Your Past Only Makes You if You Let It

I’ve learned that my past typically has some bearing on what I do and how I do what I do. But I have a tendency to allow my past to define my present, and in turn, my future. That’s not the way things were meant to be. When I gave my life over to Christ, I became new.

What they did to me–does not define me. What she said about me or to me–does not define me. That job I didn’t get and the job I do have–none of those things define me. Only God has the power to define me, even when I look to other people or my job description to tell me my worth instead.

But my worth is not based on a creation, it is based in a wonderful Creator. My Creator made me new, and He wants to me to walk in His ways free from the burdens of my past. It’s not that my past isn’t there, it’s just that He carries it for me. But I am responsible for the decisions I make in this new life He’s given me.

God always gives me a choice, and sometimes (far too often, really), I make the wrong choice. I let the old pieces of my life try to work their way into the puzzle that is my new life. And you know what happens? Mess. A huge stinking MESS. Because those old pieces don’t fit my new life no matter how I move them or how hard I try to shove them into place.

I used to hate it when people told me to just take things one day at a time (I’m a planner and you can’t plan your life in just one day, you know?). But now I’m beginning to see that living a new life requires a new day, everyday. As my eyelids close for the night, so yesterday becomes my past. 

There are moments in the past, decisions, that help shape the people we become. But they do not have to define us. They do not have to wreck our future. So here’s to letting go of what lies behind, and loving the life He’s put in front of me now, and reaching for what lies ahead in eternity. 

A Light for Christmas

As I was walking inside on this cold, dreary day, I realized something—strands of Christmas lights are really ugly when they aren’t lit. Especially the netted ones that hang across our shrubs in the front yard. They’re just plain unattractive when they aren’t giving off their Christmas cheer.

And then I thought–what about me? How does my soul show itself to the world? What do they see? Do they see my mess, and only my mess, or life and the light of Jesus shining through? The point of this is that I want to be a light all of the time. I don’t want people to see the ugly nastiness that the world has painted over me (they see enough of that already)–I want them to see His beauty.

And that’s really what we’re called to, isn’t it?

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16

Exploding Glass and Other Daily Adventures

I used to think I wanted a life of adventure, but I was wrong. At least, I didn’t know the kind of adventure I wanted. I thought I wanted this crazy (busy) career–traveling, speaking, and writing–getting into stuff all over the world. In some ways, I still want some of those things. But I’ve learned something about adventures over the last year.

They happen in the daily so, so often.

I just miss them because I look for the big things–you know, the ones that practically scream words like thrill, adventure, fun, danger, crazy, or awesome. And I also look at what I’m doing or where I’m going, not who I’m with. Let me say this about adventure: the people are the most important part.

One of the pitfalls of being a dreamer–I see everything written in words that are larger than life. I have to scale them down a bit and ask myself, “What is it that I want? What is it that God wants me to do?”

I’ve found that adventure is simply life–following God’s plan as He laid it out for me, loving the people He places on my path.

I also plan a lot. (Hey, dreams don’t become reality by chance). And I really don’t like it when plans change last minute (funny admission for someone who says she wants adventure, right?). Well, last Saturday I had a plan. Three friends were coming over, and I was cooking for them. I love to cook for people and do it as often as I can; it just makes me happy.

Well, Lynn and I were dancing and acting crazy (showing off our Beyonce moves, you know?), when we heard a loud pop (you should have seen our faces) and smoke started pouring out of the oven. No one was hurt, except the glass pan that shattered.  (Actually, the food wasn’t even burnt. It just had an extra…crunch).

So, when the guys got there, the doors were open to clear the smoke out of the house. Lynn and I had to confess that our dance moves must have caused the pan to explode. Then we were faced with the inevitable: what are we going to do about dinner? 

Lynn said, “Well, it’s a good time to learn to be flexible!”

And I responded with an (only half-joking): “I don’t want to be flexible!”

I was so worried about making the night perfect for my friends that it upset me way more than it should have when the dish exploded. Honestly, it took me half the distance to Cracker Barrel to (sort of) calm down. Now, I look back and laugh because the night turned out perfectly, as in what should have happened did. It wasn’t perfect, because it was life. But it was a memorable little adventure in it’s own way.

Adventure can be larger than life, the kind of story that makes a novel a best seller; but adventure can also be something small and unexpected that comes at just the right time to reroute our daily routine from the ordinary to the memorable. My adventures may not create a story the whole world wants to hear, but they’re the moments that make up a life–the kind of stories that will be passed down in my family for years to come.

And that’s all I want–the moments and little adventures that string together to create a forever.

The Punctuation of a Photograph

My life doesn’t look like any of my friends’ lives. (Before you call me out for bragging, just take a minute to read the rest of my ramblings here.) There may be similar lines in a book, but not the same story.

A few days ago, I was looking through a friend’s wedding pictures—of the wedding party specifically—and I thought, “Wow, those are the same guys he used to hang out with 5 years ago.” Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, at all. But I began thinking, if I got married today, only one person in my bridal party photos would have been a part of my life 5 years ago. Just one. Not that this is the norm, and I am by no means anti-social (I love meeting new people!), but it’s just another part of my story. I switched colleges 3 times; and moved from North Carolina to Tennessee, Tennessee to Virginia, Virginia to North Carolina, and then back to Tennessee within the last few years.

Making so many moves allowed me to meet a lot of really awesome people, but it’s difficult leaving those people behind. So, not every photograph of mine shows the same smiles or echoes the same memories. And I’ve come to realize, that’s okay.

If my story were exactly like my friends’, it wouldn’t be my story at all. I don’t want to be a carbon copy or live life from a template—I was created to break the mold. I was created to move when I God says, “Move” and stay when He says, “I want you here.” I was created with the ability to make choices that change the punctuation in my story.

The fact that those faces in my photographs may have changed doesn’t mean there’s a period on the end of my story; it’s more like a semi-colon, just a statement waiting to be finished by the right words.

.Marked.

Wednesday morning, I spent two hours on the phone with one of my co-workers, trying to figure out where to start on my new assignment. This task was brand new to me—as in, I stared at a blank screen blinking away tears because I felt stupid for not having any clue where to begin. The programs we use can be complicated at times; throw all of that together with the fact that all of the people who have done this before are not on site and you have a mess.

Thankfully, three people came alongside me, walked me through the process, showed me computer shortcuts, checked in with me, and encouraged me throughout the day. When I finally completed as much as I could for one day, my co-worker looked over my work and I got an email that said: “I am so proud of you for taking on such a huge job…YOU DID GREAT!” And I found myself smiling. Because the task was so difficult and frustrating, her words meant immeasurably more.

Life is hardly ever easy. It’s frustrating. Sometimes you don’t even know where to begin, so you ask for help. You pray. You talk to your friends. You seek advice from older people who have been there before. And you keep pushing through, because one day, you’ll be finished with this life.

When I get there, to the end of life as we know it, I can’t wait to hear those words: “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” The tears, the trials, stumbles, and setbacks will one day fade away as His words make their mark on our souls.

Meet Marie

I believe that each place you go, you meet someone who changes or effects you in some way. Marie is one of those people. She’s sweet, sassy, and a lot of fun. We met working in a cramped call center, constantly starting rubber band wars to keep the boredom at bay. Marie loves Jesus and it shows through in the way she loves people. I so enjoyed this fall photo shoot with Marie! Here are some of my favorite shots:

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My Country Song

A quiet night

With stars to guide

a back roads drive.

 

Stop right here,

worries disappear,

beyond the city lights.

 

Crickets sing

a lullaby as I lie

beneath the sky.

 

“Until the sunrise,”

I say. Breathing in

peace, I’ll stay.

 

Sun brings in

a morning bright

my heart fights;

 

to be forever here

where starlit nights

make clear the hope

 

ringing in my soul.

Frazzled and Frayed

Dear Lord,

My nerves feel frazzled. I have so many questions, and in attempt to answer them I’m running myself ragged. I’m tired. I’m too tired to even think about praying most days, and I know that should be my first response. But I just can’t bring myself out of the world of ink-stains, keyboards clicking, event plans, and play practices long enough to relax in Your presence.

That’s what I’m reaching for Lord. I’m reaching up for you because I’m beaten down, and I don’t know what else to do. I’m tired of worrying about every little detail, every word I write and every word I hear. I am tired of worrying, period. I want You to replace my worry with your wonder.

You are so much bigger than what I’m asking of You. You have so much more for me than living completely torn apart by insecurities I’ve placed in my own heart. That is not the life I want. I want a full life, where I’m free to be the woman You had in mind at the beginning of time. A woman who isn’t so afraid of her own shadow that she misses the chance to love those around her. A woman who gives freely, listens better, thinks about herself less, and laughs more–she even laughs at worry. A woman whose identity is wrapped up in Your love, Your heart, Your words.

I want to be a woman after your own heart.

The Day We Took 1,200 Photos

These two ladies are so filled with laughter, love, and life. I am blessed to call them my friends. Last Fall, Lynn; Elizabeth; and I talked about loving this season and wanting to do a photoshoot. So we finally got around to it–a year later. Here are some of my favorite shots from the day. Love these gorgeous girls!

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