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what leah learned

"Encourage one another daily, as long as it is today," Hebrews 3:13. Adventure in progress…

Streams in the Desert

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(Photo: Elite Daily via Pinterest)

Today is the 203 anniversary of Søren Kierkegaard’s birth. I just found out who Søren Kierkegaard is and I’m already inspired by him.

God creates out of nothing. Wonderful you say. Yes, to be sure, but he does what is still more wonderful: He makes saints out of sinners.
― The Journals of Kierkegaard

This is my God. The God who created heaven and earth, who sent His only son to die for me. He does what no one else can do.

Think about what you had for breakfast this morning, or maybe the absence of your breakfast. Can you stare at the counter and make it appear? What about turning those eggs or toast into a forged sword? Impossible?

This is what my God does in me.

He made us, then He made a way for us to know him in spite of ourselves, but He doesn’t stop there. He makes us something new. He turns corrupt, broken, dysfunctional people into righteous, holy children of God who are filled with life and joy.

We can’t even imagine how good that’s going to look and feel like when we’re finished.

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19

Since last year God has been speaking this verse over me along with many others about his faithfulness; (1 Thess. 5:24), his plans, (Jeremiah 29:11), his provision, (Psalm 23), and his command to peace, (Ex. 14:14).

Last week I realized the new thing He was doing, the streams in the desert he kept speaking of making, were inside of me.

Only this God can put rivers in the desert, create out of nothing, and make new (good) what was completely lost to sin. When He works inside of you it’s an indescribable gift for this reason above all: you are loved so intimately by this God of the impossible that He would take the time to work in you for your own good even beyond what you would be willing to do for yourself. 

That He would take the time to promise me this over and over as I struggled to trust Him and then walk with me as He worked inside my heart and soul, continually encouraging me, and finally, revealing to me what He’s doing so that I could see how much He cares, that blows me away.

I forget how extraordinary He is; more tragically, I forget how extraordinarily much He loves me.

I want you to trust Him with the impossible, I want you to remember this:

Yes, He is The God of the impossible and only He can do it. Not your own hands or any worldly efforts. You should give up and trust Him, but not for the sake of finishing that work in you. Let go and trust God to do what He has promised so that you might experience the fullness of his extraordinary love for you.

 

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Don’t Wait

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Last night the Holy Spirit poured out some wisdom while I was ignoring my Bible study leader.

Okay, I wasn’t actually ignoring him, but I did have my pink pen stuck in my Doctor Who journal as the Spirit whispered treasures for me to color the pages with.

He taught me something that changed my whole perspective on waiting.

Remember when your mom told you to clean your room?
What if you did your homework instead?
That’s a good thing, surely she would approve.
What you really wanted to do was eat a cookie, so from your perspective you’re doing great.

Unless she had plans for you.
And her instructions were deliberate.
Perhaps she planned a surprise sleepover.
Maybe your teacher sent a note home canceling your project.
Your mom might even be about to walk into your room and tell you to leave it a mess, because she cared about your obedience more than the results and wanted to reward you.
But you had better plans. Or so you thought.

My point is, you don’t know better than the one whom you’re called to obey.

We don’t know better than God, so when He tells us to do something or to sit still and let Him work, why do we fight for our way?

When I pursue my plans on my own time, I am taking a pen to God’s schedule and crossing out the good He already has for me in that hour.

How many times has my attitude of pride or impatience or ungratefulness kept me from enjoying the good gifts God has placed in my hands right now because I keep whining about something He said it isn’t time for yet?

I wonder what I’ve missed.

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Learning to be still now readies our heart to be moved when He does say, “It’s time, look what I have for you.”

Every good and perfect gift is from God, (James 1:17), and He has had your whole life planned from the beginning, (Psalm 139). His desire is to give you good gifts, (Matthew 7:9-11). Listen to the God who wants better for your life than even you want for yourself; He is faithful and He loves you.

A thankful heart focuses on what He has given us and allows us to enjoy what’s to come when it arrives. It’s the attitude of impatience that will destroy our ability to enjoy the gift when it arrives, when we’ve already moved on to the next.

“God gives some people wealth, possessions and honor, so that they lack nothing their hearts desire, but God does not grant the ability to enjoy them, and strangers enjoy them instead. This is meaningless, a grievous evil.” Ecclesiastes 6:2

“Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil–this is a gift of God.” Ecclesiastes 5:19

I believe that one desire, the one He asked us to wait on, has it’s own perfect moment. The value in waiting is that we are able to see and enjoy all that He has planned for us in the present, that’s why it’s called the present.

Be still.
Listen.
Wait.
Thank.

Don’t wait to enjoy what God has planned for now.

Heaven without Jesus

If you died and went to heaven tomorrow, golden roads, mansions, perfection, the works, would you be satisfied?

Would heaven be everything you want if it did not include Jesus?

Sitting in the breeze of a balmy Tuesday afternoon, I was sharing my inner thoughts out loud with God while Effie, the toddler I nanny, slept soundly in the house upstairs.

My words began to weave a trend of everything I wanted fixed. In my life, sure, but even more so in myself.

Some of my speech was a recognition of what God was already doing in me, but I had to include my own input, you know?

I had the same goals as God, sanctification is part of his plan, I was just feeling a little less patient than Him.

I paused a moment to remember who I was talking to and the delight of His presence overswept my thoughts.

I realized it is better to sit in God’s presence as a messy, sinful human being saved by grace than to be fully sanctified and perfect

God has brought to my attention-and continues to do so with annoying frequency-how I hold myself up to higher standards than even He does for me. When I set my sights on an important goal, I often leave out grace and aim straight for my vision of that final day when He’s finished His work in me and I’m perfect. My version of best.

Being with God is better than being like God. 

Adam and Eve learned this the hard way.

I don’t want to spend the rest of my life missing out on knowing the depths of His grace by making the same mistake.

Whether it’s a dream job, a house, the perfect family, personal ambition, or heaven itself, I am convinced that there is nothing that can satisfy apart from Christ himself.

It is God’s job to make me look like Jesus, it is my only job to love him.

When we become focused on anything that takes away from enjoying Him first and most, we miss out on the best.

God is the best. 

 

 

If You Knew God’s Plan for Your Life: Part 1

If you only knew what God had in his plans, you would stop worrying. You would have peace, right?

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A big, leather-bound book with crisp yellowed pages coated in ink penned ages ago falls onto the table before you and opens to the very page which begins your life’s story.

In this book is written every detail of your struggles, your triumphs, your dreams, and your fears.

There is an entire chapter dedicated wholly to the monster under your bed that you feared so much as a child. Another passage describes the loss of your first tooth.

You read an account of the death of a loved one. You find the name of the person God chose for you to marry. Your life literally stretches out before your eyes as your shaking fingers eagerly turn the pages in search of answers.

You read until the last day written and then you stop. You stare at the date of your earthly departure as flashes of names and events yet to come dance across your temporary brain. 

Now you know everything.

What will you do with this knowledge? 

You’re not going to like the truth but you need to know so listen close:

Knowledge will not give you peace.

It didn’t give Adam and Eve peace in the garden of Eden. Their peace came from a relationship with God.

When the two disobeyed and ate the forbidden fruit the fall of the world separated them from God. That was what they traded for knowledge.

Would you trade your relationship with God for being like him?

You are not God, you aren’t supposed to know His plans for your life, and you certainly shouldn’t consider yourself quite capable of making your own. (Read Job 38-42 if you need to understand more about that.)

He doesn’t give you all the answers because he knows that’s not what you need. Thankfully, He loves you far too much to give you what you ask for when it’s not good for you.

God offers himself to you.

What I find beautiful in this offer of God giving himself to us is that He already gave us everything we wanted through relationship with Him. His plan in the garden started out with the best for us.

In the beginning and the end, the only way to wisdom is to seek that very thing which we so easily discarded for knowledge in the garden: a relationship with God.

Proverbs 9:10 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”

Blogs You Should Read

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These are blogs I’ve been reading lately. You should read them too: 

Marriage Is All the Things and Not Enough 
Casie Rayes is a newly-married acquaintance of mine who loves the Lord and packs ferocious energy into all she does. She even wears zip-off convertible pants like a badass. Her honesty and talent for speaking our thoughts about daily life out loud will brighten your day.

More Blues For Sally 
Henry Dotson is a good friend (more like a brother) who I became acquainted with when he started dating my dear roommate (it’s okay, they’re fbo so I can say it). He’s a career consultant and overall one of the wisest, and punnyest, people I know.

Monica Leonelle
I hungrily devoured this website ready to follow her example like a dedicated donkey chasing a carrot. She is inspiring, and you will be hearing more from me about her in the future.

10 Tips for Aspiring Authors
Karen Kingsbury’s concise list of practical advice for writers has been the foundation of my approach to authorial dreams and career goals since I first began reading her heart-capturing Christian fiction novels.

Seth Godin
If you are a human and you aren’t reading this blog, just take 30 seconds right now to let Seth’s writing give you a punch in the thinker with your morning tea. Promise you won’t regret it.

Bespoken pen
My other blog, the one dedicated to a writing career. It’s brand new but I think it’s rather smashing so far.

Why I went on the World Race

As we completed the last page on our calendars I stopped, like most of you, to remember what God had brought me through these past few years. Finishing the World Race  in 2013 was one of the most life changing experiences I have ever had. I went back to something I wrote months before leaving everything behind to start this crazy mission trip. My written words were humbling proof of the Holy Spirit working and I’d like to share the power I read in them with you.

 

11 countries in 11 months. This is what I wrote before I left in July, 2012:

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photo by J.K. Photography

Feb. 12, 2012

Why Go?

Every page of God’s word is dripping with reason so clear to me only by the Holy Spirit. If this is what I believe, that Jesus is LORD, then it’s time to live with Him on the throne of my life. When I consider my friends and family members, I know that God’s heart breaks for the lost and so should my own. If I were not here, who would preach Jesus to my own loved ones? Are not others’ loved ones, God’s loved ones, just as valuable? He has chosen me. I know now that He is all I need. The world needs Him.

From the treasures stored up in heaven, to the glory of my God, I have more than enough reasons to go. Every reason but comfort. That even, He promises He will give of Himself. Further, I believe I have been designed for this very purpose. It is my passion to speak the gospel shamelessly, fearlessly. To encourage. To go. To dive into new and unknown places. To love even strangers. To serve others with my unique gifts; be it cooking, making music, creativity, or just laughter from joy. HE is my passion. What makes my heart come alive. In all I am weak, He is strong: He is my heart, my commitment, my comfort, my perseverance, my strength.

I cannot paint Him with words. He is so real. I know this is my purpose. To follow Christ.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whoever believes in Him will not die, but have everlasting life.”

I am sent. Matthew 28:19 “Therefore go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

The need to hear it. Romans 10:14 “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”

Love God. Love others. Love God=Love others. Matthew 22:37, 39 “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…Love your neighbor as yourself.”

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

Matthew 19:29 “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will receive eternal life.”

Matthew 9:37 “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.”

Matthew 16:24 “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

1 Corinthians 9:24 “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.”

Matthew 26:39 “Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Matthew 25:23 “His master replied, ‘Well done good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with little so I will put you in charge of much. Come and share in your master’s happiness.’”

To be a part of bringing Jesus to all the nations. Revelation 7:10 “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.”

To be like Jesus.

Because I have nothing to fear:

Matthew 19:26 “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Romans 8:38 “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Philippians 4:13 “I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.”

Philippians 4:19 “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”

I don’t know what new mission I will be called to in 2016. It could be anything, I could be staying. Whether we go or stay it’s important to remember what the Lord has done in our hearts and lives.

Let us not be like the wandering Israelites as we walk into this gift of a new year.

Remember where God has brought you from.

Instead of planning your future, ask him how you can be a part of His plans.

“The LORD will fight for you, you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14

 

Words from my diary

I wrote this on August 1, 2014 while I was battling a sudden case of vertigo like symptoms that basically kept me in bed for a week. One day, I had enough. I fought back. These words are what came out when I did. I’m sharing them with you today because our words have power, and sometimes I think we need to remember the impact our own can have.

I haven’t done any editing and I kept in the letter to my sister.

Take what you will, be encouraged.

August 1

Sitting here in bed wondering why I’m dizzy, tired and weak I’ve spun through all the possibilities from every variant of severity and concluded this: Whether today is my last day or one of many countless to come I should examine my life to find whatever is holding me back and embrace the picture of life in complete freedom. Some call it living like you are dying. I think it works the other way around; those faced with death, in that moment, understand better than any of us what it means to truly be alive. Life without color, without light or darkness or contrast is nothing. It is blank and unknown and stagnant. To see the light we must be aware of the present darkness. We must open our eyes to every color and dimension in existence. It’s time to awaken.

I would tell my sister how much I love her and what I admire in her. That she is right most of the time when I disagree with her. That she has so much to learn but I know her drive and self-control will opens doors to success for her. That she shouldn’t be afraid to let her tender heart show. To cry, to break and to let people in. That she is beautiful-in every single way. She deserves the best love, and to hold tight to Jesus because he’s it.

Alicia, believe in yourself and anything is possible if you also believe in the One for whom nothing is impossible. Your dreams aren’t the sky, they are only the beginning. You were made for the moon and the stars. That’s truth. Love people-because that’s the point of life. Love. But love selflessly and fearlessly because that’s real when the stuff that makes you feel warm and fuzzy wears off. Because it will. Know the voice of truth and don’t let anyone lie to you. It’s okay not to understand, we can’t understand everything.

Faith matters, it’s important, that’s why we need things that are bigger than us to show us that we can’t always rely on ourselves. We are small. Like grains of sand. Make today matter. Do what you love! Use every one of your gifts, from drawing very talented Doctor Who weeping angels to having compassion on the ugliest helpless little creature. Glorify God and He will give you all you need. Don’t worry about tomorrow okay? It’s a waste of time. Relish the moment. Say what you need to say and struggle to say what’s hard-but do it. Don’t let your regrets be the things left undone. Just try it. But don’t compromise your values or your character for anyone or anything. Always be willing to listen to those who challenge your values and deny your beliefs. Compassion before judgement. It’s not your place to judge, but don’t worry, He will bring justice to all.

Alicia, laugh! Share your delightful smile with the world. Stand up for what’s right, admit when you’re wrong and never stop growing. Trust God and never forget that he is bigger than you think. He loves you.

You will never live a second without being dearly loved. You matter and your purpose in this world is bigger than you may ever know.

People are changed and blessed by you-so don’t take that lightly. When the day comes that your purpose is accomplished and you are simply done, you will be home. Until then you are gonna be messy! And that’s totally okay. Dance like crazy-because your freedom sets others free. Sing loud! Except at funerals. Unless it’s mine, then go crazy Love. Be curious and hold onto child-like wonder as you grow up. And never forget.

Run the race you clever girl, and remember.. ❤

Trusting God…ellipses

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photo by J.K. Photography

I am in a moment of trusting God, of how many seconds or years or decades it will last, I don’t know. Every day that I seek his promises or ask him to speak, I am encouraged. I started out desperately asking for the answers to my questions. Then I started to pray around all of the outcomes I personally deemed acceptable. God was patient with me. He never told me what I wanted to hear, he told me what I needed to hear.

Here’s what I’ve learned.

Promises Promises

God wants us to lean on him daily, to go to His word day and night and seek his presence continually, (Ps. 1:2, 1 Chron. 16:11).

These past few months I’ve been through days and sometimes weeks where I needed to hear God’s promises minute by minute. I’ve felt so thirsty that a firehose fixed to my mouth would have done little more than keep me from drying out. A lie crept up in this struggle, telling me that once God spoke I should be satisfied. Believing him should be enough.

I must not be drinking in his promises correctly if I couldn’t get my fill, right? I thought maybe something was wrong with my uptake. Shouldn’t I trust God enough to let it be and take him at His word?

Trusting God isn’t a transaction, it’s a state of being.

He said I want you to depend on me daily. I want you to seek me continually.

It’s right there in His word! The Bible tells us to pray in all situations, (1 Thes. 5:17, Eph. 6:18, Luke 18:1, Phil. 4:6, Col. 4:2, 1 Tim. 2:1…).

“Seek the LORD and His strength; seek His face continually.” Psalm 105:4

We were made to seek His presence continually. He will never tire of repeating himself because that’s part of who he is and the loving relationship he created us for. We need to hear his promises again, every day. He made us to depend on him. It’s a good thing.

*Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, but replace the word “love” with “God.”

His patience does not run out. Rather, he tells us to keep talking with him. Always.

Waiting on the world to change…

Once upon a time ago, I was 10 years old sitting in a rented vacation motorhome watching the second season of the Amazing Race while my family waited to check in to the airport so we could fly home from Alaska just days after 9/11. I made a promise in my journal that I would be on that show if it was still running when I was old enough. No matter what.

I waited for 11 years. I didn’t end up going on the Amazing Race after all, I did something bigger and better.

I had the privilege of traveling to 11 countries on 3 continents all over the world with 55 strangers (now family) who loved Jesus so we could serve in His name for a crazy life-changing 11 months.

It was worth the wait. More importantly, the waiting was essential to preparing me for those plans.

Sunday a random devotional popped into my email inbox. Guess what the topic was?

Trusting God.

The main point was this, that God uses the waiting to prepare us for his plans for us.

It went straight to my heart when I read the line, “he wants us to trust him.”

Think about that. What place is a heart in when someone who loves us asks us to trust them?

They are offering their help, their confidence, their best. They are for you.

It’s clear if you read the Old Testament (go ahead and skip to the New Testament for even more proof) that God always keeps his promises. There are whole books on it.

“Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God  who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations,” Deuteronomy 7:9

When God asks us to trust him, we can be assured it’s because he is trustworthy.

Israel

Do you ever have those season where you feel like God is speaking directly to you through a particular verse, story, or passage? It’s been like that for me with the story of the Israelites.

God keeps telling me through other people, sermons, prayer, reading the Bible-even random places-how I’m like Israel in her different seasons.

Our promises are the same. I don’t understand it all, but when my wisdom and foresight isn’t deep I still know that this is significant.

Summer

He told me he was taking me the long way around.

Remember when the Israelites had to wander in the desert for 40 years after finally being set free from the hand of Pharaoh? That wasn’t just because God got tired and decided to stick his kids in time out for a while so he didn’t have to deal with their whining. It had purpose.

Part of that purpose was to prepare them for the promised land he was taking them too. They weren’t ready, according to his own standards (key).

So he took them the long way around.

“The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14

Occasion after occasion I have found myself fighting within my heart to control an outcome or avoid an unfavorable one when God speaks this verse, telling me to be still.

He is fighting for me.

Imagine The Avengers; Thor with his hammer, Captain America with his shield, Iron Man fully suited up, Hulk-well, as Hulk. All of them. Throw in the Justice League too if your imagination can take it (Superman, the Flash..). All of them standing around you, fighting for you. This team, shielding and protecting you from the enemy.

Would you grab a plastic sword and anxiously swing it around just to be extra sure you’ll make it out of this battle okay?

No, because that’s ridiculous.

When you have Thor and Captain America defending you, you sit back with a milkshake and relish placing your confidence in such warriors. You know you are going to win. It might not be easy to watch, but you just know it.

God is bigger than Thor. He is stronger than Hulk. He is braver than Captain America. He is faster than the Flash. He is more bullet proof than Superman. He has better aim than Hawkeye and Arrow combined. Iron Man’s suit has nothing on him. He is even cooler than Vision. Yeah, I said it.

(I really hope you now have this awesome picture of God surrounded by angels that look like Thor with wings.)

Trusting…

How often do we trust like this? I trust you God, ellipses…

I’m waiting. I’m taking a chance on you. This is a risk. I really just want what you’ve got planned at the end of this.

I woke up this morning, got into my car, turned my heart to prayer and immediately God flipped the angle of my heart.

I wanted to pray things centered around myself and fixing this discomfort of waiting. Another day, more promises, I could do this. Refuel. That was the plan.

Instead, he gave me prayers of blessing for someone else.

It’s funny how becoming a blessing can minister to us in powerful ways.

The Holy Spirit filled my heart with thankfulness and praise.

Then I realized, the joy and peace that comes from simply trusting God, obeying Him, reading his word, being with him, was in and of itself the reward.

Crowns

We read about crowns as a reward for faithfulness in the Bible (2 Tim. 4:7-8).

At times the thought of earning those crowns to throw at Jesus feet (because he deserves them all) has been the motivation and encouragement I needed to get through a moment of waiting.

A good thing, but not as it turns out, the cake.

This morning I finally get it.

Trusting God isn’t about what he has promised or the results of your waiting-it is about trusting God. The very state of being in God’s presence, trusting him, is worth it for the state of being in that moment of trusting Him.

Trusting Him is worth trusting him because he is so good, so loving, that Himself is worth it. He is the prize for our trust.

Trusting him means giving him your whole heart, and getting all of him.

He continues to make you bigger on the inside so you can receive more and more of his fullness. Trusting him is about knowing him. It’s about relationship. It’s not about the future, it’s about the two of you. The condition of your soul. What you were made for.

The rest is frosting.

I want to challenge you with this question; is trusting God enough for you?

This should be our ultimate aim. Not the answer to our questions (and believe me, I have plenty of them too…limitless Leah they probably call me in heaven), not the future we imagine, nor the dreams we asked for. Our worries gone. Our troubles ceased. The good things that He has planned for us. Those are real-but they are not the aim.

The questions may never be answered. Keep asking anyway. Remember to listen for what God is actually saying, not just the answers to your questions. Trust is meant to bring us closer to him and to glorify him. Not to get you what you think you want or need.

What you need is to trust Him.

Trusting Him is the greatest gift.

 

 

 

Thunder Blizzards

I cannot remember the last time I sat down to write a blog post. I feel like I’ve been exhaustively busy without reprieve. Work, classes, church, holidays. I know I’ve had time off. So where is all it going? Weekends are bleeding into work days. Rest seems to be slipping through my fingers like eel tears. I have thunder blizzards in my head.

I am working full time, in college full time, and I’m trying to keep up with the holidays as well as my own hobbies. My brain draws and quarters itself on a daily basis just to keep up with everything I’ve obligated myself to. I am weary.

The answer is Jesus.

I am sitting down before you to pen a confession as a reminder to myself, an accountability clause, that prayer is 100% effective. It doesn’t mean I always get the answer I want, it means I always get the answer I need. That’s how much God loves me.

Instead of pulling inside myself to figure out how I’m feeling, burning out on new ideas as a scour the internet, or hastily organizing my apartment, I just need Jesus.

A quiet moment in prayer. A breath of fresh air outside while I tell Him thank you. Memorize a Bible verse. Read a devotion from a favorite pastor. Or just sit on my favorite little green hill and talk to Him. He already knows.

It’s not that I haven’t had anything to write, I’ve had too much to write. Too much to say a word. But maybe some of you have thunder blizzards in your minds too, and thinking about someone other than yourself is often the bet place to start when you’re struggling. So I’m sharing this moment with you.

Don’t try to fix it like the world, it’s not in your hands. There’s no standard you’re trying to meet that can be met without grace.

We don’t have to have it all together; we just have to have Jesus.

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26

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