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St. John’s VBS 2016 Deep Sea Discovery

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I’ve always lived in places where water was scarce. As a kid, I was taught to turn off the faucet as I brushed my teeth, to take showers instead of baths if I could, to fill a basin of hot water for the dishes, and to pretty much skip washing my car. Okay, so I totally added the last one to scrape for an excuse as to why my van is always filthy.

When we lived in the desert, one thing you always packed for any extended road trip was bottles of water, in case you found yourself with a flat tire, covered in dog vomit on the side of an abandoned dirt road (a story for another time).

Now in Southern California, we’re quickly learning that we actually still live in a desert climate with watering restrictions transforming the lush landscape into patches of brown, dry grass.

Yes water is essential to life. Life looks different when water is scarce.

This week at VBS, the kids may have to forego their water day, but they are going to be submerged in water inspired stories that teach them about the life-giving importance of Jesus.

Because water brings life.

More important, Jesus brings life.

There may be a drought in Orange County, but friends it is going to rain giant droplets of grace and love at St Johns Orange over the next five days.

Follow the blog this week for daily updates as I join our St John’s volunteers and over 730 kiddos on an underwater adventure that teaches us about a God that gives rainbows for promises, answers prayers from the belly of whales, and calls us to be his miracle workers, with a basin of water and His life changing word.

A New Approach

Hi Readers,

I’m going to try something a little different. Normally one of my blog posts takes about 3 hours. I pray, I deliberate, I edit, and I take the things I publish very seriously. I know most blogs go for volume and posts that get a lot of buzz- but to be honest, popularity isn’t my goal. I recently took on a beauty writing position,  I have a crawling, breastfeeding, mama loving baby, and I’m leading my church’s mom’s ministry next year…in other words…3 hours can’t be  found!  So instead I’m going to write more frequent, short bursts on whatever song God is playing on my heart. Let me know what you think. I love comments, questions, honest feedback, or anything where I get to listen instead of just throw words out into this big dark blogosphere!

Much Love & Scoops of Ice Cream

Lindsay

To Say “I Do”…

to say i do

“I Do.”

Two syllables form a sentence that makes a promise we remember day after day in a lifetime together.

When we vow, “I do,” before all to hear, we’re saying we promise to love, respect, and honor our spouse. Its a big moment. A moment we can draw a big red dot on and say, after this point, my life was never the same; I was never the same.

But whether we celebrate those vows with expensive champagne and two hundred of our closest friends and family, or in a quieter fashion, with just a chosen few, the words are the same, and the promise doesn’t change, we look at our spouse, and we say, “I do.” “I do promise to stay by your side for life.”

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Its not a phrase you say often, “I do.” For such a big promise,they aren’t two words we say again and again. Maybe its because it sticks the first time, but I think its really because the words “I do,” are woven in the fabric of our lives together as a married couple.

Maybe the vows we say aloud to each other are few, to remind us that the promise is fulfilled in how we live it.

coy bride“I do,” is wrapped in flannel pajamas cuddled in the corner of the couch.
“I do,” pours like fresh hot coffee into my mug when I’m too exhausted to make it myself.

“I do,” fortifies me to insist I don’t want the last bowl of ice cream in the carton (when I do!)

“I do,” leaves my lips in the words “I’m sorry,” and “You were right,” or (the hardest) “I was wrong.”

“I do,” wets my cheek with his tears as he bows over me on the operating table as we wait to hear our babies first gasping cries.

“I do,” lies curled between us, as I crawl into bed beside him, when my anger prods me to sleep on the couch.

“I do,” is tucked  in wrinkles, winking in silver hairs, and glowing in angry red scars and white stretch marks as we look at each other and see someone beautiful.

“I do,” twinkles in the knowing look he gives me as we exchange a shared unspoken secret.

“I do,” wells with pride in my eyes as I look at my I dodaughter and see all the things I love about my husband in her.

“I do,” is folded in warm laundry, melted like the peanut butter he puts on his pancakes, sprayed in the scrubbing bubbles I foam the sink with after he’s shaved.But for us, “I do,” is also an admission that, “I don’t.” No. I don’t measure up. Neither does he.

But in the moments when we have nothing left to say, we look to a God Who says, “I do,” not just with words, but with His hands spread wide, His head bowed, and His final breath.

And we look to a God who breathes again, and says “I will.” God that gives us the grace, to forgive, to love, to trust… to say “I do” again.welovelogo

 

What I Learned from My Traitor Baby

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She was curled inside me for 9 months. Each night at midnight she squawks and cries from her bed so she can come curl against me until the wee hours of the morning when she clucks and coos in my ear until I crack open my eyes. She’s a mama’s girl in every sense of the word, and I love it. I relish every suckle, every cuddle, every smile, every wet kiss, and hair tug, and sweet baby noise that leaves her lips.

Then, at eight months old, she spoke her first word, “DaDa.” And then, her second word, “Hi DaDa!”

Yes my mama’s girl has dad on her lips.

I shouldn’t care…I (do)n’t care.

Every day I watch her pink bubble gum lips and wait for her to form those two syllables, like she’s smacking her lips, “MaMa.” Or even one syllable, “Ma.” We can go Southern style.

I know it will happen in God’s timing, “blah blah blah…” but, as my three year old would put it, “I really, really, really (repeat 6 more times), really want” her to say it already.

I want it so much that my subconscious mind stepped in.  For nights in a row, I started dreaming that she was saying “MaMa.” I would wake with a happy glow, until I remembered that my sweet mama’s girl is a turncoat. I look at her smiling face as she sticks her fingers in my eyes, mouth, and ears, as she gurgles and coos and I realize its only five in the morning. And as I look at her sweet little mouth, like in slow motion replay mode, she again forms the words, “Daaah. Daaaah.”

Then, one morning, after only 4 hours of sleep (because of said turncoat baby), I picked her up, walked around to her daddy’s side of  the bed, shook “DaDa” awake. Handing her over I went straight to the bathroom for a shower so hot that it reddened my pale skin, and I cried. Sobbed actually; big ugly sobs that you do when no one is looking.

I know what you’re thinking here. Melodramatic right? Agreed. But now I want you to look back on the last thing in your life you were waiting to happen. That thing that if it fell into place, it would change everything else. That thing you asked your friends to pray for you about, that thing that for some reason, God has been silent about. Maybe your waiting for it now. Now listen.

A few days ago our family was on vacation. The four of us were crammed in one hotel room. When Nathan and I finally got the kids to sleep, we propped open the door and sat in pool chairs on the pavement outside the door, passing a gallon of coffee ice cream back and forth. Yes- we waited till the three year old was in bed so we didn’t have to share- don’t judge. In our blissful moment, I heard the baby whining. I ran in to check on her, and in her sleep she murmured two sweet syllables, “MaMa.” I guess I hadn’t been dreaming it after all.

I wish she’d say my name in the day, but I know who she’s dreaming about at night.

This makes me think about all the things that are happening that we don’t know about. After all, as people, we’d like to think we know it all, we have control over it all, and our world rests on our own shoulders like the heavy Jansport backpack we trudged around with in high school. But so much is happening we don’t know about- in this world- and the spiritual world. Just think what God is doing in your world while you’re sleeping. Maybe our dreams are a way that God is preparing us for a future reality. Maybe those sweet dreams and whispers are the best part of this life.

“The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Stop scraping and scrambling and fighting for what God has already done, for what God is already doing. God’s timing is infuriating, and confusing, and perfect and beautiful; but we can rest in him, and know that we are His child- because the best two syllable name my girl can learn is “Father,” and its not the guy sleeping next to me.

 

Being a Living Sacrifice

They’ve seen Christianity in our fish symbols on our cars and in our Good News handouts. We hear it in crooning song lyrics.

They’ve met Christians that go to church, and bible study, and every other program.

Jesus came to Earth, not because Israel didn’t know of God, but because they needed Him to reconcile them to God. In infant hands and nail pierced feet our God lived the Gospel among His people.

Americans have heard of Jesus, some of them are knee deep in Jesus pop culture.

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The question I’m wrestling with, is how is God calling me to show them Who Jesus is? Its a question I ask every day, because the answer is a calling that grows and changes.

Yesterday I walked past a man on the corner with wrinkled face and dirty clothes. He held a sign in his shaking fingers that read, “Hungry Veteran: Help.”

I wanted to avert my eyes; to walk in a wider circle around him. Instead I sucked in a breath and looked him in his tired, amber eyes. I nodded and whispered, “God bless you.”

Tomorrow I wonder what it would looked like if I was a blessing? What does it look like for you?

a living sacrifice

“Brothers and sisters, in view of all we have just shared about God’s compassion, I encourage you to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, dedicated to God and pleasing to him. This kind of worship is appropriate for you.” Romans 12:1

I Need You Mom

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Growing up, I chased after my mom like a bright ball of yarn.  I was the baby of the family. Like a leaf that follows you into the house or the last spoonful of peanut butter clinging to the sides of the empty jar, my family wasn’t expecting me when I showed up one afternoon as an extra pink line.

My teenage sisters would go to the movies and the mall, my big brother would roam the forest with neighborhood friends, and I would stay in my flannel nightgown with my pile of Barbies, following my mom from room to room as she busied herself with house chores. My mom never snuck off to the grocery store without me. I would be waiting at the front door, shoes on the wrong feet, mismatched clothes, a crooked smile and a stubborn resolve. At night if I heard the water pipes whistle, I ran up the stairs, stepping out of my pants, my underwear, disentangling my arms from my inside out shirt, and climbing in beside her in the hot bath, before she could turn me away.

When I look back, I can’t remember what we talked about. I can’t even tell you what she made for dinner most nights or what our bedtime routine looked like. What I remember was she was there. Her reassuring presence, her patience, her reliability. She was mom- the person that gave me comfort, the person that loved me through scraped knees, and bullies, and the awkward uncertainty of being a kid. When life felt like too much for my little kid shoulders to bear, she was there, so I didn’t have to go through it alone.

Sometimes as a mom, life feels like too much. In the midst of uncertainty, I dial my mom’s number and release an incoherent stream of anxiety, and resentment, and excitement, and fear. My emotions bubble over and spill into her lap in a stream of tears, and laughter, and sometimes just tense silence. There’s little of our conversations I can remember. I can only remember a handful of the advice she has given me over the years. But in those moments, what I need most is my mom- and she picks up, she listens, and she never gives up on me.

Often I question what I have to offer my children. The days come and go like the flash of passing traffic on a busy road. At night I feel like I have no more of myself to give. And the weight of motherhood rubs calluses on my small square frame.

But God reminds me that its not about the words I have to say, its not about my talents or my own ability. He calls me to show up, so that His power can be revealed in me. How often I want to run and hide because I feel like I’m not enough! But sometimes the greatest thing we can do is just show up, to just answer the phone, to never give up…and trust. Trust that we won’t be alone.

“I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:3-5 (NIV biblehub.com)

Last night I tucked my 2 year old into bed. We read our book, and prayed, I gave her two round kisses and I turned out the light. Her soft murmurs that usually give way to the silence of sleep, erupted into wales.

“Mama! Mama!”

I cracked open the door, “Yes baby?”

“Cuddle me.”

I climbed in beside her in the toddler size bed. We lay there, two lovebirds, nose to nose, giggling and whispering until she surrendered to the weight of sleep. I kissed her head, and got up to finish my night time chores.

I know she won’t remember all that I say. She won’t remember every cuddle, or band-aid, or glass of water in the middle of the night, but she’ll know I was there.

 

Marked By Love

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Recently after I became a mom, my mother gave me a gold necklace with three little letters. M-O-M. I wear it every day, because it is a visible reminder of all that she gave up to shape me into the person I am. Three little letters in the word MOM, but a lot of sacrifice, a lot of hard work, a lot of responsibility give import to that little three letter name. And as my own mom handed me that necklace, it felt like she was passing her promise on to me. A promise she made when she became a mom- to take on the job with all its challenges and sacrifices, all its sacred beauty, with as much courage and grace as she could muster. A promise I try  to keep for my girls every day.

A couple days ago, my sweet baby E fell asleep with her cheek rested against my chest, drool escaping from a suckling mouth, the hair on her head curling from sweat. When she woke up her flushed face was marked with three bold letters M-O-M. I felt terrible. The whole time her cheek pressed against my metal charms, leaving an imprint against her precious skin. I didn’t notice that I was leaving a mark on her.

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Looking at her emblazoned face I remember the Flannery O’Connor story I read in high school. A child loves to visit the monestary to visit the nuns, but each time she leaves, they give her a hug and their crucifixes leave an uncomfortable mark on her face. As O’Connor sums it up, whether we mean to or not, “love always leaves a mark.”

I run my thumb over the rivets in her skin and think about each imprint my touch makes on her tender soul. I think about how often my fingers touch her, to dress her, to wash her, when I rock her to sleep, when I tickle her soft tummy or trace her beautiful face.  My grooved fingerprints marking her even when I don’t realize it.

Today my 2 year old brought home an art project. With her hand, and two small feet in first position, her prints made the “o” and “v” to spell the word “love.” I smiled knowing that she giggled as the teacher tickled her feet with the wet pink paint brush; I knew she clapped her hands when she saw the prints her little feet left on the paper.

With two square magnets I put her picture of LOVE on the refrigerator. My daughter pointed and shouted, “my hands and feet are in love!” Her words resonated truth in my ears.

Our hands and feet are the very center of love. Without them, love would be just a word; but with them, love lived out in walking beside each other, holding hands, and carrying each others burdens, in praying, in preparing food, in washing feet. Love made flesh in infant size hands and feet, in hands that healed, in feet that followed, in hands and feet with nail size wounds.

But whether we mean to or not, our love leaves a mark on the beloved. When I see my daughter smile beneath the glow of my attention, I know that my love makes a difference, but what I don’t realize is how her love for me frames everything I do. Even the ugly things I say, when I don’t have my mom voice on, or my heart is tired and patience is waning, even those things are on display in her pretty square frame. The stuff that she remembers, the stuff that makes an impact isn’t always the stuff I do when I think she’s paying attention.

The reality is, I’m always on the clock. And as her mom, her love for me is cut out from the scraps of every day life, not just church days, or holidays, or days when I put on my mommy badge.

Yes those three little letters matter a whole heck of a lot. Its easy to believe that we can wear it like a light sweater on a hot summer day, bringing it along, and tossing it off when we don’t need it; but the title wraps around us, giving us comfort and warmth, sometimes stifling us.

When I worry over the marks I leave on my daughters. How my every day words, the angry and the loving ones,  will shape them into women, I remember God’s grace. How God could use the ugly nail marks of hate to write the most beautiful story of mercy and love. How God can use even my mistakes to form my daughters into the women that he made them to be.

There is no pride in love, there is no fear in perfect love. And love is something my girls cannot have too much of. God marks me as His child. He loves me as His child. He gives me my hands and feet and eyes and heart to look and love and serve and mark my children with my love, and with His love. I can look past my toddler’s paint smeared hands and bruised knees and cracked tooth and see pure beauty. My daughters look past my stretch marked skin, the wink of wrinkles peeking from the corners of my eyes, that will eventually become like ravines, they see me at my worst, and call me Mom. Because despite the marks that life leaves on us, love heals us. And God gives us each other to love.

Baby E’s eyes widen and sparkle under my attention. Her two toothed grin spreads across her face and she wraps her clumsy hands around my cheeks and leans in for an open mouthed kiss. My cheek is marked with her sweet saliva. My chest feels swollen and full. Under the warmth of her love, I am marked as M-O-M, and that mark makes all the difference.

lonely mama (?) you need a village

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Why do we still say “it takes a village?”

We’re surrounded by advice and well wishes, and pastel and glitter baby cards proclaiming obvious truths like “it’s a boy!” or “a new baby is here!” , and we get piles of sweet blankets with scalloped edges and tiny onesies emblazoned with whitty alliteration and embroidered forget-me-nots, and then the baby comes with a cry and a happy flourish of helping hands and hot meals. Our house buzzes with husbands and in-laws underfoot helping generously and driving us crazy, and then we drive them to the airport, and kiss hubby goodbye, and we look around our house, and its empty.

And our arms are full; our head is spinning; our heart is bursting; and we are so. damn. lonely.

We run errands and see another mom with her hair in a sloppy pony and yoga pants, a sleeping baby cocooned under a brightly printed canopy. We think, look at me. Smile. Say something. Her eyes glance over and leave ours before we can blurt out the words, “I want to be your friend!”

Then we fill with relief that we didn’t say something so desperate and ridiculous as she answers her phone and chats happily to the familiar voice on the other end. Probably her best mommy friend that she does sweet mommy things with. And she never tastes this bright, bitter pill of utter joy, and utter loneliness.

We get into our quiet car and drive home, and wait. Wait for the next feeding. Wait for nap time, and lunchtime, and bath time. We wait for our husband to get home and before we know it, we kiss him goodbye and face another busy, mind numbing day.

babyIn the early days, motherhood can be a confusing blend of big emotions: big joy, big awe, big love, big fear, big loneliness. Yes, big, big love… big, big loneliness.

We meet up with friends that were once our safe place, and they feel like strangers. They want to relate, they do, but they haven’t sacrificed their very life for the cries and whims of a tiny human; its hard to get it.

You spend time with new mom friends and they seem to already have figured out this mommy thing. They laugh and smile carelessly, their hair looks washed and eyelashes mascaraed. They don’t look like they want to dart and hide and shout “I can’t do this anymore!” They have husbands that are always helpful, grandmas that watch their kids in a moments notice, and other mommy besties that they go on shopping sprees with to Janie and Jack (the store we only window shop at) sipping macchiatos that somehow melt off their perfect post baby frame.

We need a village. I need a village. You need a village sweet mama.

Some moms might be better at pretending that they have this mom thing figured out. As kids get older, we might even think we’ve figured things out, but the weight of motherhood reshapes our lives for a greater purpose, and a greater responsibility, and we will never be the same again. We suck in that first breath as the nurse places him in our arms , eyes squeezed shut from the flood of light and noise, hands clutching, lip shivering, mouth suckling, and as he draws his first breaths, we never exhale, not fully, not ever again.

I started a moms’ book club last week. I prayed and fretted because a bunch of unfamiliar women getting together can be awkward, and loud, and uncomfortable; it can be exhilarating and beautiful.

And the greatest thing happened, I never thought possible. These women started a village. It wasn’t me, it wasn’t the book. It was the Holy Spirit and the beautiful majestic thing called motherhood that gave this group of women the ability to exhale (a little) to be real (mostly), because beneath that great hair is a half a can of dry shampoo, under those lulu yoga pants are unshaved legs, and within that brave mama heart is a small voice whispering, “I’m lonely. I need help. I need others.”

It’s not going to be perfect. Nothing in life ever is. But when we admit we can’t do this alone, when we show up, when you make ourselves vulnerable, God can show up, and fill our tired mama souls up. He can give us a village; He can give us a home.

If you need a village and don’t know where to start, contact me,                                                                                      no matter where you live.  I will pray with you and I will help you find one.

Never Alone

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He talked like he was peeling a carrot- stringing a long stream of words, then pausing, finding his place, continuing as the story curled on top of itself in confused coils. His voice twisted and turned through one tragedy after another, leaving me with unanswered questions and an unsettled heart.

Why would his wife leave him? How could she abandon her kids? Why after all of it did he have to lose his house? And then cancer? But the loudest question of them all: Why would God let this happen to this good, faithful man?

As his voice drifted off, I paused and perched on the edge of a barstool at the granite counter top to slow the spinning uncertainty in my head.

After a long silence, I grabbed the first comfortable words I knew, like a threadbare sweater in the shivering cold, “Maybe God is doing this for your good.”

His calm voice tightened like a clenched fist, “MY LIFE was FINE as it was. And everyone else gets to keep on with their happy oblivious lives, so why is God destroying mine?”

We could say his life took a wrong turn. Driving Miss Lucky swerved him down a dark dirt path for an unpleasant detour. Or worse than happenstance, we can point the finger at God. A God that our culture designs to fit in the cracks of our uncertainty. When there’s no other explanation for our misery we add God to the mix and cement our shaky understanding with a Creator that either is doing this for our “greater good” or to punish us for our misdeeds; a power hungry boss boss in the sky, flexing his omnipotent muscles while we scurry beneath the weight of his decisions.

But whoever the miscreant is, no explaining will bring back what has been taken from us.

Lost hope, lost innocence, lost livelihood, lost pride, losing our health, our homes, losing the perfect life we once had, or worse, losing the people we once loved.

Life can be ugly. And our lives can crumble and turn to dust. Beauty can fade to sunken eyes and between wrinkled folds. What is happy and oblivious can turn unfamiliar and lonely. A loving bite of homemade pot pie can turn bitter and divisive over a dinner conversation with your wife one Monday night.

But God never promised us a life without loss.

He promised to redeem what’s lost.

“Why did God destroy mine?” his last words clung to me like a dark fog, blurring my thoughts and spreading doubt.

I prayed silently, then said, “Let God be with you in your mess. Shout, cry, or be silent, but let Him be with you.”

When we wake up in the dark and don’t know where we are, we don’t always want the light of day, we just want someone else to hold onto.

God doesn’t replace the broken pieces of our lives. He sits there with us in the dust and messes. He looks at us in all of our brokenness and loves us exactly as we are. Because we don’t need shiny and new reproductions of ourselves- we need a God who will redeem what we already are.

A mosaic stained glass of our broken pieces: shattered and beautiful and whole again.

We try to fill up our emptiness and cracks with the love of others, the warm oblivion of distraction, and the promises of a way out.

But sometimes we just need to sit in the dark. We need to sit and question. We need to get to the edge of ourselves and look on the other side to where we want to be. Maybe its on the edge of the cliff, looking at our limitations and fears… alone… lost… lonely, that God can finally meet with us.

God can finally show us who we are; He can show us who He is.

And in the dark, when we’re looking for someone … something, to hold onto- He can hold us.

Let My Words Be Few

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I pout around the house like a pathetically afflicted artist. I have been plagued with writer’s block that I can’t seem to shake.My husband asked doubtfully, “Really Lindsay, how bad can it be?” I didn’t say anything, I just held up a single finger as I brought up my wordpress dashboard on my computer and navigated to the list of drafts. I scrolled through fifteen unfinished drafts, all like lost toys I had abandoned because they were faulty or broken somehow.

We sat together and tried to find the missing parts to each of my unfinished sentences. Nathan sat with a crinkle in his brow as he tried to piece my words together into something worthwhile. In the end, we gave up and went to bed, trading the fragments of thoughts and stories for sleep and thoughtless dreams.

I’ve been collecting inspiration like post cards, snapping photos, writing down quotes on post it notes and scribbling ideas on scraps of paper. I’ve read, a lot, consuming page after page like a child on a growth spurt. I’ve prayed and spent more quiet time with God. I’ve asked other writers where they find ideas; I’ve talked with Nathan into the late hours of the night, about theology, about love, and life as a candle burns dimly in melted wax and the taste of red wine lingers on our lips. Yes, I have been on a long meandering journey for words.

Today my daughter and I met a new friend at Starbucks. Her son is a toddler that explores the world through the simplest and most gratifying means, from banging the table, throwing his cup to hear the plastic plunk on the tile floor, and putting things indiscriminately in his mouth. His noise and chaos really got under my daughter’s skin. I watched as she transformed from mildly frustrated to a hysterical screaming mess. I picked her up, kicking and thrashing, and set her on a bench outside to let her catch her breath.

When she calmed down I asked, “Why were you so upset?”
She responded decisively, “He was just too noisy for me.”

Sometimes my own world is too noisy for me. Sometimes it gets so loud that I can’t distinguish what is truth and what is noise. I need some time on my own bench, when my ears are ringing with words but I can’t find ones that speak truth. And maybe that’s really the problem, figuring out how to find the right words when I’m drowning in so many. Because I could write a thousand words, and it could be as if I’d written nothing if they just come from my head but they don’t resonate in my heart.

I always want to write something incredible. Too often I measure my worth on what I can do, and not on who God is. As hard as it is to be quiet, to catch my breath, God reminds me that I need to listen first. Because life is built as we search for truth and meaning. Life is found in the moments that we read, and pray, and dream, and ponder. And its when we take the time to listen, that we can hear God’s whisper. Because we don’t find truth in our own rattling brains but in Word made flesh, in the God who spoke the world into existence. We find truth when we stop talking, and we are brave enough to listen.