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

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

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.

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.