Golden

It’s me again.

Yes, my blogging is inconsistent. Yes, it’s after midnight and I have a sore throat and should certainly be asleep right now. But sometimes you just gotta write a little because you know God is up to something and you know He asked you to. So, here we go again…

I just recently finished graduate school, started a new full time job, and made a decision to move out of my current (and wonderful) house. It’s safe to say that transition is happening and I have seen a really clear end to a specific season and have just started stepping into what is next. My last year has been marked by a couple of themes which could be described with words like stretching, deepening, humbling, hurting, challenging, full, and beautifully divine. And at last, I sense that chapter being closed and I’m beginning to see the purpose and preparation that was tucked into every nook and cranny of this last year as I’ve begun to step into the newness of what’s next. Though I can’t say I know exactly what is next or what God has in store, I feel ready. Not just ready, but expectant. Expectant for the astonishing dichotomy that is a life lived with and for Jesus: refinement and refreshing, longing and fulfillment, tangible and abstract, joy and pain. Thankfully, He always gives us what we need for each new step– and I think that’s exactly what He did for me tonight.

Tonight, I felt like God pulled me up into His lap, gazed deeply into my eyes and said, “Hey. Listen.” I wasn’t really expecting it or even looking for it, but He grabbed my attention anyway and the sweetness and subtlety of it drew me in.

In His lap, He pulled me close. In His lap– the most warm, safe, peaceful, and loving place I’ve ever been or ever will be– I heard Him say, “Hey. Listen. I want to tell you something.” And then He proceeded to sweetly and tenderly reveal to me many places in which I have not been the woman He created me to be. He pointed out some selfishness and some insensitivity. He showed me a lot of insecurity (which seems to always be followed closely by fear). He opened my eyes a little bit wider and allowed me to recognize the damage that is done by a prideful and judgmental heart. He convicted me and allowed me to see where I’ve simply not been the woman He says I am. And you know how I felt afterwards? I felt just GOLDEN.

There was no condemnation. There was no shame. Instead, I felt filled with a fresh sense of faith and hope. I felt sure that what is inside of me really is pure gold because God says so and because He calls it out of me. I was completely humbled that God could and does love me so much that He doesn’t just choose me in spite of my flaws– but He actually calls me and literally pulls me out of the mess of all my flaws and He genuinely sees me as wholly beautiful, worthy, and valued. He sees into the depths of me and He says it’s all valuable. He helps me see it in myself and He helps me see it in other people. He does this over and over and over again– and if that’s not real love, then I don’t know what is.

I’m going to bed tonight a little bit more refined than I was yesterday– and even though I may instinctively try to avoid being refined a lot of times– it is actually the most beautiful, refreshing, and freeing thing in the whole world. I truly hope I learn to live a life that is marked more and more by refinement, repentance, and growth. I’m convinced again tonight that every yes to Him is worth it.

Hello, January.

Can you believe we are already 10 days into the new year? It seems like time just slips through our fingers if we’re not careful to notice it. Time is like that, I think. It demands to be appreciated, cherished, taken advantage of. Either that or it’s gone in the blink of an eye, never stopping or slowing down for anyone. Time is a funny thing.

Speaking of time, this blog post has been floating around in the back of mind for quite some time. More specifically, since July (yes, it has taken me 6 months to get around to writing and I have no idea what that says about me, but let’s just move on). Blogging has been one of the many things that I have been consistently inconsistent with over the years and I don’t intend to make any resolutions or promises for this year to be any different. However, since July it is something I feel like God has been initiating in my heart to pick up again. There has been this theme that God keeps taking me back to over the last 6 months and I think it’s worth sharing.

Over the last few years, I’ve experienced a lot of transition. From finishing college, doing the discipleship school at my church, starting grad. school– there has been a lot of looking ahead and a lot of worrying about the future. I can’t even count how many times I’ve said “I don’t know what I’m doing with my life” recently. My passions feel all over the place. I’m in school for social work but at some point in time, I have told my parents that I plan to do all of the following: counselor, politician/lobbyist, police officer, forensic detective, graphic designer, professional calligrapher, small business owner, stay at home wife (LOL, don’t even have a boyfriend), missionary/church planter, lawyer, professor….and you get the point.

I get really exhausted and discouraged just thinking about looking for jobs or moving or changing and it almost feels like I quit before I even begin. And I think we all do this or have done this in some way to some degree. Maybe for you it’s not about figuring out your specific career path– maybe it’s about your relationship status, your performance at work, your marriage, your parenting, your messy house, your unfinished projects, or anything that seems to keep staring you in face telling you that you will fail and keeping you dissatisfied over and over again And you know what? It’s just stupid.

God keeps telling me it doesn’t matter what I do. What I do, does not determine who I am or what I’m worth. And I know this. I’ve heard it before, I’ve said it to myself. But we have to get past just knowing the truth and actually start believing the truth. I remember one night I was spending time with God and I just felt like a wreck. All these questions were swirling around in my head: “What am I going to do with my life? Where will I go? What will I become? What am I good at? Will I ever get married? Will I ever find a job that I actually enjoy? Am I going to be in Waco forever?” etc. etc. etc. I just felt completely overwhelmed. It was debilitating, honestly. When you get to a place like that, there’s no room to dream, no space to risk, no chance of moving forward. And God just spoke. He was tender and kind and He simply said,

“BriAnn. Even if you spent the rest of your life simply existing– if you never did anything noticeable or seemingly important or special– if you just spent your life simply being, it would still be enough and it would still be the delight of my heart. Even if you sit on the bench for your whole entire life, I still choose you for the MVP award. You’re on my team. It’s settled. It’s enough.”

And suddenly, I didn’t feel like a failure. I didn’t feel overwhelmed with all of life’s most daunting questions piling on me in that moment. I felt released. I felt free to dream, to explore, to risk, to go for it and not freak out about the outcome. The fear of change seemed much smaller in my mind than it had the minute before and God seemed much bigger. Because He is.

The same is true for you. So why not make 2015 the year you start believing it? Why not declare 2015 to be a year of pushing back limitations and trusting God with every risk? Why not make 2015 the year that you resolve to accept yourself–with all of your strengths and all of your weaknesses?– because God certainly does. I’ve decided that 2015 will be the year that I dream without letting fear of failure suffocate me before I take the first step. It will be a year when I hear God and I don’t take 6 months to respond like I did when writing this blog post. It’s really not a corny new years resolution– it’s just getting to know the character of God and letting it transform the way you live. It’s deciding that Jesus is who He says He is and you are who He says you are. I don’t want to waste any more time not believing that. After all, time is a funny thing. It slips through our fingers if we aren’t careful to notice it.

What dreams do you have for 2015? What limitations have kept you from risking with God in the past? How do you intend to move forward?

Second Chance: Grace

This post is long overdue and I can’t tell you how good it feels to get my fingers on the keyboard again.

I started my “Second Chance” blog series just over two months ago and have failed miserably at following through and being consistent with the posts. But I have to admit, I’m glad that the series got delayed because I think it was for good reason. A) I dropped my computer and broke it so it took time and money before I was physically able to blog again.. and B) The last month and a half has been incredibly life-changing and challenging and I truly just haven’t been able to put into words what God has been doing in my heart. I want to blog for myself and for others from a place of sincerity. I can’t force it. So I haven’t.

With that being said though– I hope this 3rd post of the series is one that glorifies Jesus and pushes me more towards vulnerability and real love. That’s my goal here, friends. Please have grace for me :)

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For what seems like my whole life, I have struggled with the concept of grace. At times I have lived with such legalism and a standard of perfection to the point where every single day felt like banging my head against a brick wall because I could never do enough or fix enough. At other times I have lived with such rebellion using grace as a justification to gratify my every desire. I wanted grace for myself, yet I always struggled to give it out to other people. My heart is often harsh and filled with a sense of entitlement to keep grace for myself instead of freely extending it to others. Why is grace so complicated?

I have always known that Jesus was full of grace. But it was almost like it was something I kept reaching for but could never quite grasp. I’m not gracious… but I want to be. And this last month and a half, God has been teaching me. He is showing me more of who He is and what grace is and I can honestly say it’s changing me. This isn’t one of those “church camp highs” I used to come back with every summer in middle school and high school before I fell right back into my yearly monotonous routine. I see Jesus moving, but it’s different than what I expected, and I’m finally beginning to experience real grace.

This last month and half, I have been more disciplined than I have ever been in my life (and if you know me you know that has got to be by God’s grace). But most of all, I’ve learned that grace is not a one time thing. It’s a daily thing. We need it daily. We must give it daily. We must live under the law of grace and we must be open to receiving it. Grace isn’t a ticket to do whatever we want on this side of heaven. It’s also not a rule book or a to do list that we must check off. Grace is the person of Jesus and it is a mindset and a lifestyle and its offered to us freely. {Grace happened at the cross and it’s the starting point for everything else.}

I have needed grace especially lately. I’ve needed it to say no to things I want. To have self-control. To do the right thing for other people even if it hurts in the moment. To be disciplined. To humble myself and admit to being wrong. To apologize. To have difficult conversations. To love friends through the hard things. To deny myself what my flesh longs for. To sacrifice my time and energy. To check my motives. To get over myself and give into God…. It has not been easy, but Jesus has continually given me the grace I needed to do it!

I am still processing and learning and still seeking more of the grace of God each day. So please, journey with me. Ask me the hard questions or teach me what God has shown you about grace because I need it. I am thankful that God gives me a second chance with grace. He gives me a second chance to receive it. He gives me a second chance to learn how to give it. He is relentless in showing me grace and He uses it to stir my faith.

Second Chance: Security

It is amazing how much another person can have so much power over another. One harsh word, a thoughtless action, a less than ideal response — these things, at times, seem to have the power to totally put a damper on my mood and on my day. There’s just something not right about that. It sounds so fragile, dependent, and unstable. And maybe it is.

It might be something simple like a bunch of friends getting together but I wasn’t invited. Or maybe something big happened for me that day and a close friend never acknowledged it or asked me about it. Perhaps an apology wasn’t well received or a simple text message was never responded to. These are small things that most people do (including myself) at some point or another. Most of the time, especially when coming from a friend, hurtful words and careless actions are not intentional. People aren’t perfect. I’m not perfect. We are all broken and we can’t meet every standard or every expectation. But even still… things that people do (or don’t do) can completely wreck me when I let them. And I really hate it.

The way that we are treated by others leaves marks on our lives. Sometimes its positive and constructive, but other times the marks are more like scars or wounds that are hard to heal. I think this part is inevitable — but its the part where we decide how to respond to these marks people make that I struggle with. I’m still trying to figure out exactly why I have so much trouble with it…but I’m sure its all wrapped up somewhere in-between my personal perceptions of identity, security, and fulfillment in Jesus.

I have a feeling its not just me, but I’ll be the first to admit it. I think deep down one of my biggest fears is that if I put myself out there, if I show people more of who I am, if I share my heart and my dreams and my feelings, that people won’t like it. I am terrified that if I give myself to others they won’t understand me or they will reject all that I have to offer. And then what will I be left with? {Deep inside, I’m afraid that I am unlovable} and that sounds like the worst thing in the world because oh how I love to be loved. I long to be fully accepted and I am terrified that it won’t ever happen.

But that’s the thing…. it has already happened. God looked down on me and saw my whole life stretched out before him long before I was born and he said “yes”. His stamp of approval is placed on every part of me and it’s permanent. God’s approval does not waver and it does not depend on what I say or do or think. He is all the security I could ever ask for and all the love I could ever want or need.

So why do I keep searching and searching to find more from the world around me? Why do I run to people who simply do not have the capacity to have perfect love for me? Why do I look for objects and things and earthly experiences to fill me up when, eventually, they leave me feeling dry? This is not to say that people aren’t good or experiences in this life don’t matter. They are so good and they do matter. Jesus uses his people be his hands and feet and there is so much life to be had even on this side of heaven. If we were to reject everything that could potentially hurt us, we would have to crawl into a hole somewhere far away and just pray that Jesus would come take us. However, we have to let Jesus be the only one who has the power and authority to determine our hope, our joy, and our security…..And that’s what I’m bad at sometimes.

There are so many words that have been said to me or things that have been done that I don’t know if I will ever forget. Sometimes I get good at pushing it away but the pain still sticks to me somewhere and I’ll notice it sooner or later. Hurt is going to happen in this life, but I want to respond to it in a way that brings me closer to Jesus. I want to rest my hope on Jesus first so that scars don’t have to be who I am. I want to believe that what Jesus says about me is true and that my worth isn’t determined by other people or even myself (because let’s be honest, a lot of times we are our own worst critics).

I’m thankful today that in Jesus, I have been given a second chance to find my security in Him. I am grateful that I am given countless second chances to see that my security rests on what is eternal and true. I’ve been given a second chance today to extend grace to those who have hurt me and to thank those who have blessed me and loved me well. My eyes are opened to the fact that, I too, have impacted the lives of others in both positive and negative ways and I am given a second chance to be intentional about loving others as Christ has loved me. 

This is hard. And it might take me a while to get better at it. But at least I have a second chance.

In honor of the Mumford & Sons concert I got to go to in ATX last weekend! They are such an incredibly talented group and this was one of my favorite songs to see them play live.

Enjoy their music and enjoy your Thursday, dear ones!
If you could go to any concert in the world, what would it be?

{Lover of the Light}

Second Chance: Jealousy

Jealousy. 

Even that word is unappealing. But that’s what this post is about. It’s about jealousy. It’s about this struggle of looking at the lives of other people and hating that it’s not mine. It’s about wanting what I don’t have, and it’s about believing the lie that my life is somehow less than when I don’t have what others have. It’s about thinking that things will make me happier and more satisfied. It’s really about the tragedy of letting desires and fleeting passions consume me.

Being jealous really isn’t a conscious decision. It’s honestly not even an emotion that I typically recognize or acknowledge. I never think to myself, “Oh I want to be jealous of someone today”. Even in the moment I don’t really acknowledge those feelings as jealousy…. I treat it more like a justified feeling of wanting something. That is probably the biggest problem in and of itself. The fact that I feel justified to want things all the time.

  • “I wish my hair would do that!”
  • “That outfit is so cute. I wish I had cuter clothes.”
  • “Her boyfriend is so sweet. Why am I not dating anyone?”
  • “She is the sweetest, most loving person I know. I wish my personality was softer and more kind.”
  • “She has such a beautiful voice. I wish I could sing!”

These are just some of thoughts that I know have passed through my mind plenty of times. I have gone so far as to look at a friends instagram account and literally wish that my pictures were edited cooler or looked more artsy (I can’t even handle how ridiculous/pathetic that sounds as I type it onto the computer screen). We live in an era where the number of likes, retweets, and followers we have sort of defines how cool we are. This kind of mindset just fuels jealousy. And I totally buy into it all the time. But it’s time to start recognizing jealousy for what it is and getting rid of it.

A group of my guy friends recently left for a big trip to Europe. It was their graduation gift and kind of a last big hoo-rah for all the guys to have some bro time before everyone starts heading off to the real world. They are going places like Italy, Switzerland, Spain, France, and England and basically just backpacking all over the place and exploring the world. I’ve been in touch with a few of them since they left (isn’t technology amazing??) and have seen so many great pictures of all the cool places they are seeing. Right after they left, I remember thinking “It sucks that I’m just staying in Waco all summer.” I suddenly felt like the streets of Italy had to be the most fulfilling place in the world. I was totally jealous of them and I allowed it to make me look at my own life with a dimmer light and a more negative attitude.

Realizing this kinda made me look at the rest of my life and see the subtle ways that I was letting jealousy win. No, I don’t necessarily walk around hating my life and hating everyone I see that has good things. I would actually consider myself to be a happy person who has been blessed with more than enough. But in small ways, I still let jealousy take root. I think it is okay and even good to admire and acknowledge something good that someone has. But every time we take it a step past admiration and add on the “I want that too” or “I need that” or “I wish I could do that” we are cultivating a jealous mindset. We are teaching ourselves to reject satisfaction in Christ and to fill our spirits with temporary stuff.

Jesus promised abundant life in Him. He taught against jealousy and He longs for us to find full satisfaction in His presence. I am thankful that He has given me a second chance to say no to jealousy and say yes to Him over and over again.

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A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones”
[Proverbs 14:30]

“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life”

[John 10:10]

Second Chance: new series on the blog!

Hi dear ones,

I’ve been thinking and tossing ideas around for a while now and I’ve decided I’m going to try something new on Winsome Words this summer. I’m starting a series, titled Second Chance.

Recently, I have found myself to be walking through a new, exciting, yet extremely sensitive and challenging time. Lots of change and new beginnings are happening all around me and its beautiful and messy. With that being said, I’ve been trying my best to embrace it all and hold onto the peace that only Jesus gives. Though I have found myself completely lost for words a lot lately (which is kind of amazing for me…I like to talk), there are a couple of worship songs I have been playing on repeat that have helped me to keep clinging onto hope. 

I have been continually reminded how important it is to daily choose to yoke myself to Christ and not to the world. But before you quit reading because you think you’re about to be bored by another sermon or lecture, let me expand on this. This whole thing about really living alive to Christ and dead to the world is so hard for me. I don’t know if I’m just weirdly surrounded by perfect people or if I’m just a little bit more messed up than the rest of the world, but I find myself failing at this day in and day out. And I think most of the time its easier or more comfortable for me to pretend like it’s not that hard and that everything is just grand. But that doesn’t really help me or anyone else and it certainly doesn’t give God the glory He deserves. So– this is what leads me to the new series, Second Chance

Even though I fail and I struggle everyday, Jesus always gives me a second chance. It is my hope for this series to truly expose the beauty of those second chances by being honest and real about why I need them so badly. So if you don’t like vulnerability, if you’re repulsed by learning about others flaws, or if you don’t want to find out how screwed up I really am without Jesus…… Then I would suggest you stop reading my posts for about 6 weeks! 

{If you’re up for it and you want to see me be transparent about my life on the internet (even if you’re just looking for blackmail), then I welcome you to journey with me through this series! I’m nervous and excited and full of hope for what the Lord might do}.

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