sound like I’m ungrateful because I’m truly thankful that I’m married or that I’m saying that my husband isn’t incredible, because he is.

It’s just that some days I want to be selfish and not have to think of someone else. When you’re married, you aren’t the center of your universe anymore and there is someone else to constantly think about and include. Sometimes I just want to check out on reality and only think about me. EEEEK—too honest?? I’m sure I’m not alone in this right? Help a girl out ;)

What I’ve found though, is that on the days I feel like this, as I listen to the gentle promptings of the Holy Spirit, I find how marriage is refining my heart to be more like Jesus. I can step back and realize marriage is forcing me out of my independent ways so that I’m more dependent on God in every way.

When I got married, we became one in every aspect. When I desire to have certain things the way that they were before we got married, I’m essentially separating what God has joined together.

4. Your relationships will change

Not all of them, but some relationships will change and not because you’re driving them away. It’s just a different circle or season of life that you’re in. The positive and beautiful side to this is that you two as a couple get to make friends together.

I feel absolutely spoiled by the love I’ve received from Stephen’s friends from all over the world. I’ve been hurt by and sad to lose other relationships, but every season holds its own beauty and its own disappointments. Embrace the new relationships together and work hard to keep the established friendships of those who love and believe in you.

5. You’re going to disappoint your spouse and even yourself.

Hold back your laughter, but I thought that I would be an awesome wife.
I thought I might even vacuum while wearing pearls!
Boy was I WRONG!

After Stephen and I withstood tough battles with his health problems in 2011 and a long-distance engagement, I thought that marriage was going to be fairly smooth sailing.

Little did I realize how insecure, selfish, prideful I was and it came pouring out like hitting the jackpot in a slot machine.

Give you and your spouse a break!
Marriage to one another is new for BOTH of you. Try to learn to be thankful for what they do and who they are and likewise what you contribute to your marriage as well.

A wise person once told me that you might only be 26 years old and 33 years of age like we were when we got married, but at your anniversary, you’re only 1-year-old as a couple, 2-year-old etc.

You wouldn’t expect a toddler to take care of itself, so work together to let your marriage grow and mature into something beautiful. Your spouse is with you in this process of change, so CLING to one another, and be QUICK to forgive and QUICK to ask for forgiveness.

 6. Sexual purity is just as important in marriage as it is before marriage.

I look back on our dating and engagement seasons with such joy and thankfulness. There’s not a day that I regret remaining pure with one another not just in action, but also pure emotionally and in our thought lives.

I never once felt uncomfortable around Stephen or regretted any interactions we had. I know this was the grace of God that came from a firm commitment we made before we even met to be pure sexually and emotionally. I have the same feelings of peace and thankfulness when I think about our marriage now.

Sexual purity, like anything else comes with the price of hard work. You must be willing to be honest and transparent with one another and set healthy boundaries in your marriage.

We’ve set strict boundaries in our marriage, not because we’re being tempted or because we don’t trust one another. We have them in place to protect and preserve our marriage and ensure that we remain faithful to what Jesus has for us.

Will you put up safety guards on your Internet to avoid porn sites? Will you include your spouse on a text message to someone of the opposite sex? What about riding in the car with the opposite sex? These examples are just to name a few considerations.

These might sound like legalistic rules, but let me assure you—you can’t have too much communication or openness. Not only will your marriage feel the safety, peace, and integrity that you establish, but it’ll be reflected to the world around you.

7. Counseling is priceless.

I wish couples spent some of the money that they typically spend on a wedding and invested it into their marriage.
Seriously though-sure the wedding day is beautiful and you’ll decorate with those pictures for the rest of your life except for me who doesn’t have any albums made yet.

However, in hindsight I’m glad we didn’t break the bank on our wedding, nor did our parents. We’ve been able to invest money into counseling, books, dates and vacations to help our marriage continue to flourish.

I don’t feel like you can put a price on counseling for marriage. It isn’t just for those who are facing divorce or have some deep issue going on. It can be for maintenance in your marriage and help you understand one another and grow together.

I personally know several friends who’ve gone through counseling with their spouses and have benefited so much from it. I recommend seeing a licensed counselor with a Biblical worldview that can give educated and also godly counsel.

Learn to laugh together and to lean on the Lord! He designed this beautiful covenant and He has all of the wisdom we need to build our marriages well.

 

My biggest confession of all is that I wish I’d met and married Stephen sooner! Life with him really is the best!

Where Feet May Fail–Overcoming the Fear of Failure

Where feet mail fail (1)

Have you ever felt paralyzed to move forward with something?
Have you stepped out and had a bad experience and purposed in your heart not to try again?
I’ve been there and I think all of us have faced failure to some varying degree in our lives. I’ve learned a few things from my experiences and I want to begin 2016 by becoming a water walker.

When we moved to Madagascar in 2014, we asked people to pray for us whenever they heard the song, “Oceans”, by Hillsong since we were in fact moving to the middle of the ocean. The lyrics spoke such life into me during a season where I needed them the most and wrote about it some on my blog here.

Some of my favorite lyrics say,

“Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me, You’ve never failed and You won’t start now.”
This song is about the story of Peter walking on water to meet with Jesus. To understand what I mean by becoming a water walker, we’ll need to look at the story of Peter found in Matthew chapter 14.

When they added subtitles in the chapters of the Bible, they didn’t title this story “Peter fails and sinks”, “Jesus rebukes Peter’s faith” or even, “Peter walks on water”.
It’s titled “Jesus walks on water”.
This goes to show this story has very little to do with Peter’s ability to do something and everything to do with Jesus’ empowerment.

To Peter’s credit, I love how when Jesus called to Peter that he came. He was wiling to come when everyone else sat in the boat. He went TOWARDS Jesus and AWAY from the boat that confined everyone else.

The Bible doesn’t tell us how many steps Peter took on the water before he sank. For all we know he could’ve walked half way across the lake or maybe he only took two steps.

I try to put myself in the shoes of Peter because in acting you have to do this to try to understand what motivation your character has for their actions. This story causes me to ask myself all sorts of questions like–Did Peter think that first step was actually going to work?
Was he wondering how it would be possible to walk across the water to Jesus?
When he realized that he could walk on water, did Peter think it was of his own accord?
However many steps he took and whatever questions he might have thought, the Bible is clear that Peter got distracted by the wind surrounding him.

When Jesus says,” O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”, I don’t believe it was this harsh disappointment of, “Really Peter?! You failed?! Good job–well now you’re sinking!”. I believe it was more of an empowering rebuke of, “Hey I had you–did you not know that I was keeping you afloat? Why did you doubt me? Why did you move your trust off of me?”.

It was a learning lesson not just for Peter, but for the other disciples as well AND a lesson to you and I.

When I let my fear of failure keep me from ever stepping out of the boat, I don’t leave any opportunity for Jesus to sustain me or to catch me when I fall.

Where Feet (1)

Peter needed to know that you have to come to the end of your faith in yourself before you’ll ever see the true beginning of what your faith in Jesus will look like. Jesus knew that this moment would prepare Peter for the future. He knew that one day Peter was going to deny Him three times and feel like a total failure.

Walking on water was an illustration to show Peter that he was going to do something no one else had ever done because of Jesus’ empowerment. This happened so that when the biggest heartache of his life comes later on from denying Jesus and knowing he died, he would know there was a hope of redemption.

Maybe Peter eventually had the thought, “If I started to sink because I got distracted with the storm around me and Jesus caught me, He can catch me again in this storm that I am in now.”

Jesus knew that getting Peter to walk on water that it would not only prepare him for other times when his faith would fail, but it also taught Peter to stand in difficult circumstances. He had to learn to rely on Jesus so that he would be prepared for the day when he would lead the church.

He learned to step out so that others could follow. The principle I’ve taken away from this is that if I don’t leave my comfort zone, I can’t lead people out of their comfort zones.

I love the end of John chapter 21 when Jesus has been resurrected from the dead and restored Peter. He says these words in verses 18-19, “ Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish. This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, ‘Follow Me.’”

These are the last words that we have noted where Jesus is speaking directly to Peter. Jesus is talking about Peter’s death here and how he would die in a way that would glorify God by dying on a cross. Jesus uses the words, “you walked where you wished” which reminds me of Peter taking the steps to get OUT from where he was comfortable and walk where only Jesus could sustain him. In Peter letting himself actually feel his feet failing and Jesus catching him, he was prepared for the storms to come.

I think so many times we resist the storms because we think we might fail. We get afraid to step into something new because we anticipate a storm might come and we might not be able to do it on our own. Yet if Jesus caught us once like He did with Peter in saving us, then we have the promise that He’ll catch us over and over again.

Many know that I have faced significant health challenges since SK and I got married. Far more than we shared on our House Hunters International episode ;) A bad car accident that left me with a compressed vein in my kidney that took two years to diagnose, some nerve damage that thankfully hasn’t been permanent, reoccurring infections and various tropical diseases. Moving to Madagascar where my throat began to close off in the middle of the night while visiting in 2013 was quite a step of faith. Our job required us to go and we felt with what information we had at the time that God was calling us, so off we went.

To be honest I was afraid of failing.
I was afraid if I took this step and failed that it would be the worst thing ever. Yet even in the chaos of the storms and in the pain, Jesus had me the whole time and has made such beautiful things out of my bold and obedient steps. He can with your steps too.

Thomas Edison tried over 1,000 ways to invent the lightbulb. When he was asked about his 1,000 failed attempts, he said this, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The lightbulb was an invention that took 1,000 steps.”

What is it that you need to take another step out of your comfort zone this year?
What doubts have held you back?
Have you tried to do something in your own strength only to fail?

Jesus is ready to catch you my friend and restore your trust in His ability to keep you walking on water! 

Keep taking steps in this new year of 2016 and purpose to become a water walker!!!
Keep trusting and don’t be afraid of failing!
What looks like a failure to yourself or to those around you is an opportunity for God’s strength to come in and through your lives.

I shared these thoughts in the closing point of a sermon with SK two weeks ago and you can listen on podcast here. This point is from 25 minutes-30 minutes.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

When Christmas Isn’t Like the Songs

 

When Christmas

It’s going to be about 65 degrees (Fahrenheit) in Oklahoma this Christmas. This is certainly not the “baby it’s cold outside” weather of the Christmas songs I’ve been overdosing on. Matter of fact, it’s only about 10 degrees difference than my in-laws will experience in Nairobi, Kenya and they’re in summer months!

While I might join Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney and “dream of a white Christmas”, unless I hop on a plane for Canada, I can keep dreaming.

Sometimes it seems like all of life is speaking its desires and ambitions over you and they feel like ideal dreams. I even laughed out loud today thinking about those fancy car Christmas commercials where the car has a big new beautiful bow on the driveway and the spouse is elated! If I was that wife whose husband bought an expensive car causing us to go into debt and without discussing it with me first, I wouldn’t think it was the best thing ever! I’d have to hold up fingers in front of his face to make sure he knew how many fingers were there and wasn’t suffering from a concussion or something.

The reality is we are constantly inundated with advertisements and song tells us the expectations we should have of the Christmas season. Every one is showing some type of perfect family scenario, receiving ideal gifts, and dashing through the snow. “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” is an upbeat song you can’t help but sing along to, yet many people don’t see this as “the most wonderful time of the year”. The holiday season can amplify pain and grief people are experiencing and many see no possibility of hope.

Around the time that Jesus was born, circumstances were anything but “jolly” and “wonderful” both for Mary and Joseph and the Jewish people. They were crying out for a Savior to deliver them from oppression from the Roman government and bring them hope. God’s voice had been silent for 400 years. The world seemed dark, weighty, and evil abounded. Many thought that God had forgotten them, that He must be done with them, and that they’d have to suffer forever. They felt as if the promises of the Messiah were in vain and that He’d never come.

BUT God sent His only Son and shattered the silence! God released living hope into the world and named Him Emmanuel. There is no way that the first Christmas is anything close to “O Holy Night” or “Silent Night” even though those are beautiful songs that make me cry. Even the best Christmas productions, which also make me cry, can’t capture the true glory and splendor of what took place. A host of heavenly angels proclaimed,” Glory to God in the highest! Peace on Earth! Goodwill to men!” Shepherds, the lowliest of people came to the place of Jesus’ birth showing that the poorest and unlikely of people are welcome in His presence. It was beyond magnificent! Yet Jesus was also born in the most unlikely and less than ideal circumstances. Even the first Christmas came with uncertainty and holding onto God’s word and promises.

“Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel”

Emmanuel means “God is with us”. Once He came as a baby, He was among us and even after His death, resurrection, and ascent, He sent His Holy Spirit to come to us when we accept Him. So rejoice in this news today! You might not have a winter wonderland and might feel weighed down with grief and sorrow of this past year which is unlike many Christmas songs. Yet there are songs of joy, of hope for your redemption, that can take you back to a place of adoration of Jesus like the shepherds would’ve had. Let this serve as a reminder that no one is truly alone this Christmas season if you just believe.

In your last-minute hustle and bustle, reach out to those who come to mind and who you know have been hurting. Offer them the eternal hope that comes with Christmas!

Merry Christmas and God Bless from Stephen and I!

I’m Afraid of the Dark

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I believe that God gave me a fear of the dark.

Truth be told, if there is something to walk into or trip over in the dark, I’m bound to find it. With all of our traveling and middle of the night bathroom breaks, I always wake up trying to figure out what side of the room the bathroom is on. I often grope the walls trying to get to the toilet without getting a concussion from walking into a wall first.

While it might be easier for me to find these walls and bathrooms if there was some type of night-light, I deeply appreciate a deep dark room at night where I can’t see my hand in front of my face. Research has shown that this is actually the type of lighting that cues your brain to release melatonin, a hormone that controls your sleep pattern. I think it is wise to have a healthy fear, or awareness of the walls and objects in the dark so that you don’t trip. I think it’s wiser to turn a light on even if I don’t always implement this ;)

Matthew chapter 25 verses 1-12 is a parable Jesus tells about ten virgins who are going to meet the Bridegroom being like the Kingdom of Heaven. The fact that they’re virgins signifies that they’re made pure by the righteousness of Jesus Christ, so they’re believers, not those who don’t know Him. In this story, there are 5 wise virgins and 5 foolish virgins. We see that the only distinction that is mentioned between the wise and foolish is that while they all have lamps, the foolish don’t have any oils for the lamps. Unlike our modern days of electricity, these lamps would’ve needed oil in order to be lit. It would’ve been foolish to carry a lamp without oil, as there is no hope at producing light.

Throughout scriptures the symbolism of lamps represent light as in “God’s word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” Psalm 119:105. In describing John the Baptist in John 5:35, it describes his ministry or religious profession. “The light” is the truth. John 17:17 says, “We have to walk in the light “as He is in the light.” He lives in us, and we in Him. We are in union with Him.” We obtain light by being connected to His word and His heart.

The counsel from the Apostle John here is to abide in this place of light so that our lamps would be lit.

While all 10 virgins fall asleep at the Bridegroom’s delay, when the midnight cry goes forth to meet the Bridegroom, only 5 are prepared. They all had lamps, they all had the opportunity to produce light through their ministries, but only half of them were wise enough to store oil to light their lamps and meet the Bridegroom.

We can tell from the parable that there will be believers in the last days who will be foolish and carry a lamp, but they’re like empty tombs. They can’t produce light on the spot because they haven’t been storing oil from intimacy with Jesus. They’ve not been living from the inside out and acquainted with His Holy Spirit.

There will also be those who are watchful and be found wise because they are prepared with oil in their lamps. They will keep the first things first, because even though they may fall asleep, their hearts will be awake. The lamps or the mundane ways of life won’t distract them. They’ll watch and wait expectantly and be kept in the light and enter the wedding celebration.

Even if your motive is pure, if you don’t stay connected to His heart, you’ll miss out on the coming revival like the foolish virgins missed out on the wedding. There needs to be an increased connectedness to His heart in the midst of this life. Otherwise you’ll end up burning out if you do it on your own strength.

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When Stephen and I got married, we took communion and then lit candles inside of lamps. We wanted to pray that our marriage would be marked as a “burning and shining lamp” to our generation in the ways that John the Baptist was. We want to be those who not only know the times in which we are living, but seek His heart in the midst of great and difficult seasons.

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In order to do this, we must keep watch. Jesus repeatedly tells us to WATCH. We must keep watch over our own hearts so that we don’t grow cold or distracted. This can only come by having a healthy fear of the Lord. I often pray, “Lord grant me the spirit of the fear of the Lord”, based on Isaiah 11:2.

The fear that I want to walk in is the fear of the Lord where I respect and worship Jesus. I want to have the fear of the Lord to guide my pursuit of His plans and desires for my life.

I want to have the fear of the Lord to keep me vigilant, awake, and partnering with His heart. I want to be part of the pure and spotless Bride awaiting the Bridegroom.

I don’t want to be caught sleeping or with a mindset that I can coast through life carrying a lamp void of any oil. Isaiah 59:9-10 says ,” We hope for light, but there is darkness; for brightness, but we live in the night. We grope along a wall like the blind; we grope like those without eyes.” Much like I try to find my way around a dark hotel room, many will find themselves trying to find light in the darkness. When they’ve not kept a relationship with Jesus primary, they will be left in the darkness.

God wants you to have a fear of the darkness in a way that provokes you to cultivate relationship with Him that stems from the fear of the Lord. He desires that you be wise and be a part of His Bride that walks in the light.

My prayer for you is that you wouldn’t be afraid of the darkness that might surround you in this present life. Rather I pray that  you’d be filled with the fear of the Lord to keep the bright light shining within you.

 

Photo Graphic by me
Wedding photos by  Olinske Photography

#MissionsMonday My Prayer for Paris

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There is so much that could be said today particularly in light of recent news. I’ve been asked my opinion several times since Friday on the attacks in Paris and why that takes the limelight over other radical Islamic Attacks. People have asked if I’m mad that Paris got more attention than the attack in Garissa Kenya in April this year. I’ve also seen many posts of opinions out there and using Paris Attacks as a platform to say this or that. I have to be honest with you and say I don’t have the right answer. What I can say is that people are hurting right now and lives across the globe are being taken at the hands of radical Islamic terrorists. 147 people died in Garissa Kenya in April at the hands of Al Shabaab which yes is close to the number killed in Paris (although wounded count is higher in Paris). I was grieved then and I changed my Facebook picture to a flag of Kenya with a scripture as I also did in 2013 for the Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi. I was close to terrorism bombings and killings last summer while in Kenya that never made the news.  In January 2,000+ died in west Africa at the hands of Boko Haram while 12 died in Paris. I wrote about that then to hopefully being attention to what other countries were facing. In Indonesia in recent weeks, 8,000 Christians have been displaced at the hands of jihadists there and threats of imams. ISIS’ attack both in parts of the Middle East this week and Paris have killed numerous lives from many countries and religions, including Muslims. The news reel goes on and on across the globe of devastations even unrelated to terrorism and persecution. We have every opportunity to be informed if we want to be.

Charge To Christians

I saw a few posts by Christians saying statements like “there’s nothing you or I can do about ISIS” or biased posts about the French and many posts about other scenarios like I mentioned above. While I may not have the most eloquent phrases to say to contradict these statements, I must say I disagree with some of it. If you’re a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, there IS something that you can do. You can pray. And by that I don’t mean just cute words, but truly carry the heart of God to pray His will over the lost, the hurting, and yes, even the radical jihadists. Because without Christ, even the “best” of people will spend eternity in suffering far worse than anything we could imagine. God is moving across the globe as a result of prayer and actions to obey Him. Lives are being changed and we can partner with Him wherever we are. If you as a believer have biased or prejudices against certain people groups like the French or Muslims, I encourage you to let God heal that area of your heart. His will is that NONE should perish but that ALL should come to repentance. Lastly, we are to “mourn with those who mourn” and France is mourning right now. Yes so is Lebanon and many others, so let’s stand with them too. If you want to pray for more than just Paris, go for it! There’s never an end to praying for the nations, but let’s not decide France’s pain is any less or shouldn’t be recognized. That country needs Jesus like anywhere else and here’s why.

The Real Paris

When I was in Paris for the first time this summer, I was blown away and not just by the beauty of the city. We had a couple of days to explore, but did ministry as well in a place I’d long been burdened for. I must have met people from at least 30 countries. I met people from all over in West Africa, Romania, Russia, Czech Republic, and Bangladesh to name a few. There were language barriers for some who don’t speak French and many were doing things like selling packages nuts in the subway to provide for their families in this strange new place like a man named Luten. My heart broke that all I could do was smile at him and buy a 2nd bag of salted almonds from him. I wanted to encourage, bring life and hope through Jesus, but he spoke such limited French. Paris is home to over 18 million people and is one of the largest urban centers in the world. My heart broke as I was there in a place where I’ve never seen such diversity and backgrounds before. All the French or Parisians we met were so kind and hospitable. Many were beyond gracious with me and my limited french vocabulary and celebrated my attempts to speak their language all the while assuming Stephen was European and I, clearly American haha. I can’t speak for all French people as I can’t for all Americans either, but I can speak God’s heart and it’s that He loves them all. It’s not just a place of fancy architecture, rich sophisticated people and a romantic tourist destination. It’s a city where people from all over have gathered and I stand with France and I grieve with them in their loss. A massive city filled with the nations is now gripped in terror and fear. My prayer for Paris is that they’d be healed and set free from fear and become a city full of the light of Christ and a place of worship for the nations.

Yes Paris hit more media attention, because it’s a “1st world country” and as bad as it sounds to admit, it wasn’t just terrorism somewhere “over there” where specifically the average American can’t relate to. It’s in our backyard so to speak, an ally, and it shook more people here in the USA. Many people have taken vacations there and strolled through Paris’ lovely streets. It was a place they could imagine themselves sitting at that cafe sipping an evening coffee with friends or attending a concert (maybe not death metal…). It’s different than the college in Kenya and very different from the awful Attacks in Lebanon. Is it right that those are often brushed aside and overlooked? No, absolutely not, but as we’ve clearly demonstrated in the USA, we’d rather discuss the color of a dress or coffee cups as our headlines. I say that with ALL the possible love in my heart for my country. But really, that’s what sells and that’s what grabs attention, not talking about (blank) far away country.

The Encouraging News

I’m encouraged in the fact that despite some criticism, the trending hashtag was #prayforParis. It doesn’t bother me one bit that people are praying for Paris. I’m thrilled that many people who maybe haven’t prayed in years or posted anything about prayer on social media jumped right in to unite in prayer. If praying for the nations and the world at large begins by praying for Paris, let it be so! If this attack then begins to open people’s eyes and hearts to search out what’s really taking place in the world then great! I don’t see any harm in everyone uniting around Paris and praying.

While other news might have been brushed aside, maybe eyes will be open and ready to pray for other places and situations. Maybe hearts will unite around other calls to prayer. Maybe hardened hearts will be more open to partnering with God’s heart for prayer. I sure hope so because the world needs more light in this dark hour. Maybe the next time radical Islamic Attacks wipe out innocent people or persecute Christians, the church at large will stop and pray and be vigilant to stand in prayer. Maybe it’ll be such a culture that we’ll all change our Facebook pictures to a globe with the prayer emoji 🙏🌍 instead of arguing about it ;-) I don’t know, but I do know prayer is needed and it is the means by which God shares His heart with us to reach a very hurting world with the hope of Jesus Christ.

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**I’m a work in progress on prayer and partnering with God’s heart for the nations. I have so much to learn, but a practical tip I use and would encourage you to do is to buy a world map. I have a large laminated one I bought for $10 at Mardel. Place it on your wall or print a 8&1/2″ x 11″ paper for your desk or bathroom mirror. Begin to ask God’s heart over certain regions or countries or cities. Listen and joy down prayer points. Look up scriptures on prayer and the nations. Ask God what your part to play is in the Great Commission. God may lay a nation or a city or even a people group on your heart that you’d never expected. Even if an event is overlooked by man, it is never overlooked by God.

From the Front Row of the Magnolia Market Silos Grand Opening

WELCOME to my behind the scenes “tour” of the new Magnolia Market and snapshots of my view from the front row of the grand opening and #silobration! 
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When I opened my email one morning in late August, I was ecstatic to see that Magnolia Market was having a big celebration for their new store opening! They were calling it #Silobration and I knew I wanted to go so I bought two tickets immediately.

My sweet husband was already scheduled to run in the Tulsa Run that weekend, so as much as he wanted to join me he couldn’t. As you can tell below, he’s a fan of the show. Chip inspires him to be his goofy self.

We entered Twitter contests every week with Stephen being inspired to wear a lampshade like Chip and us having date nights and dressing like the Gaines'

We entered Twitter contests every week with Stephen being inspired to wear a lampshade like Chip and us having date nights and dressing like the Gaines’

Though many wanted to come with me, a friend whom I hadn’t seen in 8 years named Tana got to join! She drove down from Fort Worth and picked me up at the airport on Thursday afternoon.

On the sunny day before the deluge

On the sunny day before the deluge

October has unofficially been “HGTV” month for me since our Madagascar House Hunters International episode aired for the 1st time early October. It was a dream to end the month here in Waco.

Magnolia Market officially opened that Thursday morning at 11am with a ribbon cutting ceremony. We joined not too long after around 3pm. The store wasn’t crazy busy and it was nice to take our time and look around at EVERY. LITTLE. THING.
I walked in and *sighed* at the beauty of it all! I would decorate with everything if I could.

Such an inviting entrance!

Such an inviting entrance!

Magnolia

Magnolia

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I LOVE Joanna's jewelry!

I LOVE Joanna’s jewelry!

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Chip's Corner in Magnolia Market

Chip’s Corner in Magnolia Market

After purchasing a few small items and grabbing both Stephen and I shirts, we left the store area.

Outside it was clear and sunny skies so we seized the opportunity to take some pictures before the rain that was forecasted the next day.

Last minute landscape being done on Thursday

Last minute landscape being done on Thursday

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Do these silos make me look thin? ;-)

Do these silos make me look thin? ;-)

"You guys ready to see your Fixer Upper??"

“You guys ready to see your Fixer Upper??”

 

As we snapped pictures, I turned around and saw Chip Gaines standing right behind me. I had been taken pictures with him in the background and didn’t know!

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But then I intentionally took this one haha! I DID look around for one of my role models Joanna, but I was still excited to see Chip a couple of their sweet kiddos!

BECAUSE I had no intention of interrupting him and was now embarrassed I was snapping pics and he saw me doing that 🙈

Tana said,”Come on! Let’s go and say hi.” So off I went and began with,”Hi, sorry to interrupt, I just wanted to say,’Congratulations'”! He was so kind and gracious and thanked us and asked if we’d be coming back for the grand opening the following night. We told him that we would and he said he looked forward to connecting. Very down to earth and appreciative. I’d wished the lovely Joanna was with him.chipgaines

We explored Waco some more that day and tried our Ninfa’s Mexican restaurant for lunch and D’s Mediterranean Restaurant. Both were fairly good and I’d recommend them if you’re in the area. We also visited Common Grounds coffee while in the area. (UPDATE: Torchie’s Tacos and In and Out Burger are open less than half a mile away and on my second trip I ate there :) )

The next morning as we headed out to shop, (in the monsoon), we met Abner from Johnnyswim in our hotel lobby. He too was so kind and gracious and we all agreed we’d be praying for the rain to end or just be light for that evening. He was about to take a tour of the new market himself and a golf cart came for him…thankfully the rain lifted a bit.

We visited Harp Design Co. and I was shocked that Clint’s actual house was right on the property as the store! Their house might be my favorite “Fixer Upper” due to the nature of all that was done!

I bought a letter "K" for My Kuert Life of course!

I bought a letter “K” for My Kuert Life of course!

The rain and storms grew stronger throughout the afternoon and there was even a tornado watch so we hoped and prayed that the outdoor events that evening would still be on.

"Ya I know it's raining, but the sun is still shining high..."-Johnnyswim

“Ya I know it’s raining, but the sun is still shining high…”-Johnnyswim

As we left the hotel to walk to the silos, the rain was only slightly sprinkling!! Which was an answer to prayer AND we got a lift from a golf cart! Talk about feeling VIP!

Since we’d already been to the store, we entered the property through a short line skipping the long line into the market. Once we were inside the gates, we snapped a couple of pictures at night.

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The grain mill at night

The grain mill at night

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As we went for food, Johnnyswim was doing a sound check and announced they’d be back on in 5 minutes. We decided one of us should stay back before it got so crowded, so I stayed and held a spot on the front row. I was asked to sign a waiver for being on the front row and allowing the production company filming “Fixer Upper” to film me during the concert. I quickly text Tana to return informing her that we could eat anytime!

Lyric from Diamonds by Johnnyswim

Lyric from Diamonds by Johnnyswim

 

The mud we were standing in--at least I'm in rain boots!

The mud we were standing in–at least I’m in rain boots!

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Johnnyswim was incredible and it was neat to hear them while being so close and with the amplification of the silos behind them!

When Chip and Joanna were scheduled to hit the stage, only Joanna appeared. Chip hurt his back the day prior and was “doing some back stretches” as we were told.
Later, he came repelling down the side of one of the silos because of course how could he be expected to enter the stage like a normal person? It was cute to see Joanna’s reactions and laughter over her husband’s crazy.

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COMMITMENTS
The Gaines went on to thank everyone for coming and make some dedication commitments.

Chip made some serious remarks with interjected humor (of course–as would my husband). He started off with something about their first commitment was to their marriage and how when all of this began he was married to Joanna and promised the crowd that then it’s all over that he’ll still be married to her.  Then they made a second commitment to their 4 kiddos. He explained that they love invitations to come all over, but, “we are all in with this beautiful and business that God has blessed us with, we’re all in our marriage and we’re all in for these kiddos. So if you can just honor us with that in this season. We want to thank you for your support and you can trust us to be a good representation of each of you with this as we move forward…”

They celebrated the dedication of the new store by throwing Dr. Pepper bottles against the Silos!

They brought Clint Harp and Jimmy Don to the stage and thanked them for their support and partnership.

imageThen Joanna closed by thanking Chip for being such a supportive husband.
“I was happy just being comfortable in life. I could’ve literally had a job from 18-80 years old and been happy. One job. I was just one of those people who didn’t want to take a risk. And every now and then when I was feeling good, I’d write out some business ideas and write out some business plans. When we first got married, he (Chip) saw those and he said,”Jo, in a year I want one of these done”…he’s the one who pushed me with the wind at my back…it was our first year of marriage when Magnolia Market actually opened in 2003. Without that (motivation) I wouldn’t be who I am today. I’m very thankful for a man who can get behind his wife’s dreams.”

It was beautiful and ended on a high note with the Gaines joining Johnnyswim on stage to sing the Fixer Upper theme song, “Home”. I think it’s safe to say that Chip needs to stick with his day job! It was quite fun enjoying from the front row!

The concert closed with my favorite JimmySwim song, “Diamonds” which I periscoped for Stephen.

I said goodbye to the "little shop on Bosque" as I headed to the airport. All good things must come to an end.

I said goodbye to the “little shop on Bosque” as I headed to the airport. All good things must come to an end.

I know I’m far from alone in being a fan of the show and the Gaines family. I think everyone loves a good restoration story.

It’s why Clint Harp’s home is one of my favorites.
To see such a transformation from something that was once beautiful and has lost its beauty being restored to its original glory hits a special place in everyone’s heart.
We all want to know we have a second chance. An opportunity to turn around. A new coat of paint. And we can. This beautiful family has displayed this so well to the viewers across the world and I believe they’re inspiring hearts to what really can be in their own lives.

They might never life in Waco and have a Magnolia home of their owns, but they can be made new. 2 Corinthians 5:17.

Thanks Chip and Joanna and the wonderful staff at Magnolia Market and volunteers! You made a weekend I won’t forget and I WILL be back with Stephen soon!

Additional Links;

Joanna’s Testimony

 

Magnolia Market

Local Interview about the Silos Grand Opening and Joanna’s Tv Career before Fixer Upper– click here

 

Johnnyswim–Diamonds 

 

 

 

When Religious Cliches Don’t Help

Kari Jobe Blog

Kari Jobe’s potentially awkward moment turned into a beautiful moment for healing hearts.

When an awkward lull happened at the Designed for Life women’s conference I attended a couple of weeks ago, I immediately knew what was going on.

I’ve not been pregnant yet, but with all of my kidney issues, I can relate to those frequently visiting the bathroom as their baby(ies) press(es) on their bladder.

The host, Pastor Debbie Lindell took the platform for an unplanned speech to help transition the evening service. There was a band already set up on the stage and I knew Kari Jobe was scheduled to sing some during the conference. I also knew she was in later stages of pregnancy and I laughed as I realized that she was probably in the bathroom.

I had just slipped back into my seat from the bathroom right as a video ended and Kari was scheduled to lead worship. Debbie jokingly asked if any women remembered being pregnant and their frequent potty breaks as Kari took the stage. Debbie then explained to Kari in front of about 9,000 women that she’d just told us that she was peeing! Kari confirmed this report into the microphone much to the amusement of all those attending.

When Debbie left the stage Kari shared how she wasn’t just using the bathroom, but she’d been cleaning off her smeared make up as well. She told of how her sister who was pregnant at the same time as her just lost her baby two weeks earlier. She was 7 months along and had a still birth. There was such a sweet presence of God in the auditorium that evening as we worshiped together which was healing her heart. At one point she looked up and a woman with her little baby girl came and sat in front of her and more tears fell.

What began as laughter quickly turned into tears as we all listened to her story through her choked up words and rawness. She went on to say how through this experience she’s realized that religious clichés don’t help-they actually shut someone down. And I lost it. I could relate with her now far more than just our frequenting the bathroom.

She’s right. When you’re in the midst of pain, loss, or suffering you don’t simply need to hear, “God will turn this around for good”, “God will come through!”, or “Just have faith”.

Nothing against anyone who thinks like that or has said those statements to someone as we’ve all been there.
It can be awkward when we are confronted with the pain and suffering of another person.
It often is a strange interaction, so when we as believers don’t know what to say we often say something we think sounds spiritual.
Maybe the thought process is,”if I say a scripture then I’ll be helping”.
Or maybe we’ve never felt the pain or faced the difficult scenario they’re in so we think there’s an easy answer, “just have more faith”.

Yet none of those things help. In all I’ve faced particularly in this season of life, I know that God is good and I know that He is going to work things out in my life for the good…”because I love him and I’m called unto His purpose” (Romans 8:28). It isn’t that I don’t believe in His goodness or that I’m not focused on the truth of God’s word. It’s just that walking through some situations are difficult and they demand more depth than a surface response.
When you’re walking through the questions and suffering the heartache of your circumstances, it isn’t helpful to find yourself shut down by others’ replies or by their silence.

When you feel confused about God or you’re trying to see truth through the sometimes murky and violent water of trials, you don’t want to be simply told that God is good. When faced with that doctor’s report you weren’t prepare to hear, having someone exclusively say, “God’s got this” as you wrestle the fears and make difficult decisions isn’t helpful.
You need to experience His goodness THROUGH others.
You need to experience His love encompassing every area of your life, including your questions and perceived failures.

You need to be ALLOWED to cry and really feel what you’re walking through and invite Jesus into that place of pain.

Sometimes our words can shut down someone’s heart from allowing real healing to take place.

I realize that facts about a doctor’s report or situation are subject to change. I know that we have all power and all authority through Jesus. I’m not denying that focusing on the TRUTH of the word of God isn’t applicable. It ALWAYS is and that’s exactly what needs to be focused on, but not at the cost of invalidating what someone is walking through and not being willing to walk  WITH them through their pain. We must be willing to look to the example of Jesus and how He walks with us in this life.

Jesus came to take on our flesh so that He would relate to our flesh both in victory and in sorrow.

One of the most impactful things that has ministered to my heart happened two years ago during a really challenging time in my life. I had been really sick for almost a year with various tropical illnesses, small seizures, and I was dealing with constant pain from misaligned ribs and hips from a car accident that caused great pain even with walking. Stephen and I decided to get away for a few days and our trip happened to fall around the anniversary of my cousin’s death. My cousin was my best friend and we’d grown up together as she was four months older than me. She battled cancer for 7 & 1/2 years before dying when we were 14 years old. Due to the difficult season I was in and our constant travel schedule, I was really lonely. Some people had said awkward things to me concerning my faith while others just pulled away. Other friends simply weren’t able to encourage me face to face as we were traveling so frequently. This caused me to grieve my cousin’s loss in a new way that year. One morning on our trip, Stephen took me outside and shared how he felt like he had a word to share with me. He sat me down and said that while he was praying that morning that he felt like Jesus said, “Tell Bailey that I know what it’s like to lose my cousin and I’m crying with her”. The words hit me like a load of bricks upon my chest and as I began to cry I felt something break off of my life. I felt the nearness of Jesus more in that moment than I had in any other moment of my life. Not because this was a happy moment that He was meeting me in, but because in my pain and sorrow, He met me and was crying with me. That made me want to pour my heart out in adoration and worship like never before.

I want you to know that no matter what you’re walking through or how lonely that you’ve felt in your heartache, Jesus is with you. He has experienced pain, suffering, sorrow, and sadness. He did this all the while being filled with the Spirit, in complete surrender and obedience to God’s will and fully knowing that His Father was good. Just because He was the Son of God who died for our sins doesn’t mean that he didn’t feel the pain and weight of our sin or the sorrows of this life. He can relate to you and speak to you more than any human ever can.

As religious Christianese circulates around you and questions stir within you, I encourage you to press past those voices and listen for the voice of Jesus. Hear what He is saying and let His love draw near in your time of hurting. Don’t allow your painful circumstances to steal your praise of the One who is worthy and wants to pour out His love. He hurts for you and He hurts with you. Worship Him and let the disappointment, offense, mistakes, and fears fall off. Lean on Jesus and get back up again–you were made to live victorious!

 KJ InstagramWell said Kari–thanks for sharing your heart and bringing others to the place of healing in Jesus.