Living By The Spirit

Trying to enjoy as many of these sunsets as possible before it gets cold (and by cold I mean below 70 degrees). I don't know what sunsets have to do with living by the Spirit, but look at that sky!
This semester, I would like to grow in living by the Spirit. 

Which, for me at least, is one of those facets of Christianity that has been more about word than deed. 

And I don't mean my speech is perfectly spirit-filled, so now I just need to focus on my actions. No, that's definitely not what I mean. Maybe I'll get there when I'm eighty or never. 

I mean I talk about living by the Spirit, or being "out of the Spirit" a lot, but actually don't have a great tangible hold on what this looks like in day-to-day life. 

Like when my two year old starts rough housing and kicks me right in the chest while I'm putting him to bed, 

or when Kyle is cranky because he hasn't eaten in 12 hours and I'm like, "All we have are cheese sticks and peanut butter crackers because I subsist on toddler food while you're at work," and then we get in a low-blood sugar fight, 

or, in ministry, when I see people heading for a brick wall and because there's this pesky thing called "free will" I can't stop them, and they won't listen to me (since, duh, I'm always right). 

I've definitely experienced living by the Spirit before. When life feels a little bit like fingernails scraping across a chalkboard, and I'm unnaturally (supernaturally?) at peace, rested, able to love those around me in a way that is beyond my own ability. I have compassion for people, I have grace, I notice people, instead of brushing humanity under the rug of my own life and agenda. 

Those are the moments I think, "THIS. This is what Paul goes on about." 

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. 

But for the most part these moments are few and far between. I want to develop the discipline of living by the Spirit. I wish it was like plugging into an outlet or flipping some secret "Spirit-filled" switch, but it's not. I think it's like working out, which, you know, I'm so good at. 

To be fair, Paul did try to warn us, right? All that talk about, "running a race," wasn't for nothing. 

To cease living in my own strength and begin to live by the power of the Spirit is a discipline. One that, as I take steps further into marriage, motherhood, and ministry I realize I cannot do without. 

Could Kyle and I have a decent marriage in our own strength? Sure, maybe. I don't know because I really don't want to try. I do know that I hope to understand my husband to a degree that requires us to love each other by the Spirit. To build our marriage into a place where both of us feel safe will require a level of forgiveness, and trust, and hope that I believe must be born and fed by the Spirit. I have felt what it is to be loved by the Spirit of God, and it is sweeter than anything or anyone. I think the Spirit can teach me to love Kyle better than any other person could. 

Could I be a good mom in my own strength? Sure, maybe. But I also know my tendencies. My bent toward perfection, my drive for achievement and self-glory. How unnatural it is for me to stop in the middle of a busy work day and hug my children. I desperately want my children to feel loved because they are here. Because they exist. Not because of anything they did or did not do. The one place I have felt this in my own life is in the presence of the Holy Spirit. I think the Spirit can teach me to be a better mother than any other person could.  

Could I do ministry in my own strength? Sure, maybe... for awhile. To be honest, I don't know if I will make it unless I learn how to access the infinite, available, in-Him-all-things-are-possible power of the great I Am. I can't tell you this for sure, but I believe laying among the ashes of many a burnt-out ministry is the tendency to try and be the hands and feet of Christ without the power of Christ. I know the Spirit can teach me how to be a better minister of His Gospel than any other person could... It is His, after all. 

In the end, it's just not worth the risk to try this life on my own. Even at the ripe, young age of 27 I see the collateral damage of a Spirit-less life. It is not something of which I want any part. 

So these are my verses for the semester, may my life become a reflection of them. 

"But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit's leading in every part of our lives." - Gal 5. 22-25 NLT


From the Beginning

The students are pouring into town this week.

Even though it means I won't be able to eat at Panera for the next nine months because there will be a perpetual line out the door; or I will be surrounded by oversized t-shirts, exercise pants, riding boots, fishing shirts, and very, very loud trucks; or that driving around town on home-game weekends will be an almost nightmare, I love this time of year. For a few reasons.  

First, I love school. Like a lot. I loved the upper floors of Evans Library because I love the smell of old books. I loved class discussion and lectures and even how a blank Blue Book looked waiting to be scribbled over. Written testimonies of minds-in-progress, those Blue Books. A high calling.

So even though I am not in school anymore, I still enjoy being in a largely academic environment when the semester kicks off.

Second, I love freshmen. Every year draws me further away from that time period, but it was a pivotal one for me. I feel a warmth toward each wave of not-quite-adults that invades College Station every fall.

Freshmen, I think, are looking for a few things. They want to be taken seriously, and they want to be part of something bigger.

And by taken seriously I don't mean they want to be serious all the time. I think they just want to be treated like the adults they aren't yet, or more accurately, treated how they always imagined adults are treated, which I think is somewhere in the neighborhood of their lives looking like they are on the set of Gossip Girl, or Friends, or both.

That's how I remember feeling, anyway. I wanted to be so cool and mysterious and work in a coffee shop and listen to records.

I wasn't cool, or mysterious, and I spent a lot of money in coffee shops. I did eventually listen to (my friend's) John Denver records on (my friend's) record player.

I think Jesus answers this desire to be taken seriously in such an incredible way.

One of my favorite things to do is ask a freshman what they are hoping to do with their lives, not because they need an answer to that question, but because they're just beginning to realize that they're the ones that get to answer it. 

I wanted so badly for someone to take my passion seriously, even though it was yet immature and not channeled. Christ did.

I believe He takes our passions and lives more seriously than anyone or anything else ever could. Because He gave them to us. It is an honor to watch college students realize this.

More importantly, He takes us, His pursuit of us, very seriously. Watching college students experience the intimate pursuit of Yeshua of their hearts, souls, and minds is humbling.

Not only does Christ take freshmen seriously, but He invites them to be part of something bigger than anything or anyone else.

Bigger than finding the love of their life.
Bigger than achieving their highest goal.
Bigger than gaining any amount of recognition.
Bigger than whatever temporal measure of success they currently have.

So, while it is true many have begun this process long before they hit college, many are just now starting it. This is why I think freshmen are so cool, they are at the beginning of so many parts of life. They are at the beginning of most major decisions, and Christ is waiting for them.

Waiting to walk with them. To be their Savior & Lord. To give them a serious calling and bring them into a bigger cause than anything they could have dreamed up on their own.

Right there, from the beginning.


You Are

One of the biggest messages the world is selling women today is that they are not enough.

It's more than just the magazine covers, isn't it?

It's watching the politicians and career women who's names will likely go down in history books while wondering what difference our own lives make.

It's reading the super mommy bloggers who give their children organic peanut butter and jelly sandwiches cut into seasonal-themed shapes and do so without getting a spot of peanut butter and/or jelly on their throw rug that they bought from Pottery Barn while wondering how long the cheerio we just noticed adhered to the carpet has been there.

It's seeing the free-spirits on instagram who travel the world, keep their beauty and mystery, decorate their studio aparments with old bicycles and tribal masks and survive on herbal tea and soy-based products while we fall into bed in tshirts and our husbands' sweatpants and try not to calculate how many hours of sleep we can feasibly get before being woken up by our toddler.

Our filters are overwhelmed with it from every angle, that it seems impossible to realize that these women don't actually exist. The ones we see on the magazines, on the news, online.

We can't do a thing to make the world stop feeding us this message, I'm afraid. Ever. It is not in its best interest to do so. There's too much to sell, too much money to be made in the make-them-feel-like-they're-not-enough business.

The world tries to fill those places of not enough with boxes and bags and how-to books and burdens that are perfectly packaged, incredibly costly, and absolutely empty. They fill you for about as long as it takes to unwrap them.

Yesterday I sat with women who are all looking to Jesus. Coffee cups filled and emptied and low conversation and laughter spread through the room and my own heart filled with peace.

Christ, I believe with absolute certainty, is the only solid foundation in our world.

Because the world is enticing us to focus on everything we don't have, and Christ commands our focus be on what we've been given.

He is a shelter in the storm of Not Enough.

He fills up those places that scream emptiness with His hope and strength, and without changing a single circumstance, we find our heads lifting and our hearts at peace.

His Spirit fills us with this truth:

You are not enough. 
But you are mine. 
And that is enough. 

In late October, some women who have been seeking the Lord and working extremely hard will be hosting a conference in College Station. I'm pretty excited about going and asking the Lord to remind me of who I am, and who He is.

This conference, I believe, can be an oasis, or a fill station, depending on how you look at it, of truth in our world that inundates us with lies. Taking the time to back away, look to Jesus, and give Him the opportunity to recalibrate our lives is imperative.

Take the time to watch the video below or check out the website, and I hope to see you in October: