When Goodness is the Trial

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For me, 2017 and 2018 are a study in contrasts. 

Last year was dark and stripping. Depression came, people left, the wilderness was stifling and sanctifying. The painful shaking out of all my dreams and plans was healing and holy, necessary and good. And, while I wouldn’t particularly love to go through everything again, I would repeat it all in a heartbeat in order to be where God has me today and to know Him as I do now.

Because of the lessons in the wilderness, I can tell you with more conviction and clarity than ever before that God’s Word is true, His promises are real, and His grace is sufficient. His character is flawless, His methods and ways are good, and His purifying fire never gets a degree hotter than He intends. He is trustworthy in our trials, torment, and terror, and He calls us to lean into all of those things in order to receive what we crave most: more of Him.

It’s in that receiving we quickly learn that He is better than the fulfillment of any and all earthly desires. Jesus is better. I want to go to my grave declaring it to be so. He is better than our hardest battles and deepest sorrow, better than an easy path or comfortable lodgings in this world. He is better than relief from trials or realized dreams. And, as I often repeated to my forgetful heart last year, knowing Him is better than knowing what He is doing.

“If every good thing He has given were to vanish, we would still be safe in Christ––and our basis for gracious gratitude would have no reason to be changed at all.” -Mary Mohler, Growing in Gratitude

But what if those good things aren’t removed but instead stay and multiply? What about trusting Him in seasons of abundance? I know He’s better than His gifts, but how do I accept and enjoy those gifts without shutting down from fear of their removal?

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June, July, and August Reads

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As previously mentioned, a lot of things happened over the last few months.

Though books have long been some of my most faithful companions, they took a backseat in June and July. However, the sunny days of August had more room for those magical portals of the written word and, for my sanity’s sake, they were devoured.

Here’s what’s been filling my heart library. I’d love to know what’s filling yours!

“Eating and reading are two pleasures that combine admirably.”
-C. S. Lewis

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Plot Twists and Current Happenings

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Life is full of plot twists, isn’t it? 

The last eight months have unfolded into one beautiful plot twist after another, stirring my heart with so much joy and even more love for the One who authors this grace-drenched life. Lots of things have happened and one day those things will work its way into sentences and paragraphs to share with others, but until then, here are some things I’ve been up to:

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We Wrote a Song?

Once upon a time, Joseph Durham and I wrote some songs and now one is on iTunes and Spotify and it’s just so bizarre.

In February 2017, life was a little bit crazy with a lot of relational newness, strains, and one trial after another. I didn’t know it then, but we were on the threshold of a wilderness where the light would soon fade, the storms would get rough, but the Lord’s hand would still guide.

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When Your Heart Breaks: Jesus Stays

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“Broken hearted one, Jesus Christ knows all your troubles, for similar troubles were His portion too.” -Charles Spurgeon

The middle of May was hard.

Though the spring sun was shining its way into summer, clouds were rolling into my heart and the horrible, unwelcome darkness of the depression I thought was conquered slithered into my soul.

The following is a raw and bitter-but-trying-to-preach-and-believe-truth journal entry from May 25. Maybe someone else needs to be reminded, as did I, that there is One who will never change His mind about us.

“For the Lord will not forsake His people;
He will not abandon His heritage…”
-Psalm 94:14

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May Reads

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May was the month for audio books. 

Road trips and lots of cleaning and cooking created space for a lot of listening time, which was then filled with music, sermons, and, um, five audio books. #nerd.

“Real life is more important than books. It’s living the Christian life that matters; books exist to serve life, and the only books worth writing are those that emerge from a life that is awake, alert, and engaged with real people.”
-Joe Rigney, 
Lewis on the Christian life

Here’s my eclectic reading (and listening) list:

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Six Questions to Start the Summer

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I love questions.

Asking them, being asked, reading them—I love them all. That’s partially why I became a journalist; I could get paid to ask questions and learn. Hashtag what dreams are made of.

This morning kicked off summer classes with my high school and college discipleship group and we began by answering these six questions. They were challenging, exposing, and fun for us. Maybe they might be fun and beneficial for you?

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April Reads

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I used to think I was a writer who reads.

False. I’m a reader who writes. I stuff myself with the words of others (mostly Scripture) then those same words are recalibrated and rearranged and flow out much easier (but still not easily) than trying to write from an empty word tank.

And, while we’re chatting about words and writing, may I just admit how ridiculous it feels to call myself a writer? Sitting on an airplane recently, the passenger next to me asked what I did. “I’m, uh, a writer,” I said with a swallow. It feels shallow and hollow and self-promoting, as though I feel I have something to offer that no one else does. But that’s simply not the case. I’m a product of all I have read and this month’s intake has been necessary and refining in both word consumption and production. (For more on my love of words and writing: The One Where I Talk About Writing.)

Sometimes people comment on how much I read and guilt swirls in my stomach from reading so much and too fast to properly drain each book of its wisdom and delight, but absorbing words, however fast or slow, is the only way I can a) survive and b) even attempt to string together coherent sentences or paragraphs or articles that might spark joy and hope in others.

So, here are the books that filled my word tank this month (listed in the order they were read). What’s filling yours?

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When the Wound Reopens

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Progressive.

That’s what healing is. It’s not always overnight or immediate, not always fixed with a Band-Aid or kiss from mom, not always quick and easy or even medically treatable. Sometimes it just takes time. And sometimes, even months or years later, something can happen that tears open an old wound. You thought scar tissue was protecting it, but then even that gets severed. The new rip in the old wound causes grief to pour out like a torrent while you desperately look around for a compress and wish you’d have been prepared with a tourniquet.

But that’s the thing. One is never prepared for the scab being torn off a wound. It’s like accidentally scraping a sunburn. If you knew it was coming, you would have stopped it. But it always catches you off guard.

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11 Quotes from Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

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“Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.” –Oliver Wendell Holmes

Learning, reading, and writing are three of my favorite things in the world. Anne Lamott’s classic Bird by Bird combined all three in a way that often left me laughing and filled with the constant desire to put the book down and write my own words.

Whether you are a writer or not, it is my hope the following quotes encourage and motivate you to use your gifts and do your thing—that thing that gets your blood pumping, brain firing, and soul soaring—at the highest possible level to love others in the greatest way possible.

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