Learning how to R I S E from failure // no or know?

I am learning that I like failure.

Now when I say that, I certainly do not mean I ever hope for rejection.

I hope for a YES just like anyone else- so much so that my heart tends to skip a beat when I open important emails concerning my future.

But then sometimes you get hit with a couple big fat NO’s in a row. And it makes you question your abilities. It makes you wonder if something is wrong with you- especially when the applications and interviews SEEMED like more than enough. This is because when you get turned down, it often feels more like you are getting PUSHED down.

As a result, I am finding that failure reminds me of my humanity. It knocks me awake to the reality that I will only ever be found FULLY ENOUGH in the eyes of my God.

 Someone will always have a reason here to tell me why I am unworthy, unqualified or simply not the right person for a position.

But my God does not operate in this way. He looks at me as I am. And He loves me. He loves every part. Not just what the world deems successful or enough.

And then you remember Jesus. And consequently, you remember who you are: human. And by that very nature, I can declare myself extremely imperfect…but also extremely taken care of by the Perfect One who made me.

Because in truth, I CAN’T do it all on my own. Sometimes I will get a no from this world. But it doesn’t matter so long as my greatest YES is both to and from God.

Something true:

  • He says YES to me as His child; for He is devoted & divine.
  • So I will say YES to His love; for I am dependent & desperate for it.

There is no other avenue in this world that brings true peace. No amount of television, social media, words of encouragement from human beings, or amount of self-help books could ever make me feel like I do than when I am aware of how close I am to my Heavenly Father. In the face of eternity, Heaven is only a few heartbeats away…and in this broken and painful world we are living in, I find so much comfort in that truth. 

So because it is God who I KNOW, I will never have to worry about the NO.

For every no from the world opens space up for an even greater YES to something better within that time.

No’s clear away what’s good and make room for what’s actually best.

And how do I know this? Because I watched in awe as it happened to me a few weeks ago:

Within two hours of a devastating no, I received 2 grand and miraculous yeses that would not possibly have worked out had I not received the first no.

When that happened, I realized that I was crazy to ever worry at all. Jesus really meant it when He said this:

// So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. // Matthew 6:31-34

All I had to do was trust Him. That’s it. The rest fell in my lap. He is a good, good Father. His ways are higher. And best.

When we REST in Him, the REST will fall into place…and it won’t just be better, it will be BEST.

So in summation: when you look to God to find REST, you will ultimately find God’s BEST.

P.S:

{ NO’s from the world are nothing in comparison to what it’s like to KNOW the God who CREATED the world in the first place. If you are in a place of struggling with rejection as well, I pray that these truths would meet you right where you are. }

 

 

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4 Lessons from H A I T I // reckless love & restoration

There was a moment in Haiti when I stuck my head out the window with the window down.  My hair was whipping madly in the warm wind and I wondered to myself:

“How did I end up HERE?”

Of all the places in the world, I was in depths of the Haitian mountains.

Seven years ago, I thought to myself, “I would never go on a mission trip; those are only for the crazy Christians.”

Oh how God has a good sense of humor. 6 mission trips later, I am sitting here in wonder.

I am in awe of how God fabricated a story for my life that I never would have written for myself had I not surrendered the pen. If it had been up to me, I can guarantee you that I never would have written myself into the story of God’s plan for Haiti. I would have seen such a thing as too dangerous and too much.

But thankfully, God is a much better writer than we are. History is HIS story after all, right?

So God brought me to Haiti.

I looked around and found myself in a country that American media had told me was a land of complete devastation; a land of disease, destruction and hopelessness.

But Haiti is a widely misunderstood country.

When I stepped off the plane, I didn’t see devastating statistics. I saw people.

I saw vibrant and joyful life. I saw children laughing, people praying, and yummy food being prepared. I saw personalities. I listened to stories of dreams for the future. I looked into the eyes of children and saw HOPE. I talked to 20 year olds no different from me other than their birth place. We were the same at heart. And if we are all the same at heart, would it not make sense that we all need the same God to fill them?

And yes, I saw brokenness. I saw need. I saw poverty. But that’s why God sends His people: to say, “I haven’t forgotten about you. I am here to help.”

See, people down mission trips because they believe that all the money raised to get there should simply be donated straight to the people. Why actually go?

But that leads me to my first valuable lesson God taught me in Haiti:

  1. // Often the message you send to God’s people by simply COMING is far greater than we could ever imagine. //

 “Your presence here means a lot to us. How beautiful is it when the brothers and sisters of God gather together. We are far apart but of one God, and therefore the same heart,” said a Haitian community leader.

I think in America we underestimate the value of presence and overestimate the value of productivity.

Is it truly productive to build a school, but neglect to form relationships with whom you are building the school for? Perhaps the kind of productivity we should be most concerned with is that of hearts, not projects.

See, when your country has been ravaged by hurricanes and rattled by earth quakes, it’s easy to feel helpless and forgotten. In fact, it’s easy to think during any hard situation, even those in the United States, that God has forgotten you.

One day I had a conversation with two Haitian artisans near our work site. We had been talking a while when one of them, Eli, said something that really struck me. He had been very joyful and positive up to this point. But suddenly, his voice grew rather somber.

He said, “You are a very intelligent student. We’d love for you to come back. Don’t forget us here.” He then said it again: “Don’t forget.”

See, when no one COMES to help, it’s easy to believe that no one WANTS to help. And if no one wants to help, you end up thinking that God Himself doesn’t want to help. So when someone DOES come, their presence means so much more than a simple check from miles away.

This is why mission trips are so important.

And while I certainly believe donating money to help people is fantastic, I don’t think ONLY donating to those who are hurting is good. GOING, if you are willing and able, is what impacts people the most. This is why I am so incredibly thankful to my donors who ENABLED my willing self to go on this trip. The support helped me do what I believe Jesus would do.

Remember that Jesus did not simply donate a check to the cause of humanity; He donated His LIFE. He CAME to earth to help us fix our messes. He didn’t have to do that.

For example, which means more to you in the long run: a check to pay for your hospital bills or that PLUS someone driving miles and miles to see you in person? People are worth far more than dollar bills when the going gets tough. EVERY time.

So I learned that COMING is a powerful thing. Our presence served as a great declaration that YES, God cares about their tiny mountain village in Haiti. What a wild thought.

The second thing I learned is actually the reason behind the first lesson:

  1. // Reckless love is the root of restoration. //

After trekking through the depths of the mountains on foot to get to the village, I felt I was living the song “Reckless Love” by Bethel Music quite literally. The lyrics I felt the most were as follows:

“There’s no shadow You won’t light up
Mountain You won’t climb up
Coming after me
There’s no wall You won’t kick down
No lie You won’t tear down
Coming after me”

That mountain part hit home.

So why does God conquer mountains to COME to His people? Out of a deep LOVE for them. But He doesn’t just want to come, He wants to RESTORE.

After all, that’s why He sent Jesus in the first place. And now with His Spirit within us, He sends us to do the same. He sends us to love people recklessly to the point that they find restoration through Christ.

That’s why Haiti is a parallel to the whole world. We all struggle with our own personal hurricanes and earth quakes that threaten to define who we are. We are all in need of some kind of reckless love to come and find us in the dark. We need something to restore our hearts. Like Haiti, the brokenness in our lives is often terribly mounting. We need restoration from a pure source. We need a Savior.

I wrote this in my notes about what this restoration looks like after a day of work:

“America typically devalues the power of prayer & face to face slow communication. We like efficiency. We like tangible product. But God likes a timely process. That’s how restoration happens anyway, right? God also told me this:
His glorification is most found in the restoration. In the waiting. Restoration takes faith, prayer, patience, & a position of oneself in His Spirit. Seeking after God for restoration because we realize it’s far too much to take on ourselves. The restoration of Haiti is this way. The restoration of the WORLD to God is this way.

Haiti is just a microcosm if the whole earth. It shows signs of green life, but at its core it’s dry & in need of water. It has been shaken by earth quakes & hurricanes so much that the physical world has become a source of pain & exhaustion…of heart break & devastation…of death. And yet, there are still signs of life, of hope. There is no strength to be found in circumstances here. Yet the beautiful ocean roars & the birds fly across the sky. God’s fingerprints are all around. But we often choose to neglect them. We ignore the evidence of our Creator on a daily basis. We look at our broken earthquake ravaged mess instead.

We fix our eyes not on His beauty & grace, but on our own relentless worldly chase. Yet we all will return to the ground. So why spend so much time looking at it?? Look UP child!!! God is found right where you are. Look to Heaven, not barren earth for your soul’s satisfaction. Look to Your Father for love, not a dying land. A land that wreaks of heart break & war. Look to God instead. He made You. We left Him but He still wants us. He loved us enough to let us choose what to do with our lives. But it broke His heart to see us go & pick sin over Him. Out of His great love He made a way for our sinful selves to return. He sent Jesus. Into our mess. Right in the eye of our internal & external hurricanes….a rescue mission like no other. A grand plan for RESTORATION. To restore our current lives here IN Him. & to restore our future eternities WITH Him.

What a story. What a people we are. Determined to leave God, but yet also destined to be restored in Him. That’s grace. God’s grand unmerited heart chase.

Hiking up mountains for hours in Haiti to get to villages most people have never heard of….deep in the wild undergrowth of the jungle…taught me a bit about what this chase looks like. God will go to EVERY measure to pursue the hearts of His people. He spares no effort. As I learned on this trip, the journey to our hearts is WORTH IT. Oh the beauty of saying “Jesus loves you” (in creole) to a little girl’s sparkling eyes after miles of a trek to get to her community is unparalleled. The sacrifice is always worth the heart impact. Every time.

How can we love any other way? Is love not sacrifice?

// Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. // John 15:13 //

He tells us to do the same.
Right where we live.”

This idea of universally needed love leads me to my next lesson:

  1. // Love is the most relatable thing in the world. //

Having now gone on 6 mission trips from Africa to Asia, I’ve found that there is only ONE thing that is the exact SAME in every culture.

No matter the language, the prominent religions, or the way people spend their time, LOVE is at the base of it all. Everyone craves it. Everyone wants to share it with others in some way….whether that be through family, friends or romance. Just turn on your television and you’ll notice it.

And if LOVE is the common theme that binds us all, would it not make sense that this same desire for love is also a desire for the One who created it? The One who DEFINES it? The ONE who IS love?

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. // 1 John 2:8 //

There’s not many people on this earth, regardless of beliefs, that would say love is a bad thing. It’s the one thing most of us can agree is good in the world.

And if we can all agree that we need love, and God IS love….it would only make sense then that what we are actually desiring all around the world is God Himself.

But lastly, I learned:

  1. // No one wants to give up on Haiti; not God, nor His people there. //

Now you would think in a country as broken & helpless as this that they would all just want to leave.

But I wrote this in my notes:

“My friend Eli spoke of how he struggled to pay for school using his art skills to sell paintings in the market. Another friend lamented briefly about the corrupt government. Yet when I asked him if he liked it in Haiti, he said he LOVED it. His entire face lit up and his mouth broke into a smile. He said he loved the views of the ocean and the mountains. You could tell he just loved everything about it. We shared a moment of taking in the beauty. The people are truly so hopeful & joyful here. So the message overall was clear: while they are very much aware of the brokenness in their country, that hasn’t made them want to give up on it.

They LOVE where they live. They want to make it better. They want to rise up. And as they told me in a rather somber voice, they don’t want to be forgotten. They want the world’s help. They welcome it. I saw that in the way they welcomed us…with open arms & kind smiles from all the people we met…one “bonjou” in creole at a time. We made friendships while partnering with the community to make the school’s floor. Differences were trumped by hard work & good laughter. We taught one another our languages through a series of wild pointing games.

Eli also even spoke of a greater vision for himself: becoming a doctor. No matter how broken & seemingly hopeless a situation is, people around the world set their eyes on hope. They see a better future. Always. I believe God put this desire in us…this tendency to always look forward to bigger & better things despite our messes.

And it only makes sense then that only Jesus can fully satisfy that hope in a way that never disappoints. When He is takes the place of ALL our hope, ANYTHING is possible. Our hope can be CATALYZED. A person or a job or a dream will never be enough to be all of what our hope is based on. Only Jesus can do that. He takes us by the hand & leads us out to the impossible. To the green pastures we didn’t know existed in our own hope. That’s the thing about hope: when we keep it contained in our own mind and don’t let Jesus take it, it stays stagnant and small. However, when we believe in Jesus and make him our WHOLE hope, all of our other hopes fall in comparison. We discover that His hopes for our lives are far greater than anything we could have thought up ourselves.

So now we have come full circle. God always writes a better story than we could think of for ourselves. He writes stories of redemption, peace, fullness and restoration.

& He wrote me into Haiti’s restoration story. What a beautifully creative and unpredictable God we serve. I am incredibly thankful to anyone who donated or prayed to make this trip happen. My heart is FULL & grateful for your support in any way.

Hi My Name is “Busy” // The Identity Crisis of Our Generation

How often does this awkward exchange happen to you:

You: “Hey friend! What’s up! Want to grab some coffee or lunch sometime?”

(notice that I accidentally wrote coffee before lunch since for me coffee is often a priority over lunch- yikes.)

Friend: “Yeah that sounds great! Although I really can’t this week. I’m just too busy. What about next week?”

You: “Oh snap, I’m sorry. I really can’t do next week because I’m super busy too. What about the week after that?”

Friend: “Possibly? Although I know I have a bunch of exams that week, so maybe not. I’ll let you know though if some time opens up though!!”

You: “Ok, sounds good!”

Want to know what happens? You probably already know because it has likely happened to you. In the face of such insane busyness, you both completely forget this conversation and never end up meeting.

So now I have a question for you and me: WHY are we so busy ALL the time??? Now you may be raising your eyebrows at me as you read this saying, “Lauren, I have a lot of important things to do!! You couldn’t possibly understand my schedule!!”

Except I most likely can. Because if you know me at all, you’d probably know that I have always been known as an extremely busy human being. In fact, I have always said, “I thrive in chaos.”

My first year of college was spent getting involved with as many organizations as I could. I ran myself ragged in order to try literally EVERYTHING. But I have been learning something lately. I no longer want “busy” to be my identity.

I am also finding that this identity of “busy” is considered extremely admirable in our society.

Think about it: something in our world idolizes busyness. And lately, God has been nudging me to figure out WHY this is.

  • Why is it so attractive to have a thousand responsibilities?
  • Why do we run ourselves into a wall just to get things done?
  • Why do we like to say, “sorry I just have too many important things to do to talk to ______”?

Perhaps the issue is not one of busyness, but of IDENTITY. What if what we really mean by saying we have too many important things to do is actually just us trying to say: I am important. I have a valuable schedule, therefore I am valuable to the world.

And to take it a step further, you could even say that this association of self-worth as it relates to productivity is reinforcing a lie that MORE busyness makes you worth MORE than other people. But besides becoming more prideful, this is when things can get really dicey…

If you believe that your value and worth comes from how busy you are, the likelihood of that losing that value is high. Your identity is hanging on how much you do, not who you are. And if who you are is based on what you do, then who you are is not a person, but a machine.

We value machines based on what they do right? If it breaks, we throw it out. It’s useless to us. This is why we need to STOP seeing ourselves as machines. The minute we fail a task is the minute we begin to see ourselves as worthless. But it was never meant to be this way.

Insecurity is ultimately a product of unknown identity. So if your self-ascribed identity is “successful” and you feel like you LOSE that label, it is no wonder that a host of insecurities follow…tossing me and you into a chaotic sea of anxiety and stress. Failure can crush our false sense of security in an instant.

See, most of us are building our identities on the idea of ADVANCEMENT. We want to advance our careers, networking opportunities and futures as a whole. However, what if by doing that we are actually sacrificing the only things that truly matter?

What if our real identity was actually meant to be based on AVAILABILITY, not advancement?

Consider this before I try to explain:

Why is it that in the midst of all this BUSYNESS, we also say that we are so TIRED all the time? If we are tired all the time BECAUSE we are so busy, isn’t there something wrong? Were we meant to be this tired all the time?

What if our identity wasn’t busy, but FOCUSED? What if we were focused on God’s Will alone, not our own?

Or better yet, what if we WERE focused on advancement…but advancement of His Kingdom? And what if this advancement comes not through constant busyness, but through this AVAILABILITY I mentioned prior?

Perhaps we were made to live with full hearts, not just full schedules. And maybe God had a better vision for His people that we keep ignoring. 

Or really, what are we avoiding?

Think about it- Jesus was always available to people. He was never too busy to minister or show love.

But if we are so busy DOING religion that we miss out on loving people….are we loving the way Jesus loved at all?

If ministry organizations have overtaken our entire schedule…that’s a red flag. It means we have no time to be in the world that needs us the most.

Jesus went to the broken.

He rested.

He ate with strangers.

He was never in a hurry.

He DID have a profession though- He was a carpenter.

So don’t ignore your skills.

Work is not bad. We just can’t make it our worth.

However, I often struggle when I think about how the disciples all left their professions to proclaim the simple gospel. So I asked God recently: “Lord, how do we know if we were meant to go out and leave everything or praise you right where we are…profession and all?”

This is the answer I got:

Do the latter and God may lead you to the former.

In other words: Trust Him and He will make the path clear. Commit it ALL to Him exactly where you are currently placed. Every bit. Don’t try to run on your own where you think you want to go. Let Him take you where HE wants you to go. {see Proverbs 16:3}

Then I asked another question: “Jesus, in Your Name I come alive to proclaim Your victory! But how do I rest more? Yet also proclaim Your Name everywhere I go? In a way that’s not striving, but truly loving?”

This is the answer I got:

Love those closest to you first. Your neighbor needs your love and God has placed you there to give it. 

In other words: I think this means to quit ignoring those closest to you in favor of loving someone you think you’ll never see again. Loving strangers is actually easier than loving a face you will continually see everyday. Why? Because that kind of love requires daily commitment- something us humans don’t particularly like.

Bold love acknowledges that things may get awkward for a hot minute with this person…but also operates with a knowledge that it will be WORTH it. This is because real love grows over time- not immediately. So love the people you see every day…little by little…lot by lot…you’ll eventually see a seed sprout from barren ground.

This is what availability ultimately looks like: loving your neighbor.

But often as Jesus followers, we get too BUSY “saving the world” that we forget to save our own neighbor…

  • Too busy changing the world to change our own communities.
  • Too busy to change the heart closest to ours.
  • Too busy to change the heart next door.

But this is because we forget that changing your community IS changing the world. You CAN’T change the whole world. Only God can do that. But He can certainly use you where you are to work on a certain part of it. Perhaps this is the calling you were MADE for. Don’t miss it while looking for other places to love on the internet.

Love who you are, where you are…so that people may be loved where they are…which may be right next to YOU.

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things,42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” // Luke 10:38-42

How to Embrace an Unseen Love on a Very Seen Valentines Day // a love letter to the skeptics

Dear People,

As humans, we are constantly wishing someone would desire to pursue us in some way. Whether for a romantic relationship, a job position, or simply as a friend, we WANT to be WANTED.

Yet, when we hear of this Jesus who we cannot see, we get real skeptical. We assume He’s not actually going to take care of us. How could He if I can’t see Him??? As a result, we get SCARED. I think this unbelief in God is the root of all fear.

Instead of trusting that God is constantly pursuing us in love, we just try to run away. We run to other humans in hope that they will fix everything that is wrong.

But WAIT. Think about your problems for a minute. Where does most of your stress come from?

  • Your thoughts.
  • Your internal reactions doused in anxiety and doubt.
  • Your worry that ___ won’t turn out right.
  • Your poor self-image.
  • Your insecurities.
  • What ___ thinks of you.

Now let’s re-assess:

Are any of those things actually SEEN?

Can anyone know you are internally terrified by merely looking at you?

No.

Can we actually CONTROL what someone thinks of us?

No.

Can anyone FULLY know what’s going on in your heart?

No.

So can a seen human fully fix the unseen brokenness in you?

No.

I will never forget the day I had a complete breakdown all by myself. I was a puddle of tears. It was in that moment that I first realized how the pain in my heart was not something a phone call from my mom or a hug from my boyfriend at the time could have solved. I cried out to the only One who could possibly understand the war that was being waged inside of me. I knew that God KNEW me. And that changed everything. I met Him with my head pressed into the wall of a bathroom stall.

He truly did meet me in my pain and suffering in a way that NO HUMAN could have tried to orchestrate. I felt like my heart was thrown onto the floor of that bathroom stall in a way that ONLY HE could have come and mended.

And friends, He did.

He heard my cries.

He broke through the lies.

If you are having trouble accepting love from a God you can’t see, remember that the most broken parts of you are ALSO unseen to the world. See, we REQUIRE an unseen God to fix the unseen mess in each of us.

Know also that no human can love your heart like the One who MADE it.

Remember this too:

No purpose or future could ever be planned better than the One who created time and space.

& No space in your heart could ever be fully filled by a temporary source. Like ice cream, worldly thing always leave us wanting MORE.

& Only God has the MORE you are looking for.

Life is a blink in relation to eternity. Don’t spend your blink in darkness.

Lift your eyes to the L I G H T.

To His light.

To His love.

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” -Jesus // John 8:12

Happy Valentines Day.

Love,

Just a girl in love with Love Himself. {for God IS love}

<< PS: >>

~A note to the other single gals like me…~

{God is growing a tree out of you. Your roots are reaching deep into God’s heart. Keep that growth going. Because one day, if your tree keeps reaching its roots down into His soil and your limbs keep reaching up towards Heaven, your branches will eventually collide with someone else’s. Then two trees will become one. However, if one tree’s roots aren’t firmly planted in the soil, it will try to put all of its own weight onto that other tree it ran into. Don’t stunt anyone’s growth by resisting your own. Also know that trees take TIME to grow. It never happens overnight. It takes patience, watering and weathering for it to not only grow, but to grow STRONG.}

// But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. 8They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” // Jeremiah 17:7-8

When God Wakes You Up at 3am // What’s actually W O R T H it here?

“B R E A T H E.” He said.

It’s the dead of the night.

I am in a cabin surrounded by about 16 other sleeping college students.

I wake up with a jerk because my asthmatic lungs stopped doing their job enough for me to get jolted awake.

Earlier in the night, maybe an hour before this moment, my shortness of breath had sent me into a terrifying spiral of thoughts. I experienced a chilling realization of my own fragility:

  • It hit me just how TEMPORARY those labored breaths were…
  • how they could fully STOP at any moment…
  • how I could reach the END of my existence so easily.
  • And how I had NO control of when that end would come.

Now what prompted these thoughts was the fact that my own brother, who I have always seen as the perfect picture of success out of college, had suddenly been sent to the ER for a rare and major health issue that afternoon. He is better now, but if it had not been caught so early, who knows what could have happened.

As a result, I found myself staring into a dark ceiling thinking about just how easy it is for everything we STRESS about so much on a daily basis (a solid job, advancement, marriage, high achievement, etc.) to become completely IRRELEVANT in the face of life and death. In other words, a supposed “great future” can be completely derailed by the instability of humanity.  

Yikes. Okay I know this sounds a bit depressing. However, I am finding that sometimes we need to get real about dying in order to get real about why & how we are living. God never sugarcoats pain or truth in the Bible, so I don’t intend to either.

With all of this in mind during such a moment of gripping realization, I did the only thing I could:

I asked God what He thought about my thoughts.

I’ve found in recent months that the answers to our anxieties are really that simple: just ask God what He thinks. He will replace the fears with truths. Naturally, if You believe He’s with you like a friend (because He is), He will answer. In fact, He WANTS to.

[ SIDE NOTE: Not one prayer goes unheard or unanswered. Sure, you may not always like the answer- but if He’s the God of the universe working for your good and His glory…why should we ever think to question His answers?! Seriously, if someone really loves you and you BELIEVE that, why would you doubt that an outcome is the right one? Doubts about what God is doing in your life is just a lack of belief that He’s actually who He says He is. The moment you let go & realize that He is not only REAL, but LISTENING and FOR your heart…you will find that He has been and always will be RIGHT HERE. Not in the clouds. Heaven is so much closer than you know…surrender and you’ll find that He’s living IN you. This changed EVERYTHING for me. ]

So what happened?

He answered.

Really.

& Here’s H O W:

About an hour later after all of these unsettling thoughts, I fell asleep.

But then the JOLT I mentioned earlier threw my body for a tailspin.

I was forced awake with the same shortness of breath- but it was out of nowhere. Typically, my shortness of breath is only BEFORE I fall asleep. I’ve never been jerked out of a deep sleep like this…I seriously have no idea what time it was.

But then something WILD happened:

Words started speaking in my mind IMMEDIATELY. It was probably one of the most real and undeniable encounters I have ever had with God in my life. Why?

Because when you wake up in the middle of the night and start speaking true things you’ve never even considered….with no intentional decision to do so, it’s not you speaking. It’s God.

And it’s the most humbling, yet peaceful thing in the world.

 I don’t remember every word of it. But this is what I remembered the morning after about the whole experience:

“Breathe.

Know your worth.

I am in everything Lauren. Everything you see and know and more. And yet you are worth more than all of that here to me.

You are right to think that your breaths are futile. But that is no reason to fear. It is a reason to be thankful for each one. Every breath is a GIFT. Be thankful for the blood coursing through your veins, the eyes you have to see, the legs you have to walk with…all blessings. Not all have such things.

But I am worth it all. I am the only thing worth living for here. The only thing that can be counted upon. All else is worth nothing. The earth melts at My Voice.”

Then He hit me with these sentences that just kept coming:

We truly are breathless until we find our BREATH in Him.

We truly are hopeless till we find our HOPE in Him.

We truly are restless until we find our REST in Him.

We truly may always feel worthless until we find our WORTH in Him.

We truly do feel LOST until we are FOUND in Him.

And in that moment, He found me. I knew who I was: made to BREATHE in HOPE that all of His children could find this same REST and WORTH in His presence. That each person that God designed could come to this realization: that they are ever loved and ever FOUND in Him. This is why giving my life to Him is worth EVERYTHING….because we are worth EVERYTHING to Him.

So YES: all is passing away….the earth MELTS at His Voice. But I RISE at it. I come ALIVE. In a bunk in the darkness after praying for answers. I will RISE to tell the people of the world about their worth. He is making all things beautiful.

{ So friend, if you are questioning who you are right now…or who God made you to be…just ask Him what He thinks. He delights in answering His children with love. And this is a love we CAN’T question…for Jesus died & rose in order to express it to the fullest possible extent. So don’t be afraid to whisper to The Spirit. He’s right here waiting. He wants to tell you just how treasured you are in His eyes. }

“We love because he first loved us.” // 1 John 4:19 //

The Key to Purpose // Maybe You’ve Got the Wrong Door.

Ever tried to jam a key into the wrong door? I have. Last year I always made the mistake of trying to use my college dorm key to get into my family home. It was out of habit, but it still got on my nerves as I vigorously struggled to make the key magically open a door it was clearly not made to open.

And if you think about it, a key without the right door is pretty worthless. For example, if you can’t remember where any of the keys on your key chain were meant to fit, their heavy jangling presence will eventually become annoying to the point that you begin to wonder why you have continued to lug them around in the first place. Without the right door, it all just seems pointless.

I think this is why people get frustrated with their lives. We spend years upon years attempting to force something we want to happen- like jamming a key into a door we long to open. And even when it DOES happen, sometimes it still doesn’t feel right. There’s something missing. The door was forced open, but there’s still an emptiness that can’t be denied. Now I know this is a touchy subject, but think about the amount of suicides that occur among the rich and famous. If the key to life were money and renown, wouldn’t they be satisfied? They have everything the world says is the key to a happy life. And yet, often it’s not a happy life at all. What’s wrong?

Now I could throw out the old cliché “money can’t buy happiness”. And yes, that’s true. But that doesn’t solve the problem. If money and fame can’t buy happiness, WHAT DOES?

I believe the answer is PURPOSE.

Most people want to feel a part of something greater than themselves. They want some kind of meaning to this often very difficult life. To explain it better, let’s bring it back to the key analogy:

If a key without the right door seems worthless, wouldn’t a person without the right purpose feel the same way?

Perhaps this is why people become unsatisfied with their lives…they feel just that: worthless, unwanted, and alone amidst the masses. Like an unused key without awareness of the door it was specifically designed to open.

See that’s just it. You were DESIGNED to do something beautifully fulfilling for a Creator who longs to fulfill the purpose He created you for. He has been waiting your whole life for you to realize who He MADE YOU to be. He calls us all at different times and in different ways. However, He isn’t the kind of Father who will force you to do something against your will. He gives you the freedom to make a choice. He loves you enough to let you choose. But unless you choose to seek Him, you may never truly find the purpose God made you for. It will always feel like you’re jamming a key into a door that wasn’t made for you.

Think about it:

How can creation know what it was meant to do if it never consults the One who created it? It’s like the French press coffee maker I just got for Christmas. Without reading the directions written by those who created the product, I would have had NO CLUE how to use it. Seriously, I was so in awe of the item that I would never have dared to accidentally break it by trying to fabricate my own way of using it. I knew that in order to PROTECT the product, I needed to use it how it was DESIGNED to be used. And man, was it WORTH IT!!! It changed my coffee lover life completely. {Side note: Go buy a French press. You won’t regret it.}

But the point is that if I had not read the directions, the machine would not have worked the way it was meant to. Furthermore, when used for the wrong purpose, I easily could have broken it.

And isn’t that what we do with our lives when we don’t know our purposes? We know where we want to go, but never consult the Creator as to if that’s even the right direction for our lives. So what happens? We often try to write our own instructions and end up broken, confused, frustrated, and questioning everything.

It only makes sense that we wonder if God is really there when we neglect to connect with Him in the first place. That’s like receiving a key without asking the key maker what is was made for. All you had to do was ask. But God took it a step further. He even gave us an instruction manual to answer any other questions about our purpose we may have. It’s called His Word.  

See, our failure to hear God’s purpose for our lives is not His lack of communication…but our own negligence of praying, pausing to LISTEN for HIs answers, & reading the Bible…the grand instruction manual that tells us what we were made for….where our keys were made to fit.

Society often tells us that if the door doesn’t open, break it down yourself– no matter who gets hurt in the process. However, there’s something we forget in the process of breaking down a door we weren’t made to open. The one who may actually get broken down is YOU. You might be the one who gets hurt- not the people you pushed down on the way there.

See, when it comes to both people and keys, there are so many little edges and indentations intentionally designed into them for specific reasons. Many of these little edges go very much unnoticed or unidentified. With this in mind, only the Creator alone knows these nuances FULLY.

So if you are jamming yourself into a purpose without even fully knowing who you are, it’s really easy to feel like something is wrong with you when you feel like you don’t fit right:

  • Fit right into that career path
  • Fit right into that relationship
  • Fit right into that body image you want
  • Fit right into that community of friends

If you don’t know WHO you are, how can you know HOW you were meant to belong in the world? And if you don’t know WHOSE you are, then how can you know WHO you are?

And if we don’t know who we are, we are more likely to toss somebody else our key and expect them to provide us with our purpose and identity instead. And as a result, we are likely to get hurt by someone who didn’t even know what to do with their OWN key.

If only someone were to come and stamp on our identities for us. If only someone were to come down here and tell us FACE TO FACE that our Creator has the right door waiting for us. Maybe then we would find our purpose…and most of all: our WORTH.

Thankfully, Jesus did. He came to earth to speak right into our trembling eyes full of fear: “I hold the keys. And I am more than capable of holding your heart too. God made you and the door, but I am the way to that door. And it leads to Heaven. So don’t be afraid.”

Look, it’s right in the instruction manual:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe in Me as well. In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and welcome you into My presence, so that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

“Lord,” said Thomas, “we do not know where You are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.  //John 14:1-6// [emphasis added]

In other words, Jesus is The One who can guide you to the door for which you were created to open.

Because when it come to keys:

God made them. Jesus holds them. And the Holy Spirit leads them. This is why we trust Him.

{PS: All other doors lead us elsewhere. And let me tell you- you and I don’t want to go “elsewhere” if it’s not Heaven.}

The C H A S E // Controlling your Brain Space

Have you ever stopped to think about what you always think about?

Seriously.

What have you been thinking MOST about in the last 20 minutes? Or perhaps the past 20 days? Or if you’re my age, the past 20 years?

Are you contemplating the future? Work? School? A significant other? Or perhaps if you haven’t met them yet…the IDEA of a significant other?

Have you ever had trouble sleeping because you were just too wired on the inside to fall asleep?? Have you ever felt like your mind was running in circles over and over again? As if you were chasing your own tail like a dog??

I think when our minds are racing it’s because we are unsatisfied with what we are chasing.

Think about it:

  • We are always chasing something; whether we’d like to admit it or not. We are typically chasing a career, a marriage, or some kind of image in our minds that we believe the future should look like. It’s chasing what we WANT to be known in the unknown.
  • However, there’s an issue that you and I both know about the unknown. We can’t see it, touch it, or control it. So we drive ourselves CRAZY trying to make sure the unknown goes as planned. We want it to be OUR perfect little story wrapped with a nice big bow.

Now I already know what you are probably thinking. You think I am going to tell you to chase God over your worries. But I am not.

“WHAT? LAUREN YOU HAVE CHANGED YOUR TUNE.” –maybe your thoughts?

And perhaps I have. But actually, it wasn’t me. It was God. He nudged me the other day with this truth:

“You don’t need to chase Me. For I am already standing right beside you. You need not to look very far to find me. Just believe. However, DO chase my Kingdom and my righteousness…and all else will fall into place.”

That’s a promise folks. And upon further investigation, it comes straight from what Jesus told His followers in Matthew 6:

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. //Matthew 6:31-34//

So basically if we chase the advancement of His Kingdom through seeking to understand His righteousness (which means doing our best to act in accordance with what’s morally right in His eyes), we never should have a reason to worry. He’s got everything taken care of. Seems easy right? Well, I’d like to say it is. But God knew that the only way to do this was through reliance on Him and His grace. We can’t do this on our own. It’s just not possible.

But what happens when we feel like we are following Jesus but STILL have our minds race at night?? I think it has to do with your brain space.

And here’s what I mean by brain space:

We spend a certain amount of time thinking about the necessary things like school, work, family and friends. That’s fine. But then there’s that extra brain space that we dwell in a LOT between classes or other important activities. It’s the space we fill with the things we WANT to think about, not the things we HAVE to think about. Some fill it with thoughts about TV shows or gossip. Others fill it with thoughts about chasing guys or girls. And a ton of us spend it worrying about the future. To test where your brain space is at, think about what you think about while driving. This is the best example of the extra brain space I’m talking about.

To be completely honest, I didn’t realize how much extra brain space I had until I started the journey of cleaning it out this semester. God gently showed me that in order to truly seek God and find His voice in my mind, I needed to dig out the things causing unnecessary anxiety. It turned out that my worries about worldly things were taking up a lot of space that needed to be freed up in order for me to really connect to Him.

This is I have found to be true during this process:

Filling your brain space with chasing the unknown simply leads you down a stressful rabbit hole. Because there will ALWAYS be an unknown future while you’re living here on earth, there will always be something that comes NEXT that you can’t control. And if there’s always a “next” that you can’t control, you are ALWAYS going to be worried about that “next”. It’s a vicious cycle.

And as a result, you’ll spend every hour of your life stressed out and filled with worry. Your mind will feel like it’s on a permanent wild goose chase. And if you are always on “worry mode”, it is no wonder that it is difficult for you to sleep peacefully. How does one “power down” when your entire day’s only constant is worrying? It’s how you live. So it only makes sense that it would impact how you sleep. You can’t just immediately shut down at night what has become your coping mechanism all day.

And these “worry circles” that invade our sleep don’t add any more brain space. They just make us feel like our brains are going to IMPLODE! Jesus said it best. We can’t add hours to the day by worrying about the next one:

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[e]? //Matthew 6:26-27//

But let’s take this a step deeper.

See, I think a lot of spend so much time worrying because we are chasing the wrong things. But if we were to ACTUALLY believe in God…and FULLY BELIEVE in who He is…our brain space would stop being filled with all these worries. And to prove it, I have found this not to be some idealistic and christianized fantasy…but a very, very REAL and POSSIBLE reality this semester.

Think about it: if the only thing that will ever continue after this life is God’s Kingdom, why do we put so much emphasis in our minds on what will ultimately perish?  It doesn’t make sense if we are on our way to Heaven to be so focused on anything but. Heavenly connections endure forever, earthly ones don’t. But something is keeping us from believing this. Something is telling us that happiness can only be found right here in this world. But who would do that?? What would cause our minds to chase things of this world and not those of Heaven???

Well here’s a truth that you and I probably don’t like to come to terms with:

Sometimes in our chase of worldly things, it’s actually the devil that is chasing us.

Death is something tempting you every day with decisions that may lead you closer to it.

We think we are chasing a future. We think we are chasing success. We think we are chasing perfection. But in chasing these things over the Kingdom of God, we are actually the ones BEING chased. Because death says “do this now and you’ll be happy and have tons of money and you will be well liked here on earth.” So you do the thing. You take the risk. You think, “this will get me closer to contentment.” But in reality, death is just pulling you further away from Heaven and closer to himself.

But fear not, because thankfully- this is NOT the end of the story. There is another force CONSTANTLY chasing you too. And that’s your perfect Father…who would do ANYTHING to hold your heart and bring it HOME where it belongs. You were not made to be another lost cause. You weren’t made to be a casualty in this war that’s already been won. It is God’s victory, not death’s.

See, the devil likes to make you think that he’s the one who’s winning. He will do whatever it takes to tell you that you are just another person without worth. He will forge any lie to make your mind run mad. He WANTS your mind to race. He WANTS you to think that your only worth comes from things of this world. Because if you believe your success comes from looks or money, you are less likely to turn to God to chase anything else.  

And as a result, you may start to find that your life has become about a full schedule, not a full heart.

Yikes. Let me be the first to say that this was NOT how I expected this blog to go. But I am finding that what we chase in our minds ultimately has a strong hold on us. And all I want for you and me is that the strongest hold on us would be that of Heaven, not hell. Can I get an amen?

So now I challenge you: who or what has the most control over what you think about? What are you thinking about most when driving? When walking between classes or events? I’ve got a lot of work to do. And maybe you do too. We aren’t perfect. But we do have a perfect God. You don’t have to chase Him. He’s right next to you waiting for you to ask WHAT to chase. I sincerely believe that Heaven CAN be found on earth if you chase it. He can turn our worries into worship.

And what if your time spent chasing a guy could have been spent asking God WHO He wants you to wait for? What if HOW you find that special someone is THROUGH chasing after God’s Kingdom here on earth? What if that future you hope to have is DWARFED by God’s plan if you had only chased God’s Kingdom calling for your life? What if life with a full heart is BETTER than that of life with a full schedule? What if PEACE were only found through chasing His Will, not your own? What if He’s greater than you think? More beautiful than you are believing? Open up your brain space…

And THINK about it.

// PS: //

{What if the minute you opened up your brain space…God told you crazy things like the things in this blog that are NOT from me. What if He revealed the truth. I can attest that these words are the result of letting go. I opened my brain space and He filled it with wisdom and peace…and more of it than I could ever have found on my own.}

What Do You Do When God Says No? // Lessons From a Shooting Star

I prayed so hard to see a shooting star in St. Simons. I looked, I watched, I waited. I believed God could do it. I knew He could make a shooting star appear. I just wanted it right in that moment. In faith, I prayed. I don’t even know why I wanted to see one so bad. I guess it was due to the fact that I had never seen one before. So naturally, in a clear night sky like this one had to be the PERFECT time, right?! Of course!!!

But no, it never came.

The sky was beautiful, but the only thing that darted across the sky was a plane. Honestly, I was disappointed when the prayer wasn’t answered. I got back in the car a bit dejected. Now I know this is a very small example- but I think a lot of us do this. We pray in expectancy that God is going to answer a prayer immediately and in the way that we see fit in the moment. When it doesn’t happen, we get confused. We ask, “if I believed, why didn’t I receive?”

However, God showed me that I was believing in what He could do, but NOT in who He was.

In fact, I wasn’t believing in God so much as looking for proof of His presence. As a a result, God reminded me that day not to test Him. That’s just not how He operates.

So about a month later in the mountains in North Carolina, I peered into the starry sky once more. However, this time I wasn’t looking for anything. I was just standing in awe of the beauty of the stars scattered across the sky in perfect harmony. But then all of a sudden, a star shot across the sky! I had never seen one before, so it took me completely by surprise and put me in a state of wonder. I also immediately remembered the prayer I had prayed in St. Simons. It had been answered- but NOT AT ALL in the way I had expected.

God wanted to teach me something that day. He isn’t a wish granting factory, but a loving FATHER…One who would rather surprise & delight us in HIS timing, not ours. And when we really think about how He is a good Father, His wild timing begins to make more sense. What Father on earth would give their child Christmas gifts before Christmas morning?! He knows that the suspense is what makes the arrival of the gifts BETTER. And giving the gifts early diminishes the joy of Christmas morning. Like with anything, proper timing MATTERS.

Not expecting it made the gesture sweeter. The funny thing is I didn’t even know I was waiting for it. I forgot I had even prayed that prayer. Sometimes when we let go & stop thinking about something, He makes it all work out. He surprises us in HIS timing. Not one prayer goes unheard or unanswered.

{ But sometimes God doesn’t give you what you ask for in the timing you asked for it because it doesn’t glorify God in the best way. Let’s go to John 14. }

“And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” // John 14:13-14

Jesus makes it clear that He will give you what you ask SO THAT His Father may be glorified through the answer. Sometimes the things we ask for aren’t going to glorify God. We may THINK they are, but often God has a different way in mind that’s better. This does NOT mean He doesn’t hear and answer your prayers. He does. But His answer may not be what we want. He may give us a “not yet.”

But WAIT, what if the answer is a straight up NO? What if what you prayed for DOESN’T happen at all? Should we doubt and wonder if God is really there? Should we fear that all of our prayers were for simply for nothing?? No. And here’s why: His no may actually be making a way for a far better YES in the future that you aren’t even aware of yet. Or perhaps, God doesn’t answer the prayer the way we would see fit because it isn’t beneficial to anyone in the Kingdom- not even you.  

  • What if that camp counselor position you prayed for would actually keep you from an incredible internship opportunity that you had no idea existed???
  • What if that sorority exec position would keep you from getting more involved in a church that you love?
  • What if having to say no to a date night you wanted to go on was actually protecting you from a boy that you thought was good for you, but actually would have wrecked your heart?

I am speaking from experience here. I wouldn’t be writing any of this unless I had lived through this struggle of figuring out God’s timing myself. Given our limited view point of the universe, it’s extremely hard to wrap our minds around a moment when God doesn’t do what we asked. But that leads me to my next point:

The more I learn to trust God, the more I’m learning not to question when things happen the way they do.

There’s about a billion other variables that I simply cannot see. You never know if you got put in a class that you really didn’t want simply so you would meet a certain person God knew you needed in your life. Or maybe there’s a day you felt too tired to go to church. This happened to me this past Sunday. However, I felt strangely called to be there- even though I really didn’t feel like it. I asked God if He wanted me to go and I really wanted a no. But that wasn’t the answer I got.

My friend texted me and asked what time we were leaving…before I had time to back out. Next thing you know, I was driving to church for reasons I knew I didn’t fully understand. I just knew God wanted me there.  So I trusted Him and obeyed….even though I had to drag myself out of bed quite literally. Two things happened as a result of that morning: the sign that I had forgotten I had even prayed for the night before arrived the minute I turned into the church parking lot. And how could I have possibly known that the message spoken could have resulted in three hours of fervent prayer about that very topic with someone later that night?  We just have no idea why God tells us to do things. But the moment we figure it out results in even more trust in the unknown. Difficult circumstances start to look less like obstacles, and more like opportunities to see God move in ways we would NEVER have imagined.

With this mind, we no longer have to stress about the answer to this prayer: “God, please use me.”

Often we pray that God would use us and get pretty upset when we don’t feel like He is. But this is because we are looking at the world with human eyes, not God’s. In His unique timing, God can use ANYTHING to advance His Kingdom.

Now go back to John 14:14. Jesus promises us ANYTHING we ask in His Name that glorifies God. ANYTHING is a powerful word. It reminds us of how limitless our God is.

This gives us great hope because it means that He probably IS using you….but just not always in ways we can SEE. Think about it: why would an invisible God only use you for what’s visible? A heart change in a friend isn’t seen- but that doesn’t mean it’s not happening. So how does one KNOW if God is using them? You don’t. But if you prayed, God heard it and has probably been answering your prayer over and over again…but just not in ways that you can visibly understand.

So because our God can use ANYTHING, even the seemingly minuscule decisions could have GIANT impacts on other people that you may not even know this side of eternity. He could be using things you do EVERYDAY to help strangers that you have NO IDEA about.

For example:

  • A stranger in Starbucks the other day taught me a lesson from God. All he did was stand there and wait for his order. But I heard His name called out: “chase”. And because that word hit me at the PERFECT TIME, it was really significant for me. It reminded me to CHASE after God. I know it seems like a small thing, but it inspired me to write part of this blog post. And yet, his trip to Starbucks probably FELT unproductive. Yet for me, it was impactful. But he has NO IDEA. And it’s likely he never will on this side of eternity.
  • Still don’t believe in God’s timing? My life verse is Micah 6:8. Why? Some anonymous middle school boy decided to put it in a newspaper I randomly decided to read one day. I looked it up and knew those words were for me. Will that boy ever know that his choice to type up Micah 6:8 in a middle school newspaper would inspire a girl to hold onto a verse for the rest of her life? Nope.
  • Will you ever know if the smile you gave that stranger changed the trajectory of their entire day? Nope. But it could. Because God can use anything in His perfect timing.

So how does one change the world? Pray and know you’re heard. And then trust in the timing God has for you. Trust and trust again. BELIEVE that God is truly working, because He is. You can’t question the God who knows eternity when you don’t even know tomorrow.

Why? Because God taught me something else that day when I saw that shooting star. This is what I wrote in my phone notes shortly after, & it’s what I’ll close with:

“I am a shooting star. A flash of light in time that burns for only an instance. Impacting my surroundings on this planet for but a moment. But I WILL shine. Here and then gone…but not without purpose. I want to burn as a light here with all I’ve got…I want to burn with His Light until I BURST!!

All in His timing, all for His glory. God bless you.

The Milky What? // What Googling Space Taught me about God’s Kingdom

As I stared up intently into the night sky, I had never felt smaller. The beach in St. Simons was empty except for us and the glow of the moonlight illuminating the sand and sea. I had never seen the Milky Way before- and yet there it was- a gentle haze that seemed to float on for miles and miles into the infinity of space above me. I couldn’t comprehend it. I still can’t. We sat in awe of 2 grand infinities that night: space…and its Maker. The beauty of the mystery was unsurmountable.

It got me thinking about the details I didn’t know about the universe. So a day later I began googling what exactly the Milky Way is. And GUYS. I have never been more MIND BLOWN than ever before!!! And I am not just mind blown at the complexity of it all, but the INSANE ANALOGY the galaxy is to life itself!! Below I am going to break down the different parts of the Milky Way that I believe could very well represent the Kingdom of God in a far more beautiful way than I could ever put to words. I believe God created these things not just to dazzle us, but to TEACH us about Himself and how our world works. All scientific quotations are from an article on “space.com” about the Milky Way. My commentary follows the quotes:

  1. ARMS OF LIGHT: “A glance up at the night sky reveals a broad swath of light. Described by the ancients as a river, as milk, and as a path, among other things, the band has been visible in the heavens since Earth first formed. In reality, this intriguing line of light is the center of our galaxy, as seen from one of its outer arms.”

I see this to be the Body of Christ. This line of light is like Jesus’s legacy on earth. As Christians, we live our lives to follow it and become His “arm” on earth to reach others in His Name. Like a river flowing through us, Jesus is always working in and through His people to bring light to the darkness. We can become His lights to thicken this trail- like a trail of stars in the Milky Way.

“Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” –John 7:38

  1. 3 MAIN PARTS: “The Milky Way is a barred spiral galaxy, about 100,000 light-years across. If you could look down on it from the top, you would see a central bulge surrounded by four large spiral arms that wrap around it. Spiral galaxies make up about two-third of the galaxies in the universe. Unlike a regular spiral, a barred spiral contains a bar across its center region, and has two major arms.”

Woa- doesn’t this seem like a representation of the trinity? One bar spans the breadth of the entire galaxy. The other two arms branch from it. God is like the bar the spans the entirety of creation. And yet, two other arms: The Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ are also connected to it. Like the trinity, the arms of light are each unique parts of the galaxy, but still make up ONE galaxy.

  1. ALWAYS MOVING: “The Milky Way does not sit still, but is constantly rotating. As such, the arms are moving through space. The sun and the solar system travel with them. The solar system travels at an average speed of 515,000 mph (828,000 km/h). Even at this rapid speed, the solar system would take about 230 million years to travel all the way around the Milky Way.”

So we are ALWAYS moving!! We often think God isn’t moving because we can’t SEE Him moving. And yet, He always is. That’s just like how we can’t see the galaxy moving, but yet we are ALWAYS going 515,000 mph?!

  1. COMPRESSED TO MAKE NEW CREATION: “Spiral arms are like traffic jams in that the gas and stars crowd together and move more slowly in the arms. As material passes through the dense spiral arms, it is compressed and this triggers more star formation,” said Camargo.

I see this like our lives with trial on earth. We are all crowded together wherever we are in the world. And sometimes we get hit by trials in a way that we are compressed. Our limits are tested. However, we end up finding Christ through that struggle so that we too can become a light. So in essence, a new “star” is formed.

  1. HELD BY A HALO: “Our galaxy is surrounded by an enormous halo of hot gas that extends for hundreds of thousands of light-years. The gas halo is estimated to be as massive as all of the stars in the Milky Way. Like the galaxy itself, the halo is spinning rapidly.”

I see this as the equivalent of angels.  We are constantly surrounded by angels watching over us without even realizing it. It’s like they are “spinning” all around us. How interesting is it that this part of the galaxy is even called a “halo”? I know I sound crazy making these connections, but all of this is so exciting to me!!

  1. LIMITED SIGHT: “At the center of the galaxy is the galactic bulge. The heart of the Milky Way is crammed full of gas, dust, and stars. The bulge is the reason that you can only see a small percentage of the total stars in the galaxy. Dust and gas within it are so thick that you can’t even peer into the bulge of the Milky Way, much less see out the other side.”

This is like how we CAN’T SEE ETERNITY. We only have a limited viewpoint of our lives. In fact, we can only see what’s happening NOW and what’s happened in the past. This fact alone I believe is the source of everyone’s anxieties. We can’t see the future, so we live our lives stressing about it. And as a result of knowing there’s an end point to our lives, we try to cram everything in before that time comes. We get in our heads that unless we achieve the “perfect life” within the numbered days, we will be unhappy. We freak out over this idea of a “time limit”. And yet, stressing about the end point was never meant to be the purpose of our existence. With Jesus as our Savior, there is NO time limit. Heaven is our home- so everything here, which is just a tiny section of eternity, is meant to feed into that destination. Ultimately, what I am saying is that everything is meant to be done with Heaven in mind, not the “perfect American dream” life. God never intended for us to freak out about earth’s imperfections, just our Heaven centered connections. We are supposed to be living without a fixed limit as we fix our eyes on Him.

 “For our light and temporary affliction is producing for us an eternal glory that far outweighs our troubles. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” -2 Corinthians 4:17-18

  1. THE BLACK HOLE: “Tucked inside the very center of the galaxy is a monstrous black hole, billions of times as massive as the sun. This supermassive black hole may have started off smaller, but the ample supply of dust and gas allowed it to gorge itself and grow into a giant. The greedy glutton also consumes whatever stars it can get a grip on. Although black holes cannot be directly viewed, scientists can see their gravitational effects as they change and distort the paths of the material around it, or as they fire off jets. Most galaxies are thought to have a black hole in their heart.”

 WOA. Stop for a minute. Read that again. Galaxies have BLACK HOLES IN THEIR HEARTS?! And they “consume whatever stars they can get a grip on”?! And though they “can’t be directly viewed,” they can change and “distort the paths of the material around it”. YIKES! Guys I can’t help but think of hell. This is a crazy similarity that I refuse to see as a coincidence. How often does the devil try to get a grip on Christians, create a black hole in their hearts, and then suck them away from a life in Christ? These black holes ultimately do one certain thing: EXTINGUISH LIGHTS FROM THE GALAXY.

Wow. So with ALL of this in mind, it doesn’t sound so crazy anymore to believe in a God who loves us…who is INFINITELY for us. We are suspended in an infinity that we already barely can understand as it is! And that’s just the things we can SEE! Imagine the works happening in this world and beyond us that we CAN’T see! Doesn’t it also just make sense that an infinite God would have infinite creation? And if we were created for infinity {for eternity is set on the human heart- see Ecclesiastes 3:11}, why do we spend so much of our lives stressed about what’s temporary? If I was made for Heaven and who I take with me, peace can resound because things made for infinity are not in my hands to decide. All He requires of me is to trust Him and live with open hands till He says it’s time to come home. These verses sum it up best:

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” –James 1:17

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” –Psalm 19:1

What’s Your Cure for Fear? // Open Heart vs Open Road

 A girl stumbles into a room with a lot of broken, dilapidating walls. She looks around in confusion. She feels trapped. Her heart is breaking. Her tears hit the wood. With every passing breath, she feels a heaviness settle on her soul. She’s in the dark.

They told her: “Climb this mountain away from the world. Go to this door. You’ll be safe there. No one will be there to hurt you. Time away will heal your broken heart. No one will be there to let you down. Your fears won’t be an issue. Just stay away from the scary, the bad, and the hard- and you’ll be happy.”

But she finds no comfort in the creaks of the floors or the peeling of the wallpaper. The hollow silence is deafening. No one is there to heal her heart. These walls are no help. Time itself only makes it worse. It was then that she realized it: she had fallen prey to a lie that was meant to keep her SAFE from lies. And now she’s trapped. She spent so much time finding ways to build walls between herself and the pain of the world that she accidentally cut herself off entirely from freedom.

Don’t a lot of us do this though? Don’t we all gravitate towards places that require the least amount of risk to our happiness? We run from the uncomfortable in favor of what’s “safe”.

However, what if this pursuit of “safe” was costing us more than we realized?

 Society often tells us that the best cure for fear is simply running away from it. The idea of “safety” sounds so inviting. If you do this or buy that, you’ll be safe. However, I am learning these days that society’s version of “safety” is actually just letting fear control your life. Yes, it seems safe to stay in your house all day without the risk of getting hit by a car. It sounds safe to have TONS of money stored up with no intention of using the extra to help other people. Giving it away could possibly take away from the comfortable lifestyle you want to live.

When contemplating this topic, I think of the movie A Christmas Story. In the movie, one of the children is forced by his mother to wear an extremely large and constricting coat to be kept warm in the cold. The kid can’t even put his arms down, much less walk like a normal human being! It’s truly a hilarious scene. But needless to say, the poor guy isn’t likely to do anything productive in that coat. However, by the world’s standards- he is “safe” from getting frostbite or a nasty cold.

Now while I certainly condone wearing coats if it’s cold, I don’t believe that we should be coating our lives with ridiculous amounts of protective measures designed to keep us so safe that we completely lose our ability to do anything of real value. If we live our lives running from the hard, uncomfortable, and daunting- will we ever truly accomplish anything? Or will we live it driven by fear? And if we are driven by fear, will it lead to an open road or an open heart?

Open roads are lonely. Open hearts lead to life change.

The open road is running away. The open heart is dealing with what’s right in front of you- even when it’s hard.

Open roads sound like freedom, but only take you to dead ends. Open hearts to Jesus yield direction and purpose, not aimless running.

Because here’s a scary truth: you CAN’T run from YOURSELF.

No matter how many roads you take to get away from those frustrations….whether it be finding a safe place in the mountains or in the depths of your Netflix and social media accounts….you can’t help the fears that live inside you. You take them WHEREVER you go.

BUT WAIT- this is actually such a GOOD thing:

Why? Because the cure for fear is ALSO inside you.

The “you” that you can’t run away from was made to be a home to the ONLY true safe haven on this earth. And His Name is Jesus….and He wants to replace your fears with faith. He wants to make an unbreakable home in your ever-breaking heart.

We can find immense hope in this statement; especially when we take a minute and realize that NO place on this earth is actually safe. We are always in potential danger. Just take a look at the news headlines and that can be confirmed. This is just a reality of living in a world that’s broken. But if true safety from heartache and pain can be found within ourselves, there is nothing to fear. Hurricanes and disasters may come- but God gives us the strength to rely on Him, not material things. People may break our hearts by abandoning us in a time of need. But Jesus will NEVER leave us alone. He is literally listening to your thoughts right now. And mine. He knows you better than anyone, so He will LOVE you better than everyone.

So what’s the cure for fear? The cure for your loneliness? For anxiety? Not an OPEN road leading to more brokenness and confusion. But an OPEN heart running towards Jesus- where we are ever-accepted and ever-loved.

// PS:

{ Another broken human could never fix the broken in me. Only my Maker could do that. This is why marriage isn’t what heals broken hearts either. We were made to love God and THEN each other….to have a constant love supply with which to GIVE, not take from others. If God isn’t our FIRST love supply, a person will never be able to fill that void. When we use people to try and fill the space, it may just lead to unmet expectations, bitterness, or divorce. In the words of Andy Stanley, let’s stop living in “debtor relationships”. Love is not love if it is owed…only if it’s freely GIVEN. }