I use that word often. Most of the time, it just falls in the middle of a sentence and I glance right over it.

Immanuel. God with us.

I hear that phrase all the time, especially during the Christmas season. It’s one of those phrases I can easily get numb to, and forget how it changes everything.

This past Christmas season, Taylor and I went through an Advent study written by our church. And the point of it all was this: God is with you. He’s with us in our sin, in our suffering, in our dreams, in big things and challenges, in our ordinary everyday. Over and over again during the month of December I read those words: God is with you. And over and over, it was closely followed by a question: Do you really believe that? As in… really.

I knew the answer deep down. In my head, absolutely I believe that. I know that I know that God is with me.

My heart wasn’t there yet. That truth hadn’t permeated my soul. It wasn’t real to me.

Come Christmas Eve. The passage was Luke 2:8-10. An angel appears to a group of shepherds who were watching their sheep – just a normal, ordinary night. But the truth the angel shared – “A Savior is born this day” – busted in and changed everything. The shepherds traveled to find the Savior Jesus, worshipped him, and then went right back out to their fields… only this time they were praising God.

Wait. They went back to their normal lives? They went back to their everyday job? That’s it? That can’t be right.

I had never noticed that part of the story before, and it started to make me feel uneasy. Then I read this:

Sometimes we want so badly for God to interrupt our lives, pull us out of the mundane, and place us in the middle of the magical. But Christmas is better than that. Christmas says God came down to be with us in the mundane, and by doing that He made the mundane magical.

Aaaand welcome to my primary struggle of 2014.

As soon as I read it, it was like alarms were going off in my brain and every fiber of my body screamed in rebellion, “That can’t be true. I don’t believe that!”

A few deep breaths, and then quieter, more of a confession this time, “I don’t think I really believe that.”

But, I so want to believe. With all my heart I want to believe that it’s exponentially better to have God with me – involved, interested, helping, guiding, loving, caring – while I’m scheduling social media posts at my job, while I’m sitting in Austin traffic and battling crowds at the grocery store… than it would be for God to get me out of all those tasks so I could do something extraordinary for my own glory.

Because isn’t that the whole point? To live life with God? He’s not a prop that I use to get opportunities or get me out of circumstances that I deem not good enough. He’s not the means to attaining my agenda. He’s the beginning and end of it all. He’s my Savior, Father, Friend. He’s offering me an intimate relationship with Him, one that brings life to even the most ordinary tasks… and in my discontent and restlessness of 2014, I missed it. I missed Him.

And I am so thankful he busted in on Christmas Eve and changed everything.

A few days into January 2015, I was reading Matthew 11:28-30:

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.

Get away with me, walk with me, work with me, keep company with me. As I read, the word “with” jumped off the page. The result of being with God? I recover my life. I learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I’ll learn to live freely and lightly.

Maybe it’s just me, but that sounds 1000x better than striving, trying to measure up, anxiously working to figure out if I’m in the right spot, endlessly comparing, working to gain God’s approval… for him, instead of with him, if you will.

I am far from having this figured out. But more than anything, I want to learn to walk with God, to work with him, to be with him.

So, 2015 is the year of “with.”

Believing that God is with me in the small as much as the big.

Working with God instead of for him.

Walking with God, listening, watching how He does it, instead of running on with my own plans.

Here’s to 2015, friends.


Do you have a theme or word of the year? I’d love to hear about it!

why i write

One Saturday about three weeks ago, my husband Taylor and I had a day off together. It was one of those gorgeous spring days in Austin- 80 degrees, not a cloud in the sky- and  my unsatisfiable itch to be outside was going crazy.

My mind was also going crazy.

See, the night before my friend Amy and I had a pretty truth-filled, mind-shattering, lies- exposing conversation. The “hard, but good” conversation. You know… the kind where your best friend is looking you in the eye, not holding back punches, telling you what you need to hear and it’s all at once the most refreshing and freeing and acutely painful thing. If you’re anything like me, your brain stops working in the middle of the conversation. Not that you stop listening, not that you’re putting up walls, but you just. can’t. handle. any. more. Thoughts and feelings and beliefs are pouring in, yet my ability to pour them back out has ceased. My ability to process completely goes out the window, I feel like I’m drowning in my own thoughts, and I’m stuck. Here’s the thing- I’m a deep thinker, extremely introspective and as a result, I typically process slower. So at this point, the point where my brain is on overdrive, the point when my thoughts are beginning to swirl and resemble a very large, nasty-looking hurricane cloud, I have only one choice. I must find my way to the eye of the hurricane. To the place of rest, peace and quiet- if only for a few moments.

For me, that place is writing. 

So on that Saturday, I wrote. I sat outside and played frisbee with Taylor. We ate lunch in the park and laid in our hammock and soaked up as much sunshine as possible. We read books, and I wrote.

That's me, on that Saturday, in my happy place.
That’s me, on that Saturday, in my happy place.

Almost instantly, I could feel the storm easing up- after having its way in my mind for 24 hours. There were still remnants of course- some ideas where shifted around, some trees I thought were solid knocked over. There was still wreckage to clean up, feelings leftover that I wasn’t sure what to do with, but I was at peace. And the anxiety, the restlessness, the shame I had been fighting against the night before all washed away with the storm.

Later that evening, as Taylor and I were debriefing our day, I was sharing with him all that I had written earlier-  the fears, the feelings, the confessions, the lies, the truth. After  I finished talking, he said,

When you write for a while, I can tell. There’s something different about you…it’s like there’s more to you than there was even a few hours ago.

And that, in a very profound, succinct nutshell, describes my relationship with writing.

I have to go pretty far back in my 24-year-old memory to remember a time when writing wasn’t a substantial part of my life. My first memories of writing my thoughts down was in middle school. I was far from consistent. I would write for a few days, fill a few pages, and then get bored with it. There were more exciting things going on like basketball practice, or family beach trips, playing in the pool or arguing with my brother and sister. Then, high school hit and writing became a chore. Essays, book reports, annotations. While I devoured any book I could get my hands on growing up- namely Nancy Drew mysteries- it took discipline to finish books in high school, much less analyze them and produce 3-5 page, single-spaced essays.

Then for some reason that I can’t really put my finger on, I picked up a spiral notebook in college and started journalling. It started as an outlet. As a way to get my thoughts and feelings on paper. I was growing in my relationship with Jesus like never before, and it became a way to process through scripture.

And soon, it became a LIFELINE- absolutely necessary to my well-being, to my sanity, to my growth spiritually, emotionally and mentally.

It became where I would run when I felt the world crashing in on me. It became a way the Holy Spirit moved in my heart. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started writing about one particular thought, and landed about 34,897 miles away on a completely different idea. As I read back through what I wrote, it’s evident how the Holy Spirit brought to mind thoughts, verses, and experiences that led me to where he wanted me to be. Each time spent writing, I would walk away knowing God a little more deeply, and as a result knowing myself a little more deeply as well. My journals- I’ve written through 19 in seven years- are the truest form of myself. They are raw and uncensored, and the most accurate picture of my story. Specifically, they are the most honest depiction of my relationship with Jesus, and the seasons of life he has brought me through.

I wasn't kidding. If you look closely, I bet you'll figure out my favorite style of journal. (Hint: Moleskine)
I wasn’t kidding. If you look closely, I bet you’ll figure out my favorite style of journal. (Hint: Moleskine)

More often than not, I’ll finish a journal and start a new one at exactly the appropriate time; when one chapter of life is ending, and another is beginning. If anything, that is proof to me that the Lord’s timing is perfect, that he’s completely in control of my story.. and also that he has a sense of humor. Sometimes, the transition from one journal to the next is easy. Sometimes, it’s painful. I don’t want the chapter I’m living in to end. I don’t want to move on. I’m hurt, or angry or confused with the Lord and I don’t want to go to him. I don’t want to process through anything with him. When I’m angry, when I’m hurt to the depth that words can’t describe, I push him away and the dates between two journals have more space between them. But then, there are those transitions that are hopeful. With a new journal comes new days, new life, a breath of fresh air, blank pages with stories just waiting to fill them. Regardless, how much I’m writing, what I’m writing is the most accurate gauge for me on my relationship with Jesus. I might not know all the answers, I might not know every verse in the Bible, but I am being gut-wrenchingly honest with my Savior.. and I believe with all my heart that that counts for something.

Every once in a while, I’ll read back through old journals. It will make me laugh, bring me a profound sense of thankfulness and remind me of pain so vivid it brings me to tears all over again. But most of all, it gives me faith that God knows what he’s doing with my life, with all of our lives. He is an incredible author, and a wonderful storyteller. And that is what motivates me to write. I write to find a place of peace, rest and truth with my Savior in the midst of a chaotic world.

I write to remember the faithfulness of God.

I hope this little piece of my world helps you remember too.

I’d like to know.. What helps you remember the faithfulness of God? What is the thing you turn to that helps you process? How do you find peace and rest in the midst of chaos?