Love + Ashes

There’s something that continually sticks out to me when I read the Bible, particularly when I read the stories of mourning and of repentance and that is sackcloth and ashes. When we read through stories of tremendous grief and sorrow, those two things are almost always associated.

Bible Gateway says this about sackcloth and ashes, “Sackcloth is a coarse, black cloth made from goat’s hair that was worn together with the burnt ashes of wood as a sign of mourning for personal and national disaster, as a sign of repentance and at times of prayer for deliverance.”

For some reason, the imagery that this practice of wearing sackcloth and ashes in response to mourning and sorrow and in the midst of repentance gives invokes in me this deep-rooted feeling – this deep stirring in my belly that is difficult to put words to but the closest I have is love.

Love + Ashes

It is when we are in deep mourning or deep repentance that we can more fully appreciate the love that is lavished upon us wholly undeserving people. It is when we humble ourselves, die to self, and repent that we can see just how much grace God pours out as a gift we never did anything to earn.

Ash Wednesday falling on the same day as Valentine’s Day could not be more perfectly planned, I think.

At the start of this Lenten season, the ashes that are being spread on foreheads today symbolize to me repentance. They symbolize this incredible sense of humility and smallness and sorrow that comes when we actually force ourselves to confront our sins. When we look at ourselves in the mirror long enough to see all of the ways that culture and society and the enemy have wedged themselves between us and God. And friends, to confront that and stand face to face with this demands our repentance. It demands our grief and our sorrow for all of the ways that we turn from God day in and day out – whether we mean to or not.

But on a day when culture and society are spewing out all of these manufactured tokens of superficial love and spreading guilt and shame to those without “true love” in their lives, Ash Wednesday adds some much needed perspective to the mix that is setting my soul on fire today. When we look at this day and at this season with a Lenten focus and remember why we reflect and repent during these 40 days – this Valentine kind of love just seems so obviously lacking. Lacking in substance, lacking in meaning, and lacking in the perfect love that came at the expense of Jesus on the cross.

The customary practice during Lent is to give something up until Easter and growing up, this was a practice that I truly never gave significant thought to when I was growing up in the Catholic church. My go-to was usually giving up soda or something like that but in recent years as I have grown in my faith, God has really laid it on my heart to consider not just what I could give up to draw nearer to Him but what I could potentially add in order to achieve the same result. That could be adding in the habit/practice of reading the Bible daily or meditating, two things I do already, but I think it also comes down to our posture. Sure, I’m already doing some of the things that can draw us in closer to God but where is the posture of my heart when I do these things? Am I doing them to just check it off a list or am I actively listening and actively quieting my mind in order to be more in tune with God?

As I write this, I’m also reading some excerpts from Pope Francis’ homily earlier today during the Ash Wednesday service at the Vatican and his thoughts perfectly echoes the cry of my heart lately.

”Pause from this compulsion to a fast-paced life that scatters, divides and ultimately destroys time with family, with friends, with children, with grandparents, and time as a gift…time with God,” he said today, before continuing with, “Pause for a little while, refrain from the deafening noise that weakens and confuses our hearing, that makes us forget the fruitful and creative power of silence.”

Silence and stillness have the power to amplify God’s voice and truth and it is my prayer this season that I am able to instill this into my own life. The kind of love that this day marks is not one that can be found on a store shelf or in the boxes of chocolates being passed around. No, it’s not a coincidence that Ash Wednesday falls on Valentine’s Day. May we all draw nearer to the source of the purest and greatest love there is in this season.

Currently: February 2018

Currently

Welcome February! (Sidebar, how are we already into the second month of the year already?)

finishing // Hm, this one is stumping me a bit. I can’t really think of something I’m “finishing”…I feel like I’m just starting in a number of ways!

subscribing // To all the podcasts! My current favorites are Mike Foster’s Fun Therapy podcast and Emily P. Freeman’s The Next Right Thing podcast. My commute to work is a good 35-45 minutes each way so podcasts are the best thing ever right now.

wishlisting // All of the Enneagram books! In recent weeks I have gotten to be quite obsessed with studying the enneagram personality typing system and I’m finding myself drawn to all of the books on the subject matter. It’s just so fascinating to me! I’m Type Nine which actually means I have traits from each of the nine types but I’m also very much a Type Six and Five (they are tied as my second highest type).

watching // Chicago Fire + Chicago Med! The Chicago franchise on NBC is seriously my favorite thing ever, particularly these two shows. I never could get into Chicago PD but Med and Fire are the best. If I’m already caught up on those, you can almost always find me watching reruns of Gilmore Girls and Blue Bloods.

hearting // Community. All the heart-eye emojis for this and for the way God is moving in this area of my life already this year. I just feel so blessed and encouraged by the people that God has placed in my life in recent weeks and I am so excited to see what He does through these connections and friendships.

Read through other February currently posts over at Anne in Residence!

Two Years

On this #tbt, I find myself struck by beauty and grace that have overflowed since this day two years. Since the day I snapped this photo of snow falling in the distance on the San Bernardino Mountains in California just steps away from where my sweet grandmother was being laid to rest along with her husband and her son.

A few weeks ago, Mo Isom Aiken shared some thoughts on time in her Instastories that have stuck in my heart ever since.

(Side note: I highly recommend following her. She is hilarious but such a woman of profound faith. Her Instastory talks make me feel like I just sat down in church).

She said, “It’s not that time heals wounds but time has the power to sculpt our hearts, to grow us and to comfort us. God does all those things through time. He’s the orchestrater of time.”

Though I didn’t know it at the time, this day two years ago would more or less be the “end” of a season that was marked, yes, by profound loss but also by more grace and joy and growth than I ever could have imagined. But it’s been in these days, weeks, and months that have followed that I’ve really been put “to the test,” I think sometimes. That I’ve woken up and chosen to fight almost daily to remember some of the deeper and most painful moments of this story of mine, not so that I can wallow in sadness or anything but so that I can be revived each day by the pure joy and peace that God granted to me. Because if I don’t remember how it felt, if I don’t remember the promises that were whispered to me by God in His presence, than I will forget them. And to forget them is to forget the miraculous way that God moved in my life and humbled my heart through the story that He has had me step into.

It is through this season of my life that I have been led to this life I lead now. This life of nervously and joyfully stepping out in bold faith to do the things that He is asking me to do both spiritually and professionally. When I take a step back and look at the bigger picture of what God has done, it nearly takes my breath away. The ripples that were made by events from two years ago are still felt today and help recount the ways that God has moved and woven every part of this present reality together.

We have to remember our pain, I think.

We have to remember the way it felt to be utterly and wholly broken before knowing what it felt to be healed, fully and completely.

2018 Began with a Choice

For me, 2018 began with a choice. The details aren’t necessarily important, but it was a choice that said everything about who God is and who He is going to be in this coming year with me. It was a choice that honestly I was only able to make because of the journey that I have walked with God the past four years. It’s a realization that fills me with so much joy + gratitude.

It’s one thing to make a choice, one that you know without a shadow of a doubt is the right one – but another thing entirely to actually live in that choice though. To live with the results of that choice.

I’d argue that living in a difficult decision is harder than actually making it. Because in the days that follow, you start to feel another voice creep in. One that tries to whisper to you that you chose wrong. That you made a mistake. That the instincts you were feeling from God weren’t really from Him at all.

That’s where bold faith comes in.

It takes boldness to actually commit to something – especially when you can’t see further than where you are in this moment. I know that often, this is way easier said than done.

I get that.

But I feel that no matter where you are in your faith journey, bold faith should be something you are always in pursuit of. For me personally, my walk with God – specifically the past four years – was not always characterized by boldness. But somewhere deep down, I knew that this was what I was striving for. Because when you’ve been simultaneously broken and healed by God, you can’t help but want to throw off any and every chain that was holding you back and run headlong towards whatever He has for you. Because the God that heals and bandages the deepest of wounds also has the most beautiful plans and intentions for your future. And I don’t know about you, but the second that I caught a glimpse of what the future could be when I give up this false idea of control and just surrender my future to the One who is more than capable – I was willing to be as bold and daring as I needed to be in order to make that my reality every day.

Because when He leads you to a certain path, you can’t pull away and do things on your own. You just can’t. What I believe about God is that He is the God that breathed all of creation, me and you included, into existence. And He called it good. He has created things that are breathtaking. Things that are awe-inspiring and beautiful.

I have stood at the edge of the Grand Canyon, feeling so unbelievably small and humbled that the God who made all of that was the same God who loves little ole me and sees something that He could make beautiful and call good. Little ole me.

Some decisions are hard and you are faced with making a choice that quite frankly kind of sucks. But bold faith in the wake of that says to God that yes, this sucks and I’m not entirely happy with this but I trust You with my future. I trust You to lead me to a future that I won’t want to hesitate to say a joyful “yes” to.

Currently: January 2018

Currently

Happy New Year! Back in 2016 I posted to Anne in Residence’s Currently linkup regularly and I thought it would be fun to get back to that in 2018!

starting // My 2018 Powersheets from Cultivate What Matters! I took the plunge and ordered the six month set in July of last year when my family and I were completing our first Whole30. I totally fell in love with them so I snagged the yearly set back in November. I’m a paper and planning junkie anyway, but there’s just something about this product that speaks so deeply into my heart + soul. Between the Powersheets and my new yearly prayer journal from Val Marie Paper, I just feel so encouraged to prayerfully move into this new year.

hoping // 2018 is poised to be a year of great change in my life – change that will likely consist of me moving somewhere completely unfamiliar this Fall (see this post). I’m truly just hoping to prayerfully begin this year with a heart that is in tune with Jesus and His will + plan for whatever lies ahead.

scheduling // Ha, my workouts? The yoga studio in my town where I’ve been going for a few month now just began a new schedule with some new class offerings this week. I just want to try all the things!

reading // I’m currently reading Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren and loving it! I’m also reading and praying through the Bible chronologically this year with my sister. We’re using one of the plans in the YouVersion Bible app that was recommended by the amazing Lara Casey!

planning // All the things! I’m just excited and hopeful for all that 2018 could offer but for this month in particular, there are two things I’m planning on attending that has me excited! On January 12, Emily Ley (creator of the Simplified Planner and author of Grace, Not Perfection and A Simplified Life) will be in Charlotte for a stop on her book tour and I am hoping to make it out to meet her! Then on January 25, the women’s community at my church will be hosting their first worship night – which I am super excited about!

See you next month!

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