When Praying Gets Tough

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I started a 40 day prayer challenge, and it has been just that: a challenge.

There have been mornings where God has heard all my honest and raw feelings and praying to Him just seemed easy. But honestly, there have also been mornings where being in His presence is exhausting. I come to Him out of breath from stress and anxiety.

But I am learning to come anyways.

Beat down and barely awake, I come. Despite not having words to say or feelings to express, I come. I don’t come to the table because God needs me to; I come because I need to.

I have been clinging to these words by Kristin Stockfisch about prayer:

Prayer is hard. It just is you guys. But it needs to be. There is too much humbling, heart-changing spiritual advancement done in this space to be easy. We are made holy in times of prayer with God. We are made right. We are made ready. Maybe the question needs to change from: what do I gain if I pray? To: what is this world losing because I’m not praying?  

Praying is hard, but anytime you pour your heart out to someone it is bound to be tough. Prayer isn’t any different. God already knows our every need, yet He still longs to hear from us. And as a human, I long to be heard. Getting past the awkward and routine communication and getting to the deep-down, genuine prayers is where heart-change happens. When we let God in, we are humbled, we are seen, and we are heard.

I am learning that God doesn’t want my righteous prayers. He doesn’t want my exaggerations and empty words.

God wants me. All of me — every bumped head and scraped knee. Every sleepless night and insecure thought. God is after our hearts and prayer is the greatest open-heart surgery there ever will be. Prayer breaks us. Prayer ensures our hearts are in-line with His. Prayer surrenders to his timing. Prayer submits to His ways.


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Home of the Brave

I get an abundance of joy out of celebration. Celebrating people, celebrating life events, even celebrating holidays. Independence day was no exception.

After spending a rainy Fourth of July playing card games around the coffee table and belly laughing until it hurt; I fell asleep listening to fireworks pop one after another. I drifted to sleep filled with gratitude knowing that our country is founded on freedom, but not without sacrifice.

Sacrifice.

That word has always been hard for me to fully comprehend. The dictionary describes it as, “An act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy”. I would go as far to say that ‘something valued’ can even mean one’s life. Isn’t that just what our soldiers do every time they go to war for our country? Isn’t that what our founding fathers did to establish this nation? They sacrificed everything for the sake of strangers. They sacrificed everything so that you and I could live freely.

I cannot think of a better picture of Jesus.

God sent His son to die a sinner’s death on a cross, so that I could live and know God intimately and be free from my sins. Jesus paid the ultimate price — He sacrificed His life for the entire world.

Today, I am praying that we wouldn’t take for granted the sacrifice of our founding fathers. I pray we won’t overlook the people that have fought for our freedom. And I pray we remember that Jesus paid it all and all to Him we owe.


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A Wake Up Call

***Hi friends! I read a great post from Tapestry Magazine last night that served as a wake up call in the form of typed words on my phone screen. I’m posting it here in hopes that it can be an encouragement to someone else.***

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Waking Hours: Persevering in Prayer

By Kristin Stockfisch

Five am just got darker. It used to be that 5 am meant the light of the sunrise was an hour away. But this week, daylight savings meant nighttime extended into the wee hours of the morning.  Austin wakes and works when the market opens in New York. So, living in California means he’s in front of his computer, coffee at arm’s length at 5:30 am. With two girls under the age of three, the early, dark morning hours are sacred around our house. I fight the good fight to slink out of bed, shuffle to the kitchen, toast my toast and sip my tea. The darkness used to call me back to bed. But now, darkness outside means extended sleep for the littles and lingering time with my Creator at the head of our kitchen table.

I sit. I write. I take a bite. I pray. I read. I take a sip.

Time and quiet. Two words that used to shout Christian duty now are too delicious to devour. They are like endangered species in my life: worth protecting and pursuing.

I live for quiet time these days. I wake up for it. But quiet time isn’t sexy. It is too holy to have a caption. Too tangible to photograph well.

College turned me into a prayer-person. Desperation does this. A pattern of physical brokenness seeped into my soul and exposed all the fractured, taped-up hurts of a life leaned on the shoulders of my own self-sufficiency. My prayer life morphed from a before-meals, before-bed check-in to a daily open-heart surgery. God received my honest thoughts and raw feelings for the first time and He and I were never the same. Prayer made sense of this relationship with God everyone seemed to talk about. He became a person. Father. Son. Spirit. A person unlike anyone I had ever known.

But, if I’m honest, life with God is brutal sometimes. Often I come to the table out of breath from pressure and pain instead of awed and breathless from his goodness. I come battered, bruised and barely awake. But I come. I must come. I come no matter how lost or lonely. I come no matter the case or circumstance. I come to pause and I come to pray.

Prayer is hard. It’s the gritty, unseen, foundation work of a faith life. It stands on the legs of stillness and waiting and no two words could be further from the prizes of our culture. That’s why prayer can feel so awkward and counterproductive. The rest of the day I am hailed for my motion and speed.

Prayer is hard. And hard is somewhat of a curse word these days. If something is hard, it must mean I am doing something wrong. If something is hard, I must quit to find the easier way. If something is hard it’s time to turn up the noise or the numbing.

Prayer is hard. It just is you guys. But it needs to be. There is too much humbling, heart-changing spiritual advancement done in this space to be easy. We are made holy in times of prayer with God. We are made right. We are made ready. Maybe the question needs to change from: what do I gain if I pray? To: what is this world losing because I’m not praying? 

We must be persistent in prayer. We must. Not because God needs us to but because we need us to. Our men need us to. Our kids need us to. Our friends need us to.  Our world needs us to. Prayer ensures our hearts are in-line with God. Prayer surrenders to his timing. Prayer submits to his ways even when our flesh is fighting them big-time.

Perhaps best of all, prayer gives us glimpses into the glory of God. We go to God in prayer looking for answers and insight and he often leaves us with a revelation of Himself. Somehow that’s enough. Every single time. God in his fullness satisfies our deepest hunger. Prayer is how we feast in his goodness.

So now, you. Maybe you’re in college and figuring it out. Maybe you’re in a season of ‘in-between.’ Maybe you’re haunted by too many options. Maybe you’re operating in your sweet spot.  Maybe your life is more about the people you’re raising than your own life right now. Wherever you are, I hope you are praying. Nothing will dictate where you and God are going more.

It may not look like 5 am. It may not look like toast and tea at the kitchen table. But I pray you find your rhythm. I pray you are raw and honest. I pray you pray. And pray some more. These moments may not photograph well. They may not get likes on your Instagram feed. But your steadfastness in doing this despite difficulty or delay will ensure a full life with God. Not a perfect one. Not an easy one. But one of a glorious fullness we have not yet known.


This post is from Tapestry Magazine and was written by Kristin Stockfisch // Link

If These Plants Could Talk

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If you know me, you know how much I love plants.

When I moved to Tennessee to start college some of the first things I bought for my dorm room were succulents and cacti. I have always loved the idea of growing and taking care of plants, but it wasn’t until two years ago that I actually began studying them and learning how to care for them in the best way possible.

There is just something so beautiful about watching plants grow.

Maybe it’s seeing the hard work and commitment come to fruition, or maybe it’s the fact that something depended on me to survive and it actually thrived. Maybe it’s how plants bring life to a dull and dark dorm room. But it’s such a rewarding experience to watch plants grow and flourish where they are planted.

The plants I curate for my collection are the kind you can’t kill. Maybe one day I will move to plants that take serious amounts of nurturing, but for now (when I live in a space that has one window) I will stick with my friends that refuse to die. Even in the worst situations – little-to-no light, watered once every other week, left on the kitchen table and given no attention – these little guys survive. They don’t need an expensive pot or even fancy fertilizer.

No.

They grow exactly where they are planted.

What if we all did that? What if we grew and made a difference in the place God has planted us right now? What if we didn’t worry about our own plans, but instead focused on His will for our life?

I want to be present and stay where my feet are. Just like my plants that grow despite their circumstances, I want to bloom where I am planted. I want to stay, stay, stay, and see what God has planned for me in the here and now.

But I also recognize that I cannot grow on my own. I need a nurturer. I need the ultimate Caregiver. I can’t survive on my own strength; I need Jesus’ strength.

If these plants could talk, I bet they would tell us to stick around. They would say that no matter how hard it may seem to grow right now, you have to thrive anyways. I think they would tell us that we need to survive. But they would say that we cannot do it by ourselves. They would plead with us to grow exactly where we are planted. And I believe God pleads with us to do the same.

 


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Come Home

***Hi! I know I have been gone for awhile. It’s been a combination of not knowing what to write about and running around like a crazy person trying to keep up with my life. So, here is a post I wrote forever ago (which is still so completely relevant in my life!). I hope this is encouraging to you; it definitely was to me.***
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When the pastor said open your bibles to malachi, I had to think twice about where to find that book. You could flip right by it without even knowing. But, for a tiny book, Malachi is jam-packed with words of encouragement and wisdom from malachi (obviously).

I filled the pages of my journal with verse after verse of wisdom. but one verse in particular left the biggest imprint on my heart.

“Return to me, and I will return to you.” Malachi 3:7

One of the most profound, comforting, hopeful sentences I have ever read.

How beautiful is it that when we run far and fast, we can return – at any time – to the arms of our father? We can stop running away from the great shepherd and start sprinting toward the finish line, where Jesus is waiting for our return.

When we come home, God won’t say I told you so. he won’t tell us how disappointed he is. He will simply embraces us – scars and all. Our father will wipe our tears away and say to us you are home now. you don’t have to be scared anymore.

When we return to him, He promises to return to us. It is simple. There is no underlying message in this verse. There is no need to read between the lines. God is not a God of confusion.

When we wholeheartedly set our sin aside and return to Him, He will embrace us in our brokenness.

But hear me when I say, grace is not a license to sin. Grace is a free gift from our father. We cannot take it for granted.

He is jealous for us. He wants our whole whole hearts. He wants us to give up control.

When we return home to God, we must do so with every fiber of our being. He doesn’t just want one piece of us; He wants every single piece.  Our time, our mind, our body, our emotions, our will. Everything.

So what are you waiting for? Come home. Run fast to your savior’s arms.

Twenty Sixteen

 

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To me, 2016 looked like turning nineteen, finding community in a new place, and learning what it means to trust.

It looked like school kicking my butt and people failing me. This year looked a lot like broken promises and being fearful. 2016 was the year of loneliness and doubting God’s plan for my life. This year was the year of breaking new year resolutions and trying to be perfect when I am helplessly broken.

But 2016 was also the year of first dates and falling in love with my best friend. It was the year of restored relationships. 2016 looked a lot like stepping out of my comfort zone and leading a small group of 17 freshman. It looked like learning to cheer for people and love them hard. 2016 looked like reading words that dig deep into my soul and people telling me what I need to hear. This year looked like proving my professor wrong and reading books that I actually enjoy. This year looked like accountability and rediscovering how to delight in the Lord. 2016 looked like becoming a coffee addict. It looked like being okay with being a mess and acknowledging that I don’t have it all together. This year was the year of new and redefining what home means.

Many firsts and many lasts. 2016 wasn’t awful. In reality, it was actually very kind to me.

This year was full of answered prayers and God giving me immeasurably more than I deserve.

In January 2016, I was desperately seeking to fill the thin, spread out places of my life. The places where I was falling short. I tried wholeheartedly to become less busy and all over the place on my own. I failed.

In January 2017, I will be asking God to fill in the gaps. I will ask him to fill the spaces that I cannot. Because without him, I am nothing. But with him, anything is possible.

I can’t wait to see what story He lets me tell in the new year.

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To the ones with a never ending to-do list.

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If this picture isn’t a perfect depiction of college, I don’t know what is. Because, if we are being completely honest, this semester is kicking my butt. Keeping up with my design courses, working, leading a small group, making time for God, being intentional with and showing up for people… all things that make my heart so overwhelmingly happy.

I’m just having trouble balancing everything these days.

But then I am reminded, through instagram posts and through my boyfriend and through my quiet time that our God is a refuge. He calls us to rest in Him. He calls us to slow down our hurry. To be still for like five minutes so we can be in awe of everything He is.

Finals are right around the corner (like, tomorrow), Christmas is less than a month away (!!) and my coffee intake has reached an all-time high.

But, I am thankful for a God that forces me to slow down and for people who remind me to rest.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

While our burdens seem too heavy, never-ending, and earth-shattering, His burden is light. Jesus commands us to come to Him, and there we will find rest. Slow down and embrace the mundane. Stop being everything and spreading yourself thin. You don’t have to do it all. How about today we run into God’s open arms and be still in Him, and Him alone today?

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So, what now?

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It’s over. The election is done.

*takes a deep breath*

I have never been crazy about politics. It has always interesting to me, but never something that I followed closely. Until this year…

This election season I celebrated being old enough to vote!

What a blessing and privilege. I am thankful that on tuesday I got to exercise my freedom to vote and watch, what I thought to be, one of the most important elections in my time. I understand we all had (and probably still have) different opinions about how yesterday played out. Hillary supporters. Trump supporters. Independent supporters. There are people celebrating today. There are people lamenting today.

But guys, let’s not spread hate and disrespect.

Social media is filled to the brim with hate, confusion, distress, joy, excitement, fear, and bitterness today. Yes, I know the result of this election is not to be taken lightly. This President will change everything (and I think that might be a good thing).

But no matter your opinion of our new president, we are called to love.

We are not called to have a spirit of fear and we are certainly not called to throw animosity around like confetti. We are called to respect and love everyone — that doesn’t mean we have to agree with their political views. You can respect someone without approving their decisions.

So today, instead of arguing through Facebook comments and unfollowing the people that refuse to agree with you on social media, try showing some grace. Grace for the Hilary Clinton supporter. Grace for the Donald Trump supporter. And grace for everyone in between.

God gives us grace, and then He gives us more grace.

Imagine a country where grace triumphs over resentment. Imagine a place where people looked more like Jesus. Love over hate, guys. Love over hate.

I am praying for our country and praying for our new President. And I truly believe the best is yet to come.

 


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you know that mumford & sons song where they sing about flowers and grace?

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I BELIEVE IN COMMUNITY — SOME DAYS, MORE THAN OTHERS. I BELIEVE THAT YOU SHOULD FIND PEOPLE THAT WILL LOVE YOU AND ENCOURAGE YOU AND ALWAYS POINT YOU BACK TO THE CROSS.

But I’ve learned that people aren’t perfect. Community — no matter how much they love the Lord — will fail you every once and awhile. They’ll forget to celebrate with you, or they won’t support you like you think they should.

THEY ARE HUMAN.

A less than perfect sort of love is inevitable while we are here on earth. That is the simple truth. One of my truest, most fierce friends once told me something along the lines of, “We can love and encourage each other all day long, but ultimately Jesus has to be fulfilling us.”

We can absolutely love and serve our friends and communities. After all, that is one of the greatest commandments — to love others. But we cannot be everything for everyone. That’s Jesus. That is his job.

With imperfect communities and flawed people, heartbreak and bitterness are imminent. But we can wake up every morning and choose to love those people still. We can persevere through friendships knowing that a day will come when we will stand before God, praising him for all of eternity. A day will come when we won’t have to worry about crying ourselves to sleep or failing our friends. Our hearts will finally be whole.

AS MARCUS MUMFORD SO ELOQUENTLY SINGS:
“THERE WILL COME A TIME, YOU’LL SEE, WITH NO MORE TEARS. AND LOVE WILL NOT BREAK YOUR HEART, BUT DISMISS YOUR FEARS. GET OVER YOUR HILL AND SEE WHAT YOU FIND THERE, WITH GRACE IN YOUR HEART AND FLOWERS IN YOUR HAIR.”

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Through the scribbled song lyrics and perfectly distinguished rhythm, I want to believe this song is about hope. Hope in something greater and bigger. Hope in love without fear. Hope in Jesus.

Love is a big word. It’s a word that as humans we can’t fully comprehend. I believe we are offered glimpses of love on earth through puppies, and first dates, and a mother’s embrace, and a father’s advice. Through people that give us butterflies, and music that makes us want to dance. We get just enough to keep us longing for more. Longing for something greater than ourselves.

Because, let’s face it. We witness and hold on to a human kind of love. A somewhat selfless, somewhat serving, somewhat life-giving, a somewhat complete kind of love. But “there will come a time, you’ll see with no more tears. And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears.”

We have an insatiable desire for something not of this world. We have a desire for a complete and meaningful life. A desire to fill the hole in our hearts that isn’t meant for anything, or anyone, but God.

SO I HOLD ON TO HOPE THAT THE BEST IS YET TO COME.

Through hard days and restless nights, I hold on to the truth that one day we will love without fear, and dance without limit. “For when the King returns, it will be as though our pain was but a dream, and our hope is the only reality we know.” (Todd B. Laberge)

 


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it was one of those days where I forgot to breathe.


This weekend I have been on fall break.

Ironically, it hasn’t been much of a break at all. Running around with two seven year olds isn’t always the most restful way to spend a weekend.
One yelling my name, and the other pulling on my arm the past 72 hours. When I finally got the chance to sit down this afternoon, and I realized I haven’t spent any time in the Word this weekend, and I honestly, I haven’t really thought about it.
And it’s not that I don’t think God isn’t important. It’s just that sometimes I think, “that can wait; this just can’t.”
I unintentionally put God on the back-burner and it throws my entire day (or weekend) off. I am in a constant clash of running around and forgetting to breathe.

But today, I am resting. 

Resting in God and knowing that He is my refuge during stressful days. Knowing that I can always fall back into his embrace.