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Sweet & Salty: On Joy and Bitterness {ft. a Character Study: Naomi}.

I’ve had better days.

A bit before 2017 rolled around, I wrote a post on how 2017 would be better than 2016. 2016 brought on a lot of pain and suffering in the form of a mental illness {see the “Unashamed” tab}. It brought on a lot of heartache and bitterness as I longed to return to Nash and be loved by my Waco friends.

Then 2017 hit and it has been better — God’s provided me with an amazing, entry-level dream job; He gave me a new church home and provided new, grounded community; lately.

He’s opening up opportunities for me to serve locals on Forest Ln — people I work with, climb with, eat with, drive by, pray for — from all walks of life: every age, race and socioeconomic level {many are impoverished}; and to fully seek healing redemption through Him and Him alone.

He’s given me a core group of women my age and life phase that hold me accountable to discovering His Truths and living them out daily. We call ourselves the “Wine, Whales & Word” tribe. I cannot say where or who I would be without them during this crazy, fun season of life.

Sometimes life is sweet. Sometimes it’s salty.

My TVC Dallas Home Group and I are walking through Ruth. Starting yesterday, we plan to read it all the way through {it’s four chapters long} each week, to deliberately meditate on the scripture, to earnestly analyze characters, culture, Creation and Christ in every word and between every line.

Yesterday we walked through Chapter 1. I believe God is forever, always, eternally sweet, but life can sometimes be salty.

Poor, Sweet Naomi — her husband and two sons all died within a short span of time. She was left a widow without children with two women who were destined to become cultural outcasts unless they remarried soon.

Before their deaths, Naomi was named “Pleasant.” She experienced the pleasure of loving and following God, of living a life under His provision and guidance. But after their deaths, she changed her name to Mara, which directly translates to “Bitterness.”

I think bitterness is a valid emotion — when people wrong me, I become bitter. Today was a very bitter day: my pants broke, my stomach hurt, employees related to my work {not people I work with} were being unkind, impatient and downright rude, my back started to physically ache from the anxiety and stress.

Joy is also a valid emotion — as Believers, we are equipped with eternal joy when we accept the Holy Spirit’s dwelling in us. We are called to a joy that never ceases, to thanksgiving in all circumstances {1 Thess. 4:16-18}.

Joy partners with seven other Fruit of the Spirit — please note: it’s only one fruit, this means the Fruit of the Spirit is one entity, embodying seven traits {Gal. 5:22-23}. It does not stand alone, it must work alongside love and peace {they are the three foremost fruit that truly marry each other in union}.

As people, we choose to be sweet or salty. We get to decide.

Today, I was salty. I slightly snapped at my poor work husband Cedric when he playfully teased me as he always does. I decided to be bitter to dwell in anger and regret and contempt. My day was awful to me, so I wanted to be awful in return.

Sweet Penny from Downtown Fort Worth Sheraton chose to be sweet. She reached out in hopes that our firm would give them business. Sweet Penny delivered a Tiff’s Treats package to me: cookies, ice cream, milk.

These three things will always brighten my day. But snail mail in particular really gets me going. It really makes me grateful for the sender’s intentionality and genuine pursuit of my gratitude and love. It takes more work to call a company, ask for a delivery, pay for a package, than it does to text me, “Hope you’re doing well.”

Sweet Penny gave me faith in humanity again. She made me feel “Pleasant,” just like Naomi felt pleasure before her trials. She reminded me there are kind, patient, good people in this world who love to serve, share and give.

It is not up to me to decide if we give Sweet Penny and the Sheraton business, and Sweet Penny knows that. But she chose to send me some love anyway, to brighten my day just because she can, and just because she had the opportunity to.

I want to be Naomi.

I like to choose pleasure, I like to choose joy. I will choose bitterness and contempt on off days, I will experience down moments and unkind souls and humans who test my patience and my ability to love and be loved.

But I want to be Naomi — I want to experience God’s goodness, promise, provision. I want to taste and see — figurative cookies, ice cream, milk — literal joyful moments, people, places — that God is eternally sweet to me and sweet to everyone He loves.

Who are you today? Who do you want to be? And how can you become that person? Stay tuned for a later character study on Ruth, Boaz and Mara. Stay tuned for a post on how to overcome bitterness and bask in eternal joy.

Blessings,

Naomae

For the record, I have zero regrets for using that pun.

*S/o to SJ, MCD, AML, RDLC and a couple of new faces eager to join us soon.

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Unashamed: When April Showers Don’t Bring Mae Flowers.

They’re supposed to bring May flowers.

April has come and gone — and for the most part, so has the rain — the Dallas Arboretum proves the flowers are upon us — but what if life’s metaphorical flowers, aren’t?

I haven’t been majorly depressed since December — BLESS UP. It’s been a whole new year of adventure and excitement and radiance that I rarely tasted in 2016. The amount of gratitude toward my parents, friends, doctors, therapists and The King has overwhelmed me.

But I think I’m regressing — lately I’ve experienced heavier and lower days. It hurts, as I started a dream job just a couple of weeks ago, and so desperately want to thrive there. I seek out medical, emotional help partnered with a holistic approach to mental health.

Sometimes the flowers don’t sprout.

We go through periods of absolute suffering and pain, we cry out to God for relief, but it seems as if the hope and joy never come upon us. It seems as though we are forgotten and abandoned and He doesn’t live up to His promise to “work for our good.”

Lately I’ve been eating up Isaiah. This morning, I walked through ch. 30. It talks about rebellious people who “speak to us smooth things.” They want an easy way out, they want smooth sailing.

Yet, those people are like breaking “that of a potter’s vessel that is smashed so ruthlessly that among its fragments not a shard is found.”

We are Christ’s vessels — we are called to be filled with the Spirit and pour out radical love onto those around us. So how do we refuse to rebel and cling to God’s goodness?

We remember that He will be gracious. He hears the sound of our cries, he answers us. The “bread of adversity” and “water of affliction” make us see our Teacher.

Bread and water are necessities — I’d prefer to live without adversity and affliction. I’d prefer to sail calm waters without blasting winds and pelting rain. I’d prefer to not be bipolar, to not give too much of myself away, to not suffer from anxiety over tomorrow’s.

But He “binds up the brokenness of His people.”

He sees our hurt. He hears our cries. He sits with us. He cradles us. He listens. He weeps. He protects. He provides. He delivers.

He will not leave us alone. He will not let us suffer without Him, His presence, His grace. He will not abandon or forsake or condemn us if we walk in Spirit and in Truth.

He says, “You will not suffer forever. I will stitch you back together. I am yours, you are Mine. We will fight this. We will win. And I will overcome.”

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I Don’t Have a Backup Husband…Anymore.

He is one of my closest guy friends.

He and I go way, way back. He’s seen me wear many hats: the Christian, the Baylor student, the Tri Delta, the PR chick, the coach, the climber, the writer. He’s really an incredible person.

But he met this woman. And he thinks maybeee he’ll marry her one day. Originally, I accused her of ruining my life. I said, “Dude. What about when we’re 40? Who am I supposed to marry then?”

He reminded me it was only a backup plan. I haven’t picked a new backup husband since.

On Wednesday night, my gal pals and I shared Torchy’s chips and queso and delved into this deep conversation on what marriage is, what it looks like, how to wait, and how to give and receive love. It was this raw, honest, convicting conversation.

“Marriage is a gift, not a given.”

Oof. My friend Sarah delivered the truth.

Here’s the thing about marriage: it is absolutely beautiful. God uses marriage as a model of how Christ loves the Church, to show us how He pursues His children, to give us an idea of how unconditional and irreplaceable His love is.

Here’s the thing about marriage: not everyone gets married. I can think of a handful of wonderful, godly women well over 30-years-old who are still single. Some chose it. Some didn’t. Each has an exquisite, intimate relationship with The Lord, and have positively impacted my faith.

“Singleness is a gift just as much as marriage is.”

Yours truly threw this one out on the literal Torchy’s table. I meant every single word.

I’ve never exclusively dated. I’ve been on dates and had those childish summer flings. But I’ve never been in a fully committed relationship.

It used to hurt me a lot. I had this longing to understand how to love and be loved in a romantic way. I felt like I wasn’t good enough to date, like I was unworthy.

Then, it didn’t hurt at all. In fact, what I once considered a shameful weakeness became my greatest strength. It took me about half of college. It took years of prayer and patience.

Every minute of my life is used to follow Jesus and to love God’s children. I am completely accessible to women who mentor me, and to younger friends who I mentor. My flexible schedule and availability to drop-everything-and-run to my friends who hurt are undeniable advantages of singleness.

Benefits of singleness include: I rarely have to shave my legs, I have awesome cuddle seshes with my dog, and I don’t have to share my meal with anyone.

Actual advantages include: free weekends to serve, an undivided attention to seek God first, an availability to dive deep into friendships with other singles (and marrieds, of course).

We are not defined by our relationship status.

We are defined by The Lord, by the incredible lengths He undergoes so we can merely grasp His love for us. We are defined by Christ on the cross, bleeding out for all of God’s children, just so we can call Him “Abba.”

We are qualified by who we are: we are chosen, we are humbled, we are loved. We are qualified by whose we are: The Lord our King. That is all that matters. That is who we are.

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In the Darkest Moments: On Peace That Transcends.

Sometimes, bad things happen to good people.

Long before I was diagnosed, I saw the pain and hurt of my friends and family. Divorce, deaths, diagnoses tore them apart from the inside-out. It ripped their hearts into pieces and they dove into depression or became addicted to whatever vice to briefly fix their pain.

Sometimes, bad things happen to me.

Sophomore fall was my hardest semester of college. I suffered from betrayal of those who were close to me, I became bitter and distraught. My life felt desolate and isolated.

I wandered in my own desert, longing for Christ’s eternal water to quench my thirst.

My diagnosis last year tore my world apart. I honestly thought I peaked in college and that I would never be able to work, function or love again. I feared that my life would amount to nothing and I’d be stuck in a constant cycle of major depression and minimal joy.

But during even the lowest of lows, I remembered core truths:

  1. God works for my good.
  2. God loves me.
  3. God never changes.

When my world shatters, I get down on my knees.

One of my very favorite Bible verses is Philippians 4:7. This is how it goes:

Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus (NLT).

It’s hard for me to pray when I’m hurt. My instinct is to get mad at God, to put on my gloves and smack a bag and scream until I weep. I feel forgotten and used and trapped.

It’s easy for me to pray when I’m whole. I’m madly in love with my God and my friends. I feel joyful and independent and confident.

But God pursues us when we’re both: when we’re black and blue, and when we’re silver and gold. He seeks us out with his never changing grace and mercy. He scoops us up in His strong, brave arms.  He says, “You are allowed to feel, just know that you are always mine.”

Lately, I’ve been overwhelmed with peace.

I’m in a strange period of life: ending a PR internship, seeking something more. I’m open to new opportunities near and far, similar and unfamiliar.

I’m ready to dive headfirst into my next adventure, because I just know God’s cooking up something good.

I experienced the deepest heartbreak in 2016, but God’s brought so much healing in 2017. In the most painful moments when I doubted, He met me while I was curled up in bed in a puddle of my own tears.

He said, “There, there, dear daughter. Let me stitch you together with my love.”

When you are down and when nothing seems right, when you’re right in the eye of the storm, remember: God works for your good. God loves you. God never changes.

You can be angry, you probably have a right to be so. You can be sad, you probably have a right to be so. But you can also rejoice, because in the hardest moments, God’s already ahead of you, prepped to heal you, ready to make you whole.

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Worth the Wait: On Hurrying & The Resurrection.

This post is a bit late. Which is ironic and entirely unintentional, because I’m actually talking about how good things take time and how God loves to make His people wait.

good things take time.

I’m a planner and a hurrier.

A planner is a person that plans. And a hurrier (which is a word I just made up) is one who hurries. Makes sense, huh? I like to know how to get from Point A to Point B, and I like to do it in the most efficient way possible.

But the thing about God is, He takes his time.

In the beginning, God doesn’t make the world in one day (Gen. 1:1). He takes seven. And He rests on the last one. When He promises Abraham a nation, He doesn’t let Sarah conceive that night. The two wait 25ish years for Isaac to be born.

So here I am, running around with my arms flailing and my mouth incessantly blurting out who knows what, and God is just the King of Chill. He walks around, gestures here and there every now and then, paces Himself in accordance to His time. Slowly, methodically, deliberately moving.

Because God 1) knows His plan prevails and 2) knows good things take time. So why rush, little Mae?

god loves to make his people wait.

Abraham waited 25 years for a son. Joseph waited at least 13 years (from 17 when he was sold into slavery, to 30 when he became prime minister) to see his family. The Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years.

I’m a waiter — one who waits — not by choice, but by the ironic convenience of God’s plans. He made me wait to graduate high school and then college. He’s making me wait to return to Nashville (or to move out of Dallas). He’s making me wait to pursue further education.

I can’t speak for Abraham, Joseph or the Israelites, but I needed to put in my time. I needed to wait before God’s plans unfolded, because I learned so much more in the waiting than I would ever have had I experienced instant gratification.

god made his people wait three days.

On Good Friday, Christ was crucified. And seemingly all hope was lost. Our Savior did not win His battle. Satan won.

But wait for it.

Not one, or two, but three whole days later, Christ bursts forth from the grave. He reunites with His faithful followers, who are overjoyed to see their Risen King. He proves that God is King, He is Son of Man, and that Love Wins.

So friends, when you are discouraged because you’re single, you’re looking for a job, you’re heartbroken, or whatever it may be–remember: good things take time. And God loves to make His people wait.

The eternal treasures we will find in Heaven and the sanctification we experience here on earth with our Creator are well worth the wait.

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Do Something: Thoughts on How to Respond to the Syrian Crisis.

Photo courtesy of The Odyssey

There’s a lot happening in syria right now.

I’d like to start off by saying 1) this is not a place to scrutinize Trump’s latest attacks on Syria and 2) I am the furthest thing from a political genius. Also, please follow the underlined linked phrases in this post for more information from reputable sources.

As a journalism major, I think there is so much value in engaging in conversations about current events. As a Christ follower, I think it’s vital we understand such events and discover how God wants us to respond in whatever is happening in our world.

In case you missed it, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons in an attack on his own people last week. According to my research, at least 70 people died. The “fog of chemicals enveloped men, women and children, leaving many to suffocate, choke or foam at the mouth (Chicago Tribune).”

I watched videos and read articles that described the attack and gave a recap on the Syrian crisis. And oh my goodness, my heart absolutely ached for this nation, for its people and for our world.

One particular article from CNN told the story about a man who lost 25 relatives, including his wife and twins, in the attack. I cannot even fathom the heartbreak, devastation and utter loss this man must feel. I mourned for this man and his family, and for all of the other victims in the attack.

so what can we do?

My dear friend Rosie and I discussed how Christian Americans (and also just Americans) can feel disconnected to tragedies that happen on the other side of the world. We read articles and hear stories and our hearts break, but it seems like we are too far away to do anything.

We decided on a few basic steps in response to the crisis:

  1. Educate yourself. We cannot ignore what is happening in our nation and in our world. Watch the news, research articles (avoid “fake news” sites  –lol– that are not credible) and be hungry to know more.
  2. Talk about it.  We must engage in conversation about worldwide tragedies — like the Palm Sunday attacks — because we are all God’s people and we all matter. If we do not discuss them, then we essentially act like 1) they do not matter and 2) they did not even happen.
  3. Pray. Pray. Pray. We each pray in different ways, but we Believers pray to the same God. And He is the God who hears us, intercedes for us, directs us and loves us. He’s the God who protects, delivers and defends.

But wait. There’s even more.

There are refugees that live in the United States at this moment. And not only ones from Syria, but other nations who are also trying to escape terror in their countries. According to the Star-Telegram last May, at the time, Texas led the nation in number of refugees resettled. Dallas resettled nearly 700 last year.

There are so many nonprofits and ministries that engage the crisis by reaching out to local refugees, because they need love, care and attention, too. They need basics like clothes, toiletries, toys and books for school. There are also multiple charities collecting donations to aid Syrian refugees.

So guess what? You can do something.*

god calls his followers to do something.

He doesn’t necessarily call each of us to quit our jobs, pack our bags and fly to Syria. But He does call us to do something, absolutely anything to help the people He loves, and the people we are also called to love.

So start with baby steps. Start by learning. Start by talking. Start by praying. Start with what you have — a compassionate heart that reflects our Creator’s — and who you have — God, your church, your community of Believers.

Just do something.

*If you do not know of a ministry or nonprofit you can get plugged into, shoot me an email or comment below. We’ll find you something.

Bearing my Cross · Body. · For the Ladies · Life Written. · Love Languages · Love or Something Like It · Post-Grad. · The Word · To My Mister

Great Expectations: On Dating & Plans, Etc.

So my gal pals & I keep facing an issue:

Whenever we meet a great guy, we get super amped. Then when it doesn’t work out, we are absolutely devastated.

It’s happened to me a time or two…or twenty. It’s that “so I met a guy” story I mentioned a couple months back. We start a friendship and shoot dang, I’m over the moon. Then it burns out or he dates another girl or whatever it may be, it simply doesn’t work.

And then I whip out the chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream and Legally Blonde because if Elle Woods can go to Harvard Law, I can do freaking anything — including getting over said man.

so why does this happen? what’s wrong with us?

The answer is: absolutely nothing.

It’s okay to be excited when you meet a guy with potential. It’s okay to anticipate good things in a newfound friendship. It’s okay to giggle whenever he texts you or even looks you in the eyes.

I don’t think the question is what’s wrong with us, or me, it’s more of dissecting: what is wrong with my actions? With my thoughts? With my expectations?

god’s never promised me a husband.

But He has promised to 1) never leave me 2) work for my good 3) to always love me. He has promised to walk beside me and before me, to gather up broken pieces from my past, to stitch me together in the present, to prepare me for the wonders of my future.

So if God is doing all of these wonderful things in my past and present, surely I can expect wonderful things in the future. Surely I can know that whatever man is (or isn’t) coming my way, His timing and His plan and His will overtake whatever I plan.

These days, I’m trying to keep my actions, thoughts and expectations in check. I’m trying to align these things with God’s promises, to remember my life boils down to God’s sovereignty and my free will. To know that I have plans in my mind, but God directs my steps.

So to all my single ladies, hang in there!

Don’t break your heart over a man who’s not worth it, or especially a man you barely know. Do guard your heart in Truths and wisdom and scripture that reveal all of the miraculous things God does for us!

If you’re struggling to get over a man today, remember this pain won’t last for all of your tomorrows. If you’re feeling strong right now, keep at it. You’ve. Got. This.