Posts filed under Story

When 2017 doesn't bring a fresh start

Happy New Year (a few days late)!

I’ve been thinking a lot about fresh starts and new beginnings, but this time of year I also am so heavily burdened for the people who are stuck in situations that a new year isn’t going to change. 

A few years ago I found myself avoiding a lot of social media around the holidays & new year. Pictures & highlight reels were triggers for me as I reflected on my life, disappointed with all that year had broken. The last thing I wanted to do was go check out my Best9 or see the Year in Review that Facebook had so kindly assembled for me to remind me that my year was less than gracious to me. I remember that feeling of hopelessness when you’re stuck in a place you never imagined, unable to see the hope that a new year, even one full of suffering, can bring. 

Listen...I know you’re all WOW BRITTANY, Cynical much? Someone get this girl a cup of coffee and some sunshine!! But I promise you, I'm quite the opposite! Just let me flesh this out. 

You see, many of us have bought the lie that once we trust in Jesus, we’re going to be just fine. Suffering isn’t going to come our way. After all, if we make smart choices and go to church and do the right things, what can go wrong? If we hit a bump in the road, all we have to do is say the name of Jesus and it will get better. The illusion of control comforts us during joyous seasons, but during trials and tribulations it's damning. 

I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, but for many, 2017 will be painstakingly difficult. Your year might get better, but it might not. Your child diagnosed with cancer might not be healed. The parent you’re now the caretaker for might get worse. Your marriage might have a really devastating year. You might not have the bravery to RUN from that toxic relationship you’re in. That loved one you lost isn’t coming back. The child you’ve been praying for might not be conceived. And 2017 might not bring that relationship or job you’ve hoped for. And yet, in spite of all of the hard things 2017 might have in store for you (or the WONDERFUL THINGS), I want to tell you that 2017 could be the year that you cling to God like you never have before. It could be the year that grace permeates your every move and your faith comes alive.

I was reading a Bible study on 2 Timothy and came across this quote, 

“Desperation can fertilize our soil and tears can water our seed like no ease could ever hope to.” - Beth Moore

I have to tell you, this was so true of my own life. When my life got desperate, all the cliches I used to say out of habit became lifelines. What I had always professed to be true, now HAD TO BE TRUE in order for my faith to survive suffering. Phrases that I used to say so flippantly when talking about others’ pain like “God is close to the brokenhearted,” became scripture that I would cry out to God in desperation. “God, you said you’re near to the brokenhearted. I NEED YOU TO BE NEAR. I need you to be faithful and true.”

And He was. Is. And forever will be.

Suffering was a catalyst for me. It catapulted me to the feet of Christ and it has kept me there. So here’s my advice to those who find themselves in a year that isn’t anything they hoped for and expected. It isn't a fix all, but it's a simple phrase for you to carry with you through those low moments. 

Look and Live. 

Look to Christ. Cling to what He’s done for you and what He continues to do. Let that consume you instead of despair. Read about it. Sing about it. Pray about it. Write about it. Hang it on your walls. Have friends who will speak it over you and remind you of who you are in Christ & who He is to you. Christ is your great and mighty redeemer and nothing is too far from his reach. Saturate your life with that truth. 

When life gets hard? Look to Christ. 

When you’re at the end of your rope? Look to Christ. 

When you cannot go any further? Look to Christ. 

When you are so angry and hurt and desperate? Look to Christ.

When you have no place to go? Run to Christ. 

When your world falls apart? Look to Christ, the source and perfecter of our faith.

Dear one, He is able to carry your burden. You do not have to do it perfectly; He already has so that you can live freely. Which brings me to my second piece of advice.

LIVE. 

The story you’re living right now has purpose. You might not believe it. Or maybe you do and it still infuriates you that THIS is a part of your story (trust me... I get that). But at some point, you have to stopping fighting the storyline and START LIVING IT. That heartache, the loss, the despair, the pain, the shame. Don't put a bandaid on your pain to hide the scar, LIVE through it. It’s your story to own, and live, and to one day tell. 

Get help, find a good counselor, start taking care of yourself (fuel your body with sleep and good food), and LIVE. Live your story well. Live it imperfectly, walking every step clinging to Christ. Because if you’re looking to Christ, and fighting to LIVE a life that is rooted in Him, there is no storm you’ll face that will be able to sink your ship. There will be days when it might not feel that way, but friend, I can promise you that the Christ you cling to is a GREAT redeemer. There is nothing too broken that He can’t fix. There is no heart too sick for His healing hand. No sinking ship He can't sustain. No suffering is left purposeless & nothing goes unused. He is close to the brokenhearted, and one day the God who walks beside us through the fires of life will extinguish the furnace of suffering for good

This is why we can enter a new year with hope, even when our circumstances seem hopeless.

Whatever 2017 brings, you can still experience deep, unshakeable joy found in knowing Christ... even on your darkest night... especially during your darkest night.  So today I am praying that for you. I am praying for those of you walking into 2017 with heavy hearts and dark skies ahead. I am praying that you will find rest in the one who is faithful and true and that in 2017 you'll find the resolve to LOOK & LIVE, regardless of what the year brings. 

Much love,

Posted on January 13, 2017 and filed under Suffering, Spiritual Journey, Story.

A Post for The Fallen & The Shamed :: There's Room at Our Table for You.

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I’ve noticed a trend on the interwebs as of late. Many feel-good blog posts are for folks who have been wounded or walked through immense suffering. Don’t get me wrong, as someone who has seen grey days, I resonate 110%. But lately God has opened my eyes not only to the wounded, but to the wounders as well. 

So today I have a message for those of you with BIG mistakes. To those of you weighed down with guilt, shame, and regret… 

You are wanted, you are loved, and there is room for you in our homes. There is room for you in our churches. There is room for you in our social circles. There is a seat waiting for you at the table of grace.

Did you mess up big? Have you fallen from society’s good grace? 

No worries, me too.

And I have a word for you today.

Get back up and come sit with us at the table. You might believe that you’ve utterly messed up your life, but I’m here to tell you that a feast is just around the corner. 

“No, you don’t understand what I’ve done,” you say. And you’re right, I don’t know the details of your shame. But what I do know is that God does His greatest work in the most broken places, during the darkest hour. Redemption has always been His strong suit. 

Our hodgepodge heroes of the faith were prostitutes, liars, doubters, adulterers, and murderers (just to name a few), and trust me when I tell you that there’s nothing you can do to out-sin some of God’s best. Not to mention, when Jesus walked this earth, He ate with tax collectors and sinners, people like you and me. And when Pharisees, the religious rule followers, rolled their eyes about the company He kept, Jesus replied, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick… I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

You see, it feels good to sit in church and hear how David, a man after God’s own heart cheated, manipulated, and killed. But it’s much more difficult to do the hard work and say, “I am David, and He loves me still,” or equally hard to be like Joseph and say, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good. I forgive you.” 

This is the Gospel and the table of grace you’re welcome to. It’s a table full of misfits and mistake makers, rebels with restored hearts, and I want you to know that today, there’s a seat for you here. 

But before you sit down, let me first say this. 

I’m sorry.

You see the church has this beautiful messy job of being the hands and feet of Jesus, and sometimes, (ahem most of the time), we don’t do it perfectly. But in spite of our brokenness, Jesus left the keys to His kingdom in the hands of a bunch of zealous misfits who rarely get it right. 

And sometimes, in pursuit of holiness we get caught up in our self-righteousness, instead of His righteousness. We “do good” to those it feels good to “do good” to, and forget that the greatest good we could ever do is love our neighbors as ourselves, even if... no, especially if our neighbor is that guy who was charged with embezzling, or that girl who has a reputation. Or what about that brother or sister who wounded us? We can forgive others, but not them; the wound is too deep. Instead of grace upon grace, we heap coals of shame and cries for justice upon each other’s failed shoulders as we pridefully thank God that we’re not like that person.

 Jesus loved the outsider, the doubter, the guy who stole money from others, the woman who had been with multiple men. The broken, messed up people that religious folk turned away, these were the people God-incarnate sought out. Yet we hide our reputations behind the appearance of holiness and keep the folks Jesus loved most at arms length.

We forget that it’s not our reputation we boast in, rather it’s in the one we’ve been given. Not earned by any good deed we’ve accomplished, but by one good deed done once and for ALL. We bought the lie - hook, line, and sinker - that we aren't one of you. We believe the lie that we're all better now, and that the sin nature we were born with is gone now that we've said a prayer. 

And for that, I say, We Are SORRY. I am sorry. We have failed you by making you feel like you aren’t good enough or cleaned up enough or like you don't belong here. The truth is, none of us ever were good enough and we still aren’t.

We’re sorry for creating A-teams and B-teams, varsity and jv, when the gospel says ALL of us are big sinners in need of a BIGGER Savior.

We are sorry for pushing you out, rather than drawing you in. 

But that’s the thing about this beautiful messy table of grace, we all are wounded and wound each other. And all at the table must learn to both dish out and receive forgiveness like it's Thanksgiving Pie. 

So today, I’m begging you. Come sit with us, forgive us, find your place of rest here amongst other sinners like you. Start the journey of healing with us by your side and a God who is fighting for you always, because we’re all healing from something. And by sitting with us, sharing your story, letting us walk these messy days with you, you bless us. You help us see Jesus better by letting us sit with you in your broken story, as we ask you to sit with us in ours. Because make no mistake, regardless of pretense, everyone at the table of grace has a broken story and our common denominator is that we are all deeply loved by a gracious God.   

So today, if you’ve fallen, get back up.

Have you messed up big? Redemption awaits. 

There’s room for you at this table, always has been, always will be. Have a seat and enjoy the feast. Be known, be loved, you are welcome here. 

Posted on September 1, 2016 and filed under Story, Spiritual Journey, Suffering.

Stones of Remembrance

Preface: This was a post I wrote for another website a few months ago and it originally was posted HERE. I have edited it and added to it for the purpose of this blog and wanted to share it with you today!

We humans are forgetful people. I used to think it was just me, maybe it’s my baby brain or maybe I just have bad genetics (at least that’s what I tell my husband when looking for my phone or keys for the 120th time that day), but as I read about the Israelites, I noticed how God would do huge miracles and then command his people to not forget. All through Deuteronomy He warned His people to take care, lest you forget (Deut. 4:9-12, 6:12, 8:11-20).

But the Israelites didn’t remember did they? 

When I read those big stories about God moving, I wonder how in the world the Israelites could forget His faithfulness! How could they forget how God brought them out of Egypt? How could they forget how His daily provision of manna or how He made the walls of Jericho fall at their cry? And yet over and over again the Israelites would turn away from YAWEH and did what was right in their own eyes. 

And while I’m side-eyeing the Israelites for their doubt, a twinge of recognition sets in.  

I’m not so unlike them, (and not because I can’t find my keys… ever).

If I’m honest, their story looks a lot like my own. I’ve seen God part the Red Sea in my own life. I’ve seen Him knock down walls, and restore places in my life that should still be broken. And yet I, too, am prone to forget that I serve a God who ordains every step, even the difficult ones. I grumble and complain, looking back to my own Egypt longing for better days. I forget that it was His hand that provided along the way and as my steps become easier, I stop relying on God and start doing things my way (again).  

But the great thing about our stories is that it’s not about us and our ability to remember; It’s about God’s unfailing love even when we’re prone to forget. 

In Joshua 4, God had just brought the Israelites across the Jordan River by parting the sea. When they safely arrived at the other side, He commanded them to take 12 stones from the sea and carry them amidst the people as a sign of remembrance so that when their children asked in years to come “What do these stones mean?” they could tell their story of redemption. And this is the part that I love! God wanted them to be able to remember and retell their story “so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, [and] that you may fear the Lord your God forever” (vs.24).  

You see, our stories of redemption weren’t made to be kept hidden.

They aren’t one-time miracles that only service the present moment; rather they were designed to bless our present circumstance while impacting our future faith! God miraculously provided a way for the Israelites to cross over the Jordan River, but in that same moment He provided a way to remind them of who He was and what He intended to do in the future. He had them place stones of remembrance so that that in years to come their faith would be strengthened by remembering what God had brought them from and was bringing them to. He had them create a space to remember so that their future faith and their children's faith would be blessed by the discipline of retelling redemptive stories. 

And not only that, see verse 24?

...that the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is mighty...

Y'all, our stories are evangelistic! They are intended to be told over and over again to not only to keep us from forgetting but to declare to a broken world that the Lord is mighty to save. Our stories aren't about us. They point to a God who is mighty to save, a God who is in the business of fixing broken things, a God who loves us fiercely and remembers us even when we're prone to forget. 

That is our story.

And these stones are for us and for others. 

So my question for you today is this, Where in your life do you need to lay down a stone of remembrance to remind you of His faithfulness? What story of redemption in your life needs to be recalled and retold for your good and His glory?

That scar that you like to keep hidden? That old wound that you’re ashamed of? Share it. Share your battle wound and story of redemption. Lay that stone of remembrance down and when your friends or family ask about it say boldy, “Look at what the Lord has done for me!” For our boldness isn’t in what we’ve overcome, rather it’s in what He’s done and will do for us! 

Much love, 

Posted on June 22, 2016 and filed under Spiritual Journey, Story, Suffering.