Getting off the Island

If there is anything I’ve learned over the past few years in my journey of faith, it’s that knowing others and being known is absolutely essential as a follower of Christ.

Knowing others in the sense that I know what makes a person tick, their passions, hurts, habits, sin struggles, fears, joys, quirks, flaws, victories, achievements, and more.

Being known in the sense that those close to me know really know me- my insecurities, fears, sin struggles, passions, worries, victories, issues, dreams, and more. And they still accept, love, and spur me on without rejecting those weaknesses or rejecting me alltogether.

I’ve seen this lived out among my community group at church. My husband and I have done life with our group for four years now. The girls in our group- Julia, Jen, Ashley, and Ashley- have seen most of what there is to know about me. The good, bad, and ugly!

Over the years a trust has been built among us. Because authentic community is stressed so much at our church, we’ve been accountable to that and have lived by that standard even when it’s difficult. It’s been life-changing and life-giving for each of us.

John Donne penned the famous quote, “No man is an island.”

I know this, yet my pride often keeps me in isolation and from wanting to be fully known by others. I’d rather hide my weaknesses or do life on my own apart from anyone’s help. I’d prefer they not see any “yuckiness.” But God knows what happens when I’m left to deal with life by myself- it’s never good.

God created us to live in authentic community with other believers, where we are fully known and accepted. Yet where our friends won’t allow us to remain where we are.

We were created to step out of the shallow pool water and plunge into the depths of the ocean. There is no other way to do life.

Will you join me?

God Gave Me You- Reflecting on Five Years of Marriage

2008

Today marks five years that Jeremiah and I have been married! It seems like yesterday we were back at Liberty, where we met in seminary. I always knew there was something different about him after he had asked me to go to lunch one day after class. And for so long, I’d been praying for God to bring me a man who loved Jesus and loved people (and was good looking too!)

After that lunch date, we started to hang out a lot and I knew I really liked him. Our relationship moved quickly and it scared us. It was nothing that a good “DTR” couldn’t fix. On November 12, 2004- the day before I ran my first marathon, he asked my dad for his blessing to date me, and then asked me to be his girlfriend.

We dated for seven incredible months and on June 4th, 2005 while on a class trip to Israel, he asked me to be his wife at the Jordan River. I said “yes” and we made that promise to each other trusting that was God’s will.

On December 17, 2005, Dr. Jerry Falwell married us among all our friends and family in Lynchburg, VA. It was the best day of my life.

Marriage as a Sharpening Tool

Three months into marriage, Jeremiah lost his job for sharing his faith so that put us on uneven ground for a while. We couldn’t believe something like that could happen fresh into our marriage. We struggled a lot through the hurt. We stayed with my parents in TX for a few months while he looked for jobs in Virginia.

From the trials in those first few years, our arguments exposed the “ugliness” of my sin at times. I was extremely selfish and didn’t fully know how to respect my husband. It was so frustrating, and I even questioned, “Did I make the wrong decision?” I thought that marriage would be so easy like it was when we were dating.

The Turning Point

Eventually, Jeremiah got a job at the University of Virginia Medical Center and we moved to Charlottesville, VA. We lived there for a year and then felt led to pursue more education for ministry at Dallas Theological Seminary. We packed our life and headed to Dallas.

Within a few months we started attending Watermark Community Church where we were plugged into a community group of 5 other young married couples. We were paired with a mentor couple who invested in us for 18 months.

We were real about our struggles with each other and were able to discuss openly about sex, communication, finances, past baggage and more. It was amazing to see we were not alone in our journey. Other couples were experiencing the same tensions we had and we were able to work through so much together and actually learn how to communicate effectively.

Learning to Be on Mission

Our first year in Dallas we served together with an organization called Apartment Life planning activities and building relationships with residents in our apartment community. We had countless opportunities to share the gospel and bring residents to church. That experience birthed in our hearts a desire for church planting and to always be involved in the lives of those far from Christ.

Serving gave us a greater purpose beyond just “us.” It grew us closer together. Right around that time, I accepted a job offer to work for Bluefish TV/RightNow.org as a writer and editor and learned even more what it meant to be on mission in every part of my life.

Growing Our Family

Before I knew it, in 2008, we had our first son John and in 2010, our first daughter Rebekah. Through our children, I’ve felt a love like no other. Having children has taught me even more about my imperfections and how I have to daily depend on Christ for his strength and grace. I’m learning that the best gift we can give our kids is to put our marriage first and love each other well.

As of today, Jeremiah isn’t too far away from finishing his theology degree and we want to be wherever God would have us when we’re finished. While we’re still far from perfect as a married couple, we’re striving to allow God to be the center of our relationship and to heal us of our hurts, habits, and hangups. The greatest freedom I’ve found in the battle against my own sin is to confess those struggles to God, to Jeremiah, and to other people.

A Deeper Love

The journey of these five years has allowed me to appreciate the gift of marriage even more. I love and respect Jeremiah more than on the day we said “I do” and I can’t imagine living my life apart from him. He’s my best friend and my lover.

Dave Barnes writes in his song “God Gave Me You”:

I’ve been a walking heartache

I’ve made a mess of me

The person that I’ve been lately

Ain’t who I wanna be

But you stay here right beside me

Watch as the storm blows through

And I need you

God gave me you for the ups and downs

God gave me you for the days of doubt

For when I think I’ve lost my way

There are no words here left to say, it’s true

God gave me you

Jeremiah has loved me in my “mess” and through all our ups and downs and to me, that is the greatest love.

Happy Five Year Anniversary, Jeremiah!

And thank you for editing this post last night 🙂

five minutes to let it shine

Over the past few Sundays, my pastor Todd has been encouraging our church to share our stories of grace authentically and intentionally with the people we encounter every day right here in Dallas. Last week, I had about five minutes to do what I knew God was impressing upon on my heart.

I was at Jamba Juice and a guy in his 20s was serving my sister-in-law Charis and I our smoothies. I asked him if he was a student and he wasn’t, but did have a kid. Charis talked with him a little bit about nutrition. He was easy to talk to and friendly. He poured the leftover smoothie from my cup and gave the remaining to my son. He also gave us some samples of their breakfast granola and dried fruit.

But that wasn’t it. I knew I was supposed to give him one of the orange cards that I carry in my purse that has the info to our church on it.

Then suddenly, about 3-4 people started coming through the door and he was slammed. 5 minutes pass by. Then 10. Then 15. I told Charis how I really wanted to invite him to our church, but the opportunity wasn’t happening.

I was determined to give him the card so while he was serving customers and getting their smoothies, I stepped in behind the counter. In the midst of all the blenders grinding and chatter, I invited him to come and told him how our church is full of young adults and has a great children’s ministry. I was a little concerned about who could hear me.

His eyes lit up and he smiled. “You know what?” he said. “I moved here a year ago and I’ve been looking for a church. Thank you so much! I’m going to check it out Sunday.”

Really? You are? I thought.

I couldn’t believe it. His response was not what I expected!

While inviting the Jamba Juice guy to church is not the same as presenting the gospel, it was an invitation for him to see the gospel at work in the lives of others. It was a step in the right direction.

I think so many times I wait for the perfect moment to say anything about my faith or my church, and it never happens. I fear what people think of me. I’m sometimes not walking in the spirit, or even know how to articulate my words naturally. I fear I will sound stupid or crazy. This experience taught me to shine my light in whatever window of opportunity exists and to just go for it and be who I am.

No matter what.

Have you had any opportunities to shine your light?

Starting Celebrate Recovery

My pastor Todd speaks regularly from the stage about how the healthiest people in our church body are those who’ve gone through Celebrate Recovery and have dealt with their “hurts, habits, and hang-ups” in light of Scripture.

I’ve held back from going to CR for a long time because I didn’t struggle with alcohol addiction or drugs or anything like that. I struggled with other “minor” things you know and I didn’t need a silly program to help me out. God and his Word could help me fine.

Well last Monday, after a long three months of my husband and I deciding to commit, we went to our first meeting. The first part of the night included corporate worship, a personal testimony of someone who’s gone through the 12-18 month program, and a separate introduction for newcomers. One guy on stage introduced himself and said, “I’m a believer in Christ who struggles with pornography.”

My eyes grew wide and I looked at Jeremiah, whispering, “That was really awkward.”

The guy went on to share more about the program.

It was rare to see people so open about their struggles publicly in a safe environment, but I knew God had taken them through a process- the process I was there for.

When it was time to go to our open group consisting of about 15 or so women (they split up men and women), we went around in the circle of complete strangers and shared what we think we struggle with. I was nervous, but when some of the women began to share I realized that none of us were alone. I couldn’t believe some of the stories I was hearing. Then it was my turn. I got a little teary eyed and pushed these words out:

“I don’t want to be here. It’s my pride. But I’m a believer in Christ who struggles at times with anxiety, anger, and control.”

To my surprise, after I confessed those struggles I felt like a balloon that had been popped with a needle! There was such relief and I was one step closer to freedom.

Reflecting on my time that night, I realized that my thinking was so evil and carnal regarding the “bigger” sins. Who was I to think that my sins were less damaging? Or that I was “above” CR? The hard truth is that we all struggle with something and sin is sin no matter what. Perhaps the reason we are Christians is because we don’t have it all together. We must depend on God alone.

I admit, I still have pride in my heart that God is working on and I know it’s going to be a humbling process. I didn’t even want to write this post or really let you know that I’m going through the program. I fought hard at telling you the truth.

But I want to be as authentic as I can with you about my faith and where I’m at.

Well, I probably won’t always write official posts about what’s going on in my life through CR but I’m sure you’ll see glimpses of what I’m learning through my writing. And I hope that whatever God decides to teach me that it will encourage you in your struggles.

Tonight is my second week (taking a deep breath). Maybe it won’t feel as awkward?! Hmm. Probably. not. Yet. We’ll see.

Church, Meth, & the Gospel

“The church I grew up in was hypocritical,” my waiter said after I asked him about his church background.

“I’m from east Texas- you know the Meth capital of the world. So people would do Meth and then go to our Baptist church on Sunday,” he said with a somewhat frustrated voice. “They acted so religious too.”

Not being from Texas, I didn’t know east Texas was famous for that.

“Do you go to church anywhere now?” I asked.

“No, I work Sundays and everything… and… church just isn’t for me.”

“Yeah I understand,” I said.

Where’s the life and joy?

My husband chimed in and shared about the ugliness of hypocrisy he saw at times in his church growing up.

Our waiter listened, gazing at the glasses that needed to be filled in the distance. As they conversed, I took some bites out of my steak, completely annoyed at where we stand as “the church” today.

I remember times growing up in the church and putting on my Sunday best. Singing those hymns, smiling, and shaking hands with people, but feeling like I was swimming in a sea of dead people. All I wanted to see was life and joy. I didn’t want to see hypocrisy.

When I went to college, I began to see God’s love like never before through his people and his Word. I grew in intimacy with him as I was surrounded by other Christ-followers. I started to look to God, and not at other people. Since getting married and moving to Dallas several years ago, I’ve been learning a lot about true, biblical community at our church. I’ve experienced what it means to be authentic, confess sins, and share struggles and it’s been life-changing.

The Church isn’t a Building

It’s the gospel over and over again- broken people coming to Jesus. But how come the church is missing it- they’re not even on the map?

I think we all have to face the fact that there is nothing great in us apart from Christ. We are all, in a sense, hypocritical people. That’s why we need a Savior. We need him to help us navigate the rough waters of isolation and pretending.

We have to realize that the church is made up of real people who are supposed to love God and others. It’s not a building. It’s the bride of Christ, put here on earth to reflect his glory.

The Gospel’s Transforming Power

Well my husband wrapped up what he was saying to our waiter and then invited him to our church, handing him a card with info on it. I sensed that he thought we were a little weird (Okay, maybe foreign), but that somehow he appreciated us chatting with him.

It’s my prayer that one day he can step foot in the church again and see how the church was really meant to be. That he would see the power of the gospel transform all forms of hypocrisy.

Being on Mission in Holiday Madness

While at Whole Foods the other day, I had to overcome some fears and I had to do it quickly.

As my cashier Jaime was loading my groceries into the bag, I asked him how the crowds had been with the Thanksgiving rush… He said they weren’t too bad.

I told him I shop at Whole Foods on special occasions. My husband was in seminary and our budget was tight.

“What’s seminary?” he asked.

Trying to think of a simple answer to what seemed like a complicated question, I said:

“Well, it’s a school where you learn more about the Bible and eventually become a pastor or something like that. My husband wants to help teach others the Bible… It’s a non-denominational, Christian, evangelical school.”

“Oh okay,” he replied.

I could tell the people behind me were anxious to get their groceries on the belt, but I had another question for him and those people were annoying me so I just blurted out:

“Do you have a church background at all?” I said extremely fast.

“What was that?” he asked.

“Did you grow up in the church at all?”

“Well, my family is Roman Catholic and I grew up in that but I’m not into the whole ceremonial stuff. You know…”

“Yeah I understand… Well, the church my husband and I go to is more about a relationship with God than it is about religion. It’s laid back and it really doesn’t look like a church at all. You wouldn’t think it was one.”

“Where’s it located?”

“It’s a big building off 635 and 75. We’re still in the building phase actually.”

He said he thought he’d seen it before from the interstate.

“I think you’d really like it!” I added.

He stopped and looked at me.

“Well I’ll promise you this- I’ll go and check it out sometime.”

I was shocked. Really? You would? I thought.

I smiled, said that would be awesome, and wished him a great Thanksgiving.

As I left that day, I was ecstatic that God used that 2 minute window for me to talk to Jaime. I often get this knot in my stomach before starting up a spiritual conversation. Even though Jesus is the most important person in my life who I want to proclaim to the world every day that I live, I still have fears. I still struggle with getting past “me” and other insecurities.

But I’m learning that the greatest way to overcome that fear is to dive in wholeheartedly, no matter the risk.

To lovingly engage people in conversation.

To live on mission.

To get past the distractions so that God can receive glory, even during the holiday madness.

I pray that Jaime will remember our talk and check out Watermark so he can learn what it means to have a relationship with God.

I hope you’ll pray with me too. In the mean time, I’ll be checking up on him the next time I need a treat!

Video: Kids Marshmellow Test

My pastor did a series on temptation called The Way of Escape. For one of his messages, one of our video guys put together a creative little illustration on the topic. It’s gone viral and was shown on The Today Show last Saturday.

Some of our friends’ kids are in the video and they are just too cute. Enjoy![youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wWW1vpz1ybo]

Worship with Ginny Owens

5067_632353611688_55713931_37132356_5936979_nThis past Sunday, Ginny Owens surprised us at church and led our worship. Everyone who loves Christian music, knows Ginny Owens. During the past ten years, she has sold nearly a million records and performed more than 1500 concerts, including sets at prestigious events like Lilith Fair, The Sundance Film Festival, and the White House (ginnyowens.com).

Even though she became completely blind when she was two years old, she mentioned how she’s chosen to allow God to use what she calls shortcomings or “thorns” in the flesh, for his glory.

I really resounded with her words. I often let God know how I can’t do certain things because of this or that. But I really think, like Ginny, that God wants to take those very things within us that we have insecurities about. And He’s not looking for great spiritual giants who have it all together, but more so humble servants willing to admit their weaknesses. I think He does this because He makes Himself strong in our weaknesses and imperfections.

While Ginny was packing up her CDs and belongings before catching a flight out, my son John and I got a chance to meet her. He cooed in her ear and her face lit up.

Her vision for God is the kind of vision I want in my life.

What’s Inspiring Me of Late

cannons1Several things have been inspiring me of late:

1.) Jesus- of course. all the time. without him, who in the world would I be? enough said.

2.) My husband Jeremiah– his constant encouragement, accountability, and unconditional love for me.

3.) My son John– watching his brown eyes stare into mine. his laughter and joy. He makes me want to be a better mom and woman.

4.) My job– I love working with a team of highly creative producers, writers, and graphic designers. We have a great time together. My boss is solid and loves the Lord. Bluefish is impacting so many lives and I love just being a small part of it.

5.) My church Watermark. Spurring me on to authentic community and loving this city. Gary Haugen with International Justice Mission will be speaking thus Sunday (can’t wait).

6.) Matt Chandler (his podcasts). I appreciate his constant focus on Christ and boasting in Him alone. My coworker Lonnie said he’s going to connect me and Jeremiah to Matt for coffee one day (yay!)

7.) John Piper. I’m almost through his book Don’t Waste Your Life. It has challenged me like no other book. And is causing me to do some deep soul searching (or perhaps sin searching).

8.) Musicians: Phil Wickham, Brandon Heath, Chris Tomlin, Fernando Ortega, Meredith Andrews, Laura Story. Some old. Some new. These are just a few but their artistry stands out among the rest. Their focus is obvious. God has used them to inspire my writing. Meredith lived next to me on dorm 19-1 at LU. I’m extremely proud of her and how God is using her.

Who or what’s inspiring You?

My “Straight A” Husband

dts-754138So today calls for me to brag on my husband a bit.

A little over two years ago, we moved to Dallas for Jeremiah to attend Dallas Theological Seminary to further his study in God’s word and to better prepare him for full-time ministry. This past semester, I worked part-time at Bluefish (still do) and put him through school so he could focus on his studies, internship at our church Watermark, and our apartment ministry without wanting to pull his teeth out.

I’m really proud to say that Jeremiah just got his grades back and he got 2 A+ and 2 A’s! So, straight A’s! All semester, he worked so hard in his reading, studying for tests, and writing papers while simultaneously propping up a bottle for John or studying with him on his lap.  DTS isn’t an easy school and it’s one of the best seminaries in the world. Some of our favorites have come out of there like Andy Stanley, Tommy Nelson, David Jeremiah, Tony Evans, and Dennis Rainey.

Jeremiah wasn’t concerned on getting the best grades necessarily but on learning the content. We’re still unsure of what God has for us ministry-wise in the future, but for now we’re trying to live in the present. We don’t really know what the upcoming semesters will look like work-wise and time wise, but we’re thankful for God getting us through this far.

[Photo: Campus of DTS]

Switch to mobile version