seeing Your goodness in the land of the living.

bailey-zindel-396398-unsplash.jpg

 

“How do you reconcile the two? The goodness of God with the pain and brokenness of life. How do you make sense of it all?”

 

It’s after midnight, and the three of us are sitting around on the floor of our room, Bibles in our laps, honesty hour for each of us. After a long day of travel and unexpected experiences, we’re exhausted and cutting right to the heart of what we’ve all been walking through.

 

“I guess…I don’t know exactly. I think I often tend to believe that God doesn’t have to be good to me to still be good.”

 

I pause for a moment, and gather my thoughts.

 

“Almost this: I know I don’t deserve His love, so I see the love He does give me as a beautiful, wonderful gift, and everything else as extra. I don’t think that’s right or healthy, but that’s how I tend to reconcile it. He doesn’t have to be good to me in my mind for me to still believe He’s good.”

 

*

 

This has been a season of wrestling with truth, and wrestling with God.

 

A season of living – a season of seeing if what I believe holds any weight. Seeing if I believe that grace is really for me when I fall short, that I am loved in my weakness, that God is enough when I know nothing else is.

 

And it has been a season where I’ve had to decide if what I believe about God is accurate, or if I’ve been seeing Him through a broken lens this whole time.

 

As we sat on that bedroom floor, I verbalized for the first time the script that had been playing in my head and my heart, and thought about the way I had been viewing God for so long. For a good amount of time, I’d convinced myself that expecting anything from Him was selfish, and I was setting myself up for disappointment if I believed on Him for anything more than salvation.

 

That script works, until it doesn’t. It masquerades as a holy, selfless view of God, but when put into practice, is often the manifestation of doubt and fear.

 

I doubt that God will do good things for me because I am afraid of being disappointed.

I am afraid that my life will not turn out the way I want it to, so I doubt that God will be faithful to me specifically.

 

*

 

A few months back, I started incorporating “self-counseling sessions” into my journaling practice. I start with asking all the deep, hard questions of myself, slowly getting everything out in the open that I know has been going on in my head. I consider the questions slowly, and do my best to answer them as honestly as I can – and let myself be okay with not having answers for a while, if that’s the case.

 

And so, some of these self-counseling sessions go a little bit like this.

 

Do I believe God is all-good?

Yes – but do I believe that God is good to me, personally?

 

Do I believe God is all-powerful?

Yes – but do I truly have faith that He can do all things and will intervene in my life when He so chooses?

 

Do I believe God is all-loving?

Yes – but do I believe that He loves me in all of my mess and my weaknesses, that my shortfalls do not diminish His love for me, and that He would not have created me if He did not love me unconditionally?

 

Do I believe that I can trust Him with my life?

I don’t know. Do I?

 

*

 

There is a vast space between what we say is true, and how we live because of what we subconsciously believe. Deep belief cannot help but influence our actions, so we must get to the heart of the ideas we have incorporated into our mindsets.

 

The key belief that’s wrong here is that I fall into thinking that God’s goodness concluded with Jesus two thousand years ago – and that couldn’t be further from the truth. The grace and the faithfulness of God did not stay on the cross.

 

The idea that “God doesn’t have to be good to me to still be good” runs counter to His character. If God is good, He will be good to me. If He promises that He is trustworthy, He is worthy of all of my trust. If He is faithful, He will be faithful to me.

 

It sounds so simple, so trite. Of course He’s good. Of course He’s trustworthy. Of course He’s faithful. Yet, what keeps us from believing it with everything? What keeps us from trusting Him for all the things we know we cannot control? What keeps us in fear when we know His character so deeply? What keeps us from internalizing what we know to be true and letting Him be God?

 

We do not trust Him fully because we are afraid of life turning out in a way that we do not want, and it makes us uncomfortable to think that His goodness and our comfort may not overlap.

 

*

 

One of my favorite verses in the world is Psalm 27:13 –  I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”

 

Here on earth, we will see the goodness of God. Tangibly, truly, deeply – we will unquestionably see His goodness.

 

And again – that doesn’t mean He always fixes our messes. It doesn’t mean we’ll avoid suffering the effects of living in a broken world. It doesn’t mean that we won’t still struggle or that somehow we’re not human anymore.

 

But it does mean that He’s with us in the mess. It means He loves us in spite of all our failure and fear and brokenness and calls us holy in His sight. It means He cares about each of us individually and personally, and delights in giving us good gifts.

 

He was good to us when He sent Christ on the Cross, and that alone should fill our lives with joy and hope in the grace that sets us free from sin and death. And even beyond that, He’s good to us, right here, right now, today. There’s nothing we can do to lose His love and faithfulness toward us. Absolutely nothing.

 

He wants us. This God, this Creator of the vastest of galaxies and oceans and mountains wants us – our small, fragile, imperfect human souls. He’s good. And if He is good, then He is good to us. And we will see that goodness here, in the land of the living.

 

aj 2

Advertisements

West-Coast Grace: resting in His presence.

Gold Beach.jpg

Sometimes it takes a trip to the other side of the country to really start to see God more fully.

 

It’s not about the travel, though. Sometimes just a change of pace, and scenery, and a lot of long walks and talks with people that know your soul. Sometimes it’s just the space to sit for an hour with a journal in the early hours of the morning in a dark living room, or as the wind whips through messy hair and thick sweaters on front porches.

 

It is in the kitchen that I find myself on a Saturday morning, gripping a mug of good coffee, overthinking. We’ve squeezed seventeen people into a beach house, and so I’m surrounded by the coffee drinkers, those of us lingering around the counter as people have started to spread out – some on couches with fuzzy blankets and guitars, some around tables with card games, some zipping up jackets to walk to the beach.

 

As the conversation begins to wind down, I quietly slip out of the kitchen, grab my Bible and journal, and find a place alone outside, to think and pray and read and cry silent tears, if they’ll come.

Continue reading “West-Coast Grace: resting in His presence.”

Cry, Pray, Trust: for when you’re stuck in a season of waiting and need a reminder of God’s faithfulness.

Cry, Pray, Trust

Sometimes all you can do is cry, and pray, and wait. And trust that God is in control, even when it takes every ounce of faith inside you to catch even a glimpse of that.

 

*

 

I wish I could say I spend my New Year’s Eve in a glamorous way. I didn’t.

 

At 10 pm on Sunday night, my family went to bed, and I washed dishes alone, in my kitchen. I played a worship album two times over, and fell to my knees and cried all the tears I’d been holding in for a week. I prayer journaled and dedicated my year to Jesus, and tiptoed into my living room to watch the ball drop in the darkness of my house, holding a flute of formerly-sparkling cider.

 

3…2…1…and, it’s 2018. Everyone celebrate with your friends and lovers, but I’m still over here alone. I flicked on Netflix to numb my thoughts, and played that worship album again as I drifted off to sleep.

 

*

 

God is faithful. The words echo in my head, and as I think about one word that would define 2017, it’s that one – faithful.

 

Over and over, God spoke. Both in the loud and in the quiet, in rooms full of worshipers and in the solitude of my bedroom, He confirmed those three little words, time and time again – I. Am. Faithful.

 

Gracious, good, perfect God, remind me again what Your faithfulness looks like, won’t you? Because I’m stuck in a long, hard season of waiting right now, like I’m teetering on the edge of a cliff, and gravity hasn’t yet decided if I’m going to stay or if I’m going to fall. Oh, how I need you.

Continue reading “Cry, Pray, Trust: for when you’re stuck in a season of waiting and need a reminder of God’s faithfulness.”

where i’ve been, what i’ve learned, and the God who’s been constant through it all. // + my photography!

FullSizeRender 42.jpg

It’s been too long.

 

Each time I’ve tried to sit down and write, I’ve either gotten distracted, become unmotivated, or overwhelmed, hence the silence on my part. And so instead, I’ve been gone, treating my blog as an intimidating monster to be slayed, not a haven to use to think and rest in, which I think has done me more harm than good.

 

Regardless, here I am, and thank you for sticking around to read – it means the world.

 

The past few months have been stretching for me. The end of my summer marked the end of a metaphorical season in my life, and whenever a season ends, in my experience, it’s like something’s come out of nowhere and struck me blind, leaving me dazed and confused about where to go next. Moving forward was the only option, and while I’m not sure if I’ve done it gracefully, it’s been a necessary and worthwhile journey.

 

And so, I took a trip with friends from all over North America. We traipsed around different states, drank a lot of coffee, and had extensive, passionate conversations until the sun came up. I came home with a renewed sense of what I want my life to look like, reality colliding with my visions, my passions, my dreams, and my desires.

 

And since then, I’ve had so many more conversations across the miles with those friends who mean so much to me, and I’ve discovered even more about myself, about God, about the people with whom I share my life, and who I want to be. Continue reading “where i’ve been, what i’ve learned, and the God who’s been constant through it all. // + my photography!”

When God Chooses to Work in the Ordinary & Call Us to Where We Already Are

When God Chooses to Work in the Ordinary & Call Us to Where We Already Are.png

I’ve been writing this post in my head and heart for too long.

 

It’s the byproduct of so many late night wrestlings, so many journal entries and tweets and long-winded conversations with the people closest to me.

 

It’s those texts we send our friends about waiting for the next thing to happen – about anticipating the answers to our big questions, about finally finding that thing after waiting so long, hoping so desperately.

 

It’s the prayer we pray of God, just show me where to go and I’ll go, what to do and I’ll do it, who to be and I’ll be that person.

 

I’ve been there so many times, and honestly, I’m often still in that boat. Most of my daily prayers close with something along the lines of, “Lead me, Lord, to where you want me to be, who You want me to meet, to the future You have planned for me.”

 

And over the years, as I’ve grown as both a young adult and a Christian, I’ve often been so focused on that next thing, that I haven’t embraced the space where God has put me.

 

See, something that I’m ever-realizing is this: God doesn’t need us to be anything extraordinary in order to be used by Him; He uses us right where we are to fulfill His purposes that are so much bigger and more beautiful than just ourselves.

 

That’s not to say He doesn’t lead us ahead – simply that sometimes, the place He has for us is directly in front of us.

Continue reading “When God Chooses to Work in the Ordinary & Call Us to Where We Already Are”

On Coming out of Depression & Experiencing the Faithfulness of God

On Coming out of Depression & Experiencing the Faithfulness of God.png

i.

 

Oh wow He’s faithful.

 

There’s something so ethereal about knowing when God is speaking.

 

Oftentimes, before I leave my house to go be with other Christians, I pray a few things. One, that I’d have some sort of meaningful conversation, two, that God would speak, and if I remember, then three, that I’d be filled with the Spirit and used by Him.

 

And the funny thing is, once I arrive, when I kick off my shoes and put down my phone and start hugging people, I completely forget that I ever even prayed it. And every single time that I come home so filled, I’m overcome with awe at how He worked.

 

I’m stunned by the conversations that left me glowing with joy, how I heard God in worship songs and in listening to my friends preach, tangibly experiencing God’s love and presence in everyday interactions.

 

I heard His voice again this weekend, and it left me breathless.

 

For three days, I’d been praying hard that God would lead me to trust Him. And He has. Oh, how He has.

Continue reading “On Coming out of Depression & Experiencing the Faithfulness of God”

What No One is Saying About the Joy of Loving Jesus

What No One is Saying About the Joy of Loving Jesus

Pursue Jesus and love Him first. That’s been on my mind the past few weeks, as I run the concept over and over in my head, trying to more fully grasp what it means, what it looks like, why it’s important.

 

And finally, after struggling for so long to piece together my view of the world with my view of God, I came to a realization that left me breathless, head spinning, but for the first time in my life finally understanding.

 

Why can’t we can’t afford to put anyone other than Jesus as the first in our minds, as the reason we do everything we do? Because only He satisfies.

 

Only He can satisfy the longing for peace in my heart, only He can fulfill my ache for something more in this life. Only He can give me the joy, the hope, and love that my soul craves so desperately.

Continue reading “What No One is Saying About the Joy of Loving Jesus”

What Millennials Need in the Church More Than Anything (& why we need to stop conning them into attendance)

What Millennials Need in the Church More Than Anything (& why we need to stop conning them into attendance)

Before we start, I’m going to be straight with you — I’m a millennial.

 

Yes, I’m in college, and not a day goes by that I don’t drink at least two lattes, turn on Spotify, or check my iPhone a handful of times an hour.

 

Yes, I do spend most of my days working and studying and on social media on my computer, and I won’t deny it. I live in the generation of technology, specialty coffee, and cultural progression, and here I am, getting swept up in it all.

 

I don’t think that’s a bad thing. This is the world I’m living in and I can’t do anything about that — and yet there’s something weighing on me, something that’s been bothering me about the American Church for quite some time now.

 

As the church, we don’t quite know what to do with millennials, and so we shuffle around, trying to cater to what seems to be what they want, yet we overlook the spiritual needs of all involved.

 

I’m talking about The American Trendy Church.

Continue reading “What Millennials Need in the Church More Than Anything (& why we need to stop conning them into attendance)”