Let’s Talk…

If I could describe our country right now with one word it would be divisive. It can be overwhelming and deeply upsetting when you stop and look around at the world and see that everyone is at odds with someone. The majority of these groups I cannot speak on behalf of or pretend to relate to their experience. In fact, I cannot do that for some people in my so called “group”. I’m talking about believers – people who claim Jesus as their Savior. The divisiveness is not limited to conversation amongst believers and nonbelievers. There is tension and animosity directed at each other. The world is so splintered by different ideologies, different experiences, and different truths. People have lost the ability to come together despite these things.

Throughout my awareness of this, I’ve been observing and wondering how we can claim to know a loving and grace-giving God when we ourselves cannot extend love and grace to one another. How do we communicate who Jesus is if we seem to have forgotten ourselves? The constant exposure to people’s opinions and beliefs via the internet and social media have particularly twisted me up inside. There is nothing more heart wrenching than seeing someone claim to know and love God and simultaneously spew hate-filled rhetoric on their Facebook wall. Seeing divisiveness anywhere in the world is upsetting but I think when a group you identify with is a part of it, it is particularly painful.

Like I said, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about ways to solve this problem that seems to grow worse with time. It breaks my heart to think about how our world has taken an opportunity – the ability to see and hear other’s stories with such ease – and completely turned it upside down. Shouldn’t we be closer? Shouldn’t we have more empathy? Shouldn’t there be bridges being built instead of burned? After asking myself these questions, I think at the root of this problem we don’t know how to communicate. We are stuck in this war with others because we aren’t able to communicate with them. We believe our truth and shout it, unwilling to uncover our ears. We stomp our feet and ignore compassion within the collective of those supporting us. We keep staring into the eyes of our fellow man and woman, all the while not seeing them.

It is incredible that all groups now have a platform. We are all able to see and be seen, hear and be heard. Yet, we still aren’t communicating in a way that solves problems. Platforms for everyone isn’t enough. So what do we do?

Could it really be as simple as changing how we engage one another? Could the divisiveness in our world (especially our country) be solved so easily?

I think so.

You know why? Because Jesus did it and it worked.

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Jesus showed us how in one of my favorite stories in the Bible. When you look closely, there is a timeless, incredible message that teaches us the solution to this communication problem in our world.

Let me set the stage. Jesus was traveling from Judea to Galilee and passed through a town in Samaria. Tired from his journey, he stopped at a well in the town for water and rest.

A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) John 4:7-9

This is HUGE. During this time, for Jesus to talk to a woman, especially a Samaritan woman, was remarkable. If we think there are issues in our world, look no further than the Jews and Samaritans. Politics and religion were at the center of this conflict (sound familiar?).

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said it true.” John 4:16-18

After Jesus begins to explain to the woman who he is, he asks her about her husband even though he already knows her story. He knows her sin and her brokenness. So, for a Jewish man to speak to a Samaritan woman with her history is even more remarkable. These two people could not be any more different. Yet, Jesus does not speak to her with disdain or disrespect. As a result, the woman listens and responds in kind.

The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” John 4:25-26

When his disciples return, the woman goes to her people and tells them about Jesus. Her heart has been changed as a result of their conversation and she wants to share it.

Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. John 4:39-41

Because of his word.  Can you imagine if you were a Samaritan during that time and a woman from your town who you knew had a checkered past told you she spoke with a Jewish rabbi? Can you imagine her speaking about the experience without anger or shame or embarrassment? Wouldn’t that make you pause and wonder? I fully believe that those people followed that woman to the well not because of what she was telling them but because of the unbelievable way Jesus communicated with her. They were shocked! They had to see it for themselves.

If you’re a Christian, this really sets the stage for how we communicate with others. We shouldn’t hold the expectation for nonbelievers to change the conversation. It isn’t up to nonbelievers to break down walls and uncover their ears. It’s up to those who follow Jesus. Jesus models for us how to flip the script. He’s telling us how to engage with others. He’s telling us how to communicate! We are meant to rise above the emotions and “truths” we fall victim to as a result of our brokenness and our culture. When we see someone who is the Samaritan woman to our Jewish rabbi, we aren’t supposed to judge, anonymously criticize on social media, or ignore what they have to say. Jesus spoke to her like an equal, all the while changing her heart. That is what we are meant to do. 

It is possible to stay true to who we are and maintain our beliefs while still valuing another’s opinion and voice. Jesus did it. His communication was radical. It was radical because it was filled with love. So, Jesus communicated with love and it worked. People listened, even those he had no common ground with whatsoever.

 You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you Matthew 5:43-44

We are called to love everyone – those who follow Jesus and those who don’t, kind people and unkind people, our neighbors and our enemies. This means that when we communicate with anyone, we must do so with love.

When we love someone, we listen and we discern. When we love someone, we hope for reciprocation and not retaliation. When we love someone, we seek a “to be continued” and not a closed book. When we communicate with love, we see understanding instead of division.

I’m not saying this is an easy thing. I’m not saying I do it all the time. What I am saying is that this is the only solution to the divide in our world. This is the only way to heal the fractured hearts of those who cannot find common ground. It is up to those who know Jesus to set the stage for others in how to engage and communicate. We are not built to do so naturally. We are flawed, emotional beings who have a natural instinct to attack and defend and divide and “be right”. It is only through Jesus that we can communicate with love.

 

A Thief Named Comparison

“Comparison is the thief of joy”…a quote most of us are familiar with and one we keep in our back pocket as a tidbit of wisdom for others. However, how often do you find yourself struggling with comparison and letting it rob you blind? Me? All the time. I am the most guilty of forgetting to live by the words I so freely give to others.

With social media, it can be hard to not question your life when it is held up against someone else’s. I remember the first time it affected me. I unfortunately entered my teen years when Myspace became a thing. I was fourteen with every teenage issue under the sun. In my eyes, all my friends had blossomed and I was just stuck in this weird in-between place that left me feeling like a big loser. I wanted to be cooler, wanted a boyfriend (my eyes are rolling), and just wanted to be comfortable in my own skin. Looking back, I don’t think I was feeling much different than any of my peers. It wasn’t until my flaws and insecurities were put out on display that comparison took on an infectious tone.

I remember the process of picking a profile picture, and the painstaking attention I gave in the hopes of showing everyone my best self. It’s incredible, right? That desire to be who we think we need to be in order to please others. The sad part is that my best self wasn’t good enough. Atleast, not when I compared it to someone else’s. I can still recall the feelings and thoughts I had then.

If only I didn’t have braces like ______. [embarrassment]

If only my hair were a different color like _______. [jealousy]

If only I were smaller like _______. [disgust]

I had felt uncomfortable in my skin before, but I think putting yourself out there in such an intimate way in a non-intimate space is extremely toxic. I was so concerned with how I appeared in relation to others. As a teenager, I wasn’t sure how to navigate my own self-worth, and being bombarded with this freedom to compare was really harmful. I felt it deeply and am still aware of its effect on me to this day.

You would hope that on the other side of adolescence I would reflect on my past mistakes and rise above them. I wish. To be completely honest, the season of life Justin and I are in is wrought with comparison problems (then again, isn’t every season?). I cannot begin to tell you the amount of conversations we have had about money and purchases we are “supposed” to make because everyone else around us seems to be. If we lived in a bubble, we would be perfectly content with our lives and what we have. Yet, we connect with people through technology and are bombarded with beautiful pictures of vacations, images of fancy new cars, and stories of buying houses and perfect jobs. We just look at each other and ask…how? How is that not us? How are we the ones “struggling” in this season of life? Now, I’m going to press pause on this train of thought because it is really something I want to dive into deeper at a later time.

So to wrap this up, I obviously still struggle with comparison. It still steals my joy. But you know what? I’m not alone. Even though it can feel like you are the only one, we all feel the toxicity of comparison. Myspace has turned into Facebook and Instagram. Digital cameras have turned into iPhones. Photoshop has changed how we view beauty. People curate their lives to appear perfect. It’s a real struggle to be content in the world we live in. Technology has taken away our ability to disengage and just be. When you’re constantly surrounded by other people’s stories, you don’t have a chance to rest in your truth and your contentment.

So, how do we fight it?

How do we attempt to take back our joy when it seems like our culture thrives on comparison?


I feel like I could write a book on this topic but I’m going to do my best to narrow it down to two ways I’ve managed comparison stealing my joy. Just know, I’m honestly doing my best to live this out, but I fail all. the. time. In fact, comparison is such a “normal” thing that the toxic nature often goes unchecked. Everyone compares! Everyone feels bad about themselves! It’s how we get better! It’s “normal”.

Well, it may be “normal” but it is not okay.

So, let’s get to it:

1. You are the only you in the world. You matter more than you will ever know. This is so, so important. Every single one of us was put on this earth with a purpose. No one else can do it but YOU. Every thing you do, every relationship you cultivate, and every moment you take a breath are intimately woven into our world’s story. You are perfectly you.

Now, this is where it gets amazing. Your Heavenly Father made you exactly as you are. It wasn’t chance. It was a purposeful and perfect creation.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:14

God made you to be you and nobody else. Don’t waste this precious gift by spending time wishing you were like someone else or had someone else’s life. Your sense of humor, the color of your skin, your love of science, your interesting past, and the nature of your laugh are all pieces of who YOU are. Whenever I start to get down on myself and feel the toxicity of comparison seeping into my heart, I like to remind myself that I am a purposeful creation. I was meant to be only me and only I can live my life. Spend a little time each day praising God for the simple act of creating you just as you are. The more time you focus on what you have, the less power comparison will have on you.

2.  Live authentically. I think we all struggle with the need to share our lives but not share the real, yucky stuff. We want to have the best profile pictures, the best friendship photos, the most likes on our picture. We want the validation that we are good enough. However, I think it is so important that we are as appropriately honest as we can be. That means we don’t share every intimate detail of our lives, but we don’t lie and pretend everything is okay.

Justin and I were on a trip once and we got into an argument right after taking a picture. The next day, I posted the picture (which was happy, loving, and perfect for Instagram) but every time I look at it, all I see is the argument. Anyone else looking at the picture would think we had the perfect vacation. The pictures we choose to share never tell the icky details. It never tells the entire, real story.

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I’m not saying that I should have detailed the history of the picture in the caption, and I’m not saying we didn’t have a wonderful vacation, but I think it is important to be mindful of how we are presenting ourselves. Looking back, I shouldn’t have posted the picture. It wasn’t an authentic moment. I just wanted validation from other people.

Honestly, that’s really hard for me to write, but it needs to be said. We can’t fix the problem if we don’t renounce it’s power. So now, I do my best to live authentically in person and on social media. I don’t share the private moments of my life, but I don’t pretend things are okay when they aren’t.

Don’t force moments to happen simply to put them out there for validation. Live your life and those “perfect” moments will come! Let others see the real, authentic joy in your life.

On the flip side, remember this when viewing other people’s lives. Be careful when consuming other people’s stories. They are sharing what they want to share!


This post is getting a little long (like I said, I could write a book), but I plan to write more about this topic later on. In the mean time, I hope that wherever this lands with you you’ll remember that comparison happens to us all. Social media has created a platform for it, but we don’t have to let it speak into our lives. The next time you face comparison, try to implement one of the above suggestions and see how it makes you feel. I promise to do the same.

 

Shining a Light

Words. I’m amazed by their power.

I am inspired by others’ words. Whether it be from a book, a song, or a friend’s mouth, I find that words provide something life-giving to my spirit. In the same way, words can have the opposite effect. Their strength is not one-sided. They can cut, bruise, and tear into me with the same impressive force.

They are extremely powerful – redemptive or condemning, healing or poisonous, loving or hateful. It is a wonder that we don’t handle them with more care.

Because of the freedom we have now to use words as often and as anonymously as we like, the increase in verbal vitriol is alarming. Technology has created a double-edged sword. How wonderful it is that the voiceless now have a platform! What a gift. How tragic it is that so many have used this for such terrible, unimaginable purposes. However, it does us no good to get bogged down in the way words can harm. The best way to get rid of shadows is to shine light on them.

I want to shine some light by sharing a nugget of wisdom that has spoken into my heart and I hope will do the same to whoever reads this.

Whenever I am reading, I take pictures of quotes that inspire me so that I can reflect on them or share them with someone.

The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp is an incredible book. Please go read it! I can’t tell you how many pages I took a screenshot of so I could keep her wisdom handy.

One thing I really want to share because of its sheer light and goodness is the following:

It’s the broken hearts that find the haunting loveliness of a new beat – it’s the broken hearts that live a song that echoes God’s. 

Beat, beloved heart, beat on in the world.

You will be broken and you will be loved.

You don’t ever have to be afraid.

When I read those words, I can see my heart. I see it so clearly in my mind.

I see cracks…lots of cracks. I see stains of bad choices and a couple of places where it was broken in two. I see where parts of the fissures are completely healed and parts that are still healing. There is a steady light coming through the cracks and the fissures…in fact, my heart glows. I imagine the faces of those who put that light there. Along with the light that has caused my heart to radiate so brilliantly, I see a faint beating. A soft, steady beat. I watch the light stay strong through the beating but I notice that the cracks and stains have changed its cadence. It’s an imperfect beat. It’s so beautiful I could cry.

That’s the magic of brokenness that Ann is talking about in this incredible excerpt. It’s this wonderful, backwards, radical love that our world has such a hard time grasping. God’s hands are on our hearts. It doesn’t matter how many times our hearts are beaten, bruised, or shattered to pieces. He will pick up every. single. piece. and put it back together to create a heart that beats a masterpiece. His love is tender and patient and unique.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

Your brokenness is not too big for His love. He will not leave your heart shattered on the floor. He will not leave you. His promises – the words He inspired humanity to write down – are the most powerful words of all.

I can think of a couple of times (those half-healed fissures) where my heart felt broken beyond repair. I didn’t think I would ever feel okay again. Sometimes I still get residual aches from those past times and I wonder if my heart is strong enough to withstand it. Then, I remember what that brokenness has done for me. How it has shaped me to be more like God and less like the person I would be without Him. That’s the beauty of the brokenness. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. So I keep healing, keep trusting Him, and keep trying to shine a light.

You see, no matter the hatred, the anger, the sadness that can seep into our life via others’ or our own words, beautiful things can be made from brokenness. Powerful, incredible symphonies (my heart…your heart) can drown it all out.

I encourage you to seek out words that inspire you. I encourage you to fill your heart with light and find beauty in the unique beat of you heart. I encourage you to shine light on the shadows.

Remember Who You Are

Remember who you are…four words my dad said to me every time I left home and would be faced with “life decisions” – dates, big trips without them, college. Actually, it was “remember who you are, Alex P”, and he would look at me in such a way that I knew it wasn’t a flippant reminder to act right. He meant something much deeper that my young soul took quite seriously. This phrase has impacted me in an exponential way. The older I get, the bigger its value. I’ve never asked my dad, but I think this was his intention. He wanted me to live a life that honored what he already knew about me when I wasn’t capable of knowing it myself.  It made me stop before I did something and ask the question, does this choice honor who I am?

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As I have gotten older, I made this incredible connection between my dad and my Father. In the same way that my dad’s phrase imprinted on my heart, God wants his Word to do the same. I can apply the sentence I applied to my dad to my Heavenly Father (with a little change) – He wants me to live a life that honors what He already knows about me even when I am not capable of knowing it myself. Isn’t that just amazing?

In a book within the Old Testament, a prophet named Jeremiah writes of a message God sent to him. His message was:

 “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah 1:5

So that means that even before Jeremiah was born, God knew who he was and who he was capable of being. He put Jeremiah on his path before he was even a possibility. This is true for everyone! God knows us more than our earthly fathers ever could. He knows us more intimately and more honestly than any person can. So the amazing wisdom my dad gave to me is something my Heavenly Father wishes for every person on this planet every day.

God is whispering. God is speaking. God is shouting. Straight into our hearts.

Remember who you are. 


How do we do this? How do we live a life that honors what our Heavenly Father knows about us? How do we remember who we are? This is such a challenging concept that every person (Christian or not) has to face.

The culture we live in bombards us with ideas and lifestyles that don’t exactly align with the life God wants for us. When God’s and the dominant culture’s truths aren’t congruent, tension occurs. Because this tension can be so painful (especially as a young adult), a lot of us yield to the most obvious judge of our actions – culture. We can’t see God, we can’t touch God, and we can’t witness his disapproval. However, the people around us and the tangible world we live in are obvious to us. We are extremely sensitive creatures. We want to be liked, we want to be loved, and we want to fit in. If we aren’t getting those needs met, it can be hard to stay true to ourselves (trust me, I’ve been there).

But, it is totally possible. I’ve been thinking about how I’ve implemented this in my life because of my dad and based on what God tells us. After thinking on this awhile, I’ve tried to create a list of helpful ways to remember who you are when we face situations that may compromise who you are. We are all going to be faced with these situations and for this reason, we need to be prepared.

  1. Make a list of hard NOs

Hard NOs are things you would never do under any circumstances. There are no “what if” scenarios, no compromises, and no leniency. When it is a hard NO, it should never go. Having these established in your heart and your mind can take the tension away for you. There never has to be an inner battle because there is nothing to battle over. It’s already decided. When you relinquish that choice, you become free and you honor who God knows you are.

I thought I would share a couple of hard NOs I had growing up and still implement now. These served me so well. I never felt pressure to do them because I knew it wasn’t a choice.

No sex before marriage – This one is a doozy. Let me just tell you…the harder it is to follow through, the more rewarding it is when you do. Living a life with no regrets about my sexual past is the most incredible feeling in the world.

No drugs – This one wasn’t as hard because I didn’t surround myself with people who did do them. I did have to end some relationships because of them (which was so hard) but I never regretted doing it.

No inappropriate friendships – I actually created this hard NO after experiences I have had as a teenager. If either (or both) parties of an opposite sex friendship are in a relationship, cool the jets on the closeness. SO much pain can manifest. I’ve caused pain and received it, so I know firsthand how important this is to live by. I’m extremely glad I established this hard NO before I got married.

2. Remember that sometimes consequences aren’t immediate

I think it is extremely important to remember that sometimes are choices don’t yield consequences right away. We think if we only do it once, no one gets hurt, or we don’t feel pain, then it’s okay to sacrifice what we know is right – because it is fun, because it feels good, or because we want to. However, choices that potentially compromise who we are, are called that for a reason. Really think about how this could hurt you in the long run before you decide to do something. Look at the situation from all angles.

3. Have an accountability person/group

Choose people to be in your corner. Choose people who can help you remember who you are when you aren’t able to. These are people you confide in, trust their judgement, and will listen to when you aren’t able to discern effectively. These should be people who know how God sees you and truly want you to live out that life. They want you to make choices that honor that. When I was a teenager, my accountability person was my mom. Now, I have a married small group. You need people in your life to guide you. Life wasn’t meant to be done by yourself.

4. Give yourself grace

We are human. We mess up. It’s okay! I think sometimes we can get caught up in the “all or nothing” mentality and this is so not fair to us. If we mess up once, we don’t have to sacrifice who we are because of the guilt or shame we might feel. We can use it.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

We don’t have to submit to the lie that we are bad people when we make a bad choice. Choose grace. God still sees you just as you are.


I hope this helps you remember who you are.

At the very least, always ask yourself the question does this choice honor who I am?

If you aren’t quite sure, talk to God. He knows who you are and loves you so, so much.

Letting Go & Living

I don’t know about you but I love my comfort zone. Like, if I could set up shop and never leave I would totally do it. I’m easily stressed, easily embarrassed, and sensitive to criticism (wow, I sound awesome), so to take a step in an unfamiliar place outside of my comfort zone is huge. As a result, I often miss out on opportunities and have an accompanying list of regrets.

Can I just say, my comfort zone has never served me well. It’s hard to navigate a full and fruitful life if you’re scared to stand out a little bit sometimes.

At the root of my need (and your need) for a comfort zone is fear. Oh, fear. I think the walls of comfort zones are made up of fear and are meant to make us feel safe when in actuality, they keep us closed off and out of the reach of those who love us and experiences we desperately need. Can I be so bold as to say that the majority of our fears, the ones that keep us in our comfort zones, are based off of others’ perceptions of us?

Why are you afraid to open up to your friends about your struggles?

Why are you afraid to try that new exercise class?

Why are you afraid to share your talents?

Why are you afraid to apply to your dream school?

Why are you afraid to invite someone to church?

When we stay in our comfort zones, we are resisting being seen by others. We are preventing the opportunities to be embarrassed, to be criticized, and to be worried. However, we are also preventing the chance to succeed. To make new friends. To fall in love. To change the world. To change at all.

The Bible tells us:

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7

God gives us everything we need to do big, scary, new things. He gave us HIM! The Holy Spirit empowers us to do things that inspire fear without Him. Why are we so worried about how others see us with truths like that? When we lean on God instead of our fears, we are powerful forces! Fear does NOT empower. It keeps us trapped in our comfort zones where growth and opportunity do not live.

So, I’m learning to let go. I’m learning to take steps out of my comfort zone and to BE SEEN. If I fall flat on my face and all my fears are realized, God’s got it. Plus, there is never a time I can remember stepping outside of my comfort zone and regretting it. No it doesn’t always work out. Big (or little) risks don’t always yield the rewards we want. But…God wants us to have a full and rich life on Earth. We can’t obtain that without turning our focus from how we appear to others to how to live abundantly. Like I said before, it’s not easy to live abundantly if we are too scared to stand out and live out of our comfort zone.

I wanted to share of a time where I really embraced this concept of letting go and living (abundantly). It seems like such a small thing when I look back on it, but I think it speaks to what I said about making choices based on how we appear to others versus how to live abundantly. About three months ago, my husband, Justin, and I took a short vacation to Nashville, TN – a place neither of us had been but wanted to experience. Going into this trip, I made a point to change my thinking. I thought back to vacations/experiences in the past that we had shared together and I recall times that I regret not doing something. I was so afraid to step out of my comfort zone, I walked away from sweet experiences with my husband with REGRET! I mean, that’s not how it’s supposed to be.

As I processed this realization, I realized it was rooted in my fear of how I might appear to others. Oh, I can’t ask for them to take our picture. I don’t want to bother them! Translation: I’m afraid to ask them to take my picture because I don’t want them to think I’m annoying or bothersome. Why don’t we just eat at _____? We know we love their food! Translation: I’m afraid I won’t fit in with the people who eat at this nice restaurant and they’ll definitely know we drive 10+ year old vehicles. Do you see how toxic comfort zones can be? Even in these small, mundane instances, regret can seep into memories so easily.

So, before we left for Nashville I vowed to live abundantly and fully. I kicked my comfort zone in the pants and just lived. I took pictures I normally don’t, talked to people I normally wouldn’t, went to places I secretly wanted to go to, and did all. the. tourist. things. I had a BLAST. The crowning moment was our first night there. We went downtown and it was my mission to live in the moment with Justin. We were listening to a country cover band in one of the dozens of places on Broadway, and they suddenly started playing Strawberry Wine. Before I met my husband, I hated country music. He has since converted me but I’m not kidding when I say the only country song I listened to and loved was Strawberry Wine. Sitting there, I knew what I wanted to do, but I also felt the familiar walls of comfort zone pressing around me. I hesitated for a moment and then remembered the vow I made to myself. It took Justin a little convincing but we finally got up in front of the band and slow danced, singing as loud as we could. Y’all. That is not me. It’s just not. The craziest part is I was filled with so much joy. It was joy for getting to experience something so nostalgic and intimate and hilarious with my husband, but also joy for living abundantly. It’s a moment I will never forget and a decision I’ll never regret. Did we look ridiculous? Most definitely. Does it matter? Absolutely not. As mentioned before, the Spirit of God gives us the ability to love big. This vacation was a time to love big and live without fear.

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This was right after we danced together and it’s clear from our faces that letting go and living is so worth it.

Obviously, this scenario doesn’t touch upon some of the bigger trials we face in life. I know that. However, it’s so important to remember that we condition ourselves how to respond to fear. If we constantly choose to stay in our comfort zones when we are making small choices (like whether or not to get up and dance in front of dozens of strangers), then it’s so much harder to live abundantly when those big things come in our way. We have to live consistently.

There are so many incredible verses that speak about living consistently when responding to fear. God understands how vulnerable we are to fear – in big things like divorce, abuse, and loss, as well as the little things that keep us in our comfort zone. The ones below barely scratch the surface.

Psalm 27:1  –  Matthew 10:28  –  Joshua 1:9  –  Matthew 6:34  –  Psalm 23:4

I encourage you to turn towards these words when you’re facing those big fears (which I’m really not speaking to in this post) and the little fears that can hold you back in your comfort zone and fill you with regret.

Letting go and living…abundantly. No comfort zones. No places for fear. No worries about how others see you. You are filled with power. You are filled with love. You are filled with the promise of a Father. Now go live.

 

But the fruit of the Spirit is…

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Galatians 5:22-23

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(Ashlee Culverhouse)

When I think about that verse, I feel a mixture of emotions. There is a wave of humility that crashes over me as I think about a Savior who exhibits these characteristics eternally and I can barely make it to the store without road rage. There is also a deep, unworldly grip that takes my heart and pulls it into light and truth that makes me gasp for breath. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, liken it to a lifetime journey searching for the meaning of life and then returning home to see it was there all along. It’s a revelation in a sentence. It’s what we search for, it’s what we yearn for, it’s what would fix everything.

We are broken. All of us. It’s not something we can change or fix or ignore. That chapter of the human race’s story is over. Imagine it: we were a perfect mirror. There were no flaws or smudges, just the beautiful reflection of God. Then, as most of us know, it all went terribly wrong. We chose ourselves over God. Cue the crashing of our mirror into millions of tiny pieces. Jagged, imperfect imitations of what once was. Brokenness that creates more brokenness. For years and years, we have searched for the answer to fix it all. How do we pick up the pieces? How do we pull it all together to create something beautiful again?

Jesus.

Always, always Jesus.

Jesus died for us. He saved us from living forever in a tiny million pieces. He taught us how to be the beautiful reflection of God again. Yet, we still struggle with sin. We still choose ourselves time and time again. God’s grace is greater than I could begin to understand. He forgives us anyway. However, He is a good Father, and a good Father wants better for His children. We are not meant to take advantage of His grace and live lives that dishonor Him. We are meant to glorify Him in everything we do.

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(Ashlee Culverhouse)

This brings me back to the verse. The Fruits of the Spirit is a well-known but under appreciated concept. I’ve read it before but my perspective of it completely changed when the pastor at my church did a sermon based on it. His perspective was relational. In quick summation, we grow closer to each other by growing as individuals in our relationship with God. The way to do this is through living out the Fruits of the Spirit. He said it doesn’t matter how much Biblical knowledge you have (even though that’s great), what matters is how you are living your life with others. Are you showing love? Joy? Patience? Gentleness? Faithfulness? Or are you gravitating to their opposites like hate, negativity, impatience, and unfaithfulness? The Fruits bring you closer to God and others, their counterparts alienate and corrupt you.

If you’re interested in listening to the message (which I highly recommend you do), click here

My heart was just rocked by this! Sometimes you know things (I mean, duh Alex, of course God wants you to live out the Fruits of the Spirit), but it takes a fresh perspective to just change everything. It made me change the way I view interactions, people, and how God can use me to witness to others.

Why did that interaction cause me pain? There was no gentleness.

Why is it so meaningful when my husband prays with me? Faithfulness and love.

Why are there so many broken marriages, friendships, and families? Absence of the Fruits of the Spirit.

Why do I love working with kids? They give joy so freely.

Why do I get upset when people don’t drive the speed I want them to? Lack of patience.

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(Ashlee Culverhouse)

You see? Our world is shaped by our use or misuse of the Fruits of Spirit. We need more love and less hate. More joy and less negativity. More peace and less conflict. More patience and less discontent. More kindness and less meanness. More goodness and less immorality. More faithfulness and less unfaithfulness. More gentleness and less unkindness. More self-control and less unrestraint.

I created this blog to do just that. I wanted to create a space where there is light. Where God’s true purpose for our lives can have a platform. We can’t ignore the bad by shutting our doors and closing our windows while looking out into the world shaking our heads. We must spread light and love. We need to open our doors, our windows, and our hearts and plant seeds. Here’s my seed.