Needless to say, I’ve been a little quiet on the faith front lately. This isn’t intentional, or really significant of anything other than being just plain busy.

Just. Plain. Busy.

Or at least, that’s what I’ve been telling myself. That’s how I’ve been justifying it.

But that’s not really it, is it? Busyness is an excuse. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. And more than that, it’s a vice. An idol. It’s one of my worst ones, actually. I can prioritize anything over my relationship with the Lord if I try hard enough — we all can.

I mean, take this very blog post for instance! It’s my first Testimony Tuesday in over a month, and in the last one, I was talking about how I’ve been struggling with juggling life, church, and everything else. And yet, nothing changed.

Okay, I won’t say nothing. I’m going to give myself a sliver of credit and note that I caught myself slacking on the faith front, and that should count for something, shouldn’t it?

But again, I’m justifying. beyond that, I might even be rambling, so for that, poor dear readers, I apologize.

The point of this post was not to ramble about my own lack of prioritizing. The point was, quite simply, to share an excerpt of a devotional I read recently, one which touched me, and called me to open my eyes to how I’m viewing the world. Am I viewing it through rose-colored glasses, or God’s prescription? And when my vision is blurred, am I even aware of it?

With a new lens prescription, it can take time for your eyes to adjust. A change in spiritual vision can take time, too, and you might find yourself slipping back to old ways of acting, or thinking. When that happens, remind yourself that God has given you a new way to see the world, and He has enabled you to recognize His presence and His love in your life. What a beautiful difference! – from “He Restores My Soul, 365 Daily Devotional”

These words were so, incredibly comforting to me. I read them on a day I was being particularly hard on myself for letting life get in the way of God’s love for me, and of learning to see that love evermore clearly. But the truth is, what the devotional says is right: it takes time to adjust. It takes time to open your heart in the first place, so opening the rest of yourself to God’s love can be just as slow going too. We are not called to be perfect, after all. We are called to love.

And how lucky are we that He loves us, even in moments where we cannot see so well!

For now we see in a mirror dimly,

but then face to face.

Now I know in part;

then I shall know fully,

even as I have been fully known.

– 1 Corinthians 13:12

We only know in part now, and that is okay. We are called to continue learning, continue growing, and continue loving.

For now, my focus is on exactly that: refocusing. I’m working to spend time each morning, reading my devotional and connecting with God, instead of rushing straight into the business of this earthly world. I’m allowing myself to recenter, without reprimanding myself for doing so, because how is that as forgiving as our Lord is?

Short answer: it’s not.

My hope for you is that if you’re in a place like me, where balance isn’t necessarily within reach, you’re allowing yourself to take a time out and do what you need to do to once again even the scales. I pray you allow yourself time to refocus. More often than not, that’s all we need to, once again, see clearly.

I have a confession to make:

I’m writing this on Monday night. I mean, it will post on Tuesday, if only for the sake of alliteration, but still. Technically, this is a Testimony Monday. That just doesn’t sound as good.

I have another confession to make:

I’ve been pretty bad about going to church lately.

Oddly enough — or, perhaps, not oddly at all — that second confession is a little bit harder for me to make. Because, of course, that’s not how it’s supposed to be. That’s not part of the image I’m trying to create for myself, but I’ve realized that upholding that “perfect, churchgoing” image can be just as dangerous as anything we idolize. In fact, it can probably be more so, because I’m idolizing that perception of myself. I’m idolizing a falsehood that I’m portraying. I’m idolizing someone that, quite frankly, I’m just not.

So, it’s time to put an end to that. It’s time to ‘fess up.

I’m not perfect. In fact, I’m far from it. I don’t go to church every Sunday; in fact, more often than not, I’ll go to teach my favorite kiddos, and then head home, because those energetic 5-year-olds just completely wipe me out. I stopped going to small group, partly because I moved further away and partly because it started to feel like more of a social obligation than a spiritual one, and something about that caused some anxiety. I’m really good at going through guided Bible studies for a couple of weeks, but then I usually let it fall to the wayside. I’m notorious for letting life get in the way of my relationship with the Lord, all in the name of “experiencing His blessings.” And while I do firmly believe there is some truth to that, I also recognize that one of His greatest blessings is our relationship with Him, and it’s probably time that I start to prioritize that, as well.

However, I was reading a devotional this morning (another thing I will probably be really great about doing for a couple of weeks or so, and then I’ll choose to sleep in an extra five minutes… however, I really love this devotional book that the boy’s mom gave me for my birthday, so I’m determined to make it a habit). That devotional was titled so simply, and yet it struck me so deeply:

Keep on practicing. 

And it went on to say, basically, that our relationship with God isn’t about being perfect. It’s about being consistent. It’s about continuously practicing, continuously slipping up, and continuously humbling ourselves to start over again. And that’s okay. In fact, that’s the point.

My favorite line was this:

“Remember, practice comes before perfect — and perfect will come when you’re standing with Him in heaven.” 

Oh, how encouraging that was to read! Oh, how much I desperately needed those words! Oh, how incredibly thankful I am that they came at this time!

I always look at birthdays as a time to refresh, reflect, and realign my goals (but more on that later…) and while I already knew that one of my goals for the year would be to work more at my relationship with God, reading a confirmation that He is ready and willing and waiting for that was so heartwarming. It was one of those things that, yeah, I knew, but I didn’t know. I unknowingly needed that confirmation, and the Lord provided it to me, right as I needed it most.

Funny how that works, isn’t it?

So, this testimony is less of a testimony and more of me taking the time to step out and encourage you, too. If you’re faltering or questioning or just feeling a little stuck, keep practicing. Even if it’s not a faith-based situation, but especially if it is, keep practicing. Sometimes, when we’re in too deep, that’s really all we can do.

Remember:

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap,

if we do not give up.

– Galatians 6:9

In other words: practice makes perfect (someday… in the kingdom of heaven.)

ps: in case you’re curious, the devotional I’m reading is “he restores my soul.”

One of my favorite things to do on Sunday mornings is to spend it with the kiddos. About twice a month, I get to volunteer as a leader of my church’s children’s ministry, and it is, honestly, one of the most rewarding things I have ever done.

Truth be told, I signed up because I just love kids. They’re so fun to hang out with, so vibrant, so full of energy and life — and, truth be told part 2, I really enjoy being able to hang out with them for a short period of time before giving them back to their parents.

Once upon a time, I wanted to be a teacher. Somewhere along the line, I fell in love with writing and public relations and my life took an entirely different path. However, I’ve never really given up on the idea of having my own classroom. Maybe it’s something that’s in the cards way down the line, when I have a family of my own and want summers off to spend with them… or maybe, I’ve found my calling right here, within the walls of my church. I used to joke that I started teaching Sunday school as a way to hold on to my dream of teaching without the actual commitment.

I’ve discovered, though, that (as usual) God had a whole other set of plans for what teaching children’s ministry on Sundays would bring me.

The Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.

– Matthew 19:14

Have you ever watched a child believe? Have you ever listened to their uninhibited, unquestioning knowledge of the Gospel? Have you ever talked to them about their faith in Jesus Christ and His redemption?

Let me tell you – I have, and it is one of the most wondrous things out there.

So, let’s be honest with ourselves. Even those of us (and I’m raising my hand here, too) who grew up believers, raised as good Christian children in good Christian families, have struggled with doubt as we grew older. It’s inevitable. Eventually, you learn that such doubts and such struggles are ultimately a part of our greater relationship with Christ. We know that part of what strengthens that relationship is questioning it and choosing to believe anyway. It’s seeing the impact of our saddened, sinful world and choosing to look to the Lord to offer faith and redemption and peace in it.

But do you remember what it was like when you were oblivious to the sinful ways of the world around us? When you knew of evil but didn’t quite comprehend it?

I do. And I’m reminded of that blissful, unfailing faith in God every time I hang out with those kids.

I remember sitting in my church in Texas, all those years ago. I loved that church because it was beautiful, and because they did rotations during Sunday school, and one of those rotations was to a movie theatre, and there was real buttered popcorn in that movie theatre. I remember the perks of that church more than anything, as I guess seven-year-olds are probably prone to do.

But I also remember believing it because I didn’t know that you could question it.

And sure, I’ve since grown up and recognized that questioning my faith and subsequently understanding it on a deeper level is one of the benefits of more time spent on this planet. But it can also be terrifying, to wonder about something you once almost took for granted.

I’m not saying these kids don’t know what they believe in. In fact, I believe that the children I spend Sundays with believe in God so fiercely and so innocently that they are to be looked up to (even if, technically, that requires looking down).

Our faith is not meant to be questioned; it is meant to be accepted, and leaned on, and almost taken for granted.

He is a graceful, loving Lord, and He wants us to look at Him with the eyes of a child. He wants us to obey His commands and not question His reasons. He wants us to love Him the way that He loves us.

And yes, He recognizes that the older we get, the more reasons there are to doubt the strength of that love and that relationship.

But, so often, there’s also so many more reasons to relish in it.

Sometimes, it just takes watching a child praying, or listening to the words of the Gospel, to remember that. Sometimes, it just takes a moment or two in the eyes of a child’s faith to find the very core of our own.

It always strikes me as so odd how sometimes it just clicks. By that I mean, those “cliche” (for lack of a better word) sayings that float around the church community. Things like, “God will provide.” It’s repeated over and over and over again and inherently, you believe it. You know that’s what the scripture says, you know that’s the promise He has given His people. You know God will provide… but when does that click?

For me, it was last weekend.

I know, I know. That probably seems late but I think that part of this faith journey I’m on is really, completely getting what I’ve believed my whole life. After all, I think there is a different between believing it, and getting it. It doesn’t mean you’re doubting it up until that point. It just means that there’s a moment where you’re like — oh, okay. Yup, God. You’re right.

You will provide. 

What led me to this particular moment of clarity was car troubles. Cosmetic ones, technically, but air conditioning isn’t necessarily optional in the 115-degree Phoenix heat. And, let me tell you, air compressors don’t come cheap.

However, as I left the dealership knowing how much of a hit my savings were about to take, I felt oddly at peace. Sure, it’s a lot of money and yes, that still sucks, but it’s not as much as it could have been, and, I have it. It’s there. Was I planning to spend it on this? Of course not. But that’s what savings are for.

A year ago, I would have absolutely panicked, very much so in the how-in-the-world-am-I-going-to-comfortably-pay-for-this kind of way. But now? I will get the bill paid and set up a plan to rebuild the (relatively minor, in the grand scheme of things) hole it’s digging into my savings account.

It will be okay. I’m not worried. God will provide the means, even if it entails skipping a couple of happy hours for the next month or so.

And, really, I know the nonbelievers might just look at this as a result of growing up, and building a savings, and being more financially responsible. All of those things are true, and I get it.

But the Lord also provided something else for me this weekend, something more unexpected and decidedly less monetary.

Time. 

You see, I was supposed to go up to the cabin this weekend. My AC went out as I was running errands to prepare for the drive up north — getting my air pressure checked, getting gas, the usual. I could have gone up with no AC, probably, but I didn’t want to chance it just in case it was something bigger or more hazardous. So I resigned myself to staying in the Valley (and its heat) this weekend. I was upset about it at first, but as the weekend progressed, I realized that God was really handing me this set of circumstances as away to say, Whoa. Slow down. Reflect. Pause. 

I’ve been a little bit all over the place lately, due to stress and the heat of the summer and just a weird feeling of not accomplishing the things I want to do. But now I was handed this built in downtime, time where I really had no choice but to fill the hours at the dealership by doing something productive. (Granted, yes, I did watch a few episodes of Netflix, too, but that’s not the point.)

God provided time this weekend. Time for me to lay out some blog posts, which helped me get over the feeling like I wasn’t doing what I should be for this platform. Time to rest, which was surprisingly much needed after a weekend of travel and a stressful week of not sleeping well. Time to talk out some things that needed to be talked out, which provided a reality check for myself and just some good communication otherwise. Time to unwind, to wash the sheets, to organize my dresser. Time to check things off the to-do list, which turned out to provide more peace of mind than a weekend in the woods (though I do miss the smell of the pines).

His provisions aren’t always physical — they’re not necessarily food or money or housing, though they often are those things. He provides what He knows we need. We just have to trust Him about that.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
– Matthew 6:33

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If I’ve learned anything in my life, it’s that we don’t get to plan life’s twist and turns. We can try, sure, but trying is one thing — life actually going that way is an entirely other, and you’re a rare breed of lucky if that actually works out for you.

To be completely honest, I never expected that my life would offer the path that it has thus far. I didn’t expect myself to “settle down” — for lack of a better, if terribly overused, phrase. 

My disclaimer now, and perhaps the point of this post, is that I hardly view myself as settling. Instead, my life was rocked by a totally changing, overwhelming, incredible love story. I have said this countless times, and I wholeheartedly believe, that the reason the Lord called me to stay rooted in Phoenix was to find this love.

And my, oh my, am I so grateful for it.

I think about this sometimes. I don’t think I’ve ever told the boy this much, in as many words, but he really has changed my life, in the most cliche and the absolute best ways. The future that I once saw as an endless string of running — off to the next city, the next place, the next opportunity — has slowly molded into one a bit slower, a bit more intentional.

If I’m being completely honest — and again, that is the point in all of this — I think the future I once envisioned for myself involved a lot of running. Not in the literal sense, but rather the figurative one. I’d be lying if I didn’t look at a vagabond-type lifestyle as one that offered a route for escape whenever the going got tough. It may have been hard in some ways, but it certainly felt easy in others.

I no longer have the option to just run. If I did, I’d lose the very thing that has become most important to me.

And you know what else I’ve realized?

That’s not a bad thing.

I am by no means stuck. In fact, I’m quite the opposite. The Lord called me to grow roots, and now, I am blooming. My heart blooms with the possibility of love and a future that I never imagined wanting but now I deeply ache for (eventually); my career blooms with opportunity and growth; my own sense of self blooms with peacefulness and presentness.

If I’ve ever had a true testament to my faith, this realization has absolutely been it.

In actuality, and according to one of my dearest friends, I’ve “always been that type of girl.” The type to fall in love fast, hard, quickly, and long for something lasting. It’s just been that previously, nothing has lasted.

This one has. This one took a trial of faith and blind optimism, as well as a whole heck of a lot of trust in the urgings of my own heart.

And, of course, guidance from the Lord.

To say that my trust in my relationship and my trust in the Lord go hand-in-hand probably sounds naive, or love blinded. But I truly believe that. I believe that the Lord offered me this relationship as a way to prove that He does provide, and He provides so abundantly, so long as you trust and obey his will and his Word.

He called me to stay put.

So I did.

And, without looking, He offered me the most wonderful love I could have ever asked for… the sort of love I didn’t even dare ask for.

I remember reading an article one time about how the butterflies went away for one writer’s relationship after a while, and how that was okay because they were replaced with an overwhelming sense of security and love and warmth.

I’m proud — or maybe actually humbled? — to say that I feel the same way, but I do still get those butterflies when the boy walks in the door every night. But when I think of him, it’s not the same heart-pumping, nervous anticipation I’ve felt before. It’s calm. It’s comfort.

It’s wonderful.

I apologize, truly, for what is essentially a rambling love letter. But I just so deeply hope that you, dear reader, understand that this is more than just about my abundance of love for my boyfriend. That’s well and good and so very true, but this is about more than that. This is about giving into the unexpected and getting what you never knew you so deeply longed for as a result. This is about trusting what you are called to do, even if it goes against every other desire you thought that you had. This is about believing in the surprised that life has in store.

It’s infinitely better than anything I could have planned out for myself.

background-blur-close-up-998592Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
– Romans 12:12

Well, that command is pretty straightforward, isn’t it?

That one verse can really be broken down into what are, if you ask me, the basic principles of steadfast faith:

be hopeful, be patient, be constant.

And yet, that last one is so easy to overlook. At least, it is for me.

Maybe it’s because I am admittedly still unsteady when it comes to my practices. Maybe it’s just a general unsteadiness in life. Maybe it’s the inherent unsteadiness of human nature. Whatever it is, being constant is one of my biggest trials, and what I have to work towards the most when it comes to maintaining and flourishing my relationship with God.

It’s just so easy to only rely on the Lord when it’s convenient, or when I can glorify His blessings. It’s so much easier to be able to say, “Yeah, the Lord is so great because he’s provided so well with this, and that, and this.” Of course I want the relationship to remain happy and carefree and easy – that’s not even unique to my relationship with God, that’s just how I’d like every relationship to be. I don’t think I’m entirely alone in that wish. Right?

Right.

Hopefully.

(See, I’m easily hopeful.)

Jokes aside, consistency is something that I am working on and, perhaps a tad ironically, something I pray about often. I pray that I can do just that – pray – with unwavering dedication and faith. I pray that I come to not only ask for things I want or need or think I deserve, but that I ask for the simplicity of knowing the Lord’s presence. I pray that I can find the courage to pray even in the darkest times, when I feel the most alone, not just in the happy times where I can feel God’s presence so strongly.

A relationship with the Lord is hardly one of convenience. It’s one that takes work and effort, just like any other relationship we come across on earth. Where would I be if I wasn’t constant with my friends, or my family? (Actually, don’t answer that. Life has gotten a little too real lately and I’ve seen exactly what happens when that’s the case.)

Beyond just being something that we should be doing for the sake of strengthening our relationship with God, being consistent is something we are quite literally commanded to do.

Pray without ceasing,
– 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.
– Jeremiah 33:3

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.
– Colossians 4:2

So today, I pray that we can all be consistent and steadfast and open. I pray for my own consistency. I pray that any relationship with the Lord that might be wavering finds that faith and constant steadfastness again.

I pray that we can all be, exist, love, and know without ceasing.

Happy Tuesday.

Maybe, just maybe, calling today’s post a true “testimony” is a little bit of a stretch. Perhaps I should call it more of a rambling… a stream of consciousness, if you will. Although, even that isn’t a proper term. Because what this really is, what I was truly called to write today, is a thank you letter.

Yes, you read that right. Today’s testimony is, rather simply, a thank you letter.

I’ve felt so called lately to listen. And by lately, I really mean for the past several years. As I’ve been aching to move on, move forward, everything has told me – or, in some cases, forced me to – slow down, be still, and open my ears and heart to what the Lord was trying to tell me. Sometimes, particularly at the beginning, it was listening to Him tell me what He wanted me to do. Other times, more recently, it’s been Him trying to show me why.

I’m humbled, embarrassed, and elated to say that finally, finally, I did just that. I listened. Maybe it was because I’ve hit the two-year mark since jumping into full-time adult life (aka, graduating) and that’s hit me in ways I could never imagine, or maybe it’s something I can’t even fathom, or maybe it’s literally just me listening to Your beckoning and obeying. Whatever it is, I finally listened.

And all that I can think to say in response, Lord, is “thank you.”

Thank you, Lord.

Thank you for calling me to dwell in the desert a little longer, even though I had the opportunity and a nagging desire to go elsewhere. Thank you for putting me in the internship that became my full-time position and for showing me that this was not just something I did for a desire to be comfortable and secure. You brought it to me as something that was exciting, a goal to work towards, a job I love. That, I’ve realized, was You offering me an opportunity for growth, for learning, and for forging relationships that I otherwise would have missed out on.

Thank you for keeping me close to my family, immediate and extended. It was so, so needed these past two years, in both the best ways and the worst.

Thank you for pulling me further into the church, further into a relationship with You. I admit that I falter here sometimes. I prioritize earthly duties and desires over the spiritual obligation of attendance, but I know that You are beside me even in those times. I know that now because of the way You brought me back. I know that straying for a week, a month, a year, does not mean I’m lost. You love us all, You love me always.

I’ve said this one a million and ten times, but thank you for the boy and for every wonderful, glorious thing that has happened because of him. Thank you for giving me an everyday example of the person I long to be, through the person I most wish to be that for.

Thank you for giving me a newfound appreciation for the city I call home. I fallen in love the way the mountains look when painted against your purple night sky. I have learned to appreciate the smell of the creosote after a rainstorm even more than I did when we first moved here, all those years ago. I have grown to appreciate the grid of the wide streets and avenues, an the eccentricities of them, like how the east valley stops numbering and Grand Avenue cuts up the squares with its diagonal direction.

Thank you for the courage to start this blog and an outlet to proclaim my love for You and my lessons along the way. Thank you for helping me grasp at what is still a murky balance of finding myself and finding my faith, and for reminding me again that mistakes are always okay. Just learn from them.

Lord, I’ve learned so much in the past two years and I don’t think I would have had I hopped on a plane to Boston right away. I’m so thankful for the opportunity you gave me to stay here, even if I questioned that.

So, okay. Maybe this wasn’t a true testimony… but then again, maybe it really was. Because Your hand is so clear to me now, Your presence throughout all of this.

I am so humbled, and so grateful.

Thank you.