Archive | December, 2016

ONE Verse for 2017

This week graciously allows us to linger and reflect before 2017 ushers in a new blank slate for us to begin again. But, can I be honest? Beginnings can sometimes feel overwhelming. That’s why I love having something solid to hang onto as December fades into January.

For the last three years I’ve asked God to give me one word for the upcoming year. It’s a simple way to focus on what He’s already teaching me. This “One Word” practice has helped me sharpen my focus and align my priorities.

This year, I’m trying something new.

Instead of resolutions I know I’ll fail to keep, I’m choosing “One Verse” from scripture as my anchor for the entire year.  And I want to invite you to join me. It’s really pretty simple.

One Verse for 2017

Choose ONE verse. Just ONE.

First, pray. Choose something familiar, or choose something challenging, but let God guide your choosing. If you’re currently studying a particular book, go with a verse from that part of the Bible. Since I’ll be spending the Spring semester studying 1 Peter with a group of women from my church, my One Verse is from 1 Peter:

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect… 1 Peter 3:15

Learn each word, ONE by ONE.

Study each word in your One Verse. With the help of an English dictionary, record definitions and make a list of synonyms and antonyms.

Look up several different translations to see how they compare. This adds layer upon layer of meaning. Spend time examining the Greek or Hebrew meaning of key words. (Blue Letter Bible is a good place to start.)

Study the book and chapter that house your One Verse.

Understanding the time, audience, and culture is so vital to studying scripture, because it helps provide some much needed context. With an entire year to sink into these words of God, take a deep breath and take your time!

Record findings, questions, and pray throughout the entire process. Dig deep!

Make memorization an art project.

Create a piece of art centered around your One Verse. Display your One Verse in a spot that gets your daily attention.

1 Peter 3:15

1 Peter 3:15 artwork for iPhone 6

Whether it involves putting the words to a melody or painting them across a canvas, don’t limit yourself. I saved this graphic as my screen saver on my iPhone, because I know I’ll look at it multiple times a day.

If you want to create your own digital art, try using picmonkey.com. Upload a photo or use one of the free backgrounds or effects. If you need help on sizing for iPhone, click here. (Be sure to leave room for the time and date on the home screen.)

May 2017 be filled with fresh beginnings, heart-pounding adventures, and breathtaking moments alone with your Creator! Share your One Verse in the comments below. We’re in this thing together.

Jesus loves you,

Kelly

 

 

 

5

Real Trust in Marriage

Marriage is hard. I’ve put off this post for weeks now, because even after nearly fifteen years, I have no business writing about marriage.

I like my coffee strong, and my man likes his music loud. If given an entire evening to plan anything at all, he’d choose a crowded sporting arena with lots and lots of people; I’d choose a bubble bath and a book. I thrive in deep, meaningful conversation; he thinks you’re never too old to play practical jokes.

I’m a dreamer, a quiet observer, a compulsive reader; he’s a comedian, a competitive athlete, and an outspoken leader who willingly jumps into the messy stuff.

I used to think that we were too different.

Early in our marriage, I secretly wished he would magically morph into a manly version of me. Then we’d have so much more in common and so much less time devoted to sports, and wouldn’t that be so much easier and comfortable and enjoyable… for me?

As I read back those words, I’m smothered by my own self-centeredness.

Today, I open up to the book of Matthew like I do every Christmas season, and the union of Mary and Joseph (and my own marriage) is on my heart. Without thinking twice, I write down one word in my journal: trust.

This marriage should have ended before it began. It almost did. When Joseph found out about Mary’s pregnancy, he decided in his mind that he would do the compassionate thing and divorce her quietly. This young teenage girl’s reputation (as well as her life) was on the line.

In a dream, God explained the situation and told Joseph, “Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (see Matthew 1:20-21)

How different would this story read if Mary and Joseph had not trusted God?

Matthew spells out next why all of this is so crucial, why Joseph and Mary are key players in this story. In Matthew 1:22-23, he quotes the prophet, Isaiah, who said: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means ‘God with us’).

Mary and Joseph trusted God and accepted that this marriage might be bigger than their own hopes and dreams, their own wishes and preferences, their own familiar comfort zones. Both laid down entitlement, and instead, chose to be a part of God’s plan to save many lives.

After Jesus was born, King Herod went on a furious quest to locate the child who threatened his throne.  Joseph received instructions on how to move his family to Egypt, far outside Herod’s jurisdiction. Mary followed the man who married her pregnant and all.

After King Herod died, Joseph received further instructions in two separate dreams to move his family to the land of Israel, then to the town of Nazareth in Galilee. Today I don’t just see a wife trusting her husband; I see something more.

Mary trusted Joseph while clinging to Jesus.

Mary and Joseph encountered struggle and hardship from the very beginning of their relationship. Both had to exercise trust towards one another, but ultimately, their trust was in God.

Exercising trust in our marriages means believing that God joined us together for a purpose that involves using every one of the differences between us. Exercising trust begins with the destruction of our own kingdoms so that His kingdom is our joint focus.

When we exercise trust in our marriages, we know in our bones that even if our spouse proves untrustworthy, Jesus is always faithful and will never, ever harm or leave or disappoint us. Singles exercise trust long before they’re married when they believe that God provides in His perfect timing.

What if instead of placing our trust in our spouse or in the institution of marriage, we placed our trust in the One who designed marriage to reveal His glory, the One whose very name means “God is with us”?

Struggle is woven into the very fabric of marriage. Two different flawed people, incomplete and naturally self-centered, joined together as one. Struggle is inevitable.

Yet over and over again, God uses these fusions of wills to create a dynamic and beautiful canvas to display redemption and accomplish His will.

If I’m honest, my marriage has magnified my own selfishness, my desire for comfort, convenience, and control. More than anything, my marriage has revealed my desperate need to be changed by God.

Every marriage is evidence that we all need Jesus smack dab between us.

There is such sweet hope this Christmas season. For you, for me, for our marriages. Immanuel. God is right here with us . . . living and breathing and moving and working in our most precious relationships. He is with us.

So if you’re wondering how to exercise real trust in your marriage, it’s pretty simple: Trust Him.

Merry Christmas from our home to yours!

Kelly

2

How a Taxi Driver Influenced My View on Success

On the way to baggage claim, I listened to the message my doctor’s office had left while I was 36,000 feet in the air. I had just landed in North Carolina for a writer’s conference and happened to be four months pregnant.

The nurse’s words came at the worst possible time. My test results were in, and I needed a prescription filled immediately. My plan for a quiet evening was suddenly hijacked. Finding a ride to the pharmacy was not on my travel agenda.

Neither was the profound and unexpected conversation I had with a complete stranger.

How a Taxi Driver Influenced My View on Success

When my prescription was ready later that evening, I waited outside as the hotel shuttle pulled up to the curb. I needed a ride to the Walmart ten minutes away.  Other conference attendees requested rides to restaurants and the local mall. My stop was the last one since Walmart was the furthest.

The driver asked me questions about what I did. His name was Dale. He made hats for a living. A blue and gray driving cap adorned his head. Dale wasted no time revealing that he knew Jesus. I shared my inferiority in a sea brimming with talent and my initial hesitancy to even attend this writer’s conference. I felt like I didn’t quite belong.

As I listened to him speak, I caught hints of contentment laced all throughout his words.

At a stoplight, he slowed the van to a halt and turned to face me. He said, “You know, Miss Kelly, artists like us, we got to listen to the Spirit of God. God created us to create. If we get caught up in what the world calls success, then we really aren’t all that different from the rest of them, are we?”

I nodded in agreement. Maybe it was always God’s plan to fly me across the country for this one conversation with a hat-making-taxicab-driver named Dale.

I took lots of notes at that conference. I learned so much in those three days. Yet Dale’s words were the ones that played over and over in my head; they resonate even today, two and a half years later.

God knew I needed to hear those words in the worst way.

Dale didn’t need a microphone on a stage to deliver words of influence. The business card he handed me has long been misplaced. It had the shuttle service number at the bottom and a blank line across the middle. Underneath were the words WRITE DRIVER’S NAME HERE in tiny caps.

His name never appeared on a conference program or a screen with his credentials; he didn’t seem to need evidence that his art was successful. His name wasn’t even printed on the business cards he handed people. Maybe because He was in the business of making God’s name known.

Lately I’ve been reading this passage in Romans:

For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. 

Romans 11:36-12:2

What if God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will is for me to live small?

What if that’s His plan so that I can worship Him properly for the rest of my time here on earth?

Living small goes against the flow of this selfie-saturated world. I’ve been convicted lately that in many ways my life doesn’t look all that different. Sometimes I look, think, and act just like those who don’t know Jesus. His presence in my heart should make a vibrant difference.

There’s a power struggle going on in my heart, an all-out battle with myself.

Yeah, I want to be known. I’d love someone to view my words as publish-worthy, because it would serve as evidence that I’m a real writer. I compare myself, I’m way too self-aware, and quite honestly, entitlement infiltrates my thoughts on a daily basis.

Jesus looked and talked and thought so differently during His years here on earth. He found value in the least, the spiritually bankrupt, the foolish and unimportant. Jesus was so socially awkward.  But, never wavering, He knew why He had come.

Jesus talked about the narrow way and the small gate, and He was completely honest when He said few would find it. He taught that hearts set on earthly things that waste away would only inherit treasure that fades away as well. But hearts set on the things of heaven would find their treasure secure with Him.

Our devotion fuels our pursuit.

The world often recognizes eternal treasure as foolishness. Paul warns the Christians in Rome, “Do not conform.” Conform means to be in agreement with. Chasing big means agreeing with what the world labels success. It’s building myself up to make my name known.

A life of influence never depends on a microphone and a crowd. I want to chase the kind of success that can’t be measured here on earth.

Choosing small means letting the Spirit of God guide each step rather than the latest five-step plan for success. It means spending our lives to make His name known, and counting everything secondary to knowing Him.

Small has a way of clearing the space around us so that our souls can breathe in and out with ease.

Jesus loves you,

Kelly

 

2

What I’m Reading and Gifting This Season

What I'm Reading and Gifting This Season

I accidentally left two paperbacks on the bedside table of the hotel room my husband and I stayed in after a recent gala downtown.

At home, after I discovered the books hadn’t made it to my bag, my husband called the hotel. An answering service picked up, then rerouted his call to the voice mailbox of a woman in charge of lost and found.

These weren’t just any couple of books. I had covered one of them in notes and asterisks and lots and lots of my own words, and I only had one more chapter left to read. Someone loaned me the other one, and she raved about it when she placed it in my hands. I planned to start that one next.

My loving husband, who does not share my obsession with books, tried (ever so politely) to convince me that my books sat in a trash pile somewhere collecting dust. He kept saying, “Kelly, they always toss things of little or no value.” I cringed with every repetition, while he shrugged his shoulders as if this news should not be devastating.

How did I end up married to a man who thinks paperback books hold no value?

He left a message, and to my relief, the woman called back the next day. She found the books and said she would hold them until we could come pick them up. During the time between the message he left and her call back, I thought about who might’ve found those books.

All this led me to reevaluate what makes books so valuable.

Nothing compares to opening a freshly printed, brand new book. The smell is invigorating, but the possibility of discovering something new is what drives my love of reading. There is something even more precious about receiving a book from a friend or loved one who tells you, “I knew you’d love this one.”

When it’s a book they’ve already read, marked up, and highlighted, it’s a whole new experience. For this reason, I’ve started to gift my books. Yes, books I’ve read. Books with notes in the margins. Books I’ve packed with me on a hotel excursion or trip to the beach. I wrap them with a simple strand of string and slip on a tag with a hand-written note.

What I'm Reading (and Gifting) This Season

Passing along a good read is gift-giving at its finest.

Gifting your books is the perfect way to spread some love this Christmas season, and it couldn’t be more simple. Scour your own shelves at home. Get creative on how you wrap those goodies—gift bags, boxes, or pretty ribbon you’ve got laying around. The possibilities are endless!

As always, here are seven good reads for winter…

{Christian Living}

None Like Him by Jen Wilkin

I’ve been reading this as a devotional. Jen Wilkin takes ten attributes of God and beautifully disassembles each one in a way that draws us deeper into the heart of God.

{Creativity}

Daring Greatly by Brené Brown

To dare greatly is to show up and let our whole selves be seen. This is a must read for all leaders, educators, parents, and everyone who wants to lead a courageous, whole-hearted life.

{Spiritual Growth}

The Listening Life by Adam McHugh

Listening is one of God’s greatest gifts because it provides the precious assurance that we are not alone. Adam McHugh carefully and eloquently describes how being a listener is being a servant, someone Jesus is to each of us.

{Discipleship / Spiritual Growth}

Shattered Dreams by Larry Crabb

Larry Crabb presents an “invitation to taste and see that the Lord is good even when the bottom falls out of your life.” He implores readers to recognize how God uses the pain of shattered dreams to help us discover our desire for Him.

{Marriage}

What Did You Expect? By Paul David Tripp

I wish I had read this convicting and heart-wrenching book fourteen years ago when I was twenty-one and marrying my true love. The message in this book has helped change my perspective towards marriage and the many ways in which God wishes to redeem it.

{Historical Fiction}

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

When I finished the last page, I wanted to turn back to the first and start all over again. This story made me reevaluate what I call strong and what I call weak. I learned that true strength isn’t found in what others see, but in seeing what others don’t.

{Current Events / Middle East}

They Say We Are Infidels by Mindy Belz

This riveting collection of stories about those suffering persecution at the hands of ISIS realigned my view of the universal church. The church operates first as a family, and these stories demonstrate this in the most costly and sacrificial way.

What I'm Reading: Winter Edition

Thanks for showing up here every few months and proving that the stories that connect us together are priceless treasures waiting to be shared with those around us. Be sure to check out my new page, GOOD READS, for all my absolute favorites.  

Kelly

 

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