Monday, April 14, 2014

Becoming Evergreen

A verse has been reoccurring in my life lately, and whenever that happens I know it's not a coincidence. It's more of a flashing sign printed with the words, "Hey, look at me," "No seriously, pay attention," or some other variation of that theme.

Here's part one of my Stop, Look, and Listen verse (as it turns out, those aren't just instructions for elementary school students crossing the street):

"This is what the LORD says: Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD. He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives." Jeremiah 17:5-6

I have been a desert-dwelling shrub many times in my life, and pain has always been my excuse. I've written before about battling fear from an early age, but during my senior year of high school, I went through a fire of accusation that spun my life completely out of control and took my battle with fear to a whole new level. I remember feeling torn apart by anxiety, pinned to the ground by pain, so heavy with helplessness that I couldn't see straight or remember what was true. When I went to college I didn't want anyone to see the ugliness of those wounds, and I was beyond tired of thinking about them. So I stuffed the pain...which only made it fester and grow until I felt all but consumed by a sadness I couldn't fully understand, and still have difficulty putting into words.

Although you and I have most likely not experienced the exact same set of painful circumstances, we all know what it means to be hurt. And, no matter what person or set of circumstances is responsible for inflicting the various wounds we carry, we have all probably responded with words of resolve similar to these: "Never again."

Never again will I let that person do that to me. Never again will I allow myself to be treated that way. Never again will I let my guard down. Never again will I put my heart out there only to see it cast aside. Never again will I open myself up to embarrassment. Never again will I risk failure. 

Never again will I be out of control.

Because of my background and my story, I have this desire to see exactly how everything is going to turn out, to know exactly where everything is going. If I can't, my general response is fear and worry—as though playing "What if?" scenarios in my mind over and over again will prepare me for every possible outcome so that I can never, ever, ever be caught off guard by a surprise attack again.

So yes, I understand well what it means to "depend on [my own] flesh for [my] strength" by attempting to control the circumstances around me. And because of that, I have often found myself in the middle of blessings bigger than I could have ever imagined, yet failing to "see prosperity" because I'm too busy worrying about what might happen if those blessings are suddenly taken away.

But here is part two of the verse, which by the grace of God, is what I know I am becoming:

"But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in Him. He 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

Found this tucked-away stream while living in France. I'd like to put down my roots here, please.

Blessed am I when I'm in the middle of a battle I didn't see coming, or standing at the edge of an adventure I don't feel quite prepared for, or straining to control a future I'll never be able to foresee, and I choose to draw all of my confidence from the reservoir of my unchanging Savior rather than the ever-changing circumstances around me.

Blessed am I when instead of constantly looking over my shoulder to prepare for attack, I choose to send my roots even deeper into the stream of Living Water and trust that "my God will supply all [my] needs from His glorious riches, which have been given to [me] in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:19).

Blessed am I when even in the midst of pain—the kind I said I'd never make it through alive again—when even then, I remain steadfast in my trust. When even then, I refuse to fear. When even then, I believe that the Lord will bring beauty from ashes. When even then, I realize that my leaves are green and my branches are bearing fruit not because of the perfection of my circumstances, but because of the perfection of the God who "causes everything to work together for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).

I want my eyes to be open to see prosperity when it comes. I don't want to miss the good thing He is doing by worrying about that good thing slipping through my fingers. I don't want to live in a desert of isolation, a captive of fear in that "salt land where no one lives." I want to be an evergreen, fully at peace and bearing fruit no matter where I'm planted or what the weather forecast says.

Join me today on a journey of trust—let's watch and wait and see what our God will do.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Hitched in a Hurry: Heather & Richard

Fridays are always fabulous, but this Friday is extra special. Why? Because I have a very special submitted story to share! As most of you know, Hitched in a Hurry: The ultimate how-to for a speedy "I do" was just published on April 3 (and is ALMOST back in stock on Amazon, I promise). One of my favorite features that sets Hitched apart from other bridal books on the market is that each chapter concludes with a Real-Life Love story from a couple that planned their wedding in six months or less. Although I didn't learn about Heather's story until after my book was published, I am so grateful that she sent her beautiful love story my way and allowed me to share it on today's blog. Heather and her husband were only engaged for 4.5 months before tying the knot, and today is their wedding anniversary! 

Seriously, how cute are they? Many continued congratulations, Heather and Rich. Wishing you years upon years of love and happiness. Warning: This is one of those so-sweet-and-moving-you're-gonna-need-tissues kind of stories. So prepare yourself.

"After spending five years as a single mother I had serious doubts about finding anyone who could touch my shattered and hardened heart. Finding someone who would be a suitable father for my son seemed even less likely. March 23, 2002 my life changed forever. I had my first date with the man I would marry. For the first time since my son, Austin, was born I had found someone who realized I was a package deal and included Austin from the start. 

Rich proposed on December 24, 2002 and on April 11, 2003 we were married. The engagement was short by design. We knew we wanted to be married and we didn’t want to wait. My only real requirements for the wedding day were that we both show up, a minister be present and we leave married. I didn’t grow up dreaming about this perfect magical ceremony. I never looked at bridal magazines before being engaged. The wedding isn’t what I longed for—it was the 'forever after' that I desired. I wanted a union that would last a lifetime with a man who understood the depths of who I am and could love me anyway. I wanted someone who could look at Austin as his own son and not be scared away by the thought of raising a child who desperately needed a dad. 

 The wedding planning part was pretty simple. We wanted our guests to attend the type of wedding we would love to attend ourselves. After being in dozens of weddings and attending so many more, we had lots of ideas about what we liked and what we didn’t. So our decisions were made with our friends and family in mind, rather than fulfilling a selfish desire for the 'perfect day.'  Here is a list of 10 of the things we did to make the ceremony fun, simple, yet memorable and heartfelt. 

1. We chose a location that would allow for a beautiful ceremony and fun reception under the same roof—the Alexander Mansion, home of the Dallas Women’s Forum. We got married at the top of the staircase in front of a gorgeous stain glass window. Our guests stood in the lobby during the ceremony so we kept it super short. 

2. We took all of our pictures before the ceremony started! ALL OF THEM! The photographer we hired does all of his weddings this way, a concept that I understood and loved! I didn’t want the guests to wait while pictures were being taken, I wanted the celebration to begin as soon as possible. We still had our special moment of him walking down the aisle to me (or actually up the stairs) and we had that moment completely alone so we could talk and laugh together before the pictures of us were taken. So yes, he saw me before the wedding—but it was no big deal. 

3. We got married on a Friday—it’s cheaper and was easier to find a date that would work for us. We spent the day after our wedding with the friends and family who flew into town; we went to the lake and enjoyed a day of fun and relaxation before heading off to our honeymoon on Sunday.  I’m thankful we took the time to spend an extra stress-free day with the those who traveled to see us.

4. I let my bridesmaids help me choose the dress they would wear. I wanted black and white because I assumed they would be more likely to wear it again, and they probably had some black heels in their closet already. So I sent over several options, and fortunately everyone liked one of them so that is what we chose. They could wear any shoes they wanted, and we provided the jewelery and paid for their hair and makeup to be done. The bridesmaids from out of town stayed at my parents' house so they didn’t have to spend extra money on a hotel.

5. The rehearsal dinner was a BBQ at Richard’s mom's house, and was the most fun rehearsal dinner ever! So relaxed and laid back—good food, great company. Jon Rutherford, who sang at our wedding, brought his guitar and we all sang and laughed together. It was simple, it was fun, and it was affordable.

6. I bought the second dress I tried on and it didn’t have to be altered. I didn’t over-think it or keep looking. I knew it was the one, so why keep looking and confusing myself?

7. We included Austin in the ceremony. He was the ring bearer, of course, but he also had his own small candle and helped light the unity candle with us. When the ceremony was over, Rich picked him up and carried him as we walked down the stairs—we were a family and we wanted Austin to know he was a special part of this union.

8. Rich’s brother is a minister, so he married us. He was incredible and kept the ceremony light-hearted yet deep in true meaning. It was short and simple yet completely moving and memorable at the same time.

9. We had a buffet-style, finger-food kind of dinner. We wanted people to eat what they wanted, when they wanted, and not be confined to a table. They could mingle and enjoy each others' company without being forced to sit for a long period of time. Thankfully, the caterer boxed up food for Rich and I to take to the hotel with us, because we wouldn’t have eaten otherwise.

10. I let my mother have input in all decisions involved with planning the wedding. I listened to her thoughts and we made choices quickly. She was paying for it, so I was open to all suggestions. I don’t remember any drama surrounding the planning of the wedding or the actual wedding day at all.

Planning a wedding in a hurry can be done if you have the right attitude about the process. It’s not about having the perfect event—it is all about finding the best partner for your life and starting the journey of marriage with a positive mindset. We had a fun wedding, and guess what? We have had a fun marriage. He is my best friend and an absolutely incredible father. God knew what He was doing when He brought us together. God always knows what He is doing—we just have to step back, take a breath, and let go of the need to find perfection."

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Washed in the blood

I have been a Christian since I was seven years old, but I am just now in the process of reading the Bible all the way through. This is embarrassing for two reasons:

1. My husband has already done it twice.

2. People around the world are literally killed just for owning a Bible, and yet they continue to put their lives on the line to get a copy because they understand this truth: The Word of God is Life.

If anyone else feels like joining me on this journey, you'll be able to catch up pretty easily—I am currently in Leviticus. You should know, though, that this is a hard chapter. There is a lot of repetition, so it can be easy to "zone out." But I've heard pastors say that Jesus can (metaphorically) be found on every page of the Bible if you look closely enough, and so that's what I've been trying to do. Look for Jesus. 

Today, I caught a glimpse of Him.

"Then Moses took some of the anointing oil and some of the blood from the altar and sprinkled them on Aaron and his garments and on his sons and their garments. So he consecrated Aaron and his garments and his sons and their garments." —Leviticus 8:30

My first thought when reading this was, "Okay, he just ruined their clothes." And these were some EXPENSIVE clothes. Check out these descriptions (all from Exodus 39):

"From the blue, purple and scarlet yarn they made woven garments for ministering in the sanctuary."

"They hammered out thin sheets of gold and cut strands to be worked into the [cloth]."

"They mounted onyx stones in gold filigree settings and engraved them like a seal with the names of the sons of Israel."

"They fashioned the breastpiece...then they mounted four rows of precious stones on it. In the first row there was a ruby, a topaz and a beryl; in the second row a turquoise, a sapphire and an emerald..."

The list just goes on from there. Jewels and gemstones. Fine linen and richly-dyed yarn. Chains and bells of gold. Intricately stitched pomegranates. How could Moses stain those beautiful outfits with spots of blood?

That's when I saw Jesus. That's when I remembered His blood, which was shed for me. That's when I realized that the garments worn by Aaron and his sons were not made beautiful and pure by their outward adornment but by the blood stains, which signified that the Lord had consecrated them and made atonement for their sins.

I have fought hard to prove my own purity in the past. I have scrubbed my clothes, wiped myself clean, Windex’d the walls of my heart and prayed that God would find me worthy. How did I miss the Truth that my purity has nothing to do with manufactured coverings of my own design, and everything to do with the bloodstains of my Savior—the Living Sacrifice that made atonement for my sins once and for all? The cross has made me clean, and nothing else. I must be washed in crimson to wear garments that are white as snow—bleach and soap and good works and righteous acts have nothing to do with it whatsoever. 

Without the bloodstains, we're just wearing clothes. When we're washed in the blood, we're clothed in garments of His righteousness. 

"I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels."—Isaiah 61:10

Thursday, March 13, 2014

It can't be that easy!

Naaman was strong. As a leader of the Aram army, he commanded much respect—and he received it. There was just one problem:

"He was a valiant soldier," the Bible says in 2 Kings 5:1, "but he had leprosy."

Leprosy. The kind of disease that forced men to beg outside city gates. A disease that gave birth to lesions, sores, muscle weakness, and nerve damage. A shameful disease.

When you read the story in the Bible, you can almost feel the weight of that shame resting on Naaman. The leprosy is a weakness he cannot shake, something he's carried for so long that it's become a part of his identity. "Naaman, the incredible leader...with leprosy."  The commander was resigned to the fact that he would have to shoulder the burden of sickness and shame for the rest of his life. Of course, he longed to separate himself from the disease—but there was no cure. Or was there?

"If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria!" the servant girl said to Naaman's wife. "He would cure him of his leprosy."

A cure? A chance for release? Surely, these things were impossible. But however far-fetched the girl's words may have sounded, Naaman could not pass up the possibility of being healed. The king of Aram readily gave permission to his highly-regarded commander to seek out this cure, and sent him to Israel with 750 pounds of silver, 150 pounds of gold, and ten sets of clothing to present as an offering to the unknown miracle worker.

"So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha's house. Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, 'Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.' " (2 Kings 5:9-10)

This is incredible news, is it not? Naaman's been living with a horrendous, flesh-eating disease for years and years, and all that stands between him and complete healing is a bath in the Jordan river!

Naaman should have been beside himself with excitement. He should have sprinted for that river without looking back. Except...he wasn't, and he didn't.

"But Naaman went away angry and said, 'I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy"...So he turned and went off in a rage."  (2 Kings 5:11-12)

I thought this "prophet" was going to come see me for himself, not just send out a measly messenger! I thought he was going to perform signs and wonders! I thought something amazing was going to happen; that I was going to receive some kind of cure I couldn't have found anywhere else. Heck, I can take a bath at home!

Can't you just hear that running through Naaman's mind? His hopes are completely and utterly dashed, but not because the instructions he received were too difficult. Just the opposite—they were too easy.

How many times have I done the same thing? I've come to God begging Him for answers, begging Him for a Word or a sign, begging Him for freedom from the prison of fear, worry, and anxiety. I come to Him expecting claps of thunder and instantaneous miracles. I say to Him, "I'll do anything!" And yet, when He simply responds, "Trust me," I feel that I've been cheated somehow. Why? Because my problem is too huge for the solution to be that easy!

Don't we do this when it comes to our salvation, too? We brace ourselves for an insurmountable task; a lifetime of earning our heavenly keep. Surely God's grace alone is not enough. Surely there must be something we can add to our free gift, something we can do to prove our worth. Didn't we bring 750 pounds of silver? Didn't we come prepared with 150 pounds of gold? Didn't we carry in our hands 10 sets of elaborately spun clothing?

And yet, God says, "My Son has paid it all. He has beaten you to the cross. He has already said, 'It is finished.' You don't have to earn My love. You don't have to buy your salvation. Your debt has been paid, and paid in full."

It can't be that easy! And is.

"Naaman's servants went to him and said, 'My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, 'Wash and be cleansed'!" (2 Kings 5:13)

"Wash and be cleansed. Believe that what I say is Truth. Accept My free gift of salvation."

It's as simple as that—no need for complications. Our only role is to trust and obey.

"So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy." (2 Kings 5:14)

. . .

The Bible says, "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 6:23)

No tricks. No gimmicks. No silver, no gold. No perfect record, no good works or deeds. Just a bath in the Jordan—just accepting the free gift that's been offered.

It really is that easy. Why not take hold of it today?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Manna beneath my pillow

There's a term that's been coming up lately that I was sure did not apply to me: orphan spirit.

I was raised by two parents. I have always been provided for. I have never gone hungry. So I put this spiritual-sounding word away, and made no plans to look at it more closely.

Until last night. Until today. Because here's what I realized: I am not an orphan, but in so many ways, I have been living like one.

I have heard stories about adoptive parents—that they often catch their children slipping bits of food from their dinner plates into their pockets, and surreptitiously storing things beneath their pillows for safekeeping. Although these children now have a family and a full stomach, their former status as orphans has taught them that they must fend for themselves; fight for provision; expect the worst; shield their hearts from disappointment; not count on or trust in anyone or anything else.

I have been hiding manna beneath my pillow. I have been opening my hands to receive God's blessings and promises, then stuffing bits and pieces of them into my pockets just in case He decides not to come through for me tomorrow. I have seen Him do countless wonders, and yet time after time have questioned whether or not that last miracle was the final one I'll ever see. "I'm probably on my own from here on out," I've thought to myself. I've decided it's best if I fend for myself; fight for provision; expect the worst; shield my heart from disappointment; not count on or trust in anyone or anything else.
. . .

In Exodus, God miraculously provides food for the Israelites so that they will live and not die while wandering through the desert.

"When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, 'What is it?' For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, 'It is the bread the LORD has given you to eat."

Soon after, Moses added, "No one is to keep any of it until morning."

Moses' directions were pretty clear. And yet, what did the people do?

"However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell." (Ex. 16 has the full story)

I would probably be tempted to judge the Israelites for the total lack of faith demonstrated here if I hadn't done the exact same thing so many times in my own life. Let me just tell you about some of the miracles I have personally experienced:
  • One day while living in France, I locked myself out of the home I was staying in. It was hot outside, I did not have a key, and I was panic-stricken—no one would be returning home for another eight hours. I did that thing in the movies where the actors throw a shoulder against the door over and over, but to no avail. So in that moment, with nothing else to turn to, I prayed: "God, please open this door. You have to open this door." And He did. The door clicked open, and I walked inside and retrieved my key.
  • Last year I had the opportunity to work with an incredible 90-year-old woman who needed help writing her autobiography. I remember feeling distinctly one day that I was to go and print out the entire manuscript before our visit, and so I did. She was delighted to have a copy of her story; to know that all of the words she wanted to say had been recorded and kept safe. She passed away just three days later.
  • In July of 2012 in Hilton Head, South Carolina, I heard the Lord tell me that Taylor Kiker was going to be my husband. In July of 2013 in Hilton Head, South Carolina, I became his wife.
These are just a few of the things I have experienced and seen. These things have been powerful. They have transformed my thinking and increased my faith. And yet so often, I have reverted to that same orphan spirit -mentality. The one where I hoard manna in a corner of my heart, so fearful of running out of blessings that I turn the ones I've already received into rot. Most recently, this has been happening in conjunction with my book.
. . .

Throughout the process of writing and producing Hitched in a Hurry, the Lord has been evident. He provided an editor, a designer. He gave me more contacts in the wedding industry than I would have ever dreamed possible. He inspired an event planner to reach out and help me plan a launch party. He even arranged a photo shoot so that I would have a wedding-themed author photo to use on the back cover of the book.

But last night, I chose to worry about a few elements of this forthcoming project that haven't fallen into place yet. I chose to reach for control. I chose to forget everything He has done and wring my hands about everything that still needs to be accomplished. Today, I'm choosing to do the opposite.

Today, I choose to stand in faith as He puts the finishing touches on this forthcoming project in accordance with His will and timetable. I choose to release control. I choose to remember everything He has done and clap my hands in anticipation of everything He will accomplish.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. A better way of saying that: "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

We don't have to fend for ourselves in this world. We don't need to manipulate or control the circumstances around us, fear the future, or reserve our trust for ourselves alone. We don't have to live like spiritual orphans. All we have to do is abide in the Father's love for us and rest in our identities as children of the Living God.

Time and time again He's proven that He'll provide the manna; that He's the giver of our daily bread; that His provision won't run out. Isn't it time to stop storing manna beneath our pillows, now?

. . .

"He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?" Romans 8:32

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A cover and a calling

Today I'm officially releasing the cover of my first book, Hitched in a Hurry: The ultimate how-to for a speedy "I do," and I couldn't be more excited!

This book hasn't happened traditionally, or perfectly, or anything like that. But working on this project has been a huge learning experience and lots of fun. And you know what? More and more, it's felt like my calling.

I struggled with that for a little while, the "calling" part, because Hitched in a Hurry doesn't involve orphans or Africa or ending world hunger. I'm thinking specifically here about Katie Davis, a blogger, 24-year-old adoptive mother of 13 (yes, 13) children, Ugandan missionary, and author of the New York Times bestselling memoir Kisses from Katie.

This girl is just a rock star. Her humility is palpable, her love for Jesus and for others is unshakeable, and her desire to give all glory and honor to the Father's name is unquenchable. She is on fire, and she has invited the world into her Ugandan village to watch her burn through the pages of a book. If you don't want to be challenged, don't read her book. Because it will shake you up. Why do we have more than enough, when children all over the world are going to bed hungry, alone, afraid? If you don't want to consider these questions, acknowledge these realities, this book is not for you.

It was for me, though. I have learned much through reading about her life.

It's easy to look at Katie's sacrifices and the fact that she doesn't wear makeup and say, "Wow, she's really incredible. She's really doing something." The truth is, though, that Katie Davis is just a woman, as I am just a woman. But she is changing a nation, and I am not—not yet, anyway. The reason? Katie Davis has completely opened herself up, completely poured herself out, to be the hands and feet of God. She has gathered everything—her talents, her vision of the future, her plan, her desires, her American dream—and stacked them all like so many pieces of wood, and she has called the fire of God to fall upon her offering and consume what she thought she wanted, replacing it with what He says is better.

I may not be called to walk the red dirt roads in Uganda or adopt 13 children. But like Katie, I am called to gather everything—my talents, my vision of the future, my plan, my desires, my American dream—and stack them all like so many pieces of wood, and call the fire of God to fall upon my offering and consume what I thought I wanted, replacing it with what He says is better.

I don't want to take Katie's place in the body of Christ. I want to take my place, the place that He has ordained for me to fit and to go. After all,

"For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully." Romans 12:4-8

I have not written a memoir about binding wounds, treating diseases, feeding the hungry, or adopting children. But I have written a how-to guide for brides planning weddings in six months or fewer, and there is room for God to be glorified in that, too.

Cover Design by Jaime Williams

 See, Hitched in a Hurry isn't just about planning a wedding. It's about building a marriage. Hitched in a Hurry isn't just about celebrating the bride. It's about encouraging the bride and groom to love each other; to listen to each other; to give themselves up for each another. Hitched in a Hurry isn't just about a couple making it to the altar. It's about a couple making it to a porch swing when they have gray hair and grandchildren and years of memories behind them, and it's about them still holding hands through it all.

I want people to read Hitched in a Hurry with excitement at the prospect of loving their spouse with the forever kind of love that Christ has shown the Church. I want people to absorb the advice of each and every Real-Life Love couple and say, "If humans can show this kind of love to one another, how much more can my God—who 'did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all'—love me?"

If you read the Our Story series, then you know that I had nothing to do with writing my love story. The Author and Perfecter of my faith took the script from my hands, whispered, "Trust Me," and proceeded to blow my mind with His goodness, mercy, and love. Oh, and a really, really hot husband.

And so I give this book right back to Him.

Without You, Lord, there would be no story to tell, no tips about dress-hunting, no warnings about over Pinterest-ing, no registry lists, no To-Do-Before-"I do" sections...nothing. This is a small thing, this wedding planning book, but you are Great and Mighty. The works of my hands are Yours. May You be seen by all who purchase this book, and may marriages be blessed and strengthened by the words on these pages. May Your inspiration and wisdom come through, and may all else fade away. 

Grace and peace to all of you as you are strengthened day by day to walk in His unique calling upon your life.

. . .

Colossians 3:17—"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."

Psalm 90:17—"May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands."

. . .

To learn more, please visit:

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

I have decided

My junior year of college, my New Year's resolution was to talk about others less. That same semester I began interning for US Weekly magazine, a publication based entirely upon celebrity gossip.

Whether that was an example of irony, a test of faith, or both, I don't know. But I do know that making and keeping New Year's resolutions can be really, really hard.

Which is why this year, I spent a few extra days thinking about the kind of commitment I wanted to make. My first thought was this:

I will be more selfless. 

That sounded great—noble, actually—until I realized that even the word "selfless" does not omit "self." So I revised my resolution:

I will be less.

But then I realized that my resolution to "be less" still began with me. "I" will do this. "I" will be that. So finally, I landed on this:

He will become greater.

The fact that it took three attempts to seat the Lord before myself is proof that "He will become greater" is a necessary and vital resolution. You see, I am tired of thinking this life is about me.

I am tired of accumulating experiences, of treasuring affirmation, of consuming compliments.

I am tired of forgetting to be overwhelmingly grateful for the food on my table, the warmth of my bed, the love of my family.

I am tired of thinking constantly about how to elevate myself, gain exposure, showcase my talents.

I am tired of meeting someone new and forgetting their name because I was too focused on saying my own.

I am tired of seeking comfort, tired of wondering how far His provision will extend, tired of looking back and wondering, tired of looking ahead and fearing.

I am tired of watching as we, the church, fail to identify sin as sin under the pretense of "accepting others."

I am tired of watching the enemy siphon away joy, and hope, and life from believers and non-believers alike. 

I'm tired of sitting in church and seeking a feeling, tired of closing my eyes to the fact the Lord called all believers, even me, even us, to leave everything to follow Him.

I am tired of censoring myself, wondering if I'll lose or offend friends, or readers, or fans, or whatever, by "talking about Jesus too much."

I am tired of measuring success by the standards of the world.

I am tired of comparing my walk, my spirituality, my experience with God against the walk, spirituality, and experience of other believers.

I am tired of I.

After all, I cannot fix, manage, or carry the weight of any of these things. But He can. So I have decided to follow Jesus. Not for this day, not for this year. Forever.

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Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders / Let me walk upon the waters / Wherever You would call me — "Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)" by Hillsong

I love to sing the words to this song. They stir me up. They make me feel alive. These words are what I long for.

At this moment, however, I'd say that my trust extends about as far from my body as a hula hoop. Yet I celebrate, because for me that is huge, astounding growth from where I've been in the past.

In March of last year, I quit my full-time job as a society columnist and staff writer for People Newspapers, which is owned by D Magazine. That job was hard, but let me tell you, it sounded really glamorous when I told people about it. People were impressed by the places I was going and the people I was meeting. And to be honest, I loved that.

When I quit, people wanted to know why. Most times I said, "Because I'm getting married and I need time to plan, plus we might be moving to North Carolina."

I don't know why I settled for saying that. I mean it was true, but it wasn't the whole story. The rest of the story was that God had called me to leave that job. On a plane back from North Carolina, He lovingly, gently asked me to use my words and my writing and my time to say things that matter. To talk about Him. To bring life. To proclaim the freedom I've found in Him. To say goodbye to fluff, to status, to position, and to wholeheartedly seek to bring Him glory.

I have not done this perfectly. Not even close. I have not been spared from moments of pain, or doubt, or human weakness. But I have witnessed His constant flow of provision, and as He has become greater in my life, my hula hoop of trust has finally started to expand.

Here is a testimony: Since quitting my full-time job, I have never been without a freelance project. Never. I have not sought these projects out—the Lord has provided them, and He has done so more abundantly than I could have asked or imagined. Not because I am special or talented. Because that is who He is.

Because that's who He is, I know that one day my trust will be the size of a field, allowing me to lie down in the Lord's promised green pastures without fearing I'll be attacked while resting. One day my trust will be the size of a country, allowing me to move and go and see and find that I am "home," no matter what state I'm in. One day my trust will be the size of the world, equipping me to love as He has loved me without wondering what I'll get in return, or who will notice or praise my efforts. One day, when both the pain and the pleasure of this life have ended; when feelings of sadness and joy have faded away; when the exhilaration of adventure and the light and momentary struggles of this world are behind me; when I'm standing at the feet of Jesus, my trust will finally, finally be without borders. Limitless and infinite in the presence of my Limitless and Infinite Savior.

Until then,

I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
No turning back, no turning back.
Though I may wonder, I still will follow;
Though I may wonder, I still will follow;
Though I may wonder, I still will follow;
No turning back, no turning back.
The world behind me, the cross before me;
The world behind me, the cross before me;
The world behind me, the cross before me;
No turning back, no turning back.
Though none go with me, still I will follow;
Though none go with me, still I will follow;
Though none go with me, still I will follow;
No turning back, no turning back.
Will you decide now to follow Jesus?
Will you decide now to follow Jesus?
Will you decide now to follow Jesus?
No turning back, no turning back. 
S. Sundar Singh 

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"And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” — Joshua 24:15