Yesterday I was thinking about my relationship with God and how much I have learned over the last 8 years of trusting Him. I know that many of my blog-readers don't call themselves Christians and are not so interested in hearing about things that relate to faith, and that's okay with me, but for those of you who are pursuing a relationship with Jesus I want to start sharing more directly some of the things I have learned and am learning about doing life as a believer. I don't know how often I'll do these devotional style posts, and I won't be taking a lot of time on them, so it's likely they won't be the most creative or inspiring things you've ever read. But that's okay. My purpose is simply to invite you into my journey of faith and hopefully encourage you in your own. I trust that whoever needs to see these posts will, and for everyone else, you'll just keep on keeping on.
Here's a little something on righteousness and reading the Bible...
“But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You. Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them. Let those also who love Your name, be joyful in You. For You O Lord will bless the righteous, with favor You will surround Him as with a shield.” Psalm 5:11-12
I remember when I first started to put my faith in Jesus back when I was 17 years old and how I couldn’t seem to find encouragement in the Psalms because so many verses refer to how much God loves and protects “the righteous”. I knew too much about my own failures to consider myself a “righteous person”, so naturally I skipped over those verses believing that they were not about me yet but about the people who lived really Christian lives and made really Christian decisions. I thought that maybe once I had gone a few years making good Godly choices then those verses would start to apply to me, but until that time I reserved them for the other more Christian people in the world.
As I started to read the Bible for myself, specifically the books in the New Testament about Jesus & His life on the earth (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John), I began to understand that God wasn’t so interested in me “acting like a good Christian”. In fact it seemed that Jesus got most frustrated with the religious people of his time because they “acted really Godly” but actually their hearts were distant from God. I was surprised to see how Jesus scolded the religious people who had track records of making, “really Christian decisions”, while He was completely compassionate and tenderhearted toward people who didn’t appear righteous at all ... prostitutes, uneducated fisherman, poor widows, tax collectors... etc. These people were more like me, they had been living Godlessly, they were failures compared to the really religious people, and yet Jesus showed them loving kindness and treated them with dignity.
I came to discover that righteousness has very little to do with our actions and everything to do with the postures of our hearts before Jesus. When we put our faith in God, repenting of our sins and receiving the gift of salvation that He offers us through Jesus, the Bible says that we take on the righteousness of Christ. Literally, it is as if our own righteousness, or lack thereof, has been buried in the grave, and we are given a completely new life and reputation in Christ. Righteousness happens through faith in Jesus, it doesn’t come through acting perfectly, nor do we become more righteous the less times we fail, but because Jesus is perfect and He has paid the price for our sins, in Him we have complete righteousness. This enables us to relate to God with confidence knowing that He is not disappointed in us.
God loves and protects the righteous. It’s true. And it’s also true that every believer is righteous because of Jesus. It doesn’t matter how much we have blown it or how many times we have failed. When we surrender our lives to Christ we receive His righteousness. This means we really can get excited when we read the Bible and see the different ways God promises His protection for “the righteous”. Those verses aren’t for other “more Christian” people. They are for us. Everyday, the stuff we read in the Bible applies to us. When we understand that, reading the Bible becomes a lot more encouraging.
Faith Brings Joy
"Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace[a] with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good.But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation.For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son.So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God." Romans 5:1-11
When we were visiting Vevey, Switzerland last month our sweet friend Elsa surprised us by giving up her afternoon to take maternity photos of Shaun and I! Elsa is an incredible photographer and Switzerland is a dreamy place so obviously that combination makes for a completely magical photoshoot. There are soooo many photos I want to share with you, but for the sake of not bombarding you with preggo pictures I'll just post a few for now and then throughout the next few weeks I can show you some more. As of tomorrow I'll be 37 weeks pregnant which means this little lady could arrive at anytime. We'll be moving next weekend so it would be ideal if she would wait until after that, but I'm bracing myself in case she comes early. Her due date is July 4th.
For those of you who have been waiting for our next vlogs/advice videos to come out, don't worry you won't have to wait much longer! I'm going to work on editting them this weekend & hope to have at least one new one ready for you sometime next week. Thank you SO much for your encouragement on those. Your enthusiasm helps me to stay motivated. :)
(This was written on one of my last nights in Barcelona.)
I haven’t been writing on my blog much lately. In slowly plugging away at my book I feel like I only have a limited amount of creativity to put towards writing and I fear that if I direct my creative energy towards my blog then this book will remain unfinished. But tonight is different. I don’t want to write a chapter. I don’t want to refine something I’ve already written either. I don’t want to edit my thoughts or wonder how my words measure up next to my favorite writers like Bekah DiFelice and Shauna Niequist. No. Tonight I want to write as if no one is going to see this, except maybe God, and when I finish I want to be okay never coming back to assess how well I did. Right now I just want to write for the sake of creating something.
For the past month I have been with family. It started with my sweet Dad coming to visit for 10 days, followed by an almost week-long visit to Switzerland to be with friends who feel like family, and then wrapped up with a week here in Barcelona with DK, Marie & baby Anna Heavenly visiting from Switzerland, and Eve & JP here from China. Among all of the amazing things I have done during this time I am also very aware that I've gotten less work accomplished.
I have walked slower and listened longer and framed my days around the needs and desires of people I love most. I have blistered my feet venturing multiple miles each day with my Dad in an effort to see as much of Barcelona as we possibly could (literally... his first day here we walked 8 miles and the rest of the days we walked somewhere between 3-6 miles... our feet were looking pretty ugly by the end of his visit.) I have laughed like crazy hurrying along busy Spanish sidewalks with DK & Marie as we tried to find a place to change Anna Heavenly’s explosively poopy diaper before it exploded even further off of her and onto one of us. I have enjoyed a whole array of Barcelona’s benches as pregnant Eve and I waddled our baby-growing bodies through the streets of my neighborhood, sitting every few minutes to relieve one of us of some hilarious ache we’ve never experienced before. And in the name of being a good hostess I have eaten my weight in gelato, churros, horchata, paella, kebabs, fresh fruit and Spanish tortilla.
With Anna Heavenly being almost 1 year old now naturally I consider her parents to be professionals, which means that I asked them any and every question I could think of about parenthood while they were here. Plus since they are like family to us, I even felt safe asking them the things I usually save for Google, you know questions like, “Will my nipples bleed while breastfeeding? Will I poop during labor? Will I have good sex after having the baby? Can I see your boobs now that you’re done breastfeeding?” (Obviously that one was for Marie...) And perhaps the scariest question for me... “Will I enjoy being a mom?” They answered every question in the best way, the compassionate way, and they didn’t make me feel stupid for asking. We talked deeply and we laughed often and just watching their family do life together was enough to fill my heart with all kinds of excitement for my own little future crew.
On our last day together I took them to visit the famous cathedral, La Sagrada Familia. We actually called it ‘The Tower of Terror’ because although DK has a ridiculous stockpile of knowledge about pretty much everything under the sun, somehow he didn’t know that the Sagrada Familia was basically the pride of Barcelona. He revealed this to us the day he pointed to one of the the cathedral, which is visible from most anywhere in Barcelona, and said, “I think while we are here we should go visit that tower.” ... That tower? What tower? ... We were confused about what he meant ... surely he didn’t think the Sagrada Familia was a tower? ... But yes ... in true stereotypical American form... DK was pointing to La Sagrada Familia and calling it “that tower”, so after a whole bunch more laughter we agreed that while he was here I would take them to see “The Tower of Terror”.
Later that week as we walked to see the tower formerly known as La Sagrada Familia we talked some more about life with a child involved. Marie gave me some more tips on things like traveling with a baby, warning me that packing for a little one can get complicated and that every babe travels differently. Then somewhere in the conversation DK interjected by saying, “Just be ready for everything to go slower. Because doing life with a baby makes even simple things take longer.” I thought it was a good point. And an interesting one, if things move slower with a baby it probably means I’ll get less work done...
These past few weeks my time has been spent with family, but has also been shared with the Calling All Skaters students and staff, preparing them to leave Barcelona and go to England for their final month of lectures before their 2 month European outreach begins. I have fallen in love with those skaters. They are spunky and fun, fierce, full of faith and boldness. They are carefree, enthusiastic, and they love God like crazy. They also love to skateboard and they are great at eating, which absolutely delights the Spanish people who prepare our meals each day. In helping Shaun to pastor this rowdy bundle of skaters, I have found myself with less time to get other things done. Things like writing, emailing, blogging, and video-making have all fallen behind as my attention has been given to this amazing Calling All Skaters Barcelona crew.
As someone who thrives on productivity and struggles with perfectionism, it is usually really difficult for me to feel like I’m not producing anything. I am the kind of lady who sets goals and makes schedules and creates deadlines for myself. I have been known to feel anxious unless I accomplish what I set out to accomplish. But this past month has been different. I’ve done away with the anxious striving to perform and accomplish and I have allowed myself the space to just be present with my friends and family. And you know what I have found? It has been absolutely worth it. This past month has made me rich. All of the walks and the coffees and the fresh croissants I enjoyed with my Dad as we talked about everything and nothing; my time with Shaun in Switzerland with best friends we get to see maybe once a year; being here in Barcelona, hosting friends who feel like siblings, eating with them, laughing with them, sitting with them on random benches; and investing my time in these skaters as they learn more about God’s love for them and His purposes in their lives, these are the moments that make memories. And these are the memories that make us rich.
DK was absolutely right when he said that having a baby will slow life down and make even simple things take longer. That is wisdom and I see it. But the more I think about it the more convinced I am that pursuing friendship and family life, in any capacity, will always force us to slow down. Because love requires a certain slowness. Being alone and independent allows us to go fast, work hard, and get things done. But being with people, in real relationships, with real depth, is only be possible if we are willing to slow down. We must be willing to go slowly enough to listen well, to communicate clearly, to know when it’s time to hustle because emergencies require it, and to realize when it’s time to sit and rest, even when we don't feel tired.
If we want to have family, whether it is blood family, or the kind of friendships that feel like family, we must be willing “to get less done”, recognizing that despite our decreased speed, we are accomplishing far more in the context of community than we ever could accomplish alone. Friendships and family make us rich. Everything else we produce in this life apart from those two things are just added blessings.