Paid in Full

I grew up believing a lot of things about God and about myself that weren’t true. I never felt like I had a good relationship with Him, but I wasn’t sure why. A few years ago, I decided to finally open up about these struggles to my husband. We had just taken on a mortgage, and here are the words he shared with me:

Imagine that you know the person who owns our mortgage. You owe a massive amount of debt to them, and you know you can’t make a payment this month. If you see that person at the grocery store, are you going to run up and talk to them, or are you going to sneak out and hope they don’t see you?

These words came at the perfect time because that’s exactly how I saw God—as someone to whom I owed a debt I couldn’t pay.

I had been basing my right-standing with Him on whether or not I’d made the payment that month. My confidence in His love for me was only as strong as my “bank account.” Going to church or memorizing scripture was like making a deposit and messing up or missing the mark was like making a withdrawal.

For years, I felt like my relationship with God was dependent on whether or not I had money in my account.

In John 19:30, after Jesus had been hanging on the cross for hours, He said, “It is finished.” In the original Greek, those three words are actually one word—tetelestai—which means paid in full. Once my heart accepted that Jesus paid my debt and that my salvation was based on His works instead of mine, I was finally able to grow in the genuine, intimate relationship with the Lord that I had been seeking.

I’m sure that for a lot of Christians this is common knowledge, but for me, it was a concept I just couldn’t grasp. I let guilt and self-doubt get in the way of truth and grace until my husband helped me break through those lies.

So just in case anyone needs this reminder today:

“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.
– Colossians 2:13-14

Throw Off Your Cloak: Finding Freedom

When I was in high school, I remember walking out to my car one morning and seeing the words ‘You’re a whore’ written on the window. I think we can all agree that the saying Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can never hurt you is a complete lie. Those words hurt me a lot. And I carried them in my heart for years, wondering if that’s what people thought of me.

Until I came across four very important words in Mark.

“Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him.’ So they called the blind man. ‘Take courage!’ they said. ‘Get up! He is calling for you.’ Throwing off his cloak, Bartimaeus jumped up and came to Jesus.” – Mark 10:49-50

Throwing. Off. His. Cloak.

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But You Still Love Me, Right?

As a child, I struggled with OCD-induced anxiety. In an attempt to protect our kids from a similar experience, my husband and I agreed to always reassure them after spills or messes. Life isn’t perfect, and that’s okay was our parenting motto. That turned out to be especially important for our daughter, who would seek affirmation after doing something she considered bad. Every time she knocked over a drink or tipped over a plate full of food, she would ask us things like, “But it will be okay, right?” or “But we can fix it, right?” and we would usually respond with a quick, “Yes, it will be alright, but let’s try to be more careful.”

I assumed she only asked those questions to make sure she wasn’t in trouble until one day after a few cheerios fell off of her tray, she looked at me and asked, “But you still love me, right?”

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You Can’t Win Them All

I have always hated the saying, “You can’t win them all.”

In the interest of transparency, I admit that I am a recovering people-pleaser. I hate the idea of offending or upsetting anyone. I sometimes lay awake at night wondering if I could have phrased something better or if I should have handled a situation differently. Years after a negative confrontation, I can still feel my ears heat up when I think about it.

All this to say, I very badly want to win them all. I want everyone to like me, even though I know that’s not a realistic expectation, especially when I share my personal thoughts on a public platform. That’s just the life of a blogger.

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Perfect Love

There is nothing better than tucking my kids into bed after a long day and feeling like I loved them well. I will gladly toot my own horn after a full 24 hours of defusing meltdowns, keeping a reign on my temper, and showcasing the patience of a saint. But the truth is that those days are few and far between. More often than not, I end the day frazzled, exhausted, and wondering if I expressed my love well enough.

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Learning How to Speak Life

When I was in college, I helped chaperone a youth trip to a Christian conference.

During a night of worship, one of the girls on the trip burst into tears. I walked with her outside of the room so that we could talk and, as she began telling me some of the heavy things she was struggling with, I asked, “Lord, what do I say?”

I remember the response vividly.

Silence.

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The Pessimistic Christian

You know who might not be the best candidate for spreading the Good News? Someone who is perpetually expecting bad news. I’ve been there. I prefer to call myself a realist, but the truth is that I am often cynical, expecting the worst from people and situations. I let my past hurts and disappointments color the way I see the things around me.

Most recently, as I prepared for the end of my maternity leave, I found myself stressing out over all of the unknowns and coming to the worst possible conclusions: We aren’t going to be able to find a good daycare. He’s not going to take his bottle. There’s no way we are going to pay off all of these medical bills.

A few days ago, while I was in the middle of one of my pessimistic breakdowns, God revealed something to me:

Pessimism is viewing the world through our own scars instead of His scars.

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Filling Your Spiritual Hunger With the Fullness of God

Life with a toddler is always interesting. It’s the age where children are learning to express their thoughts and emotions, but don’t always understand how to reason through them. It’s the age where the wrong sippy cup can lead to a meltdown and every simple yes or no decision can take half an hour.

Last week my two-year-old told me she was starving, so I laid out a spread of her favorite foods: turkey, apples, cheese, sweet potatoes, peas, and blueberries. Naturally, the “starving” toddler took three blueberries and one piece of cheese and decided that was all she wanted. Not ten minutes later, she looked up and said, “Mommy, I’m still hungry.”

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You’re Going to Miss This

When my daughter was born, my mom told me to soak in every moment because one day I would wish I had them back. I started writing this poem that night and have added to it over the past two and a half years. Our son arrived two weeks ago and as I watch his big sister hold him and love on him, I can’t help but read back over this and remember the night I first became a mom.

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I Love You & Who You Taught Me to Be (A Eulogy)

What I am saying, dear brothers and sisters, is that our physical bodies cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. These dying bodies cannot inherit what will last forever.
But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies.
Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:50-57

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He Did Not Spare His Own Son

Imagine a room filled with hundreds of people worshiping at God’s feet, with hands and voices raised in unison. As you watch, people begin vanishing one by one as though they were never there at all.

Several years ago, this was the vision God gave me to show what would happen if I wasn’t obedient to walk in the calling He had placed on my life. At the time, I didn’t fully understand the concept of ministry and I certainly didn’t see how I could be used to help bring people to Jesus. My life was messy and, even though I had been saved, I had no personal relationship with God besides waving hello on Sunday mornings.

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Embracing the Season You’re In

After my daughter was born, I worked hard for almost a year to get back in shape. I’m now seven months along in my second pregnancy and those abs are nowhere to be seen, touching my toes is a distant memory, shaving my legs is a terrifying mix between Helen Keller and Edward Scissorhands, and waddling is my main mode of transportation.

While it’s difficult to work hard at something only to watch it fade away, I have to remind myself what this season is going to produce: a sweet baby boy who will turn our family of three into a family of four.

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Replacing Shame With Glory

“Someone’s breakthrough is attached to the testimony you’re too ashamed to share.”

These words hit me like a bucket of ice water. I’m about to be very honest about something I have only told my husband. I love sharing parts of my testimony. I love talking about how God moved in my life when we were told we might not be able to have kids. I love opening up about how God built my faith by leading me through a struggle with postpartum depression, a fear of tithing, and several years of doubting my salvation.

But there’s one part of my testimony that I have always been ashamed of

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Becoming a Cheerful Giver

A tithe is typically regarded as the first 10% of your income. The first tithe occurred in Genesis 14 when Abram responded to God’s blessing by giving Melchizedek, the king of Salem, a tenth of his possessions.

“Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And praise be to God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.” Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.”
– Genesis 14:18-20

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The Words That Broke My Heart

It only took one sentence to break my heart. I don’t mean that it just made me incredibly sad, or that it hurt for a few minutes—I mean that it literally shattered my heart. It made me stop and re-evaluate all of the things I was taking for granted in my own life.

I work for a Christian international relief organization, and some of the work we do is in countries that are closed to the Gospel. In several of these countries, Christians aren’t allowed to gather, they’re not allowed to own Bibles, and they’re not allowed to speak the name of Jesus. We had a guest visiting from one of these countries, and for the first time he was invited to church. After the service, he had tears streaming down his face as he said, “This must be what Heaven is like.”

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I Clawed My Way To You

You can learn a lot about yourself by re-reading old high school journals. I recently found some of mine and was reminded of all of my favorite quotes, song lyrics, books, and movies. Between things I had written myself and things I had copied down from other sources, I could also clearly see the opinion I had of God. One of my favorite songs was “On Distant Shores” by Five Iron Frenzy.

First, a disclaimer: this song is amazing and I still love it. However, the lyrics that I wrote down in my journal didn’t capture the full picture of what the song was saying. Instead, I pulled out the ones that I thought I related to:

With resilience unsurpassed, I clawed my way to you at last.

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When You’re Hurt By the Church

This is a challenging topic to write about because it is so personal, but that’s also what makes it so important. Sometimes the church hurts us, and that pain can directly affect the way we see religion, relationship, and God Himself. Depending on the situation, “the church” could represent a physical place, or it could mean the church as a body of believers.

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When Time Becomes an Idol

I’ve never been a super spontaneous person. I’m more of a “make a list and check it twice” type person. Before I got married, I had almost every day planned out, and considered it a wild night when I went out after 8 pm. After getting married, it felt like a personal challenge to merge two individual schedules into one, smooth timeline. And then we had a baby. I thought I was a planner before, but suddenly every moment of my day had to be perfectly mapped out between nursing, pumping, working, cleaning, eating, diaper changing, and—when the stars aligned—sleeping.

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