A Lament for Hope

IMG_2148PC: Adam Dahir

The prophet Jeremiah, sometimes known as the weeping prophet, felt deeply, saw clearly, and understood the true context of placing his unreserved hope in Jesus.

In his book Lamentations, he withheld nothing from his true sense of being. What he felt and experienced, he wrote down using the rawest form of honesty in doing so. He writes in Lamentations 3, “I am the man who has seen affliction . . . he [God] has made my skin and flesh waste away; he has broken my bones; . . . my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, “My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the Lord.”

Jeremiah feels as though the Lord has saught him out like a bear or lion waits for their prey (vs. 10-11). In this passage, one would notice that the writer does not hold back anything; there is complete vulnerability. He describes this season of his life as a time where he felt abandoned, a slave that could not get away, and utterly bitter. Can you relate to such a time as this; a time where you felt as though a target was on your back and you kept getting pierced in the dead center time and time again?

For some of you, you may read this passage and ask yourself, “Wait, is that even okay to speak about God like that?” I know that I was taken back when I first read Lamentations. It catches most of us off guard because, for our entire lives, we have lived under this expectation that we are not allowed to tell God our true feelings. We are only allowed to praise Him for the good and tell others about the “mountain” moments that He brought us to.  We’re taught that we can’t be truthful in our pain.

This lifestyle has created such an issue for Christians. By not allowing ourselves to grieve over the trials and tribulations we are facing, we miss out on the opportunity to truly experience the greatness of God’s faithfulness even in the face of our darkest days.

We just throw ‘bandaids’ on our deepest hurts and then expect them to heal on their own without any tender care. Friends, consider this, if we continue to just temporarily deal with the hurt we have, we will never be able to have healed ‘scars’ that show of the grace and mercy that got us through the heart-throbbing moments of pain. The hell-like moments are meant for growth, for a strengthening of heart, and ultimately to bring you closer to the Father.

What I love most about this passage in Lamentations is that it does not end with the destruction of Jeremiah, but rather it drastically takes a 360 degreee change.  Lamentations 3: 21-25 says, “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him.”

Jeremiah, even in that moment when he doubted God, was able to call to mind all the times that God had been faithful to provide, deliver, and free him in the past. Friend, the truth is that we are a unfaithful people by nature. BUT, I have some awesome news! Even in the midst of our adulterous hearts, our unfaithness to His love, He is faithful to follow through on His promises to never fail us or never leave us. He hears your cries and he counts your tears as they fall from your cheeks onto your pillow. He knows you and sees you and will not leave you alone. He is with you and He just wants you to be real with Him.

We must deal with our hurt. Let it matter. If your heart is broken, let it shatter, then watch God heal it to where is 110% stronger than it was before.

Not only this, but I urge you, if you are not in a season of lowness, to remember those low moments and let it produce a remembrance, a humility that guides your every day activities and leads to a continuous remembrance of God’s faithfulness and the mercies that are new every morning. He is our hope for tomorrow.

// Written by Joy Payne
Republished from Joyfully Living

Living with the Rug Pulled Out from under my Feet

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My eyes watched the city skyline until it faded from the rearview window. I’m learning to pull on traveling like a necessary coat. It’s my lifeline. I need the detachment. I need the rug of my own head pulled out from under my feet. I need to be drawn into the very alive, very breathing present. Traveling helps me fill my space unapologetically, helps me throw my weight around a little, kind of like a boxer. I’m slowly becoming a little more confident, decisive, known. And when I’m wandering around a new city with no agenda other than to take it all in, I know exactly who I am. I appreciate without comparison, I smile without suspicion, I am without hesitation.

I need the adventure to pull me out of my head and into my body. I need the mental health break. We throw around the words “self-care” a lot these days. For me, self-care is looking a lot like boundaries, like giving both my introversion and extroversion the gift of acceptance, like finding little ways to be brave. Finding little ways to have faith. Finding little ways to reach deep down inside and bring to the surface whatever is there, pretty or not.

I took a trip to Philadelphia last week and I spent every day walking as far as my feet would carry me. I joined a protest. I got lost. I breathed deep. I had aching feet. That trip brought me home with a heck of a lot less anxiety than what I had left at home.

I think we should do that more. I think we should throw ourselves into the things that scare us. American culture has taught us all to be safe, to not take risks. Especially when it comes to our faith. We’re so quick to deny anything that makes us uncomfortable, anything that rebels against the teachings we were taught when we were little. I think sometimes the church itself can become a barrier keeping us from Jesus. I think about my own church upbringing and realize the freedom I have desperately needed, as a twenty-three year old, as a woman, as a wife, has stayed just outside of fingertip reach because of institutions placed around my wandering curiosity. But God loves the person more than the institution. And he isn’t intimidated by our questions.

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I’m disheartened by the American church. We’ve failed each other, other races, women. I grew up in a church where women were not pastors, were not worship leaders, were not teachers. And it’s tired. I don’t know what the answer is and I don’t know that the answer is very clear. But I do know this conversation needs to start showing up in big and loud ways.

What I do know is that women’s voices have been hushed for generations. I know Jesus went out of his way to empower women. I know when women were unreliable witnesses in court, he entrusted the proof of his resurrection to a woman. I know in a society where women couldn’t speak to men, he sought one out at a well. I know when a woman chose to sit at his feet and not in the kitchen, she chose the right thing.

I think sometimes we’re afraid to lift our voices too loudly, because somewhere in history we’ve been painted as hysterical, women with uncontrollable emotions. We’ve been painted as witches. We’ve started wars over golden apples. We’ve been the temptress. But freedom demands that we throw those things off. And maybe it’s uncomfortable, maybe even scary. But I think we need the escape, the detachment, the rug of legalism pulled out from under our feet. We need the freedom to fill our space well, wherever that may be, and to box a little with the things that scare us, take a little risk. And I think it’ll feel a lot like traveling. With lots of rest and little anxiety.

“Of course if no one had ever been exposed to dangerous ideas from scandalous women, Christianity itself would not have had its unique beginning nor its glorious history, but whatever.” – Nadia Bolz-Weber

// Words & Photos By Jess Meko
Republished from jessicameko.com

Farewell, Fear.

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Fear. It’s like a forest hiding our hearts from the light of Love with all its branches and leaves that make up tall trees. It feels safe, secure but what it doesn’t show is all the lies keeping us captive in a false sense of protection and confidence. Lies that say, “We aren’t good enough; so why bother trying?” Lies that say, “We are better off alone and in our own little cave within that forest.” And it hurts, the deceiving words that convince us to believe “We will always be alone because we aren’t special enough to be loved”, or  “We are too broken to mend.

It’s like a powerful wind howling in our hearts. It has the power to keep us to a halt, and from moving forward as it pushes us down to the ground. It has the power to keep us enslaved to all its lies because the truth may be too much to bare or maybe it seems too far-fetched to even be true. It has the power to keep us from our future as it sweeps away all hope. It has the power to keep us from reaching our dreams as it washes away possibility with a rainfall of impossibility. It has the power to determine how meaningful our short life on earth will be or the lack of meaning it will have as it holds us captive. It has as much power over us as we allow it to, and that’s the thing about fear, it convinces us with one lie that “We are powerless under its power.” And it’s right. On our own, we are powerless, but what fear forgets is that we are not alone.

Love is with us.

Love. It’s like the calm after the storm. After fear is done raging, God’s gentle voice that has been whispering to us in our hearts all along is heard loud and clear. Its truth starts to soothe our soul as its light enters in revealing what is real, what is honest, pure, and true, that He loves us. Those three words break fear apart revealing what it truly is, a lie. His love for us is more powerful than any fear in us. Our God frightens away fear with His love. Yes, fear has its own fears.

There is no fear in love;
but perfect love casts out fear.

1 John 4:18

Love will make all the storms of life with their lightning and thunder and howling winds seem less frightening. It’ll give you the strength and confidence you need to face it all, and remind you that in the end there’s no need to worry, everything is going to be okay— even more than okay. It’ll reveal to you the greater purpose within it all leaving no room for fear because your trust, your faith, your confidence is in the One who is in control of all. Within this confidence is the ability to live life to the fullest. Within this confidence is the strength to shut down the noise of the world and of our own selves, the lies we allow to be fed with and in turn feed ourselves with, and to turn up the voice of our Father telling us that we do fit in, with him, and that we are created in His image, we are more than good enough, but most importantly that we are loved, by Him.

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The only thing between who we know we can be, who we are supposed to be, is ourselves. God has given us the power to tear down those walls that fear has built around our heart and soul with His mighty Word. Word by word, praise by praise, prayer by prayer, with His love the walls can and will be torn down. The question is “Are we willing to uproot the foundation of those walls?” What caused them to be put up in the first place. I don’t think that fear is what we are really afraid of, but the lack of it; we are afraid to be vulnerable. So, we mask the fear we think is keeping us from being vulnerable and protecting us with a false sense of confidence, but fear is not protecting our vulnerability, Love is, God is and He always will. He won’t use our vulnerability to tear us down but to help those who, like we once were, are trapped by fear and to tear down their walls. Love and fear are not the same. Fear likes to make us believe it is, but it’s not. Fear can’t give us the freedom that Love does. The freedom that Love is.

Run past the trees and out of the darkness.

Follow the light, run towards the arms of Love, dance in its freedom, and bid fear a forever farewell because there’s no room for it in your heart.

Love has taken over.

Written by Maali Padro // Photos by Olivia Douglas

Keep Families Together

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But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” I’ve been watching as America wrestles with refugees and immigration and with letting the children of immigrants call this place home. As a twenty-three-year-old learning to fill my space in the world, I have needed to step off the sidelines. And so I participated in a march. A march for keeping families together. And as I marched, hot indignant tears rolled down my cheeks while I watched the protesters symbolically pile children’s shoes high on the sidewalk, watched them spilling over onto the road. Later, as I carried my sign, an elderly man stopped me, placed his hand on my shoulder and said, “Thank you. It’s getting harder to be an immigrant in America every day.”

I think sometimes we get paralyzed by the thought of being wrong. But I’m learning to invite grace in because I know God will meet me there. When I think about that man, I see a human being. Somebody told me once that God loves the person more than the institution. And right now, the institution is looking a lot like America telling us what safety is, what safety isn’t, and what should be ours. But I’m here to gently remind us of something. I’m here to remind us, Christians, that when we became Christians we gave up our rights.

We gave up the right to safety, the right to owning things and putting up walls around them, claiming them as our own and shutting out the hurting.

Paul said to die is gain. When we became Christians, we said we would lay down our lives for our neighbors. And I think that means our neighboring countries too. Jesus said pick up your cross and follow me. And when I watch what scripture tells us our crosses look like, I remember we don’t get to sit back. And what better way to live out His kindness, His mercy, then with open arms here on this earth crying out, “not my will, but yours be done Father.”

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As He died for the least of these, let us die too. Whatever that means. If that means giving up my home, giving up my rights, giving up my safety, then so be it. I refuse to store up my treasure here on earth. I want to be the kind of Christian storing up treasure in heaven.

We’ve become too comfortable in this world we claim as our own, over and over and over again.

But this world isn’t ours. It never was. This is not our home. And we have no right to tell human beings that they cannot find refuge here with us. We are made in the image of God. And if we are to be mirrors of Him, then we are to be mirrors of hope, shelter, rest, and strength. We are to look more like Him every single day. And I could never wrap my head around the picture of a God who doesn’t put out a welcome mat, a God who doesn’t invite us in. I can’t imagine a God who doesn’t say, “let the little children come to me.”

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Christians, we have got to start bringing this conversation out in big and bold ways. We have got to start leaning in to our identity as a lighthouse, a city on a hill, a home filled with hope. Let’s wrap that identity around ourselves. Because we too are immigrants, we understand what it means to love, and families belong together. And if I could say one thing to you, it’s this: wipe your feet on the Father’s welcome mat and come on in. We’re all welcome here.

// Words & Photos by Jessica Meko

A Gift of Love

Written by Maali Padro // Photos by Arianna Taralson

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It’s like a bouquet of flowers, a beautiful array of colors and textures arranged to complement one another. A sweet fragrance that calms the soul when nurtured with love and whose thorns fall off with each kind word. It’s an art, a masterpiece that takes time to perfect, creativity to resolve conflicts, and sometimes just a clean canvas. It is something to be admired and passed on through the ages. It’s like rain, a giver of hope when dry seasons come.

It can be like a bouquet of dried flowers, with time the colors may fade becoming one in the same. The sweet fragrance it once emitted turns bitter and sour causing thorns to sprout up once again. It can be an art piece gone wrong, a disaster that no matter how much time is allotted cannot be perfected, with creativity that is nowhere to be found, and no matter how many redos it just doesn’t quite come together. Something that dies as time flies. It can be like thunder and lightning, as it tries to cover up the hope within the storm. Like the day after it rains, it can leave the air muggy and sticky making it hard to breathe. It can be like summer coming to an end, slowly the sun is covered with clouds and the air becomes cold, filled with tears and sadness from what it once had, but it can also be much more than flowers, art, rain, thunder, lightning, and summer or the end of it. Friendship in its purest form is a gift — a gift from above given to us by the greatest Friend anyone can ever have. How does one obtain such a gift?

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights…” James 1:17

Friendship is more than the desire and want of companionship inhibited in the human heart. It’s a need rooted in the essence of who we are. To live within our humanity, to our fullest potential, we need each other. The only time when God described His creation as not good was when He realized Adam was alone.

We all need a friend.

Even God Himself wasn’t alone before He spoke the beautiful universe we live in into existence.

In the beginning, was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God” John 1:1

Jesus walked among the waters with God. Together, they thought about us and smiled as they sketched a mental image of what we would each look like. They laughed at the humor that some of us would possess and were in awe of the beauty we would hold within our artistry. God, Himself, needs companionship and although Jesus might be His best friend alongside the Holy Spirit, His greatest desire is to have a relationship with His creation as more than Creator and creation. He wants you to know Him like He knows you.

He wants to be your Best Friend.

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There’s a lot of give and take when it comes to friendships. We could even say compromises that a lot of times grow into sacrifices. For example, Jesus dying for all of us. Relationships aren’t easy. I have learned that it takes one person to love but two or more to have a relationship. It’s a multi-way street, a dance of sorts full of stepped on toes when wrong steps are taken, a fall here and there, and with time it becomes a waltz danced by two people in tune with each other’s beats and can grow into something like the Macarena – a party celebrating life. I would say one of the biggest struggles with friendships, in general, is finding the patience to reach that perfect balance. It’s hard to grow a relationship. It involves putting oneself out there, being vulnerable and honest, being selfless, and being intentional to mention a few. To love is hard, but that in itself is the key to maintaining any relationship.

A relationship with Love will flow into every area of your life. It will place your focus on the Giver so that in turn you can see what He sees and give from within yourself. It will replenish your soul with a joy rooted in gratitude that will overflow into the hearts of every person you encounter. It will cover you with peace, and regardless of the conflicts that may arise, you’ll have the clarity of mind to make proper decisions. It will give you the courage you need to take the steps that may need to be taken, and sometimes that means saying “hello” first. It will give you a sensitive Spirit that will keep you in tune with the needs of others and more importantly your own needs. It will create in you a selfless heart — a heart after God’s own heart.

To love someone, one must first love themselves. To befriend someone, one must first befriend themselves.

Out of every struggle faced in a relationship, I believe accepting the flaws first within oneself and then within others is the biggest struggle. Within community and relationships, our flaws — jealousy, pride, selfishness, a judgemental attitude, low self-esteem, etc. — are exposed. Becoming aware of the flaws we have can be daunting and hard to come to terms with. If not in the right mindstate or state of heart, it can overwhelm a person; which is why I also believe that it’s within community and relationship that as we are pruned, we grow the most. Within relationships, we find strength through to face anything. Time and time again, friendships are a reminder that we are not alone in this life. They are a glimpse into the heart of God towards us and a constant reminder that He will never leave us. He finds every way to make Himself known to us; how sweet that He uses the human race as a way. Even when our friends do fail us or we fail them, God is there to catch us as we fall. As He picks up pieces of our broken heart, He begins to craft something new. He gives our brokenness purpose. He restores what we deem as over.

Friendships may not last forever, people change, and life gets hectic; but God and His love are eternal and He is so in love with you. For some, it may feel like you are going through life alone, and, if this is you, I want to encourage you to be the friend you need and to accept the friendship of the one who died (He literally did) to be your friend. Physically you may be alone, but spiritually you are never alone (He rose back to life).

We are only as alone as we want to be.

Sometimes, we need to be the ones to make the first move — say the first “hello” and give the first smile. Other times, we need to step outside our friend group and extend a hand of hope to the person next to us. Friendship boils down to one word, love, and in this is the key ­— to accept love from Love and to live like Love — to obtaining such a good and perfect gift.

Sharing [Encouragement] Can Be Fun

By Jessica Sauer

IMG-1242One of my favorite books of all time is actually a picture book titled, “I Like Your Buttons.”

In this book, a simple compliment from a student to a teacher – “I like your buttons” – travels far and wide, causing a ripple effect of positivity in the main character’s school and around her neighborhood, brightening the day of more than just the original person. Eventually, the compliment train makes its way back to the original compliment-giver in a sweet ending to the book.

Now, I know that not all compliments have the lifespan of an entire day like in this picture book. But I dare to dream about what if compliments did. What if one, single act of kindness, could change the course of someone’s life? What if one, encouraging complement influenced someone in such a way that they adjusted the trajectory of their future? I understand these are big things to hope for. I also know that from deep within my heart, I believe in the power of encouragement.

“How do you know if someone needs encouragement?
If they are breathing.”
// S. Truett Cathy, Chick-fil-A Founder

Everyone – and I mean EVERYONE – needs encouragement. Encouragement is something that every single person who is alive and breathing is in need of. From hospital staff to bloggers, from stay-at-home mommas to those in ministry, from personal trainers to horseback riders — if they are breathing, they are in need of encouragement.

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So what exactly is encouragement? What is this thing we’re all craving, the thing that is in such high demand? Encouragement, simply put, is believing truth. This is easier said than done, and usually requires step number one: acknowledging lies. This is a hard step that many skip over, but it is imperative before moving onto step number two: replacing lies with truth. It looks something like this…

LIE: I’m a failure.
TRUTH: I am brave for trying; one mess-up, one mistake, does not define me or my future; I am not a failure.
LIE: I’m unworthy of love.
TRUTH: I am valuable, I am deserving; I am so worth loving.
LIE: I’m not enough.
TRUTH: I am able, I am capable, I am chosen. Because Jesus resides in my heart, and He is Enough, I am therefore enough.

Awareness of the lies that we are believing is a good first step. Lies are sneaky, they slither into your mind and heart in half-truth ways. But half-truths, fears, and lies are not what we are called to live in. No, we are called to live and walk in the freedom that Christ has called us into!

Fear is such a loud liar, but he doesn’t have the final say.

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Philippians 4:8 (NIV) states: “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”

These excellent and praiseworthy things are what we as Christians are to focus our minds and hearts on. I’ll be the first to admit, thinking about excellent and praiseworthy things can be challenging. Gossip, sin, and bad influences are just a handful of the many things that tear me away from constantly thinking of excellent and praiseworthy things. I even made it one of my monthly goals, this past spring, to focus on “EAP” things – that is, Excellent And Praiseworthy things! It was an intentional goal that I had to set in order to train my mind and my heart to focus on what Philippians 4:8 discusses. (By no means have I mastered this goal, but I am, with grace, learning to adjust my focus.)

Encouragement that is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy is certainly of the Lord. It is my hope that when I encourage others, they don’t see me but, instead, they see the Lord. My prayer is that others will get a glimpse of God through my encouragement. I am simply a vessel of Christ, utilized by Him to share His light and love through my words of encouragement.

Encouragement is important for artists because of how easy it is to believe lies. Earlier, we talked about lies and the importance of acknowledging a lie and replacing it with truth. I want to take a moment and call out a lie most artists (including myself!) believe: the lie of “enough.”

Sometimes I fear that I am not enough (Not good enough, not smart enough, not pretty enough, etc.). Other times, I fear that I am too much (Am I too passionate? Too crazy to believe this idea will actually work? Too forward while marketing my services?). The lie of enough. The truth of the matter, however, is this: I am not too little, and I am not too much. I am enough, because Jesus is Enough, and He abides within me. Hallelujah for His standards, and not my own!

Encouragement is also important for artists to share with others. As creators, it gets us beyond ourselves and out of a self-focused, inward posture. Instead, it fixes our gaze on the good in others in a God-honoring way. This brings about opportunity for collaboration and community, both of which can be done in a Christ-centered way.

Encouragement is not only biblical and important for creatives, but encouragement is valuable for everyone (for the artist and non-artist, for the believer and non-believer).

Encouragement is important because it empowers and inspires in a motivational way, which can, in turn, cause a ripple effect of love, kindness, and joy – just like in the book “I Like Your Buttons.”

Encouragement, when genuine, can change the world. Maybe not the entire world, but someone’s world. And isn’t that worth it?


So who am I, and what is it that I am doing? I’m so glad you asked!

mailbox 1My name is Jess, and, as someone who loves (1) writing, (2) encouraging others, and (3) the lost art of a good, ol’ fashion letter, I wanted to do something that could combine all three of these elements.

I have seen the need for encouragement, especially that of personalized, handwritten notes. A handwritten letter of love and encouragement shows the recipient that time was taken, thought was given, and authentic intentionality was shown. I saw a need, and I had the capacity to fill the need, so I thought to myself, “What am I waiting for?!”

“Say ‘yes’ to what matters.”
– Lara Casey –

I began brainstorming what it would look like to send encouraging snail mail to others – family and friends, yes, but mostly acquaintances and strangers from all over the world. And this is what I came up with:

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Sharing Can Be Fun is a movement started and run by me, Jess! I write and send handwritten letters of encouragement to others, once a month, for the course of 12 months. That’s one year of snail mail encouragement, sent with kindness and love, from me to you!

Individuals can sign up to receive letters for themselves, letters for a friend, or letters for both themself and a friend. Once I have received the mailing address(es), you can let me know if you have any prayer requests you’d like for me to discuss in the letters. It’s no-strings-attached and no cost. Simply snail mail encouragement, from me to you, because Sharing Can Be Fun! And because encouragement is so sparse these days – so needed – and if I can do something about filling that need, then I’m all for it.

So, send in a letter request now for both you and your friends. Even if you’re a tiny bit interested, reach out! Direct message me at @SharingCanBeFun on Instagram, or email me at SharingCanBeFun@gmail.com.

Don’t want to necessarily request a letter, but want to get involved? I’d love for you to reach out and inquire about ways you can support the Sharing Can Be Fun movement. Because your small support can actually become a great act of love when we trust God to multiply our efforts – like bread and fish.

It’s about meeting each unique individual where they’re at.
It’s about loving them well.
It’s about no-strings-attached inspiration and motivation.
It’s about discussing the excellent and praiseworthy parts of life.
It’s about complimenting the lovely things about them.
It’s about encouraging them, because they are breathing.

Encouragement is a game-changer. It is something I am so passionate about, because I believe encouragement has so much potential, so much power.

Join the Sharing Can Be Fun movement today!

Fireflies

By Rachel Dowda // Photos by Mollie Trainum

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This morning I spent way too much time on Instagram. It’s all too easy to get sucked into this realm where everyone chooses what they want you to see, and before you know it, you start to believe that everyone is living this perfectly dressed, breakfast in bed life; filled with handsome lovers and airstreams and endless craft supplies. It’s especially easy to get sucked into this world when you don’t want to get up in the morning.

Within seconds I start to put pressure on myself, to buy nicer clothes, to lose weight, and somehow meet someone who might fall in love with me so I wouldn’t have to be so damn lonely. And the kicker-I begin to put pressure on myself to find adventure. I need it, I crave it.

Irrational fears parade themselves through my mind; taking turns leading the lineup. A myriad of belly dancers, hairy men, and contortionists; terrifying, but you find yourself unable to look away. Sometimes the bearded lady carries a sign that says, “YOU WILL NEVER FIND ADVENTURE AGAIN. YOU LOST YOUR CHANCE. YOU ARE DESTINED FOR AN AVERAGE LIFE”. I believe her. Because now that I’m living at home with my parents, working an average job and trying to pay all my bills, it’s so easy to believe that my dreams are foolish, and who am I kidding? There are more talented people doing the things that I wish I could do.

But sometimes, just sometimes,
I remember.
And little hints of grace show up, like fireflies in the night,
carrying messages that remind me:

You are designed for greatness.
Jesus is literally obsessed with you. He thinks so many thoughts about you that it adds up to more than all the sand on the beaches.
When you create, the Trinity is dancing through your fingers.
God put these desires in your heart, and He’s not playing games with you.
What you say matters.
You don’t go unnoticed. 

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Sometimes, these fireflies of grace remind me of words people have spoken to me. Words that affirm my identity as a child, an heir, chosen, fully loved, and delighted in. Words that remind me to push through the parade of fears and into the wild lands of fireflies and wildflowers, calling me to go deeper and higher into the wilderness of the Father’s heart towards me. 

I pray that I would see the adventure in my day to day, that I would speak words from my Father, that I would believe truth and have it built deeply in me, instead of escaping my current situation through things like Instagram. I pray that I’d be able to get out of bed with a child-like expectancy. Romans 8:15-16 says,

God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go! This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children.

I have reason to believe that in a few days, months, or years, I’ll look back and see that this season was possibly the most precious of them all, that my tree rings are multiplying despite the trauma the wood shows. I am a part of a forest, surrounded by trees cheering for me, willing my limbs to grow longer, healing me by placing their palms on my bark, causing my tree rings to multiply.

You Matter

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You matter.

It really pains me to see an extreme lack of purpose in the world today. It seems like left and right, people are taking their own lives or taking the lives of others. It’s really scary stuff, and if I’m being honest I don’t like talking about it, or even writing about it. But, I believe, something needs to be said.

2 Corinthians 5:20-21
“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making His appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf: ‘Be reconciled to God’. He made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”

This is our purpose, friends. We weren’t placed on this broken planet for nothing; we have a task to do. God calls us to be ambassadors of Jesus. In other words, we are called to be the hands and the feet of Christ. So often, I get caught in the lie that I am purposeless. I’m just a useless speck, here to be alone and suffer the consequences of my sins. Oh my, is that far from the truth. JESUS SUFFERED MY CONSEQUENCES. He suffered your consequences too. We don’t have to carry our sins, it’s already been nailed to the cross.

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The second part of the verse is really important: “He made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us.” God knew that on this Earth, we would be completely incapable of perfection. Thus, He sent Jesus to take our punishment, so that we don’t have to suffer for our mess-ups. God saved us; we can live in the light of grace. We’re free to let go of the weight of our mistakes, so now we can live with freedom and joy! We are still going to be imperfect people, though, because we live inside an imperfect world. So, it’s so important to remember that you are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress at the same time. God still uses us in the midst of our brokenness; we don’t need to have it all together! We have purpose in our struggles, not only in our victories.

Exodus 14:14
“The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still.”

Living on a broken planet is really hard. Something I’ve learned to understand, amidst the hopelessness and loneliness, is to lean into the Father when I feel like I cannot hold myself up anymore. Because we live in a corrupt world, the devil is constantly feeding us lies that we aren’t enough. We don’t look good enough, we aren’t smart enough, we aren’t successful enough, we aren’t popular enough, we aren’t fit enough; the list goes on and on. If these were true, God wouldn’t be filling our lungs with air everyday. You don’t have to fight these lies alone, the Lord will fight for you. Rest in Him, and allow Him to create in you a pure heart and a clean mind. Be still, and know, in due time, everything will be good, because He is good.

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Every single morning we wake up, God breathes life into us because He wants us to be here. If He thought we were purposeless or thought our time was done on Earth, He wouldn’t be breathing into us each morning. If you are reading this, you woke up this morning; God is not finished with you yet. God sees something in us that made Him send His only Son to die. We cannot say we have no purpose here.

We are here, we matter.

Written by Sam Burton // Photos by Ben Dulay & 777 Collective


777 Collective

WE GIVE PEOPLE A VOICE THROUGH APPAREL
LOCALLY & GLOBALLY | SAN DIEGO, CA | EST. ’15

We at 777 Collective are committed to pursue the art of storytelling in order to love fearlessly, carry hope, and stoke curiosity. We want to bring it back to the heart of the stories. So we’re tapping into the everyday storyteller and giving them a platform to find their voice—for them to tell their story to the world. Brokenness is made beautiful here. As we crave to bring light to the dark reaches of the world, this is how we do it. We set the stage. All you need to do is step up and share it with us.

P E O P L E  +  S T O R I E S  +  C R E A T I V I T Y  =  V O I C E

IMG_0809We founded our brand upon the belief that everybody is a storyteller and that each story matters. The truth is that God handpicked each person’s narrative for a purpose and it is our desire to not only share our story, but also to create a platform for other people to share theirs. When we choose a life where we share stories, we get to become part of one another’s lives, stepping foot into the chaos and the mess of life. But there is a greater story: a story of hope, redemption, grace, and eternal joy. This story is a free gift, and it is up to us to choose to become a part of it. That is why your voice matters.

— LOVE THE SKIN YOU’RE IN —

What you wear is an extension of self—who you are. In simplest form, it is who you want people to see you as. However, culture can promote an “idealized” or narrow portrayal of appearance. Whether we succumb to it or not, the “sex appeal” of fashion (even moderately) can take precedence in our lives. Yes, clothing is an avenue of expression. But it should express our inward beauty and a comfort of the skin we are in. Our flaws, our blemishes, and our scars make us who we are.

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And so this lifestyle brand is meant to contribute towards this expression. We at 777 Collective don’t want to simply participate in fashion trends. We dream beyond the norm. We want to push for truth and meaning that is timeless. We seek to tap in the lives of real storytellers who are unashamedly raw with their stories. End of story.

Shop 777 Collective here: https://www.777collective.com

Sufficient Grace

In 2 Corinthians 12, we have the glorious opportunity to have truth poured into our hearts through Paul’s testimony. Paul was an incredible man whom I admire greatly and I believe there is much to be learned from him and his life. I also believe there is ample opportunity to relate to him and apply his struggles and his testimony to our own lives.

In this chapter, Paul discusses his weakness and how he will not boast in anything but his weakness. In verse 7, he mentions how a thorn was given to him in the flesh to keep him from becoming conceited. This symbolic thorn weakened him and restricted him in certain areas, perhaps in areas that he would be more likely to rely on himself rather than on God. This thorn was a bothersome thing and a painful thing, it was a weakness.

This thorn ailed him so much that 3 times he pleaded with the Lord asking Him to remove it, but the Lord said to Paul in verse 9, one of my favorite passages in the Bible, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in your weakness.” Paul goes on to say that therefore he will boast all the more gladly of his weaknesses so that the power of Christ may rest upon him. Paul’s attitude toward this weakness in his life totally changed after hearing from the Lord. He begins by asking God to be delivered from this thorn, but after hearing from God, no longer was he praying for it to be removed but even goes on to say, “I will boast all the more gladly of it.” God turned the thorn into an instrument to bring Paul to a greater experience of His power working in his life. He learned to boast in that thorn, because through it he came to a deeper relationship with God where he knew more of His power in his life than he’d ever known before.

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I believe we can all relate to Paul and his thorn in the flesh, a thorn that weakened him and caused him pain. We all have something that ails us, something that we have pleaded with God to remove from us, whether that be physical or emotional. We all have setbacks and weaknesses that seem as if they are so out of place and life would be so much better if they were absent from our lives. But how wonderful and comforting it is to rest in the truth and the hope that our Father knows what is best for us and what is required to keep us from becoming conceited.

Paul’s testimony speaks to me and I desire to have the same mindset and attitude he had toward his thorn toward my own weaknesses. There are many days I do not understand the restrictions God has allowed me to have, but I have the assurance that He who began a good work in me will bring it to completion (Philippians 1:6). The Holy Spirit comforts my soul day after day and reminds me that His ways are higher than my ways and His thoughts are higher than my thoughts (Isaiah 55:9). I want a kind of faith and humility that says “God, for Your sake, I am content with my weaknesses. If my weakness is bringing you all the more glory and if You are using my setbacks to build Your kingdom all the more, so be it.”

IMG_0426How encouraging it is to hope in the truth that our setbacks and our various weaknesses are not in vain, they are not without purpose. Not only can we rejoice in suffering because it produces perseverance, but we can boast in our setbacks because we have assurance that God’s power is perfected in them and that He is working everything out for the good of those who love Him. Let us take pride in our weakness for the sake of Christ’s name being lifted higher and His power being more evident in our lives.

God’s power is greatest when we are at our weakest and what we need most in our weakness is God’s sufficient grace. His grace is a grace that meets us where we are. It is a grace that deepens our faith and that forces us to trust in God alone. It is a grace that allows us to pour out everything we have in front of Him and bring all of our weariness to His rest. It is a grace that is sufficient to pull us back up and say, “My power is made perfect in your weakness.”

Paul learned to glory in his thorn because it was an instrument through which the power of God was demonstrated in His life. I pray that our faith is expanded and we are brought to a place of humility that says, “God, I boast in my weakness and I am content in my weakness if it brings your name all the more glory and honor.” No matter what you are going through, His grace is sufficient for you and He will see you through. May the greatest answer to our prayer be not taking us out of the circumstance, but God’s all-sufficient grace taking us through the circumstance with a strengthened faith and a humble spirit. Let us lean on God with all of our weight, for when we are weak, then we are strong.


Written by Kristen Bremner. Photos by Naomi June.