Faith

Cleanse Your Hands and Purify Your Hearts // Ash Wednesday 2016

Ash Wednesday 2016

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts // James 4:8, ESV

Having been raised in the Catholic Church, the tradition of Lent is one that I am very familiar with. The thing about traditions like this, though, is that it tends to bring with it some level of guilt on my part. I really never put much thought into the real meaning behind this important season in the Church. It saddens me that I went so long without pausing to really reflect and give Lent its due diligence.

Just over a year ago, I felt God calling me to leave my comfort zone of my childhood church and pursue a deeper relationship with him at a new church home. The switch brought me to an nondenominational Christian church. The church where I spent all of my formative years could not have been more different, but I truly believe that God called me to the place where I am now so that I could finally open my eyes and launch headlong into a relationship with him. What we had before was a friendship, an acquaintance-ship even. I learn something new about this great God of ours nearly every day and this blog, I hope, serves as a vessel for sharing that journey and testimony.

For years, I could tell you in a split second what I was going to be giving up for Lent. Soda. For years, I never gave that decision a second thought. Sure, giving up soft drinks would be great for my waistline, but come Easter morning, was I in a better place spiritually?

Not at all.

A couple of days ago, I came across a quote on Time.com from Pope Francis that he said in 2015. He said,

“No act of virtue can be great if it is not followed by advantage for others. So, no matter how much time you spend fasting, no matter how much you sleep on a hard floor and eat ashes and sigh continually, if you do no good to others, you do nothing great.”

What powerful words they are! Our outlook on Lent has become superficial; something we do out of obligation, not out of worship. The act of giving something up is not just something we do for a personal benefit. The practice symbolizes the abstinence from something that was leading us away from Christ and towards sin. I mean, I know soda isn’t healthy, but was it leading me away from Christ? Not necessarily.

For me, simply fasting or abstaining from something isn’t necessarily going to solely bring me to closer to God during Lent. Removal of a bad habit isn’t going to do much if I am not replacing it with a good habit. So abstaining from something that is leading me towards sin and a divide from God and not replacing it with a behavior or habit that will lead me back to Him just isn’t going to work. Rather that strictly fasting from something, I choose to do this while also adding something spiritual to my life to pray and reflect on. This might mean picking up that spiritual book that’s been gathering dust on the bookshelf, spending a few extra moments reading Scripture each day, or even leaving your car’s stereo on the Christian radio station for the commute to and from work.

I choose to see this season as a time for me to draw near to God and root myself completely in Him. While I don’t necessarily feel that we need to shout the things that we give up from the rooftops, I can appreciate the accountability that is so vital to the Christian faith. So, friends, however you choose to spend these next few weeks before Easter, I pray that you are able to find your way towards God and keep your hearts fully focused and rooted in His love.

A Life Lived for God // A Grateful Heart

To me, there is nothing more inspiring than to see someone that truly lives their life for God. I think we all know those people. The people whose faith is never questioned because they so clearly live it, breathe it, and rejoice in it every single day. This little lady in this photo was one of those people. Nellie was the niece of my great-grandfather, Joseph Ezra (Uncle Ezra, to her), and the cousin of my grandmother that passed away in September.

When my Grandmother first got sick this past September, she told my Uncle that when their mother passed away, she would be glad to be their momma during the time she had left on this Earth. She told him that she prayed for her, and us, every day. A couple of days later, my grandmother passed away and just a few hours later, all 10 of my aunts and uncles (with my sister and I) drove over to see Nellie and to tell her that she had inherited 10 children (and 14 grandchildren/11 great-grandchildren) that morning. Her little room was full to the brim with her new children and the emotion of that moment was so evident. The smile on her face was ear to ear and it was one of the most beautiful moments that I had ever witnessed.

On a previous visit, Nellie had shared that she had never been able to have any children of her own. She shared that she often asked God why he didn’t give her any children. She told us that the Lord spoke to her and told her that he had already given her children in her relatives and the many neighborhood children that loved to frequent her home.

One of my uncles that lived the closest to Nellie, and would visit her nearly every day, shared with us that many of the staff members at the nursing home would come to Nellie with their problems and worries and that she would pray with them and for them. She had even been praying for my family and I in the past few days, once she found out that my paternal grandmother passed away and that we’d be traveling to California for the services.

Sadly, Nellie went to Heaven to join the rest of her family on Thursday afternoon, but her joy and sweet spirit has touched all that knew her. I had only known her and had been visiting her for about a year, but this kind, Godly woman was truly a blessing and I am truly grateful for her.

What are you grateful for this week?

I’m linking up this post with Ember Grey’s Grateful Heart linkup! Click the image below to head over to the blog.

A Grateful Heart with Ember Grey

Make Your Mess Your Message

Recently, I was doing some blog reading and I came across the phrase “make your mess your message” and it stopped me in my tracks. So much of what I have been compelled to write on this blog has been about my walk with Christ and how that has carried me through a season of loss that resulted in losing five close family members in a two year time frame. Although my faith and my trust in God has never been stronger, let me just say that this journey of mine has been messy.

When I first began to carve out this little corner of the internet for myself, I didn’t necessarily go into it with the mindset of using it as platform for sharing my walk with Christ. At the time, my relationship with God looked a lot different than it does as I sit here typing this. I believed in God and believed in his promises, but I didn’t know Him the way that I know Him now. I knew God in the way that I know of the Eiffel Tower or Grand Canyon. I’ve heard about them, I’ve read stories about them, but I have never been to either place and I don’t know about them on a personal level.

For me, none of it truly hit home to me until I actually saw God moving in my life and saw His promises coming to life. Losing five close family members over the course of two years completely wrecked me. Death is a part of life, yes, but I was not prepared for it to come so suddenly and so quickly to five of the most important people to me and my family. Prior to this season, I had no idea that this space would eventually serve as a platform to share my story because I didn’t think that I had a story to share. I didn’t think that I had a place in the sea of other blogs, all with women much more capable and eloquent than I, to minister to others.

But oh, do we have a story to share, my friends. No matter how big or how small you may feel, your story matters. Because you matter to God and he has written the most amazing stories for all of us. There are days where I am so filled with gratitude and joy over what God has done in me and my family that I wish I could just take a megaphone out to the world and shout it from a rooftop. I don’t pretend to know why God writes our stories the way that he does, but I like to think that he wrote mine so that I could finally find my voice among the crowd. I had been a writer on the internet for years, but no pop culture article could ever matter as much as someone who is sharing their heart, all for the glory and honor of God.

The stories don’t have to be pretty and they don’t have to be perfect. The stories don’t need to be wrapped up in shiny things and presented to the world on a silver platter. My story is a mess. It isn’t pretty, it certainly isn’t perfect, and some days I feel like I am presenting it to you on a paper plate rather than a platter. But that’s okay. My mess has become the message of God’s love and hope, and I cannot keep it to myself.

“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” // Isaiah 52:7

Be Still and Know // A Grateful Heart

There is something so magical about the first snow of the season. It brings me right back to my childhood days; waiting by the window and wishing so fervently for those first precious snowflakes.

Winter Storm Jonas may not have dumped several feet of snow on us (thank goodness), but it brought us lots of ice and a wonderful snow day at work on Friday. Believe me, teachers enjoy snow days just as much as the kids. Until we have to start making up those days, that is.

One of the things that I love about snow days are the opportunity they provide for us to just be still. Sure, up North life still goes on in the snow, but down South everything pretty much shuts down for ice and a little snow. While it may be frustrating for some, I love the way that the snow causes us to slow down and just take our time. Plus, is there anything more beautiful than snow covered trees?For me, much of these snow days were spent reading, reflecting, and simply being,which I am so grateful for.

It’s in those quiet moments that I feel that I am best able to reflect and root myself in the Word of God. We can get so consumed by all of the “noise” of every day life that any time that I can get away with slowing down, I am all for it.

What are you grateful for this week?

This post is part of Ember Grey’s weekly Grateful Heart Linkup! Click the image below to head over to the blog to read all of the posts and even add yours to the list.

A Grateful Heart with Ember Grey

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