Faithfulness in the Mess

Full confession, I have not been writing lately because I don’t have my life together. No one does, really. But,  I found myself slowly creeping away from sharing stuff on Facebook and blogging because change is coming and I don’t know what the future holds. Job changes, potential opportunity to serve overseas, none of it in my control, but so desperately I want to control it all.  As a writer, I like to be able to sit down and write out what is going on in my life and have it all make sense, or at least just write the big updates down.  That’s what Facebook is for right, “Hey guys I’m having a baby!” or “Hey guys, i’m totes engaged to this guy #weddinghashtag #lefthandringfinger” Or “I got my dream job!! #myliferules #humblebrag #blessed” All the big life updates. Seeing how most of my big life updates recently have been a process, I don’t like sharing it unless I know that it’s going to happen. I think that’s wise. I don’t have to tell everyone everything all the time.  It is a process. And that is okay.

I like to have stuff figured out, to have a plan (and I’m type B), and to have an answer when people ask “What’s going on in your life, Marlie?” Usually, I’ll just ramble and always end it with “i’ll keep you posted.” Gosh, if I had a $1 for everytime I’ve said that the last 2 months.  I’ve had my mind and heart focused the last 3 months on this future opportunity to serve. I heard a pastor say, “Many people tell me they want to do great things for God. Not many come and tell me ‘I want to be faithful today.'” Pretty sure I needed to hear that the most out of anyone in that room.

Being faithful today.

That my friends is the real challenge. I spent 90% of my mental space thinking about the future, wondering about the future, and always usually worrying about the future. For the last 3 months, present-Marlie turned into a zombie, cause she checked out of the hotel and is living in “future land.” Checking out of the present in a sense is like I’m telling God: Where you have me doesn’t matter, the people around me don’t matter, the job I have doesn’t matter. Because all my headspace and energy is spent looking towards the future. Because that’s when I’ll serve, or share the gospel or love people around me.

Being Faithful today and taking life 24 hours at a time has been a game-changer for me.

Friends, there is freedom and peace in taking each day as it comes. I can’t control what opportunities come my way, but I can control how I take advantage of today. Where ever you are,  there are opportunities to make a difference. I don’t think the Enemy is out to get us all to be murderers or rapists, I think he is okay with letting us be slaves to worry, prone to apathy and feeling like our life does not matter right now because we’re not where we want to be (discontentment and doubt.)

The Enemy’s firsts words to Adam and Eve introduced doubt into their ears and sunk deep into their hearts:

did God really say….

Today, I still hear that whisper of doubt and it can be crippling.

Did God really say He has a plan for your life?
Did God really say He cares about you?
Did God really say He is for you and not against you?

The answer to those questions are a resounding YES. and Amen.
Open your Bible and start reading. Drown out the lies with truth from Scripture.

Ephesians is a great place to start.  This is Paul’s prayer for the church in Ephesus, but perhaps God preserved this text for thousands of years because it’s his prayer for us as well.

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Ephesians 3:16-19

 

In all the mess, I know God is in control, faithful and at work,

 

Marlie.

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killing the god of Expectation

the god of Expectations.
The daily prayer:
god of expectations, hear my cry,
things have to go my way, or i’ll die
I have a plan for my life and how it will go,
if any of this is thwarted, then I will let you know
that I’ll try to take the reigns of control back
because this life is mine and I want it on my track
—————————————————————

I have found nothing but disappointment, anxiety and embarrassing attempts to control situations when I am holding tight to expectations of my life, myself or others.  I look back at all the times I was disappointed in myself and its due to me not meeting an expectation I had of myself: I wasn’t funny enough, outgoing, deep. I wasn’t patient enough, or kind enough, or listening with my full attention. Then, when I didn’t meet my expectation, shame came rushing in.

I do this for others too. As an idealist, I hold people to this unfair standard that they will never get mad, lose their patience, lie, or disappoint me. I view them as God and that’s not fair. All the times I’ve been disappointed in others is the times I’ve held them to an unfair expectation and they being human, failed.

I also have expectations for my life and the way I think it should go. I don’t write a step-by-step plan for my life on paper, I’m way too Type B for that, but I do have a really nice expectation for my future. (Marriage, kids, 2 cats, white picket fence.) So let’s have a chat about what I wanted for my life at this point and how it’s not worked out:
1st grade, I wanted to marry this boy because he was sitting next to me and we both liked the color blue.  (Thank you God for not answering this prayer)

College, I had the expectation of finding my husband.  (I graduated college single and have spent the last 3 years at church in Dallas finding healing, recovery from past trauma in my life. Not to mention, a new thriving relationship with Christ)

After college, I was sure I’d jump into a successful writing career (because i knew so much at 22 😉 )  and start traveling around the country speaking and doing conferences (Um, see previous parenthesis.)

The last 3 years a lot of different things could have happened; could have gotten married, had kids, started a career, moved out of the house. These were all expectations I had. And now as I wait, and wait, and wait, to hear back about this next big step in my life. I look back and see how faithful God has been. And as it’s so tempting to clench my fists tight on what I want for my life, I look back and see God’s faithfulness and see that He has done great things and He will not stop now.  When I wake up, I pray this prayer. When I feel myself getting anxious, i pray this prayer. When I feel myself trying to control a situation to make it go more the way I want it to, I pray this prayer.

God, please help me stop putting my trust and hope in my expectations for my life. Instead, help me put my trust in You and You alone.
I surrender my expectations for my life, of others and myself.

 

 

5 days under a rock (my life without facebook)

Last Tuesday, I started my 2nd break from Facebook. I’ve been on Facebook almost daily for 11 years, aside from a few weeks off last year. I wrote a blog last time I took a break, and decided to blog again about this break as well because It hasn’t even been a week but its crazy how just a week off reveals so much about why I love/hate facebook.

Desire to Share: I think one of the perks of Facebook is that you do have a platform to share a lot about your life. Stories, experiences, pictures, videos.  At the click of a button you can let everyone on your friends list know that you’re mad at the guy who cut you off in traffic, or that you really enjoyed the Incredibles 2 movie. You can also share your thoughts, feelings, frustrations, opinions, etc with people almost immediately. It’s very gratifying; have a thought>share it on Facebook> have people instantly validate your thought. I think that is one of the reasons its so addicting. We are always thinking, living, having experiences and so why not share them with the world? It’s that cherry on top, not only do I get to go and see my favorite band in the front row, but I also get to tell hundreds of people about it!! What did people do before social media? Just live their lives??? what?

 

The Performance: As a story teller and writer myself, I used facebook as a platform to share my story as I experienced it. I’ve gone through a lot of growth and change and loved getting to share it with others as an encouragement to them. However, I’ve recently hit a stage in my life where change is coming and I don’t know the next chapter, and I’m stuck staring at a blank white page with nothing to share. Then, you are reading the newsfeed and getting lost in all the stories of other peoples lives and you’re looking at your life and their life and wondering what the heck? Why am I not getting my dream job? dream husband? and dream ranch in the hills of Montana? Oh dear friend, remember your friends are only sharing their highlights. Just like you tend to only share yours. Not every family is perfect, not every event is “a blast”, not every friend group gets along all the time. You are not the only one. You are not the only one. You are not the only one who feels lonely, or disappointed or like they don’t have anything figured out.  I try to be as authentic as possible on social media. However, I still catch myself only sharing the highlights, because well, that’s what people do and its sad.

3.  Connection: As soon as I had a friend change my password for Facebook, I felt a twinge of disorientation and almost loneliness. Like, all my friends were accessible at all times on facebook and now I have to like call them, or text them or meet with them in person. WHAT. IS. THIS. MADNESS. I found that though it takes more effort to meet with people this way, it means a million times more. A person is not words on a screen, or a picture on a page. They are more than the words they can type or the like button that they click. They have a laugh, a smile, a face they make when they can’t hold the tears back anymore. We are made to connect. Can Facebook be a tool to connect? sure. but don’t forget to call, to meet in person, to do things together.

I need to take frequent breaks to remind myself of this: You are not the number of likes you receive (your stories, thoughts and opinions matter not because someone validated them, but because they are yours) , someone’s status update is not an accurate depiction of their life and neither is yours so stop comparing,  you can connect with people in person and it means SO MUCH MORE than commenting on their status.

-Marlie

 

(6 days till Albania!!!!!)

 

 

 

No Longer Slaves

Joshua 5:9

“And the Lord said to Joshua ‘Today, I have rolled away the disgrace of Egypt from you.”

Joshua 5 is a pretty uncomfortable read,   but I imagine it’s way worse for the fellas to read.  Yet, in the midst of the awkward, God said something that really struck me.

“I have rolled away the disgrace of Egypt from you.”

Remember your years of slavery? Remember the hours spent in the sun making bricks and building walls? Remember how Pharaoh dehumanized you, and ordered all the first born sons to be killed?  Egypt disgraced you. But, I have rolled away the disgrace of Egypt from you.

That verse gave me chills. God has the final say. When the Enemy brings shame, God brings honor. What the enemy destroys, God restores. What the Enemy  breaks down, God redeems.

Odds are you were not a slave in Egypt, but chances are you were enslaved to something.  I was enslaved to people’s opinions of me, anxiety and shame.  The last few years God has been leading me on an Exodus of my own, out of that enslavement and into freedom. Yet, there still is this lingering shame and disgrace. My past says “marlie, you are a disgrace.”  But God has something to say: “Marlie,  I rolled away the disgrace of sin from You.”

When Jesus died on the cross, they put him in a tomb and put a giant stone over the grave. When Jesus rose from the grave, the stone was ROLLED away. That giant stone that was supposed to keep Jesus in the grave? Mere Child’s play compared to God’s power.  Because of Christ death and resurrection, you don’t have to live enslaved anymore.  You don’t have to let the disgrace of your past sin weigh you down for one more second. The Enemy would love  for you to carry around the stone on your back, but God says “I have rolled that stone away.”

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.

Galatians 5:1

 

 

A Quiet Place

On Sunday, I was running late for church and was beyond tired. I threw on one of the two nice (but comfortable…KEY WORD: COMFORTABLE) shirts that I own, realized I had put it on backwards, said “no worries, I’ll just turn it around later.”

Later never came, friends. My laziness and poor memory due to stress had led me to have this moment of panic in in the middle of worship that my shirt was on backwards. Marlie, what’s the big deal? I doubt anyone noticed!! Well, see, my shirt has a pocket on it. and a scoop neck. So, my pocket was in the back. DEFINITELY NOTICEABLE.

All this to say, I forget stuff.  For the longest time, I struggled with my relationship with God because I went these long periods of time neglecting to spend any time with my Creator. So, I forgot. I forgot that God had plans for me, I forgot my worth in Christ, and I forgot that He wants a relationship with me. None of this happened over night, much like relationships with people rarely end in a day, it took months.
And I firmly believe it’s because I neglected to have any quiet time with the Lord.  I kept telling myself I’d pray more, read the Bible more, I’d turn my life around later. Well I forgot to turn it around much like i forgot to turn my shirt around and 6 months later I panicked.  Had anyone noticed? It took me long enough to notice and when I did, I took a long look at my life. Why the drift? Let me explain my theory.
From the moment you wake up, to the moment you fall asleep the world has a million things to tell you. Nay, SCREAM AT YOU. We’ve become so accustomed to the noise, it’s become this dull roar of “You are your own master.” (Side story, in my classroom, I overheard a kiddo looking himself in the mirror and saying ‘I am my own master. I am my own master.’) The world tells you money will satisfy, sex will satisfy, traveling the world will satisfy, etc. etc. etc.

Christian, among all these lies, are you setting aside time to remind yourself of the truth?  I didn’t. My bible collected dust on the shelf for YEARS. Years and years of me being a Christian and I never spent time to read God’s word on my own. I kept waiting for some silver bullet, some quick fix, to come and change my my relationship with God. I had all the heart and emotions for God, after a conference or a worship service. Then, Monday came and the dull roar of the world convinced me of so many lies.

Paul talks about this in Ephesians 4: 13-14 (NLT)

This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.

 

You’re telling me in a world without social media, the internet, and fashion magazines, that the early Church still struggled with being influenced by lies so clever they sound like truth? YOU BET. The enemy is crafty and he’ll use any thing he can get his hands on.

Maturity in Christ takes faith AND knowledge. Tired of getting tossed by the wind? Or as my pastor says “Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired?”

Well, there’s a Creator in Heaven who is SO READY to reveal who HE is and His plan for your life. Since February, I have spent almost every day in the Word. And I can not tell you how beautiful, simple and challenging it is. My Christian friends always said “Marlie, are you in the Word? Are you praying? How are your quiet times?” And i always just shrugged and said meh. But after a conference in February, I had a pow-wow with God. I gave up youtube because it was a time sucker. and realized how much time I had in the morning when I wasn’t watching 20 minute videos of strangers’ vlogs. I had to remind myself everyday the truth that God loves me, God has a plan for my life and that God is good. Because that dull roar of the world can really get to you.

Don’t let the enemy Shame you. he’ll use guilt and shame to create this legalistic system that I followed. “Oh, I forgot to be in the word for this whole week, so I probably shouldn’t even try next week.” Foolishness.  God’s not a sunday school teacher taking attendance on a board every morning you get up and have a quiet time. He’s a loving father, sitting down at the kitchen table ready to talk with His kiddo. You.

As someone who never had a quiet time, now to having one daily, there’s some stuff I learned I had to do in order to make it work. So here’s what worked for me and maybe it’ll help you out.
1) Set a designated spot.
Keep a journal, a bible and pen there at all times.  I won this huge study bible at the conference in February and it’s too big to carry around to church, so I keep it on my desk right next to my bed and it hasn’t left that spot.

2) set a time. (Preferably: morning)
I like to get up, get ready and then do my quiet time. That way I have breakfast and coffee already in my system and I don’t have to worry about what i’m wearing etc. I tried it at night and God surely isn’t limited by our time tables, but there was juts something special about starting the day with God in prayer and just giving him the first part of my day.  If you find you don’t have time in the morning, examine your morning. Are you getting up early enough? Are you scrolling through Instagram, or your facebook feed for 45 minutes? Pray for the faith to trust that 30 minutes with God is better than 30 minutes scrolling through facebook, or 30 extra minutes of sleep.

3) Keep the phone out.
If getting up is a problem, set your phone on the other side of the room, or even on top of your bible. During your quiet time, keep it on silent and away from you.

4) have a plan and stick to it!
Whenever I did open my bible, I would usually just flip through it and just land on a page and skim whatever I read. As a type B, go with the flow person, I hate plans and agendas and especially daily reading plans. SO, I MADE MY OWN. I started just picking a book in the Bible and saying “I’ll read this, study it as long as it takes to get through.” Since February, I’ve read through Isaiah and Ephesians and I’m starting Nehemiah now.  There’s the freedom to go at your own pace, yet you still have structure in that you know where you’ll be in the word every day.

 

Again, we are prone to forget. The world shouts, not to mention our flesh shouts at us.

Take the time to listen to the Whisper of God and let Him tune your heart and grow roots of faith and knowledge in your soul.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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.