the problem with not needing God

Today I read Genesis 21. It is so easy to skim over these chapters of Genesis, because for the most part, I've heard these stories more times than I can count. But God has been incredibly good to me lately, in giving me a fresh perspective and new eyes when it comes to Genesis and you guys... it is rocking my world. So I'm sharing it because I hope that maybe it can change something for you too. And if it doesn't, at least know you know what God is doing in my life and can call me out if/when you see me failing to live up to this.

So in Genesis 21:22 says, "At that time it came to pass that Abimelech and Phicol, the commander of his forces, said to Abraham: 'God is with you in everything you do.' "

You guys. This ONE verse blew me and my faith to pieces today and here's why: nobody is saying this about me.  

I mean think about how amazing it would be if someone walked up to you and said, "Hey, I just want you to know that it's clear that God is with you in everything you do." As a Christian, I can think of nothing better than for someone to see GOD in my life, and not just in part of it, but in ALL of it. Like, this is our ultimate goal, isn't it? For our lives to be living and breathing reflections of Jesus Christ? For HIM to be seen in our lives instead of just ourselves? But what's sad is that I can honestly say that this has never happened to me, not even on my "best" and "most Christian" of days or weeks. But this wasn't even necessarily a mountain top time of faith in Abraham's life. From what we can tell, it was just a random day for him. We don't know what was going on or why this was said about him. Obviously, he had some amazing moments of faith, but we're not sure exactly what led to this being said about him. But we do know that a KING and the COMMANDER OF HIS ARMIES saw something in Abraham that made them stop and ask themselves, "What is it about that guy that's different?" And then they realized that it was God. So they call Abraham in and they say: "We can tell that God is at work in everything you do." I can only imagine this moment for Abraham! But guess what? When I say "I can only imagine", I'm being serious. Because this is not my reality. I don't know what this is like, I can quite seriously only imagine because people aren't saying this to me. It's sad, but this is not happening in my life. And if you're reading this, there's chance that it's not happening in your life either. But here is what God showed me today: nobody is going to look at your life and say that God is with you in everything you do if you don't

I mean it's crazy how simple that is, right?  Maybe. But it is so difficult to live out, you guys. Because this deals with control, which is something that most type-a educators like myself L O V E. In fact, love it too much. It is a life-long struggle in my faith to give God control. And not only that, but I am I N D E P E N D E N T (do you know what that means? No? Still not a rap fan? smh..) I love feeling like I don't need anyone for anything ever. And I mean obviously, this is a straight-up lie. I need like a million people every day. Just ask anyone that I work with. Or my parents. Or my roommates. But, I mean, I'm single, so in some ways, I have learned to provide for myself, which has led to this "I don't need NO body", girl-power mentality that I have. And here's the problem with that: I also don't need God.

Man. That one really hurts to say. But it's true. I claim to be a follower of Jesus, yet I can honestly say that 9 days out of 10, I don't actually need God. Oh, sure, I say I do. And sometimes I actually do. But truly needing God? Well, that would mean that I admit that I can't do something on my own. And I HATE that. So I'm doing this awesome little dance with God where I'm like, "GOD! I want more of you! Where are you? Why don't I feel you? Where is this part-the-red-seas power I'm hearing about? Come on!" all the while, I go to great lengths to prevent myself from being in situations that I can't handle, thus removing my need for God's power.

Let me break this down: most of us claim to Christians, followers of JESUS, who want to see and live by His power, yet we go to great lengths in our lives to ensure that we never find ourselves in situations that actually require Jesus's power. Still too wordy for you? Forgive me, I'm an english teacher and love the words. How's this: we are not experiencing the POWER of Christ because we arrange our lives in such a way that prevents us from needing the POWER of Christ. And as a result, nobody is looking at our lives saying "God is in EVERYTHING they do." We are living safe, American lives. We are not taking risks for God. And we will never live and walk and dwell in the power of Jesus Christ if we never allow ourselves to be in situations that are impossible without the power of Jesus Christ. This is the difference between me and Abraham. Abraham was not afraid to step out and let go. He consistently allowed God to call Him to places and to situations that literally had zero chance of working out if God did not work. And guess what? GOD WORKED. And people saw God in Abraham.

If we want for others to really see GOD at work in us, then we've got to let God WORK in us and stop doing this comfortable thing we're doing where we pray for Him to work but all the while we work tirelessly to control the outcomes ourselves.

For me, I'm still wrapping my head around this idea. I don't know exactly what this looks like. But I do know this, it's time for me to stop half-heartedly giving my life and my days to Jesus. Because I really suck at controlling the outcomes. And I'm learning in my study of the scriptures that that is ok. In fact, God made it that way. I am not MADE to control my life. And you are not MADE to control yours. We are hard-wired by God to need Him, to rely on Him, to literally depend on Him for our very survival, and when we buy into that-when we really NEED Him- big things happen. Like, Abraham things. So my challenge for myself and for you is to let go. It's scary but we can do it, you guys. Imagine what would happen if every single one of us truly surrendered the control of our lives and our independence to God? Imagine how many people would be introduced to God through us. Let's figure out what it is going to take for you and for I to live our lives in a such way that causes those around us to say, "God is with you in everything you do." And lets. do. it.


faith over fear

Today was our first day "back to reality" (oops there goes gravity...wait, what's that? No? Not an Eminem fan? Yeah, me either...) from our recent mini snow-cation. Last Friday, nine beautiful, glittering inches of snow covered my little corner of Nashville. It was glorious (see photo on the right).

Waking up on Friday morning and opening my curtains to a frozen, quiet, and peaceful earth covered in a blinding shade of white brought tears to my tired eyes. So for three days straight I ran around like a kid lost in a toy store, wearing sweat pants, snow boots, and a 1992 Columbia ski jacket I just got from Thrift Smart, with an expression of pure joy and bliss on my face ( see photo to left).

We invited anyone who could walk to our house to come over and enjoy the snow with us, which meant throwing snowballs and watching movies and playing games and making pancakes at noon, just because we could. The snow days felt like a little gift that God sent to me, a break of rest and community and laughter and good food, a break to read books that force me to tend to my soul, which was already growing weary and frazzled in this new year with stress and bills and lesson plans and soccer season right around the corner. But yesterday, the snow melted, turning my white wonderland into the same shades of grey, black, ugly, and bleh that I feel certain inspired the color palate for Kanye West's clothing line.

I say all of that to explain the context for this post, which was my rotten mood on my way to work today. I overslept, meaning that I had no time to stop and read and pray before leaving the house. I thought I'd "squeeze it in" (I know God is laughing at me, as I write this, for my stupidity in thinking that He, the God of the universe, can be "squeezed" into anything, ever) on my way to work by listening to Gen. 12 (where I am on my little reading plan) on the Bible app.

So there I was, grumpy and disheveled, guzzling coffee like my life depended on it (b/c let's be honest: IT DOES) and speeding to work while some creepy guy who sounds like a british Ken Burns soundalike read Genesis to me through the speaker on my phone. And yet, despite all of this, it only took God about 5 minutes to get my attention with these words:

"So Abraham went, as the Lord had told him."

This verse comes right after Genesis 12:1-3, which are the verses entitled "The Call of Abram." You know- the ones where God tells him to leave his life and land and everything in his comfort zone because He wants to change the world through him? I've heard it a thousand times, and somehow I have always missed the significance of this story. When I think of Abraham and his faith, I think of the story where he almost killed his son as a sacrifice just because God told him to. Or him bartering with God to hold off on wiping out Sodom & Gomorrah with flaming meteor rocks if there are only 50..45..40..30...20..10.. decent people living there. I've never thought about how it all started: God called. Abram answered. Abram obeyed. That's it.

To be honest, it kind of sucked hearing this on my way to work today. As bad of a person as this makes me sound, I did not really expect to hear from the Lord today. Some days just don't feel magical or spiritual when they begin. In fact, because I'm working on the practice of authenticity, I'll tell you the truth: I've had entire years of my life that didn't. Yet, there God was, talking to me through Abram/Ken Burns.

Essentially what God was saying to Abram in Genesis 12:1-3 is this: "Abram-I have more in store for you. I have great things in store-world-changing-in fact, but in order for you to get to them, you're going to have to move. Take your things, your family, your life, and go." And he did. He packed up and left. Can I be honest again? The reason it sucked hearing this is because I know that this is not the way I would respond to God if He said the exact same thing to me. In fact, there have been times in my life that I felt certain that this is exactly what God was saying to me and I did NOT go. Affirmative. No movement from this girl.

So I thought, why is that? What what motivates us to make decisions? What motivates ME to make decisions? And two things kept coming up: FAITH and FEAR. I thought about my life, and the choices I've made, and how small my faith is. It's embarrassing. Then I thought of all the times I've let fear win out over faith. Even more embarrassing. Because the truth is, though I claim to be a Christian-a FOLLOWER of Jesus-the reality is that the only FOLLOWING I do is to places that I'm not afraid to go. If it takes trust in God, I usually just choose otherwise. Fear wins for me most of the time. So I stand on the edge of what God has called me to and over-analyze and over-Spiritualize and over-emotionalize every call I've ever gotten from the Lord-and it's not because I don't know what's on the other side. I do know. It's that I'm afraid I can't get there. I'm afraid that I don't have what it takes to walk down the road from here to there-"here" being comfortable, control, you know, where I like to live my life- and "there" being surrender, faith, and the life God's calling me to.

But you know what? I'm tired of letting fear win out. And my faith sure is tired of being defeated. My life and my faith look like a deflated Valentines day balloon that's still hanging around in March, barely there but still hanging on. But I don't want to live that way. And I'm sure you don't either.  So today, in my car, on this ugly, rainy Tuesday morning, I embraced a new little life-mantra:

Faith over fear. 

I think the phrase was inspired by my hero Shauna Niequest's motto "present over perfect", which I also love. But that's her thing. For me, faith and fear are my extremes, the polar opposites that I jog back and forth between until I'm utterly exhausted and soul-sick.

I guess I could sum it up by saying this: I'm learning that when God speaks, His invitation is rarely easy but it is always worth it. But in order to follow Him we have to choose faith over fear. Abram wouldn't have become Ab-ra-ham, fathered nations, and changed the course of history and Christianity by staying in Horran. And it's not like this was an easy move for him. He was 75 years old. He was settled, established, comfortable. But God invited him to more, and he listened. He trusted that God could lead Him to the life He promised to him, and he WENT. For me, today, God did not call me to pack up my life and servants to animals and set out for Canaan. Today He called me to be an English teacher in Antioch, TN. And to be honest, I didn't even do a very good job at that. But tomorrow, I'll set out again, and hopefully, I'll do better. He may call me somewhere else. He may not. But regardless, I'm choosing faith over fear. 


a call for authenticity: what if 2015 wasn't "the best ever"?

I love seeing everyone's "best of 2015" posts. I even made one of the "best 9" posts for Instagram yesterday, and I admit that it was fun to look back and see what some of the highlights of my year were. This year held a lot of important and life-changing moments for so many of my friends and family members, and for me as well. But while 2015 was a really good year for me, it wasn't perfect. There were ups AND downs, mountain tops AND valleys. And what I'm noticing is that both aspects of my life are not accurately reflected in my social media posts. This past year held many successes and victories, yes, but it also had it's fair share of struggles and tears. And today, as I scroll through my news feed on Instagram and Facebook, I'm reminded, more than ever, of one of the downfalls of social media: that we often only share the good, pretty moments, the high-points, and the successes. I worry that in our pursuit to display the best of what the year held for us, we may be isolating those who did not have "the best year ever". Because for many, 2015 was filled with as many painful moments as it was with joyful days.

Yes, I know so many people who had the "best year ever." Three of my closest friends had babies (and they are all adorable!!) , several got engaged or married, some moved across the country, some got their dream jobs or pursued new careers with renewed passion and purpose, some got promoted and got raises, bought houses and cars, some got baptized or re-dedicated their lives to Christ; and all of these things are beautiful and important and worth celebrating. But there are others who didn't have the best year ever, in fact, some who probably had the worst. I have friends and loved ones who struggled through heart-breaking seasons as everyone else spent their days celebrating successes and victories. I know people who buried their children, siblings, parents, or friends, some who lost jobs, some who ended relationships, some who embarked on new journeys and are still struggling through the adjustments, some whose lives were claimed by illness or the illness of someone they love, some who feel lost and alone in their career, their marriage, their church or their community, and some who spent day after day in the darkness of depression, darkness, or mental illness.

So while we celebrate and reflect today on the life-giving, joy-filled moments of 2015, I want to make it clear to those people who had years marked more by sorrow than joy that you are not alone. We see you, we love you, and your struggles are not invalid or invisible just because they don't make a pretty Instagram collage. While I think it's an important and God-honoring practice to count and share your blessings, I also know the value of walking hand in hand with Christ through seasons that feel filled with struggles more than anything else, and there is a part of me that wonders if sometimes we're not doing more harm than good by only sharing the pretty filtered parts of our story. It seems to me that social media, just like every other area of life, is one that would benefit from balance and moderation, in sharing both the good things and the bad.

Let me be clear: I'm not encouraging a movement of posting daily the bad things that happen to us. This would be a very depressing world if we only shared, focused on, or talked about the negative things in our lives. We need victories. We need to celebrate with those who are celebrating, encourage those who are winning, love those who are succeeding. So keep those posts coming. We want to hold babies and dance at weddings and eat delicious food and see pictures of your adorable children, your new houses, football games, graduations, concerts, reunions with friends and families, first days of school and work and marriage, trips around the world and pretty days at home. Sharing and celebrating these things are beautiful and necessary parts of any God-dwelling community. But we also need to be aware of and present for those who are not celebrating, winning, or succeeding as they enter 2016.

So if 2015 wasn't your best year ever, that's ok. It may not feel like it as you check social media today, but you are not alone. And there is good news! 2015 ends today, and what matters most is not what we leave behind, but what we choose to take with us as we move forward. So in 2016, I'm choosing to take with me the practices of authenticity and being present and focused on Christ as I, and those around me, traverse through seasons and seasons of pain. I want to create and be a part of a community where people feel as comfortable and safe sharing their joys as they do their sorrows. We live in a broken world, just as Christ warned us in John 16: "in this world you will have many troubles". He knew we would have struggles, pain, and heartbreak. But as we all know, He didn't leave us there, sad and hopeless, but instead He went on to say, "but take heart! For I have overcome the world." The thing is, "taking heart" looks different for everyone, and it changes as we go through the mountains and valleys of life. So this is me, saying that I'm "taking heart" with you and alongside you during 2016, in every season. Let's love, care for, and be authentic with one another during this next year, no matter what it holds for us.

Happy new year, everyone.


we can't go back..and that's ok

I bought this bracelet for myself last week. If you know me well, this is probably surprising as I don't usually buy jewelry, especially not for myself (besides, that's what my sister Beth is for!) but once I read the quote printed on this simple gold band, and I just couldn't resist. It's a simple quote written by Lewis Carroll from Alice in Wonderland:

"I can't go back to yesterday because I was a different person then."

 I have spent far too long trying to go back to yesterday. I've probably wasted years of the present by being fixated on the past. I've spent so many hours thinking, "If I had only done this, things would be (insert more desirable life condition here)"...you know the drill. But guess what? I didn't do that thing, whatever it was. And you know what? I'm ok with that. I am choosing not to let what didn't work out yesterday consume me today.

I remember the incredibly difficult season I was in several years ago, near the end of college and those awful, awkward post-college years, trying to decide where God was leading me and what I should do with my life. There were a lot of closed doors, missed opportunities, and painful moments along the way. My dream job of being a Child Life Specialist didn't end up working out. I lost the random, minimum wage job that I did have. I went back to school to get my masters degree because honestly, I didn't know what else to do. Then I lost my brother. In one day, my very family changed, and our lives have never been the same since.

In fact, when I look back, there is only one thing that has been the same: God.
God has remained, through it all.

Plans have changed. My family has changed. My community has changed. I have changed. So have my goals, dreams, hopes, everything. For the first time basically since I went to college, I now I get out of bed during what grown-ups refer to as "the morning" instead of at noon. (I've even seen some sunrises in my day, kids-if you know me, you know how huge this is!) I have my health insurance and-get this- A RETIREMENT PLAN. Much to my surprise, I didn't end up moving all over the world, being the renegade missionary that I thought I would be when I was 12 years old. I also didn't end up being a Child Life Specialist that I thought I would be when I was 22, nor the teacher that I thought I would be when I was 24 (although I did end up being a teacher). But I'm ok with that. I used to hate change. But now I can see how desperately I needed it. I needed to see that through all the change, God remained faithful. He never stopped working, guiding me, continually placing me around people and in situations that were exactly where I needed to be even though they may not have been where I wanted to be.

So yes, my life has changed drastically over the last few years, but I am so thankful for God's continued grace and guidance. I can honestly say for the first time in probably my entire life that I feel at peace about where I am because I know without a doubt that God has led me here, to THIS place, in THIS moment. My journey here may not have been the path that I would have chosen, but for whatever reason, it's the path that I've been led down and I am thankful for that. I'm not perfect by any means. I am still learning, still making mistakes, and still growing. I think Paul said it best in Philippians 3: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

So here's to living life, today. Yesterday is over, and we can't go back. We are different people now.


everlasting pursuits

Hello, blog. (I'll save both of us some time and a paragraph of nonsensical rambling by skipping the usual "it's been too long" thing and admitting that I am too busy "these days". Moving on..)

Last night, I had a really awesome and thought-provoking conversation with the girls in my house church, who are some of the most Christ-like and beautiful people I know. I can't tell you how much I look forward to sharing life with them and hearing their perspectives every week. Anyway, inspired by an amazing Sunday at our church last week, we began to talk together about heaven and eternity. We spent an hour or so talking about having eternal priorities, picking apart 2 Corinthians 5, which is rich with ideas about reconciliation and being ambassadors for Christ. It left me feeling humbled and guilty for being so careless with my time on earth, and determined to invest more of my time on everlasting pursuits.

So naturally, after I put the left-over cheesecake bites back in the refrigerator (or my mouth..either way: irrelevant) and turned out the lights in the living room, I fell to my knees and thanked God for giving this amazing community and prayed for wisdom, and discernment about my priorities and for Jesus to come back..right? 


In classic Maryanne fashion, I followed this Spirit-filled evening with a pop-culture binge, like a fat-kid in a McDonalds after a weekend camping trip (ok, I admit it. That's not just a bad analogy, that's a memory..of..me...last weekend. Yikes.). I turned on ABC to catch the last 30 minutes of the CMA awards, just in time to see my girl Connie Britton present an award AND catch the main-event: Entertainer of the Year being presented (long live George Strait). Plus during the 12 commercial breaks in-between, I caught up on all the tweets and Instagrams of red-carpet styles and funny Taylor Swift faces. 

And then it hit me: the irony of the fact that after an incredibly-inspiring conversation about HEAVEN, of all things, I had just spent the next hour+ drooling over the glitz and glamour of all these celebrities lives and hairstyles. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to send the "Christian-guilt-fairy" your way if you watched the entire CMA's, because I know that you are not me, and your time can be spent however you please. It’s not the fact that I watched TV that I later had a problem with, its what was going on inside of my head while I was watching-the way I was coveting these peoples lives and the jealousy I felt as I was watching, wishing I was famous or had a cooler life-and the stark contrast it created for me compared to my house church discussion. I just can't help but think that perhaps God has taken advantage of this highly ironic evening to teach me a lesson about priorities. After talking about the beauty of life, and the way that we have an obligation here to be ambassadors of Jesus and invite as many people to heaven as possible, to spend Eternity in the Lord’s presence, I sat with one hand on my i-phone and one on the remote, eyes glued to the TV, watching and longing for a more fancy prestigious life, filled with things that….don’t last. I could have kicked myself when I finally realized what I was doing.

So, having learned this lesson, I am playing a new game, and I challenge you all to play it with me, if you want. It goes like this: as I am going about my day, when I find myself distracted, I look at what I’m doing and ask myself this question: 

will this last? 
as in, does this have eternal value?

Now please notice that I did not say nor am I encouraging you to ask this when you working, or doing homework. As much as I would love to encourage you deem these activities as non-eternal and thus quit your job or drop out of school, I recently grew up, (about a week ago! Thanks for asking!) and realized that these things are necessary and that there is indeed lasting and eternal value in the things that have become the routine of our lives, if only we are willing to look for it. As a matter of fact, I feel that it our job first and foremost to find the lasting and eternal value in the biggest aspects of our every day lives-our jobs, classes, etc.-but that is a post for another day. Instead, I am encouraging myself, and you, if you want to, to ask this question during the times in which I find myself most distracted, because these are the things that I choose to do when I could be doing something else.. say, more lasting or eternal. We may not have a choice about working or going to school, but we do have a choice about how we spend the rest of our time, and while there is nothing wrong with the occasional television or movie watching (or other mind-resting activity, because we all need to rest our minds at certain points during the day, no sarcasm there), I am challenging myself to spend my time more often in the midst of eternal pursuits. Because everything else will fade away. 

So here's to eternal pursuits, and to spending more of our time focusing on what lasts than we do on trying to make our hair look like Connie Britton's. Because I know I'm not the only one who struggles with that.. 



I'm in a very transitional time of life right now, as are most people my age. I'm 23 years old, living on my own in a city that I didn't grow up in a cute old house right off of my college campus with three roommates. We're all in this similar place where we are trying to move forward into adulthood while still learning from the past, walking away from who we were in college and into the roles of grown-ups with jobs and insurance bills and credit scores. I graduated from college and have a degree but can't find a job, and I change my mind almost every week about what I want to do with my life. I just started graduate school to get my teaching license and I'm hoping that that leads me down the right path, but of course I never feel 100% sure about anything. I spent most of college trying to figure out what in the world God is calling me to do with my life, but of course I still have no idea. But I am learning as I get older, that what you do with your life and the plans you make aren't as important as where your heart is and who you're living for.

By the time you turn 23, you've seen enough of life to know generally what works and what doesn't. Not that I'm an expert or anything, but I've seen a lot people living life a lot of different ways, and being a writer (or a wanna-be writer anyway), I do a lot of observing and analyzing people and their behavior, trying to understand what's in their heads and their hearts and why they act the way they do. I've learned a lot, and I still am. One of the things that I've discovered, is that these years are very influential, because not only are these the years that we chose our career or spouse or place to live, these are also the years that we decide whether or not we are really serious about following Jesus, and if we are, what that looks like and how that compares to what we grew up thinking or believing. Unfortunately, the statistics say this is the time in life that most people walk away from Jesus instead of embracing living life with Him. And while I'm not sure that's true, I will say I can see why that might be true. For the first time in our lives, we have the ability to decide if we are willing to do what it takes to be a disciple of Jesus. No one is making us. We're not in college anymore so we can't rally 12 girls who live on our hall in the dorm and carpool to church and eat lunch afterwards. We're at least adults on some level, enough to know and understand that if we do decide to follow Jesus, it won't necessarily make our lives easier like we grew up believing. In fact, for a lot of us, things become more difficult.

Part of the reason for that is because there is something about Jesus that inspires change in people, and most people don't like change. When we truly encounter Jesus, we realize that He has made us for more than the things that we've learned to live with about ourselves, our sin, our brokenness, and our pain. We realize that following Jesus means not settling for life as we know it, but instead dealing with the things we want to keep hidden forever, the things we want to forget, and the things we have kept buried in the depths of our hearts for as long as we can remember. You see this over and over again in the bible. God keeps calling people to a better way of life, and they either trust and follow Him, or they don't. Look at the Israelites in the book of Numbers. God finally shows them the Promised Land, the very thing they've been waiting for for so long, but they see that attaining it will be difficult because they people they'll have to fight are huge and they don't think they have what it takes. So they give up, most of them. And I read this story and I think that the Israelites are a bunch of morons, but then I realize how many times I've done the same thing. And I would venture to say that all of us have at some point in time.

So many of us settle for cheaper versions of the life we were made for because we are more afraid of the pain that we will feel if we change the things in our life that need to change than we are excited about the hope of redemption. Just like the Israelites, we take one look at the obstacles that stand between us and what we have been called to do or who we have been called to be, and if there is any pain or struggle involved, we give up. Game over. We claim that we don't have what it takes, that we're not good enough or strong enough and we live our lives to about half of the potential we could be, all the while wondering why we're not happy or successful or why we don't feel fulfillment and purpose in our lives. But the truth of the matter is, the reason that so many of us don't encounter life to its fullest potential is because we don't trust that what God has in store for us on the other side is worth the pain that it will take to get there.

But I'm here to tell you that it is. The life that God has called you to live is so wonderful and it is so very worth any suffering or pain that you may feel in order to get there. It won't be easy, but no one ever said it would be. This idea that we somehow started believing, that once we follow Jesus everything will get better, it's not true. In fact, there have been times in my life that I have prayed about something and it has gotten worse. But I'll tell you this much, it's worth it in the end, and if you can't see that yet, then it's not the end. Don't let your fear of pain or change or suffering convince you to choose temporary comfort over a passion filled life with Jesus. As a a matter of fact, don't let fear convince you to do anything ever. You could end up missing out on the Promised Land.



For those of you that don't know, I have switched to a gluten free diet. I was hesitant about it at first because it seems like a trend, but I'm not doing it to be cool, I promise. I was really sick this summer up in New York, and didn't have the option of going to the doctor like I would here, because of the nature of the job I was doing at Camp Shiloh, and where camp is located. You can't really drive in to the nearest GI doctor and have the kinds of tests run that I needed at the time. So I didn't have a lot of options, but one thing was for sure: I couldn't keep getting sick like I was. After losing about 15 pounds in two weeks from being sick every single day, the cook/nutritionist at camp and I sat down and started to talk through the different things I could change in my diet that might help. At that point, I was getting really unhealthy and so the first goal was to overload me with fruits and vegetables to get some nutrients in my system. Next step was to figure out if I had an allergy or something that was causing the sickness. I had already been tested to see if I am lactose intolerant and I'm not, but the next thing she suggested was gluten. I didn't know what gluten was, but agreed to eliminate it from my diet and see if it would help. And almost two months later, here I am, sill on the diet, and much healthier. Not quite 100%, but getting better very day. I'm still learning a lot about gluten, and what foods I can and can't eat, which can be a pain, but for the most part I like it and I plan to stick with it.

What's interesting is that now when or if I do get sick, I can look back over what I ate the day or the meal before,  and usually pinpoint what it was that made me sick. If I knew everything about gluten, I could better avoid the foods that contained it and I probably stop getting sick, but since I don't, it's kind of an experiment at times. I've started keeping track of what I eat to help me understand what makes me sick and what doesn't.

The reason I'm saying all of this is because my spiritual life works something like this as well. Two weeks ago, when I went to church, it was my first time to be there in 2 months, and I was SO excited. Worshipping came naturally bc I was so excited about what God was doing in my life and what He had during the summer. I had spent a lot of time the week before reflecting on that and praying, really pouring into my relationship with God. But last week, that wasn't the case. Worship at church felt stiff and forced, nothing at all like it had the week before. I was still glad to be there, because I love my church, but I knew that something was very different inside of me, I knew something was wrong. It was like I was sick spiritually. And so, just like I do when I am physically sick, I began to think back to what I had done or not done that week that could be effecting where I was spiritually. And it didnt take me very long to see what the problem was. Unlike the week before, I had spent most of that week self-absorbed in my own life and problems, barely praying or reading the bible, barely thinking about anything outside of myself at all. It's not surprising that I wasn't excited about worshipping God because I had spent most of my time that week worshiping myself. 

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm learning that following God is somewhat like being gluten-free for me, in the way that I have to put effort into it, and if I don't, it will be evident by the condition of my heart. I fully believe that God has the power to reach me and work in my life even when I am not seeking Him, but I also have very clearly seen that He is able to do so much more through me when I am putting forth that effort. Jeremiah 29:13 says "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." My pastor Dave was talking at church today about how following God is not something that you can halfway do. He was talking about the church in Acts, and how they were the kind of people that were "all in" for Jesus, and how that is the way that we are called to be now. And he's right. I can't think of anything more destructive for us spiritually than for us to believe that we can half-way follow Jesus. It's all or nothing. And it takes effort, like any relationship does. We have to want it. It's not just going to happen on its own, just like me being healthy again wasn't going to happen without me making those changes in my diet. So I guess the question for us now is the same question that Jesus asked to a paralytic in John chapter 5:

Do you want to get well?