A Weary World Rejoices: Finding Peace in the Here and Now

Today I started my Advent study for this Christmas season and as I was going through my first reading I noticed that it emphasized something for me that the Lord put on my heart some weeks ago.  I wanted to share it with you too.

"Out of the depths I call to you, Lord!
Lord, listen to my voice;
let your ears be attentive
to my cry for help.

Lord, if you kept an account of iniquities
Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
so that you may be revered.

I wait for the Lord; I wait
and put my hope in his word. 
I wait for the Lord 
more than the watchmen for the morning
more than the watchmen for the morning

Israel, put your hope in the Lord.
For there is faithful love with the Lord.
and with him is redemption in abundance.

And he will redeem Israel
from all its iniquities."

--Psalms 130:1-8

In my reading of the Psalms, verses 5 and 6 gave me pause.  David's longing is palpable, you can feel it in his repetition:

"I wait for the Lord 
more than the watchmen for the morning
more than the watchmen for the morning..."

Or maybe it has nothing to do with the repetition and everything to do with the fact that as readers we feel it too.  Down past our skin and into our bones.  We wait.  Sin hangs in the air like thick fog in the dead of winter and not one of us has escaped its reach.  One way or another it has clawed at us, gnashed its teeth at us.  It pushes onward until hearts are left utterly broken.  Oh God, sin is heavy and we groan in bearing it.

I have been reflecting for some time on the effects that sin has had on my own life and on those that I love dearly and I'm exhausted by it.  You see, we are laboring.

My son was born four months ago and his birth was unique because unlike the birth of my two girls my epidural failed to give its full effects.  Due to a skin condition that currently shows itself in bright red patches on my back, the anesthesiologist wasn't able to insert the catheter in the ideal location on my spine.  Instead of the midway point of my back he had to insert it an inch or two higher.  Because of this I felt the majority of the numbness from my belly button up.  Although it did help to alleviate most of my contractions for the first time in all three of my birthing experiences I could actually feel my legs.  This was a terrifying idea to me because I knew that eventually, I was going to have to push.

And oh did that time come!  The doctor came in and as I braced myself to begin the task of pushing, my whole body started to shake in fear because I knew the worst of the pain was coming.  I felt every bit of that pain.  I remember looking up at my husband saying: "I can't do this, I just need him here, I just need him here!" I didn't want to go through the process but there is no way around it, you just have to keep going.

And then, just like that, he was here.  

This exhausted mamma reached out and they handed me my son.  This is what the pain was for.  My brown eyed boy with a head full of hair was finally in my arms and joy enveloped me.  Even though it wasn't my intention, I am so glad that God somehow pushed me to go through that experience because I was able to feel His strength in a whole new way.  He gave me a certain peace through each gut wrenching wave of pain and saw me through to the joy.  Listen, as women our bodies are designed to do miraculous things but we don't do it on our own.  If you have ever given birth you know that.  It is so indescribably painful that it requires an act of the Divine.

It's a woman's labor that Paul parallels in the book of Romans when he talks about our wait for Christ's return.  It's a spiritual labor but the tribulation the same.  The pain of sin is often unbearable but even as it threatens to leave us breathless we remember the Christmas Story, an act of the Divine.  We remember to look up and set eyes on a star lingering brightly over a babe in a manger.  Hope has arrived.

a weary world rejoices. 

It's my absolute favorite line of the classic hymn because it reminds me that while we wipe sweat from our brow, that baby grew into a Man who reached to His own brow and not sweat but blood came away.  However tired we are, however rung dry, Christ surpassed it.  Christ suffered greater and the marvel is that He gave Himself up to that suffering.  All so that we, who were born into sin could be born again into freedom, freedom for the future and for here and now.

In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus says this:

"Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

Sin is no rival of Christ and as we fall at His feet He is able to lift each burden with ease.  Weary world, rejoice because there is a Spirit of peace given amidst the chaos and it is enough to see you through to a kingdom age swiftly coming.  Because just as relief comes to a woman who has labored hard to see her child so it will come to a world who has labored hard to see its Christ.

Let's take hold of that peace and press on a little longer until we see the work of Christ complete.  Once the good fight has been fought to its finish, it all will have been worth it.

Pursuing Intimacy

I was married for no longer than a year when I found my skin recoiling at my husband’s touch.  Not only did I lack a desire for intimacy, I had a fear of it.  It somehow made me feel stained with shame.  Months would go by without coming together and because of it we found our marriage snagged by bitterness.  We were 22 and we fought and we fought and we fought.  One could insist that we were simply the result of two people who were married far too young but in hindsight I know that’s not the case.  Let me tell you what I know now: 

I was angry. 

My parents had always lovingly taught me to save sex for marriage.  Not because they would ever see me as less but because based on God’s perfect design for sex and marriage they knew the pain it would bring me if I didn’t wait.  Long story short, I failed to heed warning.  By the time I met my husband, Bryan, I had a background of intimate encounters with people who I knew would never end up as my husband.  But pre-marital sex didn’t stop there because Bryan and I brought the marriage bed into our dating life. 
Just like every other relationship before, I had been impatient, ignorant of the suffering that was waiting on the other side of my wedding day. 

I want to emphasize that sex has an absolute perfect design, crafted by two Divine hands, which hold the sacred truth of it.  When we decide to step outside the boundaries of God’s plan we will see the consequences.  When I look back on the eight years spent with my husband (one dating, seven married) I can see Satan’s cunning with 20/20 vision.  You see, he will let you ignore the power of sex to your hearts delight when you aren’t married but say, “I do” and the tables turn.  It’s the ultimate bait and switch. 

Why is that?  Because Satan knows that when a husband and wife come together, it represents Christ’s convent to His Church in the most profound way.  Sex gives, sex is selfless, sex is sacrificial, sex binds.  A marriage needs it because time and time again it whispers promise.  A promise to keep pursuing just as Christ pursues His Church. 

Though I grew up in Church it wasn’t until around the time I got married in my early twenties that I experienced Christ in a way that I never had before.  All the sudden I was aware of my nakedness in new light.

Here’s the thing:  even though every sexual encounter I had had with another man played a role in contributing to this weight that I was bearing, none of them had ever claimed to love me.  Not one and that made it easier to forgive them.  Bryan though, he had loved me but he hadn’t protected me.  He hadn’t pursued patience; He hadn’t led me towards God’s design, as a man who claims to love should.  So when sex in our marriage left me feeling indecent, anger was born and it bled into most aspects of our life together, almost resulting in divorce.

It took the better half of our third year of our marriage for me to finally accept freedom.  I don’t have the time to go into detail here but it was through intense prayer and devotion that Christ finally gave me the answer I so desperately needed:  I needed to forgive my husband. 

If you find yourself relating to my story let me tell you something:  in order to pursue intimacy you have to first pursue forgiveness.  Sex before marriage has its consequences but it does not get to mark you as unworthy.  Get to the cross and claim your mark of crimson, which deems you forgiven.  You have got to realize that God sees His Son in place of your sin and He is so tenderly calling you back to His original design for intimacy.  Once you have this revelation He will give you the grace to extend forgiveness to your spouse. 

I was overwhelmed by the freedom gained in forgiveness.  I no longer looked at my husband through a veil of resentment and I could finally welcome his touch.  We have found great joy in intimacy and pursue it often.  It’s a privilege to reflect the character of Christ to one another when we come together.  It has deepened our faith and strengthened our love for both each other and our Creator.

Dear reader let me give you hope in this: marriage is from God and for God thus He cares deeply for it.  Seek Him first and He will profoundly bless your pursuit of intimacy.

A Woman After God: The Audacity of Rizpah

A little while ago I downloaded a study onto my phone centering on the stories of over 40 men and women of the Old Testament.  I am slowly working through as every so often I will search God's heart through the account of an Old Testament life.  It's a humbling thought that God uses people, broken people to showcase His glory.  I love this study because it is teaching me to look into every man and woman with an eye expectant to see the Lord.  I will admit that I got a little sidetracked because in the 40 included there is one woman missing who I have grown to dearly love and that's Rizpah.

I can remember the first time I heard Rizpah's name.  It was Mother's day, seven years ago while I was pregnant with our first child.  Bryan and I were living in Tennessee at the time and a guest speaker at our Church devoted an entire sermon to the Biblical account of her.  Though the thick of Rizpah's story only spans the length of one verse found in 2 Samuel 21, I couldn't help but feel impacted.  Today, I want to hold up the magnifying glass.

There is a complicated history behind Rizpah's story that I don't have time to go into here but here's the short version:  During the reign of Kind David, Rizpah's two sons were hanged for the sins of their father, Saul, which had put the entire nation of Israel into a three year famine.  They were hanged and their bodies were left on display to be defiled by their murderers.  This is a harrowing story to say the very least but what their mother does next has my eyes brimming with tears.

Rizpah stays with her two sons until she is granted burial rights.

Here's the account:  "Rizpah, Aiah's daughter, took sackcloth and spread it out for herself on the rock from the beginning of the harvest until the rain poured down from heaven on the bodies.  She kept the birds of the sky from them by day and the wild animals by night." - 2 Samuel 21:10 

Her sons were murdered along with five others at the beginning of the of the barley harvest.  Which means although it can't be certain, the text suggests that Rizpah remained with their bodies for the span of six months.  Can you imagine?  With grief heavy on her back she fought off scavengers with sticks, endured the elements with nothing but a sackcloth, but most of all she sat beside the boys she loved as she watched the flesh rot off their bones.  Day after day the public must have passed her by with mocking stares and words of contempt.  No compassion, no empathy.  She was a fool to challenge the king, who would help her?

But she held on.  Her severe care for the dead reminds me of our God, who generations before her time reached out of heaven to bury His servant Moses with His own divine hands (Deuteronomy 34:6).  They were her sons and whats more, they were God's sons.  Bearing the image of her Creator, she would demand the honor due.  The honor that by God, who is so profoundly aware of our mortal human condition, is required.

When the audacity of Rizpah was reported to King David, he granted her desire.  He gathered her sons along with the five others and buried them with their father, Saul in their family tomb.  And as the story goes:  the rains came. 

Did you catch that?  Is it coincidence that the famine was lifted at the peak of Rizpah's victory?  You could argue that but I would argue that God blesses the obedient and I believe with my whole heart that's what we see here in 2 Samuel 21.

Fierce audacity.

Foolishly devoted.

A woman after God.


Are you answering the call to be set apart even as the world promises mockery and shame?  I pray that you and I would be emboldened to obediently bear the image of God knowing that His promises far outweigh those of the world, which is passing away.

Walk as a reflection and in turn, you will walk in favor.

Turn Down the Music and Talk to Your Spouse

The other day my family and I were traveling to Portland, OR, which is about a three hour drive from where we live.  Bryan had asked me to drive because we didn't start heading out of town until after he got off of work and he thought he would be too tired.  Now, if you know me, I hate driving.  Any chance I get I always ask someone to drive for me.  I'm just not good at it and honestly, chances are if you are in the car with me you would want to be the one driving too haha!

I will admit though I was actually pretty excited that he had asked me to drive, for two reasons.  One: because it was a good excuse for me to order a flavored Red Bull (my guilty pleasure) on the way out of town and two: because I was going to get to listen to the newest Jonas Brothers album, which would never happen in a million years if my husband were driving.  Deep down, I am still a fourteen year old girl at heart and I have absolutely zero shame about it.

All that to say, we were finally entering into Portland when it occurred to me:  I didn't get to listen to ANY of my beloved Jonas Brothers.  The volume never reached above a whisper while Bryan and I talked the entire three hour drive.

It got me to thinking about oneness.

In the midst of the hyper individualistic culture we have created here in the West, its easy to lose sight of God's perfect design for marriage revealed to us in Genesis 2:  to become one.  It's this beautiful design of two people coming together and becoming something more.  Most of of the time our brains go straight to intercourse when picturing oneness and rightfully so, thats obviously part of it.  But ultimately, oneness goes beyond the bond of physical intimacy.

What if becoming one meant searching your spouse beyond flesh and bone?  To push inward toward the spirit.  What if it meant to say:  "let me see every part of you so that I can share in each part of you too."

Sometimes I think that maybe we stop searching our spouse in fear of losing our self identity.  We coil inward as we protect the vision of our own dreams and desires for our life, we choose to cultivate them outside of oneness.

It has become all too easy to sit on opposite sides of the car for three hours without ever speaking, or to fall asleep at night with our backs to each other.  Our culture says that we can do things on our own, even inside the context of a marriage.  But what is soil without hydration?  I think back on a time when this was the reality of my marriage, two people with rings on their fingers but living as roommates.  It's now in hindsight that I truly understand the blessing of mere conversation and what it leads to.  I love when laughter splits the pit of our bellies, I love that we can meet each others needs through encouragement, I love that we still flirt with each other, I love that even after seven years of marriage we are still seeking each other as we seek to build a God honoring life together.

Dreams, desires, visions, they all align through words, when we open our mouths and speak.  You may find that your spouse already shares the same desires or maybe you find that they don't and you will find the peace to let certain things go.

Let me get to the heart of it.  When you get married it becomes the ultimate form of collaboration in the life of you and your spouse.  To fuse together both body and spirit in order to live on mission in this world.  Its one of the many ways God has chosen to set the light on the hillside for the widening of His coming Kingdom.  It's not about losing yourself but about gaining something greater.

When we seek oneness, we build a mission unique to our marriage and our family.  

But we can't seek if we aren't talking. 

So, to all of my beautiful married friends:  I challenge you to turn down the music and start talking to your spouse.  Dig deep, get inward.  I truly believe that you will find alignment as their heart becomes your own and vice versa.  That you will find peace as you settle into a place where you know your marriage belongs, which, simply put, is oneness. 

God's Best for Your Marriage and Why I Hate the Word "Settle"

My husband and I just celebrated our seven year wedding anniversary and I couldn't feel more honored to be his wife.  Cliche to say, he truly is my person.  I revel in the late night conversations as we sew together vision for the future of our family and the belly laughs shared on long car rides.  I feel blessed to raise our three children along side him as over the years we have created a true partnership.  And it continues to grow stronger every day.  And most of all, I am beside myself with joy as look deep into the man that God has molded him to be.  A man who makes haste to ease my anxieties, who pushes the limits of my faith, who encourages me in my talents and abilities, who points me to Jesus, always.

All this to say, you will know if you have been following my writing for a while, that I once had a hard time believing that year three of our marriage would survive to see the light of day let alone year seven.  I was 23-years old and on the verge of divorce, all in all because I had come to the conclusion that I had settled in marrying a man who couldn't meet the vision I had for my life.  I was bitter and resentful a therefore the best option I had conjured up was to get out and start over with someone who would better suit me.

As a young woman of faith going through such a difficult time in my marriage I was DESPERATE to find a similar story to mine.  One that had gone through the thick of wedded misery and come out on the other side.  That wasn't the case for me.  Instead I found myself knee deep in a pool of comparison.  I took to books and blogs and YouTube videos to find a Christian point of view on marriage and one of the most common threads I found was this idea of settling. 

Now this gets a little tricky because most of the time it was addressed around the premise of dating.

"Are you dating someone who is pressuring you into sex?"

"Are you dating someone who is showing signs of jealousy?"

"Are you dating someone who you constantly fight with?"

"If the answer is yes, then you are settling for less than God's best for you."

And this is where my loyalty against the word settling gets split because if you were to present these red flags to me, as a married woman, to ask for my dating advice I would probably tell you that you would need to get out of the relationship.  I say that because although Bryan and I's dating relationship wasn't all bad (after all I married him) it was filled to the brim with "red flags."  Too many to list them all here.  But at the end of the day we did a lot of things outside of God's good design for romantic relationships and I believe that the first three years of our marriage suffered because of it.  I wouldn't want another couple to have to experience the precious first years of their marriage in the same way we did.
But here is where I believe throwing the word "settle" around without good thought can get dangerous:  there are plenty of couples who have failed to heed warning and have walked down the aisle anyway.  It would be easy for those couples to fall in step with comparison by saying, "wait, we didn't do this thing right.  Instead of praying we were fighting, instead of encouragement there was jealousy, instead of protecting each other's hearts we were having sex."

I've been there and it really, really hurt.  It's not that God doesn't use those examples for His glory.  He will and does absolutely use what is good and true to prepare couples for marriage in the best way possible but there are people who need to hear a different story because not all are the same.

So, if you are struggling in your marriage, let me be the one to come along side you and tell you that you haven't settled.  Unless you are experiencing physical, sexual, or emotional abuse your place is in your current marriage.  God's best for you is not in some other relationship that you missed out on because you chose to marry your spouse.

Maybe you are settling for something else in your marriage.  Maybe it's resentment or anger or maybe even regret but don't let it lead to settling for a divorce.  God's very, very best for you is just within reach.  My own marriage has been shoved into some dark places by my own resentful heart but there came a time where I had to decide that I was going to let God pull us out by His long reach.  It took six months of devoted pleading through prayer for Him to spark a change.  And then my husband and I followed Him as He lead us into a new place.  We have watched God give us His best as we fully surrendered something that we once thought was broken.

God has blessed us with three beautiful children.  He has blessed our finances and our intimacy.  Jealousy has given way and God has replaced it with great vision for our future.  He has replaced thick and heavy grudges with the lightness of joy and laughter.  Now, there is more room for grace and understanding as we face the everyday challenges of life.  Two angry people living separately under the same roof finally became one.

I am over the moon about my husband, the man of God that I decided to marry on a hot day in Tennessee when I probably wasn't ready.  But God has time to ready your heart wherever you already happen to be.  That is the great mystery and the great splendor of His character.  My husband, our family, and I are in the midst of God's best and I know without a shadow of a doubt that there is even better bests yet to come.  And when I really sit with myself alone in silence I am so glad that I didn't let that bitter woman inside of me, four years ago persuade me to walk away before I got to see this glimpse of what my God is truly capable of!

So married couples, listen good.  Don't you dare fall into the lie that you have settled.  Get busy in prayer and surrender.  When things seem to get a little harder before they get better, hold one a little longer.  Your best is coming.  It's coming in promise and plenty!

Chin Up, Mamma, You're Doing Good: A Letter to Myself

I don't know if it's my current pregnancy hormones or the 4 in me (shoutout to all my fellow enneagram lovers!) but lately I have found myself so overly sensitive about my children growing older.  My oldest is nearly six and about to lose her first tooth.  Is there any mother on the planet who has shed more tears over a loose tooth?  Please, I would love to know!

Sometimes, I am shocked at times audacity and its willingness to rob in plain sight.  With that comes one of my biggest fears:  to look back on this time of my children being young and thinking that I did not do enough.  

I should have looked up more 
I should have played more 
I shouldn't have gotten so angry 
I should have held them more 
I should have paid more attention 

The idea of having these thoughts one day, it terrifies me.  More than almost anything because well, I love my children almost more than anything and I want to be the very best for them.  But parenting is hard and there are days when I am exhausted and I don't want to play.  There are days taken up by discipline and I get frustrated.  And there are days where I just flat out get lazy and zone out on useless things.

For some reason it's always easier to remember the days where I feel like I have failed.  Not too long ago I was having a conversation with my husband about this and he said something like this:  "for all the times you feel like you have failed there are a thousand successes and yet you always remember the failures.  You need to shift your focus."

He couldn't have been more right.  As mothers, why is this so hard for us?  Why is it so hard for us to see ourselves the way that others see us?  I wanted to take my husbands advice and take ownership over my fear.

So here is what I did.  

I got myself a notebook so that I can take record of my successes as a mother and all the times that I:

Do Look up  
Do Say yes to play 
Do Remain patient 
Do Hold them  
Do Pay attention

It won't be everyday but the things that stick out the most I want to record because I want to remember.  Someday I want to remember that I did good.  

I can't believe I am going to do this but I decided to share an entry that I made a few days ago, a letter to myself.  It's a little vulnerable but I feel like there are a lot of mammas out there carrying the weight of fear just like the one that I am trying to shed myself.  I hope that this helps.  I hope that it inspires you to do the same so that one day you too can look back and know that you did good.  That you did your very best and that overall your best is what you remember.

Dear Me,

Today you didn't fail.  I know someday you will be old and your children will be grown and because I know you, you will be hard on yourself.  You will look back and think that you didn't do enough.  So I want you to document these days more often to serve as a reminder that you love your children fiercely and for all the times you fail, you succeed far more.

So today... 

You started teaching Hadessah to use the potty for the first time and you kept your cool when she pooped and peed on the floor.  I am proud of you for being patient.  When Ezrah came home from school you played outside with her.  You threw the ball back and forth and talked about numbers, only Ezrah wants to talk about numbers.  Then you watched her show off her gymnastics moves over and over and...over again.  You zoned in on the proud grin of hers.  I am proud of you for cheering her on.  Sometime later you came upstairs to zone out on your phone but you stopped to think about the precious time that's disappearing.  You put that useless thing down and scooped up your two and five year old to play some more.  Ezrah wanted to play "mommy" so she cooked you and Hadessah dinner and you ate all of the pretend pancakes she put on your plate.  Then you laughed out loud deeply as you watched Hadessah whisk together her own pretend dinner.  Her mannerisms are all her own and they bless you with joy.  You zoned in on their imaginations.  I am proud of you for pursuing creativity along side of them.

There were times during this day when you felt exhausted but it was also filled with belly laughs, and butterfly kisses, and a hundred "I love yous" this day was good. 

There is nothing you can do about time.  It's as if someone left it out in the hot sun, it melts away quickly.  But let's freeze time in the pages of this book.  You can make the best of it and you will keep finding a thousand new reasons to fall in love with your babies as they continue to grow older.

Keep reminding yourself of your victories, let's remember more days like today and one day you will look back and know that you did good.  You love your children fiercely and I am proud of you for being their mother.


Ezrah's Updated Room Tour!

Hi guys!  It's time for another room update!  I have been posting about the girls' room for the past couple years and since we are a military family we go through a lot of changes due to moving.  Right now we are living in a three bedroom home so Ezrah has her own room again, which is what I am going to be sharing today.  I have to say, even though moving so often can kind of get tiring I never get tired to setting up my kids' bedrooms.  I just love making their little spaces extra special and I really love how Ezrah's turned out.  My one pet peeve is that the walls aren't white, they are kind of a light beige.  I prefer white interiors because they feel really fresh and airy but since we are renting I just had to make do and in the grand scheme of things it's not really that bad!

Since baby number three is a boy the girls will eventually have to share again but for now, this works really well (I like to keep my babies in our room for about the full first year, just my preference).  Hopefully I will get around to sharing Hadessah's room soon too!

Like always, I will provide some links to some of my favorite things throughout her room!

Ezrah is my little girly girl so I tried to make her room as feminine as possible.  I went with a sort of ballet theme so there are a lot of soft pinks, whites, and golds.  I definitely wanted it to feel put together but also very simple at the same time.  

The dresser was an absolute score!  I found it at a garage sale for 25 bucks and it is such great quality.  I'm not sure what kind of wood it's made out of but its SOLID!  I just repainted it and added some cute new knobs. I love the shabby chic look of it! 

Dresser Accessories 

1.  Unicorn Dolls (These have always been a huge hit with my girls!) 

3.  I got her lamp from HomeGoods awhile ago but I love the look of this one I found here too. 

Bedding and Wall Accessories 

1.  Ezrah's bed is from Walmart and her bedding is all from Target.  I loved the soft pink velvet!  

2.  I have always been so in love with this little swan from Target and I think it totally fits the theme! 

3.  Okay, this gold wreath is by FAR my favorite thing in Ezrah's room, maybe even the whole house haha!  I think it is so beautiful and it looks like it could have come from Anthropologie only it's from Target and cost a fraction of the price.  I scoured the internet and couldn't find it, which breaks my heart because I wanted to get another one for Hadessah's room!  But I thought I would include it anyway just in case you are ever shopping at your local Target, you can keep your eye out! 


1.  This cute cloud shelf is from, you guessed it!  Target and it's filled with some of our current favorite books!

2.  Julia, Child by Kyo Maclear

3.  This is Sadie by Sara O'Leary

4.  Antoinette by Kelly DiPuccio

Sitting Area 

1.  I have had this chair for several years now and it has made its way around the house countless times but somehow it always ends back up in one of the girls rooms.  I got it at a vintage fair for around $5 and it has always been one of my favorite things.  Its old and beat up but its got character and its PINK!

2.  The pillow:  another Target find!

3.  I am OBSESSED with this tea set by Moulin Roty.  Seriously, can I be five years old again?  I think the Parisienne theme adds a nice touch!

The Closet 

My second pet peeve about this room is that there were no closet doors when we moved in.  But in the end I was kind of okay with it because it kind of looks like a mini fashion rack.  Ezrah is in and out of her closet all day long changing her clothes (she. loves. clothes.) so it worked out for her too!

I think in the end, that's the fun about renting.  There are a lot of things that you have no control over changing but you can make things work for you.  I am a firm believer that you can make ANYWHERE feel like home if you put in a little creativity.

Well, that's it for Ezrah's newest room tour, I hope you enjoyed.  Stay tuned and someday soon I will share what we do with our little boys room!

How fun will that be?!

When God Asks You to Exchange Your Good for His Best.

For the past several weeks I have been reading through the book of Acts.  It's actually my first time studying through the whole book at one time and I am really loving the powerful accounts of the Apostles.  The history of the Church is truly rich.  It is certainly, at times, harrowing but it points to a God of promise.  We get to see His gospel spread among nations by the Holy Spirit and through men and women in miraculous ways.

It ultimately has my heart shouting:  send me!

In chapter 19 I cam across an interesting story and I hope that I can do it justice by sharing it with you because it really stuck with me.  To give some context we need to go back to John 14:12.  It's here that Jesus says this:  "Truly I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do.  And he will do even greater works than these, because I am going to the Father." 

These works would be made possible by the power of the Holy Spirit whom the Father sent as a helper after the ascension of Jesus.  We see accounts of Jesus' followers performing mighty acts of healing all throughout the New Testament but for now, let's focus on Paul.

"God was performing extraordinary miracles by Paul's hands, so that even facecloths or aprons that had touched his skin were brought to the sick, and the diseases left them, and the evil spirits came out of them." -Acts 19:11-12

In the very next passage we read the account of some traveling exorcists who tried to mimic Paul in casting out evil spirits.  The difference between Paul and these traveling men was that Paul healed by the Holy Spirit.  These men were lacking in faith and also in integrity.  They were looking to feed their own personal gain.  Even an evil spirit recognized their dishonesty as it responded:

"I know Jesus and recognize Paul -- But who are you?" -Acts 19:15 

Evil flees at the sign of Jesus but because the evil spirit saw that the men's lives were void of the markings of a Savior it overcame them until they were rendered naked and wounded.

Now, as if that weren't enough drama, it's what happens next that really got me thinking.

"When this became known to everyone who lived in Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks, they became afraid, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high esteem.  And many who had become believers came confessing and disclosing their practices, while many of those who had practiced magic collected their books and burned them in front of everyone.  So they calculated their value and found it to be fifty thousand pieces of silver.  In this way the word of the Lord flourished and prevailed." -Acts 19:17-20 

I want to point out the practicers of magic.  These people had heard this story of the men mentioned earlier and in turn they had a radical encounter with the Holy Spirit.  So radical that they decided to burn all of their spell books in front of everyone.  That's amazing!  To put it into a perspective fit for our modern era, fifty thousand pieces of silver is equivalent to several million dollars.  Can you imagine cooking up a big ol bonfire just to chuck a couple million dollars into its flames?  That's a hard scenario to conjure up.

But the reality is that when we have an encounter with Christ He is going to ask us to give up the things that don't align with His truth.  That's a battle in itself but what happens when God also asks us to give up something good?
Yes, we are called to set flame to the things that don't align with God's truth but then there also may come a time when you need to let go of something good and honorable in the Lord's eyes so that He can lead you into something better.  So that He can lead you into something that He has specifically set you apart to do.

I had a conversation with my brother once and I can remember him saying to me:  "What ever it is that God has planned for your life, it is going to be the very best for you."  

This was years ago and in hindsight it means more to me now then it did then because it has taken me  a long time to lean into that truth.  But now, at almost 28 years old I can feel God strengthening my faith and I have learned that it is ok to let go of things that I worked really, really hard for in order to prepare for what I believe He is truly calling me into.

That thing for me is my degree in Fashion.

I fell in love with fashion around the age of ten when I watched my very first episode of Lizzie McGuire.  Call my crazy, but that girl had style and I absolutely adored her (to this day I still watch the Lizzie McGuire Movie on a regular basis with zero shame...zero).  Lizzie just wasn't afraid to express herself through the way she dressed so I tried to mimic that in my own life.  In sixth grade when we had to do career projects mine always centered on fashion design and then my senior year of high school I designed my own prom dress (which looking back...yikes! but at least I made the effort!)

All this to say, I really wanted a career in fashion but when it came to applying for college (after five years in the Army) I decided that I would focus my degree on the business side, more behind the scenes.  I ended up being accepted to the Art Institute and thus began my three and a half year journey towards my degree in Fashion Marketing.  

Right away I fell in love with curating moods boards.  I know that in this day in age curating can kind of get a bad wrap but I absolutely love it.  I love being creative, its just hardwired into me, and pulling together different elements to make something beautiful makes me so happy.

Because of this I started to really think about seriously looking for work as a visual merchandiser/stylist. If you have ever stood in front of a dreamy window display at Anthropologie that will give you an idea of what I wanted to do.

After three and a half years of hard, hard work I was getting ready to graduate when I went on a trip to Israel.  I won't get into that story because I have already written a separate post on it here.  But as a quick recap, I came home knowing that fashion wasn't going to be what I pursued anymore.

But I was so good at it.  I went through school as a stay-at-home mom with a toddler and at one point a new born.  I wrote on average four papers a week on top of creating mood boards and other visual presentations and still managed to graduate with honors.  And to top things off my portfolio won best in show among my graduating class.  I am not sharing this to be vain, only to tell you that I put a lot of hard work into something that I truly loved.

I have no doubt that I could have gone on to have a career in fashion and God would have called it good but I believe that He has best in store outside of it.

Is there something in your life that you feel it is time to let go of even though you have put in the hard work?  Maybe its a relationship, or a career, or something else entirely.  Please hear me say this:  I'm not suggesting you do something like this on a whim but if you know that you have been hearing from the Lord and yet resisting that's where I urge you to give it thought.

May we be a people who strive for the great faith of those described in Acts 19.  When we have a radical encounter with God, may we be willing to shed all that goes against His truth and His will for our lives, even after much time and effort has been invested.

Sometimes God will ask you to exchange your good for His best and dear reader, there is no safer place to be than the place where He is leading you.

Worthy of Purpose

Lately, I have been struggling with insecurity...big time!  To be honest I have struggled with it almost my entire life but there is something about my life at the moment that has made it feel extra heavy.

For me, writing has always been therapeutic so I want you to know that everything to come are things that I am still working out for myself but I wanted to share my struggle with insecurity but also my great hope to overcome it.  Maybe if you are reading this and you feel your own insecurity pressing in then you will see that you are not alone in it, at least that's my hope.

Insecurity.  It has a goal and that is to eat us alive.  It's been gnawing away at my own flesh for far too  long and I think its time to finally face it.  Insecurity comes in many different forms but for me it's a fear of not being seen, which eventually morphs itself into this fear of my life having no capacity to serve a larger purpose.  

Let me explain.

I have always been extremely shy and a lot a bit awkward.  So much so that approaching people I don't know makes me coil inward.  It's not because I don't love people its because I am afraid that they won't love me.  In my mind I have myself chalked up as being unremarkable and unmemorable, unworthy of anyone's time.

I was in the military for five years and as an enlisted soldier it is customary to salute an officer should you pass one by while you are outside.  Over the course of five years I can probably count on one hand how many times I saluted an officer.  It's not because their presence is lacking, the army is crawling with them.  No, it's because outside of a covered building I avoided them like the plague.  Why?  Because I was deadly afraid that they would not see me, like I would extend this sign of respect only to be ignored.

It's been four years since I've had to worry about saluting an officer but that creature of insecurity has continued to cling to me in other ways.  If it was my first time meeting someone on a Sunday morning at church, chances are the following week I won't go out of my way to greet them again.  Why?  Because I am afraid they won't have remembered me from the week before.

To someone on the outside of my brain it might seem a little bit dramatic but I am just trying to tell the honest truth of it.  Put me around new people and this sense of unworthiness wells up thick in the pit of my stomach.

So how does this get wrapped up into my desire for purpose?  I'll explain that too.

If I can't trust in people to see me then how can I trust in God, the creator of the entire universe to see me and ultimately, how can I trust Him to want to use me for the better of His Kingdom?

In November of 2017 I had the opportunity to travel to Israel and it absolutely rocked my world.  I got on the plane so excited to just check another country off of my bucket list, that's how it started.  But over the course of my time there I developed a deep, deep love for this place.  I mean a head over heels kind of love.  It's been nearly a year and a half and there are even certain scents that will put me right back on its soil and I will often times find myself in tears.  Don't believe me?  Just ask my husband.  I'm a deep feeler, y'all!

Long story short, I'm in Israel, I'm on a bus ride out to the Dead Sea and suddenly all at once I am filled with this desire to do whatever it is that God asks me to do or more importantly what He asks my family and I to do.

I'll never be able to put words to that experience but I can say that it was tangible.  And this was a big deal for me because if you know me personally then you will know that I have done my fair share of making my "own" plans and trying to play my cards just right to see them through.

During my trip I was in my final months of college where I was studying Fashion Marketing and I knew that I would go home and graduate but that I most likely would no longer be pursuing a career that stemmed from my major (blog post coming on this soon, stay tuned!)

When my plane landed back in Seattle I got in the car with my husband and unloaded everything all in one breath.  At the time he was probably pretty overwhelmed because he didn't get to experience it with me.  But I will tell you that together we have been dreaming, and visualizing, and seeking, and praying about the future of our family mission ever since.  I won't get into the details because there are several facets but the dreaming is big and it doesn't have anything to do with fashion (although I will always love and enjoy it!)

By that you might think that I have much confidence and there is some truth to that but more so I would say that I have grown deeply passionate but also deeply skeptical.  These insecurities often outweigh the days of confidence because I ask myself over and over again.  Were these passions constructed out of my own desires or were they given to me by a God who has placed purpose over my life?

That's the question.

Because how could God want to use me?  A girl who can barley speak to people.  A girl who feels unremarkable and therefore unqualified to make an impact.  I feel inadequate and so there is tension in this place of calling.

But here is the conclusion I keep coming to:  Over and over again I have taken this family vision to God and I have asked Him to take it from me if it is not in His will.  Because I cannot bear to hold so tightly to a passion if it is not meant to be mine.  It would break my heart.  So I've had to let it go, to surrender it into God's hands and say, "do with it what you will and if it's not meant for me then give me the grace to let it be"  And you know what?  Time and time again He has returned the vision back to me.  I just cannot shake it and through many many many prayers I feel confirmed that my family and I are moving in the right direction.

Maybe that's why there is tension and insecurity, because I feel on the cusp of something, like I am in the midst of preparation for something that I simply cannot and will not do on my own.  God is opening up a way and there is an enemy that senses that.

But I have to lean into what God is doing.  God who calls me worthy because of who He is and what He is capable of doing.  And that means taking a quite church mouse of a girl and transforming her into a woman who has a confident roar for His Kingdom.

With that, I am reminded of Paul. 

The apostle Paul was...

1. a tent maker i.e. unremarkable 

2. a condemner of Christians i.e. unfit 

"Now Saul was still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord.  He went to the high priest and requested letters from him to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them as prisoners to Jerusalem." 
- Acts 9:1-2

After reading that, Saul seems like the least likely but the Lord swept him up, gave him a new name, and sent him on mission.  Paul went on to be a leading catalyst in forming and growing the early church and would eventually die a martyr for the name of Jesus whom he once rejected.

God gave Paul what he didn't have.  He gave Paul passion, courage, community, stamina, and a voice of both truth and confidence.  God gave Paul purpose and what's more is that Paul had been set apart for such a purpose long before he was even ready to receive it.

"I chose you before I formed you in the womb; I set you apart before you were born.  I appointed you a prophet to the nations." 
- Jeremiah 1:5

Like Paul, you and I were appointed for a specific purpose and when you begin to feel called to something it can get scary really quick.  It's easy to look around and feel inadequate but listen to this:

The Lord will use who. He. will.  

The Bible is filled to the brim with misfits, Paul just happened to be one of them.  So let's just rest in the confidence that God knows what He is doing.  Maybe your insecurities grow from a different place than mine.  Maybe you aren't afraid of not being seen, maybe you are afraid that God has seen too much.  Regardless of where it stems God calls the unremarkable, God calls the unfit and it's by His grace that you are deemed worthy and equipped to do great works for His glory.

I want to let God lead me through insecurity so He can then lead me into purpose.

I'm ready for that.  Are you?

Easter Basket Favorites for Little Girls!

Easter is just around the corner and something I look forward to doing every year is pulling together some cute Easter basket ideas!  This will actually be my last year of just little girl ideas since we are expecting our little boy at the end of the summer.  Next year you guys will get two!  It's going to be so much fun!

This year I clearly went with a theme but I couldn't help it!  I am so beyond ready for Spring and Summer and well, just WARM weather.  At the end of the day, everything I have shown here are of course just general ideas but I did provide links to similar pieces of everything pictured as well.  Just to give some variety!

One // I am swoooooooning over this suit right now!  Do they have one in my size?  I just love the sweet ruffles and the simplicity of the strips, oh and that color!  It's on the pricey side but I couldn't not include it.  I found one that is just as swoon worthy here too! 

Two // Anyone just as excited as me that Jellys have made a come back?!  I'm loving this version from Old Navy as well, plus they smell like strawberries! 

Three // Is there anything cuter than mini cat eye sunglasses?  I am totally getting Audrey Hepburn vibes!  If you're not into cat eyes I found a super sweet pair from both Target and Gap that are shaped like flowers. 

Four //  Both of my girls, especially my oldest, are so into all things hair right now.  I can't even sit on the couch for five seconds without Ezrah coming over to give me a new hair do.  So I didn't think I could go wrong with new hair bows.  I'm loving this super Springy color! 

Five //  I loved the idea of a little beach bag.  They can pack up all their goodies and help bring it all to the beach or the pool this spring and summer.  In fact if you wanted to you could use the actual bag as an Easter basket just to change things up.  Here is another cute option from Old Navy that is complete with pom-poms!

Six //  If you are taking your kiddos to the pool or the beach or the park then maybe you will want to bring a little light reading!  I personally love any children's book about Jane Austen but I am also eyeing these books too, here and here.

Well I hope this gives some fun Easter basket ideas for your little girlies and I hope you have a wonderful weekend celebrating our risen Christ!