How #Pulse changed my heart overnight towards the LBGTQ Community

On a Sunday morning, June 12, 2016, at just before 2am, Omar Mateen parked his van outside Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, walked in, and started shooting. At 2:02am, multiple shots were reported and 911 was called. Over the next 3.5 hours, 49 people would be killed and at least 53 wounded in the deadliest mass shooting in American history. The shooter would call 911 and pledge allegiance to ISIS, although in later months, the crime has come to be more recognized as a hate crime against the LBGTQ community.

I was awake following every update I could find on Twitter for all heavy three hours until just before 6am when Orlando Police breached a wall with an armored vehicle and took out the shooter.

Sunday was filled with a scarcity of information, as victims filled Orlando hospitals and pictures filled our social media accounts. I remember standing in the kitchen Sunday evening talking with my Mom while I wiped dishes, as tears choked my voice. “How DARE someone think they can walk into our backyard in Orlando and kill our people? That is wrong. How did this happen?”

I spent most of Sunday night researching places to give blood, and got up Monday morning, expecting to see social media flooded with prayers and sad acknowledgements of the #Orlandoshooting, as it was then being tagged.

Only it wasn’t by the majority of my Christian friends. Social media was dead silent, with the exception of a few heroes to the faith like Albert Mohler, Russell Moore and John Piper. No “this is heartbreaking” or “so awful” posts that always followed huge incidents worldwide.
I’d say 95% of my Christian friends on social media had nothing to say. 

It was a cold shock to my system, and rarely have I felt the immediate black and white, night and day, flip of a switch than I did in that moment. Never had it been more clear to me:

How the church was responding to the LBGTQ community wasn’t good enough.
Saying nothing and keeping our distance wasn’t working and probably never did.
Silence doesn’t melt any hearts and certainly didn’t mine. We were failing them.

And I was livid. 

My parents watched me shift from a silent 27 year old on any LBGTQ issue to a vocal, outspoken, rally and memorial attending woman literally overnight. The shift was sudden and shocking, but, quite simply, I wasn’t going to stay silent or still.

Someone representing the Church needed to show up. Now. Something had to be done.

Silence was no longer good enough.

This quote from C.H. Spurgeon spurred me on that awful week after Pulse:
“Do what the Lord bids you, where He bids you, as He bids you, as long as He bids you, and do it at once.” 

Monday morning, I drove down to our hometown’s little One Blood Center to give blood for Orlando. I waited sitting in a cold tiled hallway, clutching my piece of paper and ID, and smiling gently at everyone who came through the door. After an hour, I gradually made it into the center’s office which was so packed we were shoulder to shoulder, where I sat for another few hours, until it was finally my turn after 4.5 hours of waiting.

It was worth every minute of making friends, waiting, praying. I talked and shared with people I’d never met and had nothing in common with, only bonded by our sadness and desire to help in any way we could. A nurse ordered 10 pizzas, so we wouldn’t have people passing out post-donation. About 3pm, one of the nurses got a call from the district One Blood Center that said because of the overwhelming response, Central Florida had fulfilled the need of blood the last 2 days, which is incredible.

I saw Americans refusing to complain, waiting even though they could leave, and a hush falling over the room when the names were read on the TV. It was a sobering reminder of why were were all there: to BE #OrlandoUnited.

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That night, I went to a prayer vigil and walk locally in my little town. I went alone but I saw friends that I’d made at the One Blood Center and at a cleanup on Saturday. I saw the mayor and the police chief, who wrote the coordinator and said “We’re coming and we’re bringing the guys with us.” There were Fire Department, police, SWAT and K-9 so we’d all feel safe. A pastor prayed for us, and we went walking with our candles and carnations.

I was sitting on the bridge barrier and praying after the vigil, watching the sun set into pink, and Donovan walked by. He and his partner had set up tents outside One Blood and  handed out donated cold waters, juice, cookies, protein bars all day long in the heat.

I had met him and talked with him, and then sat for 4.5 hours inside. As I looked up and smiled, he said “I’ve seen you twice today. Thank you so much.”, and as I reached out and hugged him, I told him I was praying for everyone and he thanked me profusely.

Two nights later some friends and I attended the Citywide Prayer Service at First Baptist of Orlando. It was so hard, but good. There were prayers from multiple pastors in Orlando. Corporate worship live streamed on probably every news channel there was with a video camera. We sang “It is Well” with hands upraised. A standing ovation for a guy named Josh who was at Pulse the night of the shooting, who had tears streaming down his face. There was a reading of the 49 names and the chiming of the bell went on far too long for far too many names. The LBGTQ African American lady who works with the group who spoke a few words and when she said “2,000 people have come here tonight…putting aside politics and differences to show support…in a church. In a CHURCH.”, her tears stopped her from continuing to the sound of thundering applause.

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When I got home, I unpinned the purple ribbon on my shirt and put it somewhere safe to remember, and as I did, I wished with all my heart that my gay friends I’d met the day before could have gone to the service that night. And I wished more than I had ever wished that I had more gay friends, so that I could hold them in my arms and tell them that this was wrong, and I was heartbroken for their loss. I prayed that many who watched it live were comforted by the prayers and were uplifted knowing we went just for them, not for us by any means.

I wrote this late that night: “We showed up for you, Pulse families and LBGTQ community. Hear us loud and clear: we are praying for you. Conservative Christians are heartbroken and weeping with you. YOU have great worth in our eyes and in God’s eyes. There is One Who will never leave you or forsake you in your whole life; He longs to make you a part of His family, and until you know it to be true yourself, we will call you family and we will mourn with you. Because #WeareOrlando.”

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In the wake of those hard personal stories, I want to speak to you about a few things….

We are all image bearers of God.

Loving the LBGTQ community should not be a political statement. Long before the LBGTQ community even existed, these words were written in the Bible 11 times: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” This doesn’t mean, “love your neighbors unless you’re uncomfortable with how they live their lives, then shun them completely”. No.

“…if there is any other commandment, all are summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor, therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” {Romans 13:9b-10}

The Bible says “Love your neighbor as yourself.”. Period.

We really love ourselves a lot. And we’ve done a really bad job of being Jesus to a community that, a year ago, was being killed because they weren’t straight.

The shooter killed them because he believed something terribly false about them: that they shouldn’t matter enough to live. As Christians, we believe that ALL are image bearers of God. ALL matter. ALL have great worth. The shooter was wrong.

Although perhaps not all our brothers and sisters in Christ, they were still image bearers of God and deeply important to God. No life is worthless to our Creator God.

I told my Mom that week “It could’ve been me. In that club. It could’ve been me.”. Although I don’t spend many nights at clubs, I have on occasion been to one or two for a concert and I have friends who play late into the night in pubs or halls, but on an even deeper level than that, I saw myself in the victims, and my heart broke for their families.

They were sinners. But so am I. Their sin runs deep. So does mine. Simply: it could have been me.

We are called to stand in the gap.

Church, don’t let politics steal from you what God has called you to do: Love like Jesus.
Likewise don’t confuse standing for your faith with shunning the community that needs to hear that faith from a heart that will show up on the hard days and mourn with them.

Showing up at those memorials was not a political statement, nor are these words you are reading. It was a statement that said: “I will stand and mourn with you. I’m sad someone came and killed your friends. I hate that this happened. And as Christians, we are going to stand in the gap and protect you if someone ever pulls a gun. We are going to lay down our lives for you because that’s what Jesus did for us. What He did for you. We won’t stand for violence against image bearers of God.”

I loved this quote: “You have never looked into the eyes of someone who was not deeply loved by God.” and as I spent that week with people of the LBGTQ community, I knew it to be true. I felt overwhelmed with a fierce protective love. I’d take a bullet for any of them.

Not because we were the same gender or race, but because laying down your life for others is a calling placed upon us by the God who made them and who made me. (John 15:12-13, 17) At the time, we expected that this would be the start of many terrorist attacks in our neighboring city of Orlando, and this became the fundamental cry to many of my prayers for our neighbors.

We had nothing to lose, they had everything to gain: Jesus.

We are called to stand in the gap. We are called to die for others if need be.
We are called to sacrificial love, exemplified by a Savior Who died for sinners. 

We know the answer to the question being asked.

We are all searching for something. We are all looking for our life’s greatest fulfillment, whether we label it our identity or dream or purpose. But we have been given the answer to the secret yearnings of every soul on this planet. And we know it every day when we walk out the door. We know it every time we see a Pulse sticker or tattoo and have an opportunity. We know it with every prayer we offer up for our LBGTQ communities. As I urged last year, please don’t let this great opportunity go. Love instead.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” – Jesus {John 10:10}

Church, WE KNOW Who saves the brokenhearted and crushed in spirit, we know Who gives life, we know Who is God and Who reigns over our world, we know the answer to the cry of every lost soul and every heart longing for love and His name is JESUS.

Don’t stay silent. Proclaim it. 

Five Ways to Make it Through the Darkness

A few years ago, I wouldn’t have believed I’d be writing this. Not even a few weeks ago. I’m glad I am. I’m glad I have the space to be open, and I’m glad knowing I’m not alone in this. This is a hard and deep post, and I won’t tie it up in a tidy little box for you or for me.

Within the past month, within two weeks of each other, dear friends and acquaintances of mine have lost their sons. First, it was our dear friends losing their 24 year old son very suddenly. Then 2 weeks later, our friends lost their 3 month old grandson and nephew within 48 hours after finding him unconscious during a nap.

It’s been a heavy and hard year and a half, and I’ve undergone many “why” moments in that time, but I never thought it’d be 2nd hand grief that would completely break me.

I sat at that first funeral of the month, staring at what seemed like the hundredth wooden casket, looked over to my weeping friends, and back to the casket, and it was then that something incredibly thin snapped inside me. 

Tears streamed down my cheeks as my heart cried out these eight words to God:
“I don’t know how to do this anymore.”

*THIS* was life. *THIS* was death. This. I don’t know how to live this anymore.

I wasn’t grieving for me, but I was grieving. I barely made it through the next week and a half, crying in the night, weeping in prayer, begging for comfort and mercies for my friends, and leaving myself quite out of the healing process that should accompany grief.

Only I wasn’t out of it. I was in it. In it and utterly unable to remove myself from it.

I went to a baseball game with my friend at the end of that unbearable week(s), only to have my friends lose their little 3 month old baby boy the very next morning.

I drove 7 hours to comfort my friends with hugs and tears, and no words; truly, there are no words in this kind of loss and pain. The wind fluttered pictures of his sweet life of 3 months that were hung up around the chairs of those who had gathered to celebrate his life. Onesies he would never wear again danced in the breeze; worship songs rang with hope we would not let go of. A monsoon sized storm darkened the skies and fittingly as we left it opened up and drenched the grass that held our tears.

So much deep loss, so much clinging to Jesus, so much pain, so much hurt, so much sorrow….the darkness has been deep and inescapable, and I recognize my footsteps in the valley that I’ve walked many times before. The days the darkness will not lift are the days you need Jesus the most, and yet I’ve been without a way to put words to the night.

Today was the first day in a month where I woke up and didn’t feel like I was dying. 
Unable to write or work or share my heart without bawling, today was the first day I didn’t feel like a hypocrite to share 5 ways to make it through the darkness.

So here we go:

#1. Stay in the Word however you can

Listen, I’m not here to tell you that every day you need to stick to a strict schedule of memorize the entire book of Psalms, but I am telling you that you need to stick to a committed schedule of, at the very least, opening the Bible once a day.

Why? Because when you’re dying, you need life. 

You aren’t going to gain LIFE back into your soul faster than dwelling on the words of God, Who is the fullness of Life. You need this more than air, more than water and food.

I’m calling you to dwell, not conquer. Often it’s the same verse for days. Over and over and over again, hundreds of times. Find what comforts, find what pierces, and dwell.

You are in pain, don’t deny yourself the medicine you need.

#2. Preach the Truth to your soul

You are in a battle between what you FEEL and what you KNOW. Constantly trusting either truth about the God you believe or what you see around you right now. When you’re surrounded in darkness and can’t see a way out or any glimmers of light, preach to your soul that there is a God Who loves you and is with you in the darkness.

The darkness might feel like the most pointless holding pattern and an empty desert that isn’t producing the fruit you feel like waiting should produce, and it might feel like a million losses that have piled up that are crushing you. You need something to hold onto. 

Make it Jesus. 

In the night, in the day, in the weeping, in the laughter, in the sorrow, in the loss. Come what may…..remind yourself that there is an answer to your pain, and it isn’t anything this earth can give you. It’s the One Who is trustworthy, the One Who is sovereign.

Don’t ground yourself in something that will not hold you forever secure. It will not comfort. C.S. Lewis writes this: “To what will you look for help if you will not look to that which is stronger than yourself?” 

We are not strong enough to lift the darkness or tear the veil. Jesus is. Preach it to your soul.

#3. Reach out with both hands

Yesterday I shared openly and honestly with two dear friends and mentors about how everything seems completely overwhelming and I can’t do it anymore. Within a half hour, I was beating myself up for sharing my heart. Don’t do that. Reach out with both hands.

Text your friends. Be honest. Be specific. Be raw. Ask for prayer. Ask for lots of prayer. Ask for prayer that won’t have a tidy bow in a week and let them know that.

Let your community know your hurts and the darkness you see. There won’t be a lot that will be able to handle it without wanting to fix it, but there will be a few. They may be scattered in different places, but reach out and let them minister to you in this season.

Don’t weep alone when we’re called to weep together. Do not feel as though you must fix it before you share, because you can’t fix it, and neither can they. Only Jesus can.

On a practical note, realize that there WILL be something in the dark that brings joy. If it’s hymns/worship music, play those on repeat, if it’s being outdoors, go. If it’s the ocean: get there as often as you can, if it’s mountains: hike, if it’s creating beauty by hand on a rainy day, create. Find what heals, and DO IT. You are worth the healing. Reach for it.DCIM100GOPRO

#4. Don’t let go of Hope

Ohh, this one. Could there be something else so vital to life besides hope? I’m not sure there is. Don’t let go of Hope, no matter what you do. Don’t let yourself let go.

The Hope we have been given is an everlasting, never changing, never failing hope.
It lives in Jesus and His triumph over sin and death. It’s the hardest thing to do when you feel like you’re drowning in the dark, but there IS hope. There is always, always, always hope, because Jesus lives and reigns. Hope is alive even when you are hidden in the darkness and cannot see it.

Do not depend on your finite vision when you trust an infinite
and sovereign God with a Hope that will not be taken away from you. 

“And now, Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in You.” – Psalm 39:7

“For in You, O Lord, I hope; You will hear, O Lord my God.” – Psalm 38:15

“Preserve me, O God, for in You I put my trust.” – Psalm 16:1

“Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? 
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.” – Psalm 42:5

“For You are my hope, O Lord God; You are my trust from my youth.” – Psalm 71:5

“Uphold me according to Your word, that I may live; and do not let me be ashamed of my hope.” – Psalm 119:116

“I rise before the dawning of the morning and cry for help; I hope in Your word.” – Psalm 119:147

“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I do hope.” – Psalm 130:5

“For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the
presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?”
– 1 Thess. 2:19

#5. Trust the One Who brings light out of darkness

“If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,” even the night shall be light about me;
Indeed the darkness shall not hide from You, but the night shines as the day;
the darkness and the light are both alike to You.” – Psalm 139:11-12

Once upon a time, the God Who made everything created light out of darkness. He spoke light into being: “Then God said, “Let there be light”, and there was light.” {Genesis 1:3}

When sin brought darkness, He sent His Son to permanently shatter the darkness by His presence: “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and upon those who sat
in the region and shadow of death LIGHT has dawned.” {Matthew 4:16} and “to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” {Luke 1:79}

This is the same God Who is with you in your darkness. Do not equate the darkness with His absence. He is present. He has promised never to leave you and has given you the Holy Spirit as a promise. You are not alone. You never were. He is with you always.

The darkness cannot cover His light. The darkness cannot fully triumph where the Holy Spirit reigns. Yes, you may see it and feel it, but trust that the One Who has conquered this darkness once and for all LIVES IN YOU and has defeated that darkness already for you. Look to the sunshine of His countenance and trust that one day, that light will again dawn upon your face. Indeed, it shines in you even now, albeit weakly on hard days.

“He knows what is in the darkness and light dwells with Him.” – Daniel 2:22

“When I fall, I will arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me.” – Micah 7:8

“Be of GOOD COURAGE, and He shall strengthen your heart, all You who hope in the Lord.” – Psalm 31:24View More: http://shannonashleyphotography.pass.us/wetlands-shoot

“O for grace to lay down all my dreams in Him be found,
O for faith to keep it true and never stop believing You,
And when it’s strong or when it falls through,
Oh Lord to know my answer is You.

And oh for love to trust some more, to fix my eyes on Heaven’s shore,
and for hope with every step, every word, my every breath,
And when it’s strong or when it falls through,
Oh Lord to know my answer is You.

For Your life, I lose my home,’cause I’m not staying here, I’m moving on,
so give me strength to hold on tight through stormy gales ’till morning light.
And when it’s strong or when it falls through,
Oh, when it’s strong or when it falls through,

When it’s strong or when it falls through,
Oh Lord to know the answer is You.
Oh when it’s strong or when it falls through,
Oh Lord to know my answer is You.”
– Brady Toops (2017)

The Now and the Not Yet

Last night I made pizza and the crust refused to get crisp. I happily put together all the delicious ingredients and spread them on top of a Trader Joe’s pizza crust. I plopped it onto a pizza stone, put it on the bottom oven rack and put the timer on. The time came up, yet no crispy pizza. A tad exasperated, I tried bumping up the oven temperature, over baked the rest of it, and yet it stubbornly stayed chewy. We ate it anyway, to my parents kind words.

Honestly I wasn’t that surprised, more confused and disappointed.

It fit right into my week. Unexpected terrible that I had no control over making better.

I spent most of last weekend crying, weeping for our friends’ deep loss of their son at a funeral. It did not ease Sunday morning as I wrapped myself up in a shawl and felt the sadness wrap around me, and yet the closeness of God’s love envelope me in that sadness. All the hymns seemed closer and sharper in the midst of grief.

I cried most of Monday morning. Overwhelmed, I pulled out of church activities and a Bible study.

Tears still slip down my face most of these days, and I can’t pinpoint all the reasons why I’m crying, I just know that grief sometimes stays heavy and won’t let go.

The Very Muddy Middle

As Christians, we talk about the now and the not yet. It’s the theology simply stated that we live between when Christ has come and will come again. Between Christ’s saving work on the cross and the day when He will come again to make all things new. We live in the unseen of what will be, yet with the “seen” revelation through the Bible. We live in the middle of that; we live in the Now.

The very confused middle most days. The Now is a muddy middle, and a lot of days it doesn’t look like brilliant sun rays of glory and peace. It looks like a mess. It looks like we screwed everything up. It looks like a toddler got ahold of all the wrapping paper and glue and tissue paper and (while covered in sticky pudding fingers), put together a picture that resembles nothing what you thought life would be. You can’t tell if it’s up or down, whether that’s you or not, and whether you’re in a peaceful ocean or an angry sea of lava.

We hate the muddy middle because we love the brilliant glory of clarity and comfort,
but we lose ground hard won when we rush ahead to the future glories without remembering the fruitful seasons of the past.

Resting on either side will exhaust us for different reasons, which is why they need to be connected. They both matter.

On each side, the Now and the Not Yet, there is hope, but it hasn’t ever and won’t ever lie in us.

This is because the Now, the Muddy Middle, and the Not Yet is not about us. 

We Forget What Came Before Us

We have a brief span of years here on this earth, but when we stay self focused, we lose sight of those who have gone before us. From the Israelites wandering in the desert for 40 years, to the period of 400 years when the Israelites thought they’d never hear the voice of God again, to the pilgrims at Plymouth who thought they were finally free and lost half of their family and friends that first year.

Whenever I think of those periods, I think of how much they must have felt plunged deep into the aching, dark, muddy middle. Confused. Lost. Devastated. Weary. Broken.

The Now stings so much when it’s painted with grief and loss. 

Yet no days have ever been so dark than the days before Resurrection Sunday. The shock that must have ripped through the Christians homes. That thousand yard stare in their eyes as they tried to put together some comfort amid the realization that their Redeemer and King lay in a tomb. Everything they thought would come true was dead and gone.

They couldn’t see ahead any better than we can 2,017 years later.

We Can’t Lose Sight of What Is Coming

It’s so easy to get lost in the dark of the middle. Some days it feels like I’m wading through waist deep mud, and can’t breathe from the weight of all that has happened. The despair will tie me to the bed and the ache in the middle of the night will crush my heart.

It’s so hard to look forward when you feel so utterly overwhelmed by the past.
It’s so hard to keep walking forward when you don’t want to lose the people in the seasons behind you.

But we do not bear up under grief by pulling ourselves out by our bootstraps or good will.

We bear the dark and unseen Now by keeping our eyes on Christ and what is coming. 

We bear it by knowing the One Who came before us has paved the way ahead with glory,
because Jesus trod it for us and has walked every path we will walk, with holiness.

We bear it by knowing that what comes ahead will be not only the fulfillment and redemption
of the muddy middle of the Now, but ALL of History, when Jesus makes ALL THINGS NEW.

But most of all, we bear it by knowing that Jesus already reigns, has always reigned.
God has put “all things under His feet” (Eph 1:22), which means ALL things in His control,
and all things under His sovereignty. ALL things, friends. All things for our good and His glory.

Walking in Hope Through the Now

The Now is filled with joy and sorrow, but has always been, friend. Our days are not new to the span of history, although filled with different stories. Our days are not a surprise to our God. Our trials are not meaningless, our suffering is not wasted, our tears not unseen.

When we keep our eyes on Christ, we can’t stay in the grief of the Now
without looking ahead to the Joy and Hope of the Not Yet.

It is a tension, yes, a necessary tension in a tug of war between the two:
balancing grief and joy, feeling the weight of the grave while looking toward Heaven.
Neither to be abandoned or discarded, but both to be measured and counted, balanced, and lived well.

The grief of the Now gives meaning to the Hope of the Not Yet.
The Joy of the Not Yet gives strength to the hard days of the Now.

So while we live in this tension, let us cling to the Hope that
will not change on the worst days: the Hope in Jesus.

“So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the 
unchangeable character of His purpose, He guaranteed it with an oath, so that by 
two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for
refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the HOPE set before us. 

We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into
the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf.”
– Hebrews 6:17-20

This Hope, is unchangeable. It is unchangeable because it is in Christ.
Jesus, the Hope that will never change. His love has been set upon us
throughout all our days and will never be removed. His Hope is our Hope.

He is making all things new, and one day….we will see it for what it really is.

One day it won’t look like a glued painting done by a toddler where you’re drowning in an angry sea.

One day….it will be the most beautiful painting and story you’ve ever seen,
and never ever could have dreamed it would be while you were standing broken in the Now.

“Behold, I am making all things new….” – Revelation 21:5

All My Days

You’re going to be shocked when I tell you this:

I’ve had my funeral planned since I was 13.

I don’t think I’m usually so opinionated about parties that I *ahem* won’t be attending, but my gracious, I was very opinionated about my funeral. I wrote it up on a sheet of double-lined paper, with large letters saying: “NO carnations or daisies, I hate them.”.

Before you think I was a morbid child, you have to realize that at the innocent age of 13, I  lost my Sunday School teacher the day after 9/11, and my beloved grandparents the next year (within 10 months of each other). The hymns that carried me through those days would solidify the hymns I wanted people to remember singing at my funeral. The hymns that sang of being carried, of resting beside still waters, of all Jesus was to us, and dwelling in the house of the Lord forever.

For all my days.

“Make it to 30”, used to be my mantra. Still is, since I’m bordering on 29. A lot of days I wasn’t sure I’d make it to 30, like the time a garbage truck crushed my car and sliced metal ribbons through the hood and stopped within inches of my windshield. Or the time I hit a deer in the dark night on a county road, miles from a fire station. Or one of the many times I could have sworn my heart would never beat right again, for it was so broken in sorrow. But the Sustainer of life would breathe into me, and my heart would go on beating.

So it seems logical that when I traveled to China in March of 2016, I updated my living will, and re-wrote my funeral plans. I cried for a week, writing goodbye letters. I would be up late at 2am, bawling my eyes out and writing words you give in eulogies, the best of the best that you save for special occasions. My friends all thought I was crazy. It wasn’t that I expected anything to happen (I mean, it’s halfway around the world. Anything could happen, haha), or thought we’d fall out of the sky, but I couldn’t stand the thought of leaving without saying what my heart has known for so long.

My days don’t end here.

We were made for more. I didn’t want my parents thinking this dream trip had ended a beautiful life. I wanted them to know that I had merely slipped from one realm of Earth to our better and true Home in Heaven, and I was doing what I’d waited and dreamed of and prayed over since I was 12: visiting orphans. It was so important to me that they knew I wouldn’t be disappointed at all if in the midst of one calling, He called to me in another way. I wrote amid streaming tears that I would be more alive than I’d ever known. The “more” wouldn’t end, it would forever go on and on….with Jesus.

Because life is more than this world.

Life.…isn’t air. It isn’t health. It isn’t family. It isn’t planet Earth. It isn’t blessings. It isn’t dreams come true. It isn’t how many people you meet or how many countries you visit.

Life, the very core of Life, the very BEING of Life, the Giver of Life, the Creator of Life…

LIFE is Jesus

And it’s nothing without Him.

Albeit a little paraphrased, it’s what I wrote in my funeral plans and in my will. It’s what I want sung at my funeral. It’s what I want people to remember in my lifetime span in this world: Jesus was my everything.

Worth more than all my dreams or business plans of success or glory. Worth more than traveling to England and China one more time, worth more than seeing Scotland in person, worth more than walking down the aisle, worth more than having children, worth more than adopting, worth more than anything I could dream up.

So fill your days with Jesus.

If your days may not be long, let them be spent for Christ.

Don’t live restlessly in a world you fill up with things that cannot go Home with you. Trust your future to a known God. Spend every day making the relationship with your Savior deeper and closer. Don’t rest on your pillow at night sorrowful of all the dreams you haven’t yet accomplished, but instead rejoice in all He has prepared for you. 

Live for the glory of Christ and His kingdom. Live in the expectant joy of the span of endless days in the light of His brilliant splendor, finally dressed in holiness and radiant with wonder at the sight of Him. Live for Jesus. Let all else go. 

And sing at my funeral one day if you get the chance ….

“The sure provisions of my God, attend me all my days.
Oh may Thy house be my abode, and all my work be praise.
There would I find a settled rest, while others go and come,
No more a stranger, or a guest, but like a child at Home.” 
{Isaac Watts}

Daughters of Great Worth

I vault between wanting to write/talk/preach about this topic and feeling unqualified.
However, I feel like that’s exactly why I need to write this. For me. For you. For why I tell myself I’m unqualified.

This morning I got a message from one of my best friends.
Her message went something like this:
“It’s super easy for me to believe the lie that I can lose God’s love….and to feel worthless.”

I dropped everything I was doing to text her back immediately:

“Babe. You are of great worth.
The King of the whole world looks at you with pride and calls you Beloved. Daughter.
Equal to Jesus. Higher than angels. With an inheritance that cannot be shifted by sins or weak faith. {an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in Heaven for you.”
{1 Peter 1:4}

His love for you will never run dry. His mercy upon you will never be revoked. His plans for you can never be ruined. His glory through you will only shine brighter until you SEE Him face to face.”

… and then I started crying.
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Believing the Worthless Lie

These past 3 months I’ve felt the most worthless in my entire life.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve texted the word “worthless” to my friends in tears.
There have been days I’ve stared in the mirror and told my reflection:
“You are NOT worthless. You have great worth in the Father’s eyes.”

And the truth is, I’ve had to stare down my own gaze that tries to contradict me in that moment.

Ohhh, Satan is so so good at it.

He tells us that Jesus won’t love us anymore. He won’t want us.
If one person walked away, what’s keeping Jesus from doing the same?
He knows more than anyone else. He knows our sins more than anyone else.

Surely I’m the exception of all that the Bible says about mercy and grace.

I can clearly see I’m not enough. Not good enough. Not perfect enough. Not true enough.
Not faithful enough. Not obedient enough. Not beautiful enough. Not enough for that kind of love.

Listen up.

There is a place where your gaze should rest and it is not upon yourself. 

It is the cross. 

You cannot stare down the cross and see worthlessness.
You will only see LOVE COME DOWN. Love slain for you.

When your Jesus took your sins away from you.

Satan would love to take your eyes off the cross
and put them on you and how you’ll never be enough.

PRAISE GOD YOU AREN’T, CHILD.

There is only One who is worthy to hold the title of Savior, and it isn’t you.

It’s Jesus.

He won it in a way you could NEVER attain. Your sins are paid for.
Your crown made by gold you could never acquire.
Your inheritance bought with a sacrifice you could never make.

Only Holy can pardon Holy.
Only Holy can redeem a people. Only Holy can bring the dead to life.

Baby crying in a manger. Angels singing. Throngs rejoicing. Multitudes in awe.
Blood running down wood, nails piercing hands and feet, and thorns pushed upon a brow.

Only Jesus could say: “It is finished.”

“You can trust a God who is not only sovereign but BLEEDS for you.” – Don Carson

No one can take from you what Jesus has given to you: a place with Him at the table.
Not serving with eyes downcast. Not beggars at the door. Not the dogs eating crumbs underneath.

Beside Him. His Beloved Bride. His chosen one. His Daughter. His Pearl of great price.
Beside Jesus at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. His gaze resting lovingly upon you.

You cannot be worthless under the radiance of such a love.

You cannot be left out with His name emblazoned upon your forehead.
You cannot be forgotten outside the gates. You cannot be cast out of His family.
You cannot be erased from where He has etched you on His heart, written you in the Lamb’s book of life.

You cannot be unworthy anymore, because Jesus calls you HIS.
Once cowering in shame underneath our sin cloak….now we run triumphantly to Jesus: His righteousness our own white robe, His death our death, His life our life.

His Worth is Our Worth

Do not seek any other worth, for this alone is PRICELESS
and will NEVER DIM through Eternity.

“Grace is God’s REFUSAL to allow us to define ourselves or to have the last word.”
– Michael Horton

He loves us, oh, He loves us so.

“Dost thou think, O Christian, that thou canst measure the love of Christ?
The riches of His goodness are unsearchable.”
– C.H. Spurgeon
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The Crown You Wear Cannot Fall

Hold your head high, today and every day, the crown you wear isn’t your own.
It does not bow to Satan’s lies. It doesn’t slip off when you sin again and again.
It doesn’t tarnish with sin.

You are wearing a crown bought by the Holy King, and He placed it there upon your head, Beloved Daughter of the High King, Bride of great worth, so you may shine radiantly for His glory.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace, which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth – in Him.

In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. – Ephesians 1:3-12

Preach it to your heart. He loves you so.
Wear the crown of His love with dignity and honor and joy.