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{Church Girl Funk | Yeah. It happens.}

Can you imagine having actually walked with Jesus — for real, dirt between your toes and robes flapping in the wind, walked with Him?  What must it have been like to feel His hand, His actual God-made-flesh hand on your shoulder? I wonder what his voice sounded like? And to hear Him call your name aloud? I can’t even. So, let’s just move on.

God in His wisdom saw fit for me to be here. Now. And, I’m good with that. I suppose I had the best-case-scenario as kid. See, I’m a church girl. I grew up as a pastor’s kid, so from a young age I was taught about God. I knew about Jesus and the Gospel. The importance of Scripture was ingrained in me from a young age. (Anyone else get a tiny New Testament/Psalms Bible when you were but a wee newborn?) We went to church every time the doors were open, at least three times each week. I learned to memorize Scripture, sing worship tunes, to work hard serving others and the church. I knew all the rules. And, for the most part, I kept them religiously. Church girl. To the core. The gratitude I feel for my best-case-scenario knows no bounds. Truly, I am grateful. Here’s the thing: Sometimes, it seems my inner church girl is at a disadvantage. Let’s be real, the privilege of hearing the Gospel Sunday after Sunday means that my exposure to the story was through the roof. The familiarity of the story meant reciting it was as easy and natural as breathing. Some Sundays, though, hearing it again felt like trudging through deep, thick mud. And, then, I’d be stuck. In a funk.

Ah, yes. The church girl funk. It goes something like this:

I’ve heard the story a million times. Do I really need to study Scripture every day? I’ve sang the song hundreds of times, hands raised to the sky, eyes closed. Do I really need to engage my mind and think about the weight of what I’m singing? I’m a Christ follower. I believe the Gospel. I go to church. I try to be obedient. I serve others. Look at all the things I’m doing for Him. 

It’s all familiar. And, when I’m in a church girl funk, I find that I am unaffected by it all. Unmotivated. Unaware. Head down. Shuffling along. Going through the motions. Anyone else?

Thank heavens, God sees me in those moments and comes after me. He reminds me. He engraves the truth ever deeper into my heart. He loves me. And, He wants me to love Him. Jesus tells us, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37) All my fellow church girls know it’s the great commandment. Love Him. Completely.

We can love Him like that because He loved. We rest in the truth that He loved us before we took our first breath. He sent Jesus to live a sinless life, die a sinner’s death as payment for my sin and your sin because of His great love. Why? So that we could know Him and know the depth of His love for us. I don’t know about you, but when I stop and leave space in my day to remember,  I am completely in awe. What lavish love! It’s from that place (being loved) that He wants us to love Him back, with all we’ve got.

Yes. I know. You’ve heard it all before. But can we hear it again with fresh ears and a soft heart? Can we sit still with the truth for a hot minute and allow ourselves to be utterly blown away by His love for us? The Creator of the Universe loves you with an unfailing, unfathomable love. We belong to Him. Let that truth frame everything else.

See, I learned the hard way that it doesn’t matter what we do for Him if our hearts aren’t motivated by our love for Him. He didn’t tell us “If you want to be a good church girl, obey me, serve me, work for me.” No. He said, “If you love me, obey me.”

If you find yourself in a church girl funk, start there. Love Him completely and then let everything else be a demonstration of that love. But above all, be loved by Him. And to do that, sweet friends, you don’t have to do anything at all. It’s already done. Just breathe it in. He. Loves. You.

Now, go. Go and do the things He’s put in front of you to do. Love the person that He’s asking you to love even if they are completely impossible. Lay down the thing He’s asking you to lay down. And know that He has you in the palm of His hand, loving you wildly every moment along the way.

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{Letters to my daughter} {No. 3}

Sweet Girl,

When you leaned over and whispered, “I don’t think she believes in me” I was a tiny bit caught off guard. I know that feeling. It’s a terrible feeling! I am sorry that something happened to make you believe that. I get it. Truth be told, I would probably feel exactly the same way if that thing happened to me.

But, I have to tell you something. Lean in and listen carefully. It’s important.

I believe in you.

Always. No matter what. I believe in you when you have a good day. I believe in you when you have a bad day. I believe in you when you are at your best. I even believe in you when you aren’t your best. You are incredibly kind, smart, talented, and beautiful. You are a good, loyal friend. You’re honest. You’re a good big sister. You love Jesus. You’re an awesome volleyball player. And, you’re even a little funny! (Ok, you’re a lot funny!) Should I go on? I could fill an entire page!

Here’s the thing: Those things don’t change based on other people’s opinion.

I know how hard you work. I know how far you have come. I see how much you’ve grown up.

Don’t you dare let what seems like one person’s lack of confidence in you define you. Don’t let that squash out your dreams. Don’t let it disappoint you. Don’t let one person saying no keep you from hearing all the people cheering for you and saying yes!

When you are doing everything that you are supposed to do, let that be enough. Work on the things you have some control over and let the other things become secondary. Take responsibility when you mess up and learn from those mess-ups. Find the people God has placed in your life who want to help you grow and help you reach your dreams. Keep those people close.

I will keep reminding you, in the meantime, that I believe in you. I’m proud of you. I’m here when you need me. And don’t forget — believe in yourself. You have great things in you. No kidding. Great. Things.

Keep going.

Love you, sweet girl.

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{Southern Gal Hostess of the Year? Not so much.}

A few weeks ago, it was my Dad’s birthday. (Happy Birthday, Dad!) We decided to have an impromptu gathering to celebrate — at our house. I, being the southern belle that I am, had suggested a nice dinner out. After all, the house was a mess, the fridge was empty, and I was tired. Very tired. But, no. Dinner out wasn’t going to do. There had to be a celebration. For my dad. With other people. And I would host.

So, we came home from Sunday lunch and had a few hours to prep for the party. Any southern gal worth her weight in butter can prep for a party on short notice, right? Um, no. I came home and took a nap. Yes. Fell asleep. In my favorite spot. With my favorite pillow. Don’t judge me!

After my Sunday afternoon nap, the house was still a mess, the fridge still empty, and people were still coming over in an hour. On the way to grocery store, I whined and complained at my lack of preparation. I moaned that I know better than this. Why couldn’t we just take everyone out for pizza? My awesome, superstar, worth-his-weight-in-gold hubby assured me it would be fine. He has a beautiful gift of calm. We scurried through the store like a couple of crazy people. We still had 30 minutes to spare. Then, we realized we forgot the cake. Did I mention we were halfway home at that point? Yikes.

When we pulled in the driveway, we were late. (Now, you can judge me.) Our guests were already there. And so, I did what any other respectable southern gal hostess type would do. I put them to work. What. In. The. World. It’s shameful, I know. Pizza really would have been better. I promise the next gathering at my house will be better. I do have it in me.

Here’s the thing: While I may not have scored high marks this time on the “Southern Gal Hostess of the Year” chart, I still had an opportunity that evening to practice hospitality.  It didn’t necessarily look the way I wanted it to look — ok, who am I kidding, It looked nothing like I wanted it to — but, even still, I was being hospitable. See, I’m learning that hospitality is about a heart that says “You are important to me.”  I opened my door wide and invited these folks into my mess because they are important. I opened my door wide and made a place here where it was perfectly acceptable to be a hot mess! Because, hello, did you notice? Hot. Mess. Right here.

Opportunities for hospitality will sometimes interrupt our daily routines with no regard for our empty fridge or our mess. But, it’s ok. It really is. I’m learning that there’s more to it than a perfectly executed five-course dinner or beautifully executed party. It’s about leaning in with a tender heart towards the people that God has put in my path. I can be hospitable when I greet the clerk at the grocery store. I can be hospitable when I greet my neighbor with a smile. I can welcome people into our home despite the mess. Why? Because people are important. Hospitality says I see you and you matter. That, my friends, is the kind of southern gal I want to be. One who is worth her weight in butter because hospitality isn’t just something she does, it’s who she is. Kind. Gracious. Warm. Tenderhearted. One who loves others well. That’s what we’re meant to do, isn’t it? Love people. Hospitality starts there. 
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{One Step at a Time Gets Me There.}

So, I have a confession. I am an emotional eater. There, I said it.

Now, before I go any further, I should explain that I understand there’s an underlying spiritual issue — the emotional eating, that’s just a symptom. More on that another time. For now, let it just be enough to get that out there.

So, where was I? Ah, yes — emotional eater.

I realized there was a problem when I started gaining a reputation for the girl who loved donuts. I do love a good donut, it’s true. But is that the thing I want to come to mind when one thinks of me? Um, no. My poor, sweet friends. They really had no choice as much as I raved about donuts. Trust me y’all, it was bad. One evening I stopped by the Krispy Kreme and bought a dozen hot now glazed donuts. I ate four of them within five minutes — on my way to a workout session at my church. I saved the other six for my post-workout drive home. That’s right. And, I unashamedly boasted about it during the class. What?! Who does that?! {ahem}

Here’s the thing: I don’t do well with transition and there have been several major (GIANT) transitions in our lives over the past five years. I did have a baby during that time; even still, three years seems a reasonable amount of time to lose the pregnancy weight.  The pregnancy weight wasn’t the problem, though.

The problem was that food (junk food) became a form of stress management. If I was upset, I’d grab a fruit roll-up or three. If I was sad, I’d grab a dozen donuts. If I was confused, back to the fruit roll-ups. If I was feeling uncertain, I’d eat half a bag of cheese puffs. If overwhelmed, ice cream. You get the idea. No surprise when the scale told me I weighed nearly 200 pounds. (Did I mention all the major transitions?) Yep, almost 200 pounds! Even in my skivvies, even when I shifted around trying to distribute the weight differently, more evenly, even after I inched my feet backwards so my heels hung off the back of the scale. But, the scale wasn’t the only issue either.

Poor choices in one area of life affect all other areas of life in some way or other. I was watching that happen right before my eyes. I felt a little hopeless. One morning after tearing off the third blouse as I tried to get ready for church, I lamented that I was tired of being chubby and hated my clothes. There were tears. The big, ugly cry kind of tears. My sweet husband did the only thing he knew to do — he told me I was beautiful, wiped away my tears and then bought me donuts on the way to church. Really though, this wasn’t about being beautiful or weighing less — it was about being comfortable in my own skin. It was about living well. 

At the end of May, I joined a clean eating group. In June, I signed up for a 21Day Challenge Group and started using Shakeology. After that, I signed on with Team Beachbody as a coach. Sure, the discounted Shakeology and workout packages are great. But, what’s even better is having the opportunity to tell someone it’s not too late to live well, to live healthy, to be better.  That’s why you’re seeing more health and fitness posts on my social media lately. If you feel stuck or discouraged in this area of your life, I would love to help you.

I am happy to report that I have not eaten a donut since the end of May! I dropped 13 pounds after my first round of 21Day Fix + Shakeology. But, more importantly, I feel better. I am better. And stronger. I haven’t reached my overall health and fitness goal yet, but I am making progress. One day at a time. One workout at a time. One healthy decision after another. One step at a time. That’s what gets me there.

I can. I will.

PintrestHFJ1

 

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Guest Blogger :: Maddie Grace

My sweet Madeleine asked if she could share a portion of her story here. I was happy to oblige. I am so thankful and grateful for all that God is doing in her life.


Hi everyone!! I’m Maddie, and in 8th grade Bible this year, we were given the assignment to write milestone moment speeches. Basically what these are is you think of a time in your life where you felt God working in you. I shared my speech with the class and many people were inspired. I hope that my story can help inspire you as well. Hopefully it’s good 🙂

I’m just an average girl, I live with my mom and my stepdad and honestly, I’m extremely grateful that God has blessed me with such a great Christian family now, but life hasn’t always been easy.

Earlier in my life, I really struggled with the fact that my parents were getting divorced. I was really young at the time, about 3 years old, with a younger brother only a few months old. I don’t remember much, but in the midst of all the arguing and confusion, I do remember feeling really alone.

Things got even more complicated in 2008 when my dad remarried to a woman was abusive to my younger brother and me. I remember her telling me, you’re not beautiful, you’re not worth anything, and she told me I didn’t deserve anything special. Being only 8 years old, it really affected my self-confidence and I remember being in tears most of the nights I spent with my dad and stepmom. To make things more confusing, my dad NEVER took up for me, the man in my life who is supposed to tell me how beautiful and treasured I am, just stood there and let a woman ruin my confidence. But, one night I remember my mom sharing a verse with me that really encouraged me to not care about what the world says about me, but to know that I am God’s masterpiece, created in Christ to do good works. (Ephesians 2:10)

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My relationship with my dad is very damaged because of my stepmom’s influence. I honestly couldn’t trust him anymore, and I still have trouble trusting other people, even if they seem completely innocent. Somewhere in the middle of my broken relationship, I realized that what I needed was a strong relationship with God. I knew that in the book of Psalms it says to call on God and He will rescue me.

So in 2011, I really began to pray and read my Bible and figured out what it means to have a meaningful relationship with God. I especially began to pray that God would work things out with my dad.

In 2012, my dad and stepmom announced that they were getting a divorce. It took them 7 years to realize that their marriage wasn’t healthy. I saw them getting a divorced as an answer to prayer. I thought that maybe, a new, restored relationship with my dad would be made possible. But I was wrong. My dad has continued to make some very bad choices and he recently made a huge mistake that has again, affected my brother and me in a very negative way; but I will definitely keep praying that God will continue to teach me through these tough spots.

God is truly amazing. I’m so grateful that He is always there and I know now that even in the darkest points in life, I can fully trust him no matter what. I’m also very thankful that he gives me opportunities to share my story and show his unconditional love to others.

~Maddie Lewis

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But, God.

I am simply overwhelmed at the faithfulness of God. Undone. Blown away.

I was sitting at my piano tonight, just stringing together random chords — not playing anything in particular. I am so grateful for the gift of music that God has given us to use as an expression of our worship. Music is woven into story after story through out Scripture. The first mention of an instrument and musician is in Genesis 4. His name was Jubal.  I think that’s SO cool.

The past weekend was full of music. I was invited to play piano for a wedding. Play. And sing. Um, what’s that now? In front of people? Yes. In front of people. Sunday, there was worship. I played keys and sang (at the same time). What’s the big deal? I told people for years, “I play the piano, but not in front of people and not if I’m singing.” Sometimes, I still cannot believe that I do that very thing on a regular basis. But, God knew that I would.

I took lessons when I was younger. When we didn’t have a piano in our home I had to practice at church. I’d go over and practice for awhile. I didn’t like to practice at the church because I wasn’t supposed to turn on all the lights. It was kind of spooky. So, I quit piano lessons and didn’t play much after that for a very long time. There were days I would go over to the church and pull out a songbook, Lift Him Up: Volume 3, and pick through some worship songs. I couldn’t have imagined what God had in store. I did not fully understand what He was pouring into me; nor, did I understand that He was preparing me. Even then. Way back then.

It is remarkable to look back and see the God moments — and to recognize them. There were seasons of my life where there was no song. No music. No worship. Sometimes, even now, I find myself wondering if I’ve missed something. But, God.

But, God was working. He always knew where I was. He surrounded me with people whom He would use to speak life, speak encouragement, to teach and train.

I will never forget the moment I sang my very first song in church. I was young. And it was empty. I would sing along with a cassette tape in the microphone while my parents cleaned. I always picked the microphone with the blue foam cover (or windscreen, if you’re a tech geek). I don’t know if the microphone was on, but it did smell funny. (Now, I know that was the smell of spit!) I remember the moment I sang in front of people. “The sun will come out to-mor-row…” My momma made me do it.

I will never forget the moment that God confirmed the specific calling He had on my life for worship ministry. It’s in me. He put it there.

I will never forget the moment someone referred to me as a musician, a good musician. Wait. What? That’s not how I would describe myself. Sure, she was and is one of my dearest and most favorite friends. But, she has mad skills on the piano. When she said it, it meant something. I may have cried, and she may have poked fun at me. But, still. She spoke life, encouragement.

I will never forget the moment that I played piano while I sang — in front of people. It was my Mamaw’s funeral. I was petrified.

I remember the first time I led worship. I remember the first time I led worship from the piano. That was . . . well, I have no words.

I could go on. Moment after moment. Specifically and divinely designed moments because I am His, and He is mine. He is always, always working. And, He’s promised that He will equip me. And as I played tonight, He reminded me of this: He is for me. He will never leave me. He will never forsake me. He loves me.

But here’s the thing: He loves me because He is love. I have done nothing to earn or deserve His affections. He loved me before I sang my first note or played my first chord. He loved me before I was even born.

That always gets me. Every. time.

That’s why I sing.

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{Letters to My Daughter – No. 1}

Remember our first mom-daughter date. We put on nice dresses and went to a fancy restaurant. We talked. And laughed. I might have cried a tiny, little bit. We had fun being together.

You looked beautiful. Your sweet smile lights up the room. I love your smile.

Do you remember what we talked about? It’s been quite some time since our date. So, I want to remind you. We talked about being a girl who knows that she is God’s masterpiece. I reminded you that being this girl means that you make choices for yourself that reflect that very important truth. This girl knows who she belongs to. She cares about modesty and purity. She values good character and integrity.  She is the daughter of a King.

You are valuable and beautiful simply because you are YOU. You are created by the God of the universe, the Master Creator. You are unique. A masterpiece. That is what Scripture says, which means that what God says. About you!

Sometimes, it’s hard to remember that and even harder to really believe it. There is so much pressure to look like everyone else and fit in. There are so many competing voices and ideas. It’s hard to make choices about some of the important things – like modesty and purity – without worrying about what all your friends will think. After all, we all want to belong. To be accepted. We were created with that basic desire (every single one of us). And you, my sweet girl, belong to God.  That is the truth. When it seems hard to make choices that reflect that truth, come talk to me. And, talk to Him. He hears you and sees you and is concerned with all the details of your life.

Let me also remind you that real beauty is not about what you wear or how you fix your hair. Please do comb your hair. And brush your teeth. And wear clean, stylish clothing. But always remember that there’s more to it than that. It begins with a heart that loves Jesus. It begins with believing what He says about you and carrying those truths with you into every moment of your day.

Remember who you are and who you belong to. Make choices that are wise. Be the girl God created you to be. Make those wise (sometimes really hard) choices even when you don’t feel like you are that girl. Then pray that God will help you really believe what He says about you.

You were created on purpose. For a purpose. You are highly favored. You are valuable. You are His masterpiece. Believe it. Live it.

I love you. So does He.

{Worship | It’s a Big Deal}

There seems to be something happening in worship gatherings in churches across America. People are talking about it, writing articles about it, blogging about it. The conversation is important though a tiny bit uncomfortable. See, it appears that more often than not people are coming to church, sitting in the chairs (or standing) and watching worshipWe consume worship rather than actively engage and participate in worship. We come with expectations of being entertained by great music rather than expecting to encounter the powerful, life-changing presence of God.

This makes me sad.

Worship leaders must strive to make absolute certain that our worship gatherings are biblically rooted, Christ-centered, Spirit-led, and rightly motivated. Worship is not all about us. It’s all about Him. Wait, what’s that now? I know. Sometimes, it’s hard to wrap our minds around anything that isn’t all about us. I get it.

Now, we all understand that worship is not just singing songs on Sunday morning. Singing songs is a form or expression of worship, but it doesn’t end there. Worship encompasses all areas of our lives. Everything we do, everything we are, everything we say – all of these things point toward a heart of worship. Worship is who we are every moment before the God who created the universe.

We were created to worship. To worship is one of our greatest privileges and it came at a high price. Jesus died. Actually, He didn’t just die. Jesus, the Son of God, was mocked, scorned, falsely accused, beaten within inches of His life and then, then He was crucified on a cross so that we might have the privilege of worship. There’s more. He did it on purpose. It was no accident. It was the plan. While we were sinners, Jesus died for us. (Romans 5:8) And in one moment, God demonstrated His lavish love for us by providing a way for us to know Him. There has never been a greater demonstration of love. Ever.

I know – you’ve heard that a million and one times before, especially if you grew up going to church every time the doors were open. (Any other church girls or guys out there?) Here’s the thing: I cannot help but wonder if that’s part of the problem. Have we heard the story of the Gospel so many times that we’ve lost any sense of wonder and awe? Has the Gospel become inconsequential in our lives, our churches, and our worship gatherings? Has it become a story we like to tell, but one that we are unaffected by? It was never meant to be so.

So, what do we do with that? As we prepare to gather in our churches across America tomorrow, what will we do with that? Can I encourage you to stop for a few moments today and remember. Settle into a quiet place and let your mind rest on Him. Remember who He is – the Creator of the Universe and Savior of the World. Remember that He knows your name. Let your heart be overwhelmed by His lavish and unfailing love as you remember what He did for you, for all of us. And then, respond from that place.

Let the truth of the Gospel blow you away all over again. It’s a big deal.

He loves you so.


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{Letters to My Daughter} {No. 2}

Sweet Girl,

You wrote me the most lovely letter. Thank you. Because I know you are dying to know — yes, it made me cry! Big. Tears. I didn’t cry just because you said nice things about me and to me. I cried because as a momma it is pretty awesome to see God working in your life.

God used you and your words in that letter to encourage me. That makes my heart swell to the point of bursting. Do you hear me? God used you. Let that sink in. 

There are three things I want you to know and remember.

1. Words are powerful. Use them well.  Speak life. Speak hope. Speak words of encouragement. Once you release your words, it is impossible to get them back. It’s like squeezing an entire tube of toothpaste out onto a plate and trying to put it back inside the tube. (I used to do that on the first day of school in front of the class. Trying to put toothpaste back into a tube is quite messy!) It’s the same with our words, you know. If used unwisely–carelessly–words hurt, leave scars, cause damage to relationships. And always, always remember your words reveal your heart. Guard your heart and use your words well. Let every word you speak be a reflection of Jesus’ love being perfected in you. The letter you wrote me is a glowing example of what I’m talking about. You spoke life and encouragement to me. What a gift!

2. God will use you. Look around and listen to Him. I am sure when you wrote my letter you didn’t think you were doing anything extraordinary. Yet the words you wrote were exactly the words I needed to hear in that very moment. You should know that there are people around you who need the same kind of gift you gave me–words of life. Can I challenge you to look for them? On purpose. Ask God to use you to encourage someone each day. Ask Him. I promise He will. This is not the first time you’ve used words to encourage. You have a gift of encouragement. Once you wrote an encouraging message to a kid who was a few years younger than you. You leave sweet notes for your siblings and for us. Keep doing that. Remember, you may never know how God uses the words you speak and that’s ok. You just be brave and bold. Be obedient to the voice of the Holy Spirit and speak life.

3. I love you. You are extraordinary. If I could line up all the girls on the planet and pick one to be my daughter, I would choose you. Every single time.

I’m glad you’re my girl. (Even when we’re having a bad day!)

XOXO.