When Was Your Last Spiritual Spring Cleaning?

In college, my dorm mates and I dreaded “white glove,” the once-a-semester deep cleaning that bordered on the ridiculous. You could get called back in for so much as a strand of hair in the shower.

As a clean freak by nature, though, I appreciated the concept, and today, pride myself in keeping a clean house. Well, I thought I was keeping a clean house, until we decided to put it up for sale. All of a sudden, there was dust on the floorboards I’d never noticed before. Dust on the light fixtures in the bathroom. Hints of rust on the washer machine. Spill stains on the kitchen cabinets. Don’t even get me started on the microwave.

In short, grossness! I’d been living in a dirty house all this time, yet from the surface level, it had looked pristine. (Don’t judge me too hard. When is the last time you cleaned your microwave?)

I started to consider how this deep cleaning concept might apply to my spiritual life. Yes, I have my daily quiet time and even my intentional quiet place. James and I love our Sunday school class and church too. But do I just look like a “clean Christian” on the outside? What happens when I take a sub-surface inventory? If you’re daring, join me as we ask some tough questions.

When was the list time God’s Word convicted me?

Oh, c’mon. I just finished reading Leviticus. Surely that counts for spiritual.

Not really. Did I actually learn something from Leviticus or just skim through it to check off that yearly reading chore? If I’m honest, the truth hits closer to the latter.

When I’m feeling spiritually dry, I’ve started asking God to show me what He has for me and give me the ears to hear it. The Bible says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7 NKJV)

The Holy Spirit’s job is to expose areas we need to repent and grow (John 16:8). We must be willing to receive that instruction and do something with it.

Am I faithful in prayer and truly trusting God?

Last year, I shared about a book on prayer one of my friends gave me called A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller. It is by far one of the clearest and most helpful books on prayer I’ve read. One of my takeaways was to write note cards for specific people in my life, what their needs are, and how I can be praying for them.

In the last few months, some of those prayers have been incredibly answered, so much so, that I’ve found myself blinking. Wow, God! I kind of thought that request was a bit high on the “not likely” spectrum, but really? I thought you might go for something easier first, but uh, thanks!

I’m confessing this to my shame. Scripture reminds us that nothing is impossible with God. When the Angel Gabriel visited Mary, he spoke these very words:

For with God nothing will be impossible. (Luke 1:37 NKJV)

Yes, I know that truth, but I must actively believe it. And so, I echo the prayer of the mute boy’s father from Scripture, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24b NKJV)

Do I thank God whether He gives or takes away?

This one can be so hard, especially when our hopes and dreams are wrapped up in our prayers. As my husband and I have been searching for a house, there have been many closed doors. So many that the disappointment literally hurt. But after one especially disappointing “no,” I accepted it and said, “Lord, thank you for protecting us from something that wasn’t right for us.”

We have to remember that perspective when God says no or not yet. His refusals are His mercies, no matter how much they sting at the time. Later, when He does present a yes, how much sweeter it is!

Today, we’re rejoicing that God appears to have opened a new house for us (hence, the early spring cleaning on our current home). Whatever comes, though, may my heart choose to say, “Lord, blessed be your name.”

Am I accepting God’s refining work in my life?

God works in many different ways and through all types of circumstances, some more painful than others. Sometimes, the blessings also present the biggest opportunities for maturity.

My marriage to James has been the biggest blessing in my life, apart from my salvation. Seriously, God knew what He was doing and what we needed so much better than we did! When I look at my wonderful husband, I just shake my head at how much I don’t deserve him.

Still, day-to-day living presents iron-sharpening moments that reveal my own selfishness and need for God’s grace in my life. Having my spouse see me at my worst can be humbling. Instead of trying to shove those moments under the rug, I have to accept them, examine them, and ask God to help me be the woman and wife He’s called me to be.

I like how Michelle Medlock Adams describes this molding process in Platinum Faith, the book she co-authored with Bethany Jett:

We can’t rush through the process even though we’d like to get off the wheel as soon as possible because it’s uncomfortable to be shaped and molded. But as we keep God at the center of our lives, the Master Potter will continue recentering us and removing any imperfections along the way.

Do I care about God’s mission more than my comfort?

The bottom line is that God loves people (John 3:16) and “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (I Timothy 2:4 NKJV). Is that our desire as well? Or are we too comfortable in our little circles to share our faith with others?

Recently, our Sunday school class did a spiritual gifts test. If you’ve never done one, I encourage you to find and take one. Even though we don’t all have the gift of evangelism, we can still share God’s love and our testimonies with others. After all, it’s the story of God at work in our lives. Our stories might just be the one the person next door needs to hear.

Yet we worry about being embarrassed, about saying the wrong thing, about being rejected. At least, I do! May God grant us boldness that we would not be timid in sharing the gospel (Romans 1:16, Philippians 1:20).

Closing Prayer

Lord, you know us better than we know ourselves. Create in us clean hearts and renew right spirits within us that our lives may be pleasing to you (Psalm 51:10).

~ Kristen

Spring cleaning season is almost here! Take a sub-surface look at your spiritual health, too, by asking some tough questions.

Wedding Day Joy: Stories Behind the Photos

Our wedding photographer recently shared our photographs, and I currently feel like a little kid who is about to overdose on Christmas cookies. It’s the feeling of, “Please, please, someone share this goodness with me because if I eat any more by myself, I’m going to burst!”

So this week, I’m sharing this happiest of snapshots into my personal life. Maybe saying so is cliche, but James’ and my wedding truly was the best day of my life, next to my choice to accept Jesus Christ as my personal Savior.

Some Humor

Joy overshadowed the entire day, and I’m also grateful for the humor dosed throughout. For starters, my now-husband and I wrote each other letters that our friends helped us exchange before the ceremony.

I laughed out loud when reading his first line, “Do you remember the time you broke up with me?”

Yes, yes, I do.

That’s a longer story than this blog has room to hold, but I’d just like to encourage you with this: If you have a relationship you’re tempted to give up on (whether romantic or friendly), give it a second chance. Some friendships aren’t meant to last forever, but some just need extra work. Don’t let pride, miscommunication, or unrealistic expectations rob you of a tremendous blessing.

Some Tears

James warned me that when I walked down the aisle, he would probably lose it, and I didn’t mind that he nearly did. The love in his eyes melted my insides to mush.

This picture is one of my favorites, not only because of the love in my groom’s eyes but also because it captures his mother sharing the moment with him.

However, I was priding myself on keeping things together … until I started to read my handwritten vows.  You see, James and I decided to personalize part of our vows, so we scribbled them on darling little His and Hers booklets from Hobby Lobby.

The moment I saw my promises in my handwriting, I lost it. Not just sniffling. Stuttering sobs.

Bless his heart, James had a tissue ready in case he melted down and offered it to me instead. After dabbing my eyes and nose, I managed to gasp through the rest.

Many times, tears are our body’s way of cleansing or responding to sadness. Not this day. Mine were tears of joy and tears of gratitude. We both had prayed long and hard for God’s choice in a life partner, and today, all those years of waiting were coming to an end. All that bottled-up emotion just seeped out as I realized finally, I was making this lifetime commitment. Today turned a new page.

Some Reminders

Several people asked about the unity cross we assembled during our ceremony and said they had never seen that symbol used before. We absolutely loved the significance of this cross. There’s a detailed explanation that comes with the cross (available through several online sellers), but the short version is that there are two pieces: the outer frame represents the masculine strength of the groom, and the delicate interior represents the beauty of the bride. Three pegs hold the two pieces together, representing the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

This cross now graces our living room. It’s a daily, visual reminder that we made a vow before God to honor and uphold our marriage and how very much we need to depend on Him for our marriage to flourish.

So Many Thank-You’s

One post can’t even begin to express how much gratitude we owe to our family and friends.  This day wouldn’t have been absolute perfection without all their love, support, and help–from my family who hosted the reception; to James’s mom who hosted the rehearsal dinner; to our sweet friends the Lambersons who organized the reception decor, the flowers, and the emcee responsibilities; and to our many friends who volunteered to help decorate and transport a myriad of items.

You know who you are, dear ones! From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.

My friend and Italian travel partner Maria drove overnight from Tennessee to Florida with her husband to help set up the reception. She is an absolute gem!

My dear friend Mrs. Lamberson blew any expectations of mine out of the ballpark with her gorgeous flower arrangements and detailed decorative care. I’m forever grateful to her and her team!

Only the beginning

Weddings are beautiful, but they are only the birthplace of a marriage. As we prayerfully begin this journey together, James and I want more than anything for God to be pleased with our lives and our union.

May we truly be better together for His glory.

Kristen

Special thanks to Aja Skye Photography for capturing these moments!

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Finding Easter Hope When You’re Flatlined by Life

Special thanks to my friend and fellow blogger Christi Perry of LearningToBeFearless.org for sharing here today. I hope her heartfelt story and challenge encourages you.

Guest post by Christi Perry

I stood in a dark room side by side with my sister and two of my friends. I was unaware of what they were doing as my eyes were closed.

The thing that captivated me was the bass drum. The music was so loud it vibrated my body— more importantly, my heart.

As I was driving home, several weeks ago, the same thing happened as I listened to a song. I was captivated with the bass drum. I finally had the courage to ask God for something again. It may seem like it’s not that big of a deal. People ask God for things every day. Yes, but I had stopped asking God for things.

I want to explain: I understand prayer’s a dialogue back and forth. God is not my genie that I expect Him to grant me all my wishes. However, He also says to come to Him and to ask, seek and knock. But the past few times I really asked, I received the opposite of what I asked for…

I asked God to save my Dad… And seven days later, my Dad passed away.

When Our Physical Hearts Stop Beating

Life can feel like it’s tearing you a part. There can be really great moments and down right awful ones. It’s easy to see God in the great ones and difficult to see him in the awful ones.

There’s an unseen enemy trying to tear us apart. But, there’s also an understanding problem because I am a finite being in relationship with an infinite being. His scope is so much more broad than my failing eyes can see.

In the past two years, I felt like my heart was laid open as it’s been picked, pulled and ripped to shreds by circumstances: failed relationships, the loss of jobs, the loss of purpose, the loss of a place I called my own, the loss of my Dad.

In life, sometimes our physical hearts can stop beating, which is why AEDs (Automated External Defibrillators) were invented. Most of us have seen paramedics use an AED to shock someone back to life.  As I thought about this, I thought of my heart in an emotional and spiritual sense. If our physical heart can stop beating, who is to say that our emotional and spiritual heart can’t stop beating as well?

What Can Revive Our Silent Hearts

But what’s our spiritual AED? The cross. It’s the battle cry that death has been defeated, that something shocking and gruesome would bring life. AEDs, if not used in the right circumstance, could cause death. Had Jesus not been the perfect sacrifice, his death would have resulted is nothing but death. But the perfection of Jesus and the wrath of God being satisfied for all mankind resulted in resurrection.

Before I continue, I want you to listen to a song. And when you get to minute 3:53, listen to the bass drum.

I don’t know what your Easter looks like this year. Maybe it looks like an empty seat next to you due to death or divorce. Maybe it looks like the last pew because your life has been turned upside down and you’ve had to relocate and you’re new. Maybe it looks like a morning home alone because you’ve been burned by the church. Whatever your Easter looks like, listen to this song. And pay close attention to the bass drum.

As, I hear the bass drum, I can almost picture God shocking us back to Him.

Wherever You Are This Easter

So, this Easter, wherever you are in life,  know that God the Father didn’t only send Jesus to save us for eternity. He sent Jesus to revive us.

Revive means making alive, keeping alive, and giving more life.

You who have shown me many troubles and distresses will revive me again, And will bring me up again from the depths of the earth. (Psalm 71:20)

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me; You will stretch forth Your hand against the wrath of my enemies, And Your right hand will save me. (Psalm 138:7)

God sent Jesus so that we have someone in our corner. He knows our hurts. We are not unseen. Hebrews 7:25 says, “He lives to make intercessions for us.” I cannot fathom that. Exodus 14:14 also promises, “The Lord will fight for you, you only need to be still.”

Rest assured that no matter what your Easter looks like this year, you’re held, fought for, and can be revived by the Author and Perfecter of life who overcame death on our behalf.

 

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3 Reasons This Christian Girl Runs

I get it. Some people hate running. I once was one of them, and some days, I still am.

When I tell people I’m training for a half marathon, I get a variety of responses. Most fall into one of the following categories. I’d be curious to hear yours, and I promise, you won’t hurt my feelings!

Asking the reason why

Whether you’re setting goals or getting ready to make a decision, pause to ask, “Why am I doing this?” That’s a healthy question.

Last time when we talked about goals, we determined the bottom line for doing anything is to glorify God (I Corinthians 10:31). Let me unpack that a little more today to explain why I’m growing to love this physical pastime. How can running glorify God?

#1: It builds endurance and discipline.

Oh, it definitely builds endurance. There are days when putting one foot in front of the other is an act of sheer will power.

But it teaches me that persistence and hard work pay off. As I discover that showing up day after day makes a difference, running becomes a metaphor that motivates me to give my best in all my endeavors.

Call me crazy, but I’m an English teacher, and sometimes, metaphors just make a whole lot of sense.

#2: It can benefit a great cause.

Some friends and I ran the Idlewild Hope 5K together.

Last weekend, I had the privilege of running in the Idlewild Hope 5K to raise awareness and money for survivors of human trafficking.

Newsflash, Florida is considered a hub for this horrific crime, even third in the nation. I love my Sunshine State, but that’s one statistic that makes me want to vomit.

Because yes, Florida, this disease is in your backyard. Regardless where you live, don’t think your hometown is immune.

Races often benefit good causes, and even if they don’t, they’re an outreach opportunity. You never know who God will bring along your path. Literally.

#3: It provides quiet time with God.

Who said you have to be sitting down in a quiet nook to spend time with God? Running often provides quality time alone with my Savior. When I run with friends, it even provides a chance to share our burdens (Galatians 6:2) and pray.

Since my friend Angela and I are training for a half marathon together, we encourage each other this way. (I both blame and thank her for talking me into this race.)

Now our prayers aren’t necessarily pretty. We’re panting and sweating, but we’re praying for the needs on our hearts, for family members and friends, and for the lost and those who need to know Jesus better.

The point is simple. You don’t have to be on a private perch to pray. You can be on a running trail.

We have the opportunity to grow closer to God wherever we are, whatever we’re doing.

We can’t compartmentalize our lives. This third is for serving Jesus, and this third is for my family and responsibilities, and this part is for me.

No, no, and no.

If we do, we miss out on the chief purpose and joy of our lives: to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever (as the Westminster Shorter Catechism so succinctly states).

Think about your weekly routine, and look at it with fresh eyes. How can you glorify God in the ordinary? 

~ Kristen

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The Lincoln Memorial and a Mother’s Day Tribute

Of all the monuments and memorials in the National Mall, the Lincoln Memorial might be the most famous. (By National Mall, I don’t mean a shopping plaza with a food court. It’s the name of the national park lined with many of D.C.’s monuments.)

Engraved on either side of Lincoln’s statue are both his Second Inaugural Address and his Gettysburg Address. The lesser well-known of the two is his inaugural address, which focuses on the Civil War conflict that had been tearing the nation apart during his presidency.

I want to share with you an excerpt that reveals our sixteenth president’s faith and humility.

Neither party expected for the war, the magnitude, or the duration, which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with, or even before, the conflict itself should cease … Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces; but let us judge not that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has his own purposes.

Lincoln acknowledged that good men on both side of the fight believed their cause to be just and prayed to the same God. You see, although slavery was a point of division (and certainly needed to end), it was not the only reason for the war. In fact, not all Southerns were fighting for slavery, nor were all Northerners fighting against it. There were other factors at stake that jeopardized the interests of both North and South. As a result, good people disagreed.

Regardless, Lincoln recognized that God would accomplish “his own purposes” through the conflict, and he desired to see the Union unified once more. In his last speech, he revealed his desire to reunite the nation and do all things necessary “to restoring the proper practical relations between these [seceded] States and the Union.” Unfortunately, his assassination six days after Lee surrendered at Appomattox served to further divide the already war-torn country.

A Tribute to Mothers

The Lincoln Memorial represents the contribution this man made to our country, but it provides only a glimpse into who Lincoln was.

Before becoming president, he experienced some tough failures. In fact, he tended to have nearly as many setbacks as he did successes.

Why didn’t he quit? His character and perseverance doubtless did him credit, but something Lincoln said about his mother suggests the impact she made on his life, the impact any praying mother can have on her child. He is quoted as saying:

I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life. – Abraham Lincoln

If you have (or had) a mother who prayed for you, you are truly blessed. Even if you don’t, you personally have the opportunity to have a relationship with God and talk with Him in prayer.

The Bible specifically tell us we should “pray for one another,” and that doing so makes a difference (James 5:16). You never know the impact you might have on someone’s life.

Happy Mother’s Day!

I want to wish all the mothers a wonderful Mother’s Day and say a special thank you to my own beautiful mom who so very faithfully prays for me.

Parting thought: Lincoln recognized the influence his mother’s prayers had on his life. What impact has someone’s prayer made on yours? Are you praying for others the way you should? 

~ Kristen

 

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