Come

One of my 5 year old students had a problem with me. She told me so in her own 5 year old way: “Miss marlie!! you are not my big sister anymore!! and you’re not coming to my birthday party!” She had a real short nap and was in a terrible mood all afternoon.  When she’s tired she gets really angry and if another kid even looks at her she’ll start yelling.  After several of her meltdowns, I finally managed to get all the kiddos outside for afternoon playtime. She was having NONE OF IT. No balls, no fun games of tag, no pretending to be a princess (her favorite thing). Nope, she was mad. She said “Miss marlie, I’m so upset with you!” There’s two big flat rocks in the yard, and so I invited her to sit on one of the big rocks to talk with me.  So, we go to our rock, our ‘meeting place’ and I ask her why. “Why are you upset with me, friend?” Again, she’s 5 and sans nap so I didn’t get any useful information out of her just that I had done everything wrong and I was not her sister anymore. I sat there with her and just listened to her vent.  Her tired, tear stained eyes looked up at me and I said “I am so sorry you are upset. I hear you. I am sorry you have had a tough time this afternoon.” A few deep breaths later, she looked at me and said “Sister, I love you.” 5 year olds don’t stay mad for long, do they?

It would have been so easy to just dismiss her and her feelings, tell her to move on and get over it. It’s easy to not care, to try and control her reactions and keep her from inconveniencing me and MY PLANS for the day.  I mean I’m a good 2 decades older than her so I know way more and have a better perspective on what’s true, right? She just doesn’t get it. So why even bother to address her?

Because God has initiated a relationship with me. (We love because He first loved us. 1 John 4:19)  In Isaiah it says “Come now, let’s settle this,” says the Lord“Though your sins are like scarlet  I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.” 

God me with you. he invites you to meet with Him. Instead of a flat field, there’s a hill, and instead of a rock There’s a Cross. That’s our meeting place with God.  A place where God took our sin, our mistakes, our failures, guilt and shame and put them on His son.  God sees you, your pain, your hurts and He doesn’t dismiss them. I struggled so long with believing that God didn’t care about me because He’s SO BIG AND why would he care about something as insignificant as my problems?  But He does care! And He invites us to bring our cares to Him! (1 peter 5:7) He sees you, cares for you and wants to meet with you daily. None of what that kiddo said to me changed how Much I cared for her.  The same is true of God, he can handle your emotions your doubts fears and pain.

There’s a deep desire in all of us to be invited, to be included, to be the recipients of grand initiation. Well, friends, the God of the Universe wants you to Come.

Sit with Him, join Him on the rock.

 

 

 

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2 Months In.

Two months ago I set a goal, a small goal: cut out soda for 3 days. I wrote it on an envelope and then wrote a reward on a piece of paper inside the envelope and sealed it. That was the beginning of my new plan to get a healthy life style. Then, another envelope with another goal and another reward. 1 month, no fast food. 1 week, no dessert. Another reward.

I had tried many diets before and failed all of them. I realized I have the self-discipline of a small child when it comes to diets. I happen to spend a lot of time with kids (#preschoolteacher) and they like to be motivated by something. So, I decided to set some clear goals and make some rewards that I can have when I accomplish those goals. My rewards were this: go to pet store, pet the cats. $10 splurge at target. $20 at local arcade. And then my big goal was 1 month without fast food so my big reward was a trip to sixflags (amusement park) with a flash pass that lets you skip all the lines.

Well I did it!!

The rewards gave me something to look forward to and get me through the yucky withdrawal symptoms. Everytime I craved whataburger, I thought about getting to ride my favorite ride over and over without waiting 2 hours. And decided it was worth it to pass on whataburger.

I’m now going on 2 months without soda, dessert and fast food. And the difference i feel is amazing. I have my more energy, I’m happier and the weight has come off! Now the reward is how I much better I feel.

My next part of the journey is exercising regularly. I get about 12,000-16,000 steps a day at work but my body is used to that now. So, it was time to begin. That picture on the right up top is me at my first Cross fit. I was sure I would die. But somehow didn’t die, and somehow no one laughed or judged me. I felt welcome, encouraged and challenged to come back again.

My journey is only beginning. It’s important to look back and see the difference but not settle!! I am so thankful for all of the support from friends and family.

Johnny and the Quest for The Perfect Tools

Meet Johnny Man.
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Johnny Man lives in a very small town nestled in the woods of Scandinavia. In this small town,  the sole purpose in life is to build a chair. When Johnny was a baby, many thought about Johnny Man and what kind of chair he was going to build. Would it be big?? Would it be wooden, or metal, or bright green? Johnny grew and grew and once he hit age 6 it was time to begin his quest for building a chair. He had lots of ideas and lots of plans. He was surrounded with other children who were writing, learning and reading about building chairs.  Through his rigorous chair design school, he finally had designed the perfect one.

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Johnny man had his plan drawn out and he was ready to go fulfill his life purpose!
First thing first, Johnny needed some tools.

Johnny loved tools.  Almost too much.

Like He really loved tools.

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An important part of the chair building process is choosing the right tools. And there were a lot to choose from in the town.

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Johnny tried all sorts of tools.

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As he was trying the tools, he began to wonder which one was the right tool. Even though any of them could have worked fine, Johnny spent a majority of his life going through tool after tool trying to see if it was perfect for building a chair.  People told him, “Look Johnny, you can build a chair with any tool!! There’s no wrong tool!”

Johnny disagreed. There had to be the RIGHT one. Every time he tried to use a tool, he discovered a flaw. The screwdriver involved too much twisting, the hammer required too much strength and the wrench accidentally pinched him.  Over the years, he became more obsessed with finding the right tool, so much so that his plan to build a chair became a distant memory.

One night, Johnny was tossing and turning in bed. He was in his late 60’s now. He woke up at 3am and had an epiphany. It was time to make that chair.

He got really excited and ran to the living room.  This was going to be great, he thought. He spent a few minutes arranging the tools and then he was done! His chair was perfect!

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“Now, I can finally sit down and relax and enjoy all my hard work,” he said. As he sat, a sharp pain ripped through his whole body. He tried to lean back, but the screwdriver toppled over almost immediately.  This was not he imagined a chair to be like.  A bruised bottom and an even more bruised ego, he went for a walk to clear his mind.

It was apparent to him now: the tools were not meant to be a chair.  They were intended to build a chair, but not BE THE CHAIR. Ashamed of himself, he realized he had failed to do the one thing everyone in his town did. He got so distracted by finding the right tool, he forgot to build a chair.

Though, Johnny had wasted most of his life, he figured since he was still alive he still had time to build that chair. He went back to the tool shed and grabbed a whole bunch of tools. He used all the tools (imperfect and loud and hard and twisty) and made a chair. It was a lot different from the one he designed when he was a young boy. But, it was a chair nonetheless.

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The End.

 


 

Meet Marlie.

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She lives in a city where everyone’s soul purpose is to find a job and a spouse. She also is a Christian, so her relationship with God is pretty important to her. In fact, her true purpose in life is to know God and make God known.

When she was born, many people wondered  what she would do with her life, who she would marry, etc. Many prayed over her, for her health and well being. Some even prayed that she would come to know and worship the One True God.

Marlie grew up in school, learning how to write, read and do math.  She learned that God loved her unconditionally and had a great plan for her. She learned what she was good at and what she was not good at. She began to dream about who she would marry, how many pets she would own and her beautiful dreamy husband.

Marlie loves people,  she loves to talk with them, and make them laugh. She also really cares about if they like her or not. She often makes decisions about what to do based on how it would make someone else feel, usually neglecting her own feelings for the ’cause of being liked.’

Marlie was a certified and tested idealist. Her cup was not half empty or half full, it was overflowing with optimism. A lot of her teenage years was spent figuring out who she was, what she was good at and who she fit in with. Her college years were spent finding the right major  and the right friends. After college, she found a world open and waiting for her. Only it wasn’t open or waiting. Now was the time to find the perfect job and the perfect husband.

Years passed and passed. Floating from career to career, from living situation to living situation and dating relationship to dating relationship, she couldn’t find the right one.  Sure the job started out nice, but then it got hard so she left. The relationship started out great, but then the ‘butterflies’ faded and she was done. Her original purpose to know God and make God known was a distant memory as she headed into her 30’s, single and unemployed.  Nothing had made her happy like she wanted. No career had made her feel fulfilled, no man made her feel special. For the first time, the cup was half empty.

One night, she looked on her bookshelf and found a book. She blew the dust off the cover. It was a book she hadn’t touched since she was a young girl. The words flowed from the page into her heart.  She was loved, cherished, chosen for a purpose, and a Daughter of the King.  Tears began to fall, and she began to speak.
“God, I have wasted a lot of my life making gods out of men, my career and finding people’s approval. I know I’m not dead yet, so it’s still not too late to know You and to do your will. Help me use future career as a tool to serve you, not a way to find fulfillment. Help me find my identity in you and not in any relationship with a guy.”

She didn’t know what the rest of her life held, but she knew she could rest in the comfort of knowing God loved her and had a plan for her.

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Quiet time is hard

The Silence is uncomfortable
i fidget, I shift
Because sitting still is unbearable
Doing nothing, saying nothing.
I Feel exposed, naked.
Shame, fear, desperation soon follow.
What do I bring to the table?
Absolutely nothing but my mess.
Like the house guest who trashes the place,
Why haven’t you asked me to leave yet?
I have nothing to offer except selfishness, pride
and the attitude that somehow I contributed to my salvation
“Of course God loves me, I am a lovable person.”
But deep down, I know the truth.
I’ve heard my own thoughts, much like nails on a chalkboard,
they burn my own ears.
You’ve heard them all, you know every disturbing, hateful and ugly thought
Yet. You love me.
A day full of greatness does not earn any bonus points, nor does a day full of failures deduct points from  the “God’s love for me” score. That score was settled long before I was born. You loved me before I took my first breath and will love me 1,000,00 years beyond my death.
I say this to myself and I desperately want it to sink in.  However, there’s no silver bullet, magic phrase, or life changing conference that will put an end to all this doubt. What’s the point of faith if there’s no doubt? So each day I pray, Lord reveal your love towards me and allow me to reflect your love to those around me.


 

That’s from my journal a few weeks ago. It’s so hard to sit still before God, I feel like I have to be doing something, saying something, or having some emotional response to Him. I want so badly to just be able to rest in His love for me, but that takes a lot of trust. Trust that He loves me even though I bring nothing to the table. It makes me think about my cat. I’m happy to just spend time with her. She doesn’t fetch, offer any ounce of protection, she doesn’t do much except spend time with me and that’s all I want. I want her to sit with me, and sleep with me and follow me around the house. I love her to pieces and I greet her joyfully everytime I see her. It’s hard for me to grasp that God delights in me spending time with Him like I enjoy spending time with my cat. Which is why I think quiet times are so hard. Instead of viewing it as Father, Daughter time, I view it as an ex convict meeting with a probation officer.  The good news is God’s love for me and for us is not based on whether or not we can grasp it. I was talking to a friend yesterday, and we came to a good conclusion that if we could understand everything about God then we wouldn’t worship Him. My kiddos in preschool class don’t know everything about the world, and they mess up a lot, and they say mean things and spit and hit and are rude to those around them. But, I still love them and care for them. All in all, it’s going to be a journey. Like in any relationship, I’ll grow to learn more about God and how He cares for me as I get older. Looking back over the year, He has done so much! I am excited to grow more, to learn more and hopefully to rest better in His presence.

 

Real Talk: Life feels like a performance

Life feels like a performance.

A performance for others, God and myself.

Each day passes, I lay in bed at night and rate myself on my ‘performance.’ I kick myself for any mistakes, and praise myself for the good moments.

When I pray I often pray for God to help me love people better, to be more patient, kind, loving. To be a light. While those are good things, I wonder if deep down, I just want Him to help me perform better.

It feels safe on this  stage. 4 feet, and a few rows between me and the audience. I can pretend to be the marlie I want to portray. Just make a lot of jokes, say all the right spiritual things, and don’t feel TOO much.  That’s my role. And the audience is full too:  God’s in the front, with a clipboard and glasses down on his nose as He writes notes about my show. My friends, acquaintances and strangers all fill in the rows behind him. But off to stage left, is the worst critic of all. Marlie. In between sets, she’s always telling me my mistakes, how I could have done better, how I messed up a line. She tells me that people are going to leave, and never come back. And good riddance, the show was awful anyways. She tells me I was a waste of their time and money.

I know my selfishness, my anxiety, and my desire for approval are a wicked combination that always make me feel like I’m performing for others. First off, “no one thinks about you as much as you do.” That’s a humbling quote. You mean, when I”m done interacting with someone, they are not analyzing everything I said? nope. They’re probably analyzing everything they just said. I’m learning to step off the stage with others. And really connect with other people.
But with God, gosh that’s hard. I can’t see Him, so I’m always quick to assume the worst: He’s judging me, He’s not happy with me, I didn’t do something right so He’s disappointed. those thoughts make me want to act better, do more, and try harder. It’s a vicious cycle. It takes trust to rest in Him, it takes humility to realize I can not and could not ever live this life alone, it takes a lot of prayer and meditation to consider the real truth of the Gospel and that God does care about me, just like an earthly father cares deeply about his children.

This performance thing has been on my heart for awhile now and it’s something God is slowly chipping away at, and I am thankful for close friends who show me that I’m worth it: mess and all. Bringing it into the light helps, and as always, I write in hopes that someone else might feel less alone. I don’t have the answers but I do feel this way and hopefully that helps someone out there feel less like a crazy person.

Real Talk: Comparison sucks.

The more years I’m alive the more I am learning that I am not alone. I am not terminally unique in my thoughts, desires, or needs. Meaning, if a crazy thought passes my mind, I’m sure it has crossed others as well. There’s comfort in that. I want to talk about comparison. Everything in me is dying to make this “Catchy” and “interesting” so you’ll want to read it and then be impressed and then i don’t know what, but that’s a lot of pressure. So i’m just going to type and if you keep reading great, if you skim it awesome, if you stop after this sentence then go for it. So, here we go: comparison.

I can’t remember a time in my life where I didn’t compare myself to someone. Growing up, I compared myself to my brother. He’s funnier than I am, he’s stronger, he’s good at music.  In 5th-12th grade, I compared myself to the “popular girls.” They are prettier than me, they are smarter, the boys like them more than me. In college, I compared myself to my Christian friends: they read more of the Bible than I do, they love God more than me, they serve more than me. BUT this also goes both ways. When I was a kid, I felt better than my brother cause I did better in school and didn’t get in any trouble. In 5th-12th grade, I felt better than the popular girls because I was more “mature” than they were and was a nicer person. In college, I had a fair share of people to compare my actions with (not drinking, smoking or failing classes)  and give myself a nice pat on the back for being “holier” than them.

For all of my life, I have compared myself to others. I try to figure out where I fit in a group of people. Then by the time I “know” them, I’ve got us all ranked up base on my own opinions of people. This sends me in dangerous seasons of feeling way less than some people (popular girls, super spiritual people, leaders/authority figures) and desperately wanting their approval versus other seasons of my life where I feel way better than others which leads to pride and a crummy attitude. Several problems with this mentality: If I base my self worth on others, the people around me are always coming/going. How do I know where I stand? I might feel super confident and awesome around one group and then terribly shy and undeserving of attention in a different group. Then you have this distorted view of yourself like you get when you walk through a fun house with all those mirrors that make you look super fat or skinny.

I read this book on Self-Worth and one part really stuck out to me.

Wrong Belief: My Self worth is based on how I see myself in comparison to others and how others view me.
Right Belief: My self-worth is not based on how I see myself or how others see me, but on how God sees me, for I was created by Him in His image. Not only did Jesus pay the highest price for me by dying on the cross for my sins, but He also lives in me to fulfill His plan and purpose for me.”

Do you live your life comparing yourself to others? Does someone getting a job, a raise, engaged, a new house, or a baby, bother you? If it irks you a bit, you might be comparing yourself to them. I really struggle with this and singleness. It’s so easy to go down that road in my head when someone close to me gets a boyfriend.  “No ones asking you out Marlie. No guy has given you his number. No guy has seemed interested in you. and (this friend) has experienced all that. Therefore, you must not be as pretty, funny, awesome as (this friend.)”

The people in your life should not be used as measuring sticks to make you feel better or worse about yourself. That’s giving someone else the power to define your worth. A friend of mine said once “If someone offered $5 for the Mona Lisa, that doesn’t mean the Mona Lisa is worth $5. It means that person is an idiot.” You’re worth a lot more than the Mona Lisa, friend. And don’t let anyone try and tell you that you that you’re worth a few bucks.  Christ already decided how much you are worth. Nothing and no one can change that.

I wrote something a few months ago in my diary a few months ago and I want to share it with you to close up this here blog.

God made the Earth and everything in it, from beautiful daisies to cascading mountains, from a herd of wild mustangs to colony of ants. The earth is His and everything in it. Look at His creation and you’ll find design, purpose and beauty. I am part of His creation, therefore design, purpose and beauty all exist in me. He did not make any mistakes when He made me. I am intricately designed by my Father’s hand. He knows my past, present and future. I am still breathing therefore I have purpose here. Purpose in the mundane, purpose in the pain, purpose in the joy. None of it is wasted. But, beauty? Years of lies tell me I am the exception. There’s not beauty in Marlie, the enemy sneers. Sunsets are pretty, oceans are pretty and so are forests. But Marlie? She got the short end of the stick. For so long I believed that lie, and to an extend I still do. But today, i am taking small steps to believe that God didn’t screw up when He made me. I was not an afterthought, unwanted or just merely tolerated. Jesus died for me, and if I was still the one sheep who didn’t get her crap together, Jesus still would have come. Lord I believe, Help my unbelief.

 

 

 

Lord we believe, help our unbelief.

 

-Marlie

Albania 2017

Nestled just below Greece and across the Adriatic sea from Italy, is a country I’ve grown to love: Albania. Most Americans I talk to have never heard of Albania. Maybe you haven’t either. But, let me tell you, it’s a country I’ll never forget. The people are warm, reserved yet welcoming of strangers, especially Americans. The food is beautiful mix of Greek and Italian. I had gyros for lunch, and pizza/spaghetti for dinner. It’s less than 1% evangelical Christian. If you were to put all the Christians from Albania in the new AT&T Cowboy stadium, they would take up less than 1/3 of the seats in stadium. For 4 years, a group (as small as 5 and now as big as 32) from my church has been traveling to Albania to share the gospel.  I was there from July 1-11th and it was my second time being in Elbasan, a city just 45 minute drive through the mountains from the capitol.

Our team partnered with a ministry called CRU (Campus Crusades) and we hosted a camp for highschool students in the city. During the day, our team met with students in our groups for coffee to get to know the students better, and share the gospel with them. In the evenings, we had camp where the Albanian CRU staff would put on skits, games, etc. My group of students were all believers. It was such an honor to spend my whole week with 8 of the people who are part of the 1% in Albania. I loved hearing their stories, their struggles, their joys, their pain. It an amazing experience getting to disciple them and be encouraged by their faith even in the face of persecution from friends and family members. We got lunch every day, took a ton of selfies, we played cards,  we went to a park and did bumper cars, they taught me how to play an Albanian board game.  One afternoon, the students wanted to go somewhere and sing worship songs. So my coleader, the students, and I all went to a room upstairs and sang songs together. It was a beautiful experience: we live 5000 miles apart,  but here we are praising the same God. Friends,  if you’re reading this, thank you so much for making Albania feel like home. I had so much fun with each of you, your love for the Lord inspired me. I miss you guys everyday and can’t wait to see you guys next year. 

with a group full of believers who already were familiar with the gospel, I thought that I was going to not get to share the gospel with anyone that week. Until one of the Albanian CRU staff (Eri), invited me to coffee with a student she met earlier in the day. Us 3 girls all sat down at a small round table.  We ordered coffee and began some small talk. Eri helped translate, as the student asked me questions about America and what it’s like there.  I knew time was precious, so I wanted to turn the conversation towards faith. So I talked about how in Dallas, there’s churches EVERYWHERE. and how just down the road from where I live, there’s 3 churches on one street. Eri asked the student about her beliefs and she said she was muslim. She had fasted for Ramadan and her Grandma (who she lives with) has been to Mecca. The two of them talked back and forth for a bit and then Eri asked if I could share my testimony with her. And so I did. Halfway through, I had this kind of out-of-body experience, where I thought to myself “Here I am, a girl born and raised in Dallas, sharing my story of God’s grace towards me and His redemption in my life to a devout muslim, all  in the middle of Elbasan, Albania, as its being translated into Albanian.” I got straight up chills, yo. Anyways, so I shared my story with her. Eri shared her story in Albanian. And then Eri asked if she could share the gospel with her. The student said yes because she had never heard it before. So Eri went through a pamphlet with her that explained the Gospel, and I followed along in my english version.

While Eri was talking, I was praying “God open her heart, open her ears. Open her heart, open her ears.” Over, and over and over.  On the table, there was a glass of water. When Eri was talking about sin, God gave me the idea to pour some of my coffee in the cup of water which turned into a murky brown color. I explained to her that this is what sin is like. Gross, dirty, deserved to be thrown out. I couldn’t clean the dirty water on my own. I put some germ-x in there, and that didnt work. I tried wiping the outside with a napkin but that didn’t work. So, we  were hopeless, dead in our trespassed, But God loved us enough to make a way for us to be with Him. Later on, when Eri was talking about how accepting Christ is a decision you make. I mentioned the dirty cup of water again and said, “If I want a new glass of water, I ask the Waiter, right, and He’ll bring me a new glass. The same with Christ, if you ask Him, He will make you new.”

Eri asked the student if she would like to make that decision to accept Christ. And she said yes, and Eri prayed for her and with her as she gave her life to Christ.  This is a quick photo I took of our feet as she was praying. The travel, the stress of fundraising, the meetings, the stress of travel, the spiritual warfare leading up to the trip, all became worth it in that moment. Please pray for her!!

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Thank you so much for partnering with me on this trip. You financially helped me get to Albania so I could meet those students, have life-changing conversations with students, and so much more. May the Lord bless you for your generosity and support. Your prayers were answered in more ways than we’ll ever know on this side of earth. Thank you.