The Gift of a Journal

The Gift of a Journal

In August of last year, my mom gave me a journal. But don’t worry, there’s much more to the story than that. When the coronavirus was at its peak last March, and when the world was in complete chaos, my mom decided to start utilizing Walmart’s pick-up option for groceries. She, like many others, was nervous to go inside the store. She loved the convenience of the pick-up option so much that she still uses it now, several months later.

Something you should know about my mom is that she is an avid list-maker. She has old journals full of lists—grocery lists, to-do lists, things to order lists, you name it. She plans her days according to these lists, so naturally, she is able to fill a journal very quickly.

In August of last year, she was in need of a new one, so as she was planning her grocery order for Walmart, she decided to browse the different types of journals they had available. She quickly found one that she loved, so she added it to her cart to be picked up with her groceries the next day.

Something you should know about Walmart pick-up orders is that if they don’t have something in stock from your list, they will give you a replacement item instead. This replacement item is the same product, but it might be a different brand/type than what you were hoping for. Well, that exact thing happened to my mom when she went to pick up her groceries and found that the journal she loved so much was out of stock, so they gave her a different one instead. This one was pink with a gold design on the front. Something else you should know about my mom is that she absolutely despises gold.

Since this journal was not at all what she was expecting, she decided to give it to me. She knows how much I love journals, and I don’t mind pink and gold, so I was more than happy to take it off her hands. At the time she gave it to me, I hadn’t been writing a whole lot. So I tucked it away on my bookshelf and thought, “I’ll use it someday.”

Fast-forward to November, and that journal has turned into one of my most cherished possessions.

Something you should know about me is that I take forever to finish writing in a journal. I usually get bored with the cover or the paper or the feel of it, so I buy a new one before I have even finished the last. But this journal… it’s different.

I started writing in this journal in November. Here we are in January, and I have finished writing in it. Every page is full. Cover to cover. In just two short months.

I had some things happen in my life in November that completely threw me off the path I was traveling. A lot of things fell to pieces around me, and I was left scrambling, trying to pick them all up and put them back together before they ran away forever.

When I go through hard things, my natural response is to write. It always has been, and I have a feeling it always will be. And when my whole world felt like it was falling apart, I clung to this journal more than anything. Tucked away in these pages are every tear-filled conversation I’ve had with God in the last two months. It holds every time I’ve asked Him why, every time I told Him I just could not do this any longer, and every time I told Him I wasn’t the girl for the job. Whatever He was calling me to, and whatever He was trying to show me in my hurting, I told Him that I was not cut out for it. That He should pick someone else.

But then something shifted.

I remember sitting on my bed one night, well past 1 am, with my journal sitting on my lap open in front of me. There were tear stains on the empty pages, my pen was in my hand, and I was looking up at my ceiling asking Him why He had abandoned me.

In that moment, I felt like He whispered to me, “I am meeting you right here. I haven’t left.”

I felt this urge to turn my journal over and examine the cover, and that’s when it hit me.

This journal, the one they gave my mom because the one she wanted was out of stock, is the very same journal that is walking me through one of my most difficult seasons. It’s the very same journal where I have poured my heart out to God, both in questioning and thankfulness, even if it’s thankfulness through tears.

And I felt in awe at that moment. I felt in awe of how creative God is. And I could throw in a line here that says, “He uses the most unexpected things for His good and His glory,” but I have a feeling you’ve heard that line a million times. Instead, I’ll say this: He gets creative with the ways He shows His heart to you. Do you really think it all just happened to work out this way? That the journal my mom wanted was out of stock, so she ended up getting one she didn’t like, which she then gave to me, which I have now poured over in one of my most difficult seasons?

You can believe it’s all luck, but where’s the fun in that? God is creative. And He is all-knowing. He knew back in August that I would be hurting the way I am now in January. He knew what was going to happen in my life in November. And I believe with all my heart that He gifted me this journal Himself. Because within its pages are the hardest conversations with Him I have ever had. But in the same breath I would tell you that within its pages are conversations where I felt more joyful, thankful, and hopeful for my future than I had in a long time. This journal has pages full of a book idea God placed on my heart right after I felt like my life had completely fallen apart. It’s full of chicken scratch handwriting from the moments when I just couldn’t get the ideas down fast enough. There are sticky notes, tab dividers, and bookmarks in multiple places—places I want to be able to flip to easily to see all that God has done in just two short months.

And now, I am left sitting in awe of how invested He is in each of our lives. How He will use something as tiny as an unwanted journal to completely turn a life around. He is creative, and He knows our hearts so well. He knows how much I love to write, and He knew all those months ago what I would need to pull myself out of the many holes I have dug for myself. He knew a journal is what I would need to really dive into conversation with Him. What a beautiful and unexpected gift.

There are two questions I want to leave you with:

1.) What has been your “journal” lately? What unexpected gift has helped turn your life around? One that has pulled you out of the dark places and back into the light?

2.) What unwanted or undesirable things—things that bummed you out or disappointed you—could you use to be a gift to someone around you?

Verses:

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” – Ephesians 2:10, ESV

“How many are your works, Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.” – Psalm 104:24, NIV


This blog is also available here 🙂 I have the wonderful opportunity to write alongside some lovely ladies for a blog called Encouraging Women. Check out the link and show them some love! They have some wonderful pieces of wisdom to share!

To My Knees

To My Knees

I don’t think I fully understood the depths of God’s love until certain events in my life brought me to my knees.

When hard things happen, my initial reaction is to fix the problem myself. I try to take control of the entire situation and find a way to make my own pain go away, no matter what it may cost. But there are certain things in life that are out of our control. And the tighter we cling to our need to have total control, the more it hurts when we lose things we love.

I have learned so much about God in the last two months. More than I think I ever would have if He had not brought me through one of the most painful seasons of my life. And even though I loved God when my life was “perfect” (perfect meaning everything was going my way), I now see that my love for Him has grown stronger than I ever imagined it could.

And it is because I was brought to my knees. And when everything I had loved was gone, and when everything I had known had changed quicker than I could even comprehend, God stayed the same.

People change. Circumstances change. He never does.

He was with me when life was going exactly the way I wanted it to, and He is with me now as I wander into the unknown. And there is something so beautiful and sweet about falling to your knees before Him and surrendering every plan you had for your life—every plan that fell through your fingertips. I watched my heart shift when I gave it all to Him. I watched my life change. I welcomed sorrow and grief as dear friends—friends who pulled me near my Father’s heart.

In the same way that you draw near to your friends and your family when they are going through trials in life, God draws near to you. He is so entangled in our grief. He is so wrapped up in every moment. And it took some of the things I loved most being taken away from me for me to fully understand that. And if I could go back, I would change nothing about the trials that have entered my life.

To the person who is going through the rainy season that you are sure will never end, remember this: you are not meant to carry the burden alone. You are not meant to figure it out by yourself. You are not meant to fix it in your own strength. Your Father wants you to cast those burdens onto Him. He wants you to let Him write the story. He wants you to let Him figure it out.

The burden, the grief, and the heartache became too much for me to carry. And I fell to my knees under the weight. But I have learned that sometimes this weight must be endured for a little while before we learn the peace that comes from falling to our knees at Jesus’ feet. The peace that comes from giving it to Him.

Where God closed one door in my life, I have watched Him open dozens more. And I am grateful.

The sorrow is sweet. The grief is sweet. The pain is crucial. It is sometimes the very thing that brings us to the other side—the place where we can step into exactly who God has created us to be.

Here’s to surrendering our control. Here’s to watching Him move when we give Him everything. Here’s to the way He writes the story.

I am falling to my knees, and I think I will stay here for a little while. Because it is here where His love is truly understood. It is here where He is revealing to me the sweetness of humbling myself. And it is here where He is doing a new thing. All because I fell to my knees.

Verses:

“For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Fear not, I am the one who helps you.'” – Isaiah 41:13, ESV

“And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” – Matthew 6:27, ESV

“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.” – Psalm 55:22, NIV

Storytellers

Storytellers

I was reminded of a summer evening spent with my mom at the farmer’s market. On this particular night, I had the pleasure of sitting next to a 79 year old man who was selling handmade wooden bowls. His work was beautiful, and his attention to detail was clearly displayed. You could tell he took great care in the quality and beauty of his creations and that he loved making them, too.

He had only one sale that evening: me. The shopaholic in me couldn’t hide herself any longer, and I admired his bowls too much to leave empty handed. But I think what I admired most was the personality and the story attached to the man behind the bowls.

Born in 1941, he grew up in what he claims were the best years. He was a farm boy to his core, helping his father with the cows: taking care of them, milking them, and feeding them. He baled hay, which he said was one of the most tiring tasks he has ever had to do. And as he continued to tell his story, I was blown away by the attention to detail he displayed in the timeline of his own life. He could tell you the exact year he stopped baling hay and the exact year he stopped picking fruit. This didn’t strike me as anything at first, but then I started to think about my own short life. I don’t think I can remember the exact year for anything as specific as what he could remember, and I was suddenly left feeling intrigued by not only his memory but also his intentionality in remembering the things that were important to him. And even though things like baling hay and picking fruit seem like small details in a life to me, you could tell they were big things to him. They are part of who he is today: memories tucked away, lessons learned, and friendships made.

He left me reflecting about life that day. It opened the door to a messy place in my heart: my fear that my story doesn’t matter. My fear of not making something of myself.

I went to the farmer’s market that day hoping my t-shirts would be a hit and would sell out. None of these things happened. No interest was shown. And what at first felt like a huge failure turned out to be God showing up for me in the way I have always longed someone to. He was inviting me to dig a little deeper—to find how, even in the mundane, there is beauty to behold. He was trying to show me the importance of the little moments in life. The moments that may go unseen and unheard for all my days.

At the end of our evening together, the 79 year old man said, “well, thanks for putting up with me. Thanks for letting me go on and on about my life. I’ll probably never see you again.” Though our paths will likely never cross again, I know that his story and his friendship during those four hours will forever be stamped on my heart. Because through him, I saw Jesus. I saw firsthand how my story matters to Him. I saw how He shows up in the little moments. The delight I experienced while listening to the old man’s story is the same delight someone, someday, will experience while listening to mine. And Jesus is in the midst of it all. He is the Author of the story of our lives, entangling Himself in each and every moment: both good and bad. He showed me that evening that I need to surrender my need to feel like a somebody. He reminded me that I already AM somebody, because He took great care in creating me. Just like the 79 year old man took great care in creating his bowls that he loved so much, God delights in every detail of our lives. He showed me that a life worth living is a life that lives and breathes Him. Had I never sat down at the farmer’s market that night, I would have never had the pleasure of hearing the story of this man’s life. And though it was as simple as can be, it highlighted the most important things in life: friendship, relationship, love, and the grace of God.

This man was God’s way of reminding me that even if I never do anything big or noteworthy, and even if no one on this earth remembers my name after I’m gone, my story still matters. And so does yours. It matters to your family, your friends, and to the strangers you find yourself sitting with. Whether it’s at the farmer’s market, the DMV, or the line at Walmart, your story matters to someone.

And if I walk hand in hand with Jesus and let Him be the Author of my story, well… it will always be a story worth telling.

Verses:

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'” – John 14:6, ESV

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” – Revelation 22:13, ESV

The Greatest Story Ever Told

The Greatest Story Ever Told

I have always had a plan for my life. And while I’ve heard both good and bad things about having a plan, I know to continuously remind myself that it is a rough draft. I have had countless plans change. Some of this was done with relative ease whereas others were mixed with tears, confusion, and a lot of heartbreak. Nevertheless, they both required significant revisions.

When I view my life as a story, I understand the seasons that come with it. And any good story has a driving plot—one with twists and turns ahead. Where I fall short is how I view myself in the story of my life. When I establish the mindset that I am the author, I am blindsided by the unpredictable events.

“This wasn’t supposed to go here,” or “this wasn’t part of the story,” or “I wasn’t ready for that” are often the sum of my internal thoughts as I sit and believe that I am the author and that I am in control of my story.

I must remember that I am simply a character in The Story. And One who is greater than I holds the pen. He has taken great care in mapping out His Story—He has carefully considered the major plot points and the turning of events. He sits at His writing desk, perhaps a cup of coffee in His hand, and He thinks about each and every character He so dearly loves. He knows that The Story would simply not be The Story unless every one of the characters He created is in it.

He is a master storyteller. He finds a way to use each of His characters to the advantage of the others—He ordains interactions with a goal in mind for His characters to use their gifts, talents, and passions to serve Him and His other characters. He takes what we love, and even what we despise, and He turns it into good for the Story.

More times than I can count, I have felt like He was absent from my life. I have felt that He didn’t really care about me as a character—I’m not doing anything remarkable, I don’t always love people as I should, and I let things dwell in my mind that don’t deserve to take up space there. I was in the midst of these thoughts one Sunday morning as I was heading into church. I didn’t really feel like going that morning. I didn’t sleep well the night before, I woke up late and didn’t get to wash my hair or put makeup on, and I was just flat out tired. I almost decided to sit this one out and just stay home. However, when the service started, I was holding back tears the entire time. The pastor talked about God being present in every single one of our stories. He talked about how He has numbered the stars in the sky and how He knows them by name. To put this statement into perspective, he explained the vastness of the universe. He explained how we can’t even travel to all of the parts of our galaxy because certain areas are just too far away. To add to that, there are thousands of galaxies just like ours that exist in the great expanse of the universe. And God is there among it all. He has placed every single star in the sky and He knows them all by name. What makes you think He isn’t present with you right here, right now?

He transcends beyond time and space as we know it—He is the I am. The ever-present. The past, present, and future. He is all around us. He is invested in your story more than you can even fathom. He is with you each and every step of the way. He cries when you cry, laughs when you laugh, and He celebrates every tiny victory for His kingdom. YOU are so incredibly important in His story—in THE STORY.

Each person you meet is a part of the story, too. And each person brings something incredibly unique to the narrative.

People can be annoying and frustrating. I get it. I spent most of my high school career being annoyed with people and frustrated if things weren’t going my way. I was very much living my story. I’ve been challenging myself lately to love people better. When someone does something incredibly irritating, I try to take a step back and remind myself what unique qualities they possess. I try to remind myself how they are incredibly loved by the same God who loves me. And with this realization, I try to practice being kind to people in the midst of the frustrating moments. It’s hard, and I am no where near being good at it, but I am trying. I am trying because I know we are all important and valued characters in the greatest Story ever told.

This Story is being told right before our very eyes. We are in the midst of it. We are in the midst of one of the most adventurous, heartbreaking, and triumphant Stories ever told. We are in the midst of the Story that all other stories stem from.

I encourage you to always remember that the role you play in this Story is never gone unnoticed. It is never labeled unimportant. And if you’re a visual person like me, picture the Author sitting at His writing desk. Picture Him with His cup of coffee in His hands, His pen and paper sprawled out before Him. Picture Him being thoughtful and intentional in the way He builds His plot. Picture Him smiling when He comes across the character that is you.

You are very very loved. And the people around you are, too. We all share incredible and unique stories, but what makes those stories even better is the fact that we are all part of The Story together.

Verses:

“He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.” – Psalm 147:4, NIV