rat race

On Monday, I graduated high school!!!  The good old days? Maybe.  The best days of my life?  Shoot, I hope not.  Looking back on the past four years, each was different and some much more fun than others, but overall an accurate word for getting through the maze of high school is perseverance.  Whether you’re in 9th grade or college, there are endless distractions fighting for your attention. I want to share a verse with you that simply explains the way I have attempted and hoped to live my life in high school– eyes on Jesus.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:1-3)

This is one of the first verses I ever memorized, and only because I was in a running club in like 4th grade. Our coach helped us memorize the first part as we ran, and it has stuck with me ever since.  Running a race doesn’t exactly sound relevant to high school, but do you ever feel that way? Like you’re out of breath, too busy to slow down, stuck between “good” and “bad,” trying to figure out who you want to be? I know I was. I spent most of high school striving… struggling… achieving… but my eyes were on the wrong race most of the time.  Instead of living joyfully with passion, I usually just tiptoed around the obvious “bad” things and put my hope in a good reputation, crippled by the fear that I would never be good enough for God to be happy with me.

It is so easy for our gaze to shift downward.  When we start focusing horizontally instead of vertically, the glorious fixation on heaven is lost and our hearts shrivel up in hostile selfishness. Suddenly, our gaze is on others and our own desires and we are competing desperately for love and attention and worth.  We may find a false sense of hope that lasts for a moment, in a compliment or relationship or well-liked Instagram picture, but it all leaves us empty in the end. Jesus is the only thing worthy of our attention. Gazing at things created instead of the Creator always leaves us grasping for the real thing, something that can actually hold our attention and satisfy.  On May 15th, the day after graduation, this passage was in my New Morning Mercies* devotional.

“One of the things we forget is that the major, big deal war in our lives is not a war with the things outside; us it’s the war that still rages inside us. In every situation, location, and relationship there is a war for control of our hearts. This is the war of wars because we were made by God to live out of our hearts. This means that what rules are hearts shapes our words and actions. So the big war is not any of the smaller wars we have with other people, debt, material possessions, sex, and so on.  No, the war is more foundational than all of these. It is captured by 2 Corinthians 5:15: “He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him for their sake died and was raised.”  Will we live for ourselves, reducing life down to the small confines of our wants, feelings, needs, demands, expectations, and so on, or will live for God?  It all sounds so theological, but it is very practical. Every day you attach the hopes and dreams of your heart, your satisfaction, and your joy to something. Every day you look to something to give you life. Every day you give yourself to something in the hope that it will give you peace and joy. Every day you attach your identity to something, and there are only two places to look. You are either looking for life in the creation and are on your way to crushing disappointment, or you are looking to the Creator and are on your way to lasting peace of heart.” (Paul David Tripp, New Morning Mercies)

Living for myself infinitely shrinks the potential of my life.  Like Tripp said, “our wants, feelings, needs, demands, expectations…” are CONFINING.  They keep us from experiencing the freedom that comes with surrender in the war between flesh and spirit.

 What are you attaching your identity to?  It can be something illegal or “innocent,” that is beside the point.  Don’t you want to be free? You can’t run very effectively while tied to the ground.  The sin and distractions have to be thrown off.  Seriously, like pretend you have spiders all over you or something.

There is a war for your heart because you are important and loved.  You do have a unique purpose, and you can start now in high school.  The world (and the enemy) says: “Waste these years and there will be no consequence.  Everyone does it. You can take your faith seriously later, after college. Just have fun right now, that’s what high school is all about. Go ahead, do whatever makes you feel good.”  But God, the one who loved you enough to die, extends his offer as well. His offer is purpose, joy, life– today. Not later, not when you’re older, but today. This is my testimony: the times when I was in the will of God, full of purpose, and following Him wholeheartedly brought so much more joy than all of the temporarily fun activities of high school combined. And you can absolutely have your eyes on Jesus and still have so much fun.  “Run with perseverance,” He says, be free from “the sin that so easily entangles,” and that’s where the real living begins.

I exit high school with no guilt, enemies, or shame, and I thank my gracious Father for holding my face up to fix my eyes on Him.  It saved me so much heartache. It was a race of striving to be faithful to Him, and I failed A LOT. Living for myself didn’t work and never will.  Look at 2 Corinthians 5:15 again: “He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him for their sake died and was raised.”  Our freedom from living as slaves to sin/flesh/self is the purpose of the cross.  He sees our confinement, our mysterious misery that makes us turn to alcohol, drugs, and sex for numbness even when we look happy on the outside, and he said “I will die so that they can live for me and be free from this trap of sin.”  

“Just look at me, keep your eyes fixed on mine. I will guide you while you run. I will protect you while you run. I have already endured this and more. Endless joy is set before you and the fullness of Me, the only thing that can satisfy, is yours!!”

So that race you feel like you’re in, its real.  You’ve got voices and opinions coming at you from every angle and everyone is watching.  But please, lift your eyes from the horizontal to the vertical– from out at the rat race to up towards eternity.  Purpose is waiting there, because high school can be so much more than a series of mistakes and heartache. It’s not about avoiding sin or willing yourself to be a good Christian. No! Look at Jesus, get to know Him, let him love you.  “And the things of earth become strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.*”

//Anna Claire

 

*Hymn “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” by Helen Howarth Lemmel

 

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The Shame Game

I only have a few weeks left of high school, and a classmate the other day told me, “You’ve really made it to the top.”  I laughed at this comment with embarrassment and said, “Uhh, not really…”  Something that I fear a lot is being seen as arrogant or prideful– so when compliments come my way, I usually want to hide and justify any congratulations with reasons why I’m not worthy.  However, conversations about awards, scholarships, and accomplishments are taking over this graduation season, and this interaction and others are helping me realize that it is good to be proud of my accomplishments and simply be thankful for whatever honors come my way.  However, no amount of awards could drown out the quiet but constant voice of shame, of “enough” inside me.

    We all have something that our Enemy uses to send shame whirling into our hearts and minds.  Even on the most beautiful day, even when I have “made it to the top,” even when everyone else is proud of me, there can still be an uneasy, nauseous twang of shame nagging at my soul.  It will tear me to pieces if I don’t give my daily– hourly– minutely– shortcomings over to my Savior, who is the only one capable of giving lasting peace.  Do you know what I’m talking about? Never quite being able to escape the thought of “You aren’t good enough?”

    Like I said, we have an enemy who know those weak spots.  He knows how to take our hidden secrets, our unreached dreams, and our unfulfilled goals and remind us of them constantly.  For me, shame is coming at me in waves as I finish up high school.  Instead of smiling at the positive impacts I have had or friends I have made, shame holds me hostage and tells me I haven’t done enough.  I’m failing because it’s been months since I’ve posted on my blog, I’m failing at mentoring people whom God has given me to love, I’m not reading my Bible or praying enough, not spending enough time with my family, I’m not making enough high school memories with my friends.  It’s always something, and just like fear, this voice of shame is crippling.  None of us can ever do, say, or be enough to please everyone. I recently told a friend, “You can’t be everything to everyone,” but I need to once again proclaim this over my life as well. God has already written in stone: you are enough.

    The thing is, Jesus is more than enough for my shortcomings.  He already forgot the sins I committed just this morning.  He has given us FREEDOM from sin, from fear, from shame, from working hard enough to be enough.  Nothing we do influences how he feels about us.  We are not that powerful!  My prideful heart, however, somehow still believes that disobedience, laziness, and failure can separate me from Jesus’ love.  This is a season where I have to believe again, understand again, proclaim again: I am FREE.  

    So whether you are graduated, graduating, or still trying to build that resume for college apps, listen closely.  God is not like your parents, or grandparents, or aunts and uncles, or teachers, or pastors, or friends.  Those people naturally have pride in you that is based on performance.  God is different.  He is infinitely high above all of your social statuses, your earthly awards, your brief titles, your religious responsibilities.  His love is separate from that– and the only thing that changes your standing before him is the surrender of your heart.  “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12).  How do I keep forgetting the most wonderful news there ever was?  He loves me, just as I am, without any good works or good grades or a good reputation.  And when I stand free in this truth, I am free to enjoy good works, good grades, a good reputation.  I get to enjoy mentoring, blogging, spending time with my family.  I get to enjoy life without shame, because shame has no power over my forgiven soul. I am enough, no matter if the world says I’m on “top” or “bottom.”

Psalm 40:11-12

“As for you, O Lord, you will not restrain your mercy from me; your steadfast love and your faithfulness will ever preserve me! For evils have encompassed me beyond number; my iniquities have overtaken me, and I cannot see; they are more than the hairs of my head; my heart fails me.”

 

He’s Good Like That– how missions changed my life

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LIVE RADICAL

When I was in the sixth grade, my dad took me on my first mission trip.  We traveled to Costa Rica and my childhood innocence was exposed to poverty and non-American culture for the first time.  Since that trip I have never been the same, and I take every possible opportunity to explore new mission fields and take the Gospel to unreached people groups.  International missions is a controversial issue, and it is hard to know if groups that visit an impoverished area for a week or so bring more good or more harm with their freebies and quick encounters with communities who aren’t accustomed to seeing Americans.  In my life, however, God has used these mission trips to accomplish countless crucial lessons in my life.  

While in Honduras in 2016, I felt that God made very clear that full-time missions would be part of…

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When the Fight Calls

The last time I published a blog was on the way to the first basketball game of this year.  You know how I said this season can be really challenging for me?  The devil knows that too.

My goal for 2018 is to devote myself to God’s Word through reading it daily and memorizing it intentionally.  In past years it has seemed like a chore, but I am beginning to realize the essentiality of this LIFELINE.  I expected the verses I would memorize to be beneficial to me in the future as I take Bible-based college classes and continue to write and teach, but this week those verses under my belt were my weapons against Satan himself.  Let’s take a look at Ephesians 6:10-18 where the Bible talks about the armor of God.

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Recently, a pastor challenged me to take a look at the armor of God specifically from an offense/defense perspective.  Armor by nature is defensive– the belt, breastplate, shoes, and shield are used for the purpose of survival and avoiding life-threatening blows.  A soldier’s one offensive weapon is his sword.  Interestingly, Paul specifies that a Christian’s offensive weapon, our only means of fighting back, is the word of God.  We can be confident in our defense, secure in the armor of truth, righteousness, readiness, and faith, but without a weapon we are lost.  This is where I find myself.  I “know truth” and I have confident faith in my salvation and God’s overwhelming love for me, but still my enemy sneaks in.  He comes to “steal, kill and destroy” (John 10:10), and he knows when I am most vulnerable.  He knows that mid-January comes with challenging games, heartbreaking losses, exhaustion, and feelings of failure when playoff dreams are crushed yet again.  This year I was determined it would be different, but as the season has veered from the one I imagined, words of destruction are being hurled toward my weary soul.

The devil’s schemes look different in each one of our lives.  But if I had to guess, you have probably heard these lies in some form, at some point in your life.  Even worse, he disguises his voice as that of someone who isn’t actually saying or thinking these things.  He disguises his voice as everyone. He whispers, you’re a failure. All your hard work was a waste. You are a disappointment.  You will never succeed.  They will only remember your shortcomings.  You are afraid.  I toss and turn under the weight of these lies, paralyzed by fear.  I know truth, I think to myself.  And yes, I can defend myself with my belt of truth that declares, You are loved, you are enough, you are not a disappointment… but, it is only a defense. I remain under attack. The belt doesn’t make my enemy flee. Only a sword can do that.

Wounded, I find my sword and pull it out. And even if the first available verse isn’t 100% relevant to the situation, it is pure truth that is always effective– it exposes Satan’s lies and sends him running.

I repeated 2 Thessalonians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old is gone, the new is here!”  I jabbed with Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. This life I now live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God, who loves me and gave himself for me.”  Since there had only been 2 weeks of 2018, I only had 2 new verses fresh on my mind.  But like I said, they may not seem directly relevant, but declaring the truth of my life in Christ put my shortcomings and “failures” in perspective, and the stormy sea of my fear calmed in the light of God’s victory.

In this situation, on a dark, cold school bus after a terrible game and unexpected loss, my righteousness could not fight back.  My readiness to do the will of God could not save me.  My general knowledge and understanding of truth could not win the fight.  Only the word of God, the dagger of spiritual battles, could defeat the enemy when I was struggling to remember my worth.

Jesus, in all his perfection and holiness, relied on the same sword.  He too came under Satan’s attack, but the only defense he needed was scripture.  I encourage you to go read the story in Matthew 4, it’s awesome because Jesus totally shuts him down despite temptation.  Jesus set this example for us to follow, and it is a simple, effective attack.  None of Satan’s lies can compete with truth that we hide in our heart.

Maybe you think it’s boring, and it’s definitely not easy, but take one step towards reading the Bible and memorizing some truth in this hour, day, week, month or year, whether that means making it the background of your phone or writing one verse every morning.  I promise, sometime soon you will need it.  Recognize those negative thoughts as a real attack from a real enemy, because the devil wants you to think that the negativity and hate is coming from everyone but him.

I’m choosing to call him out and attack with truth, just like Jesus did, even when tears of fear stream down my face.  I hope you’ll join me in fighting back. You are not alone!

//Anna Claire

Looking for Lovely


One of the main pillars of my high school life is basketball. I have played since I was little, but being part of the team that represents my school— something much greater than myself— has been an honor and privilege. With that honor, though, comes very serious commitment and consistent sacrifice. Last season was definitely a struggle and I almost hung it up, but here I am on the way to a game. The season has just begun, and the months ahead look dark and tired because that is how it always is, every year. I’ll keep some energy up for a while, but by the time January rolls around I am exhausted… my mind consumed with stress and my heart clouded by the dark, cold personality of winter.   I took this photo today on the back seat of a school bus. I really, really despise school buses; they are so uncomfortable, crowded, super bumpy, never the right temperature, and the setting for some of my least favorite memories of motion sickness and sad nights following tough losses. This is the first away game of 20+… so that means my only option is to get over it. One more complaint… it is the dreariest of days. It is cold, rainy, and you can barely make out any hint of blue in the sky. Summer, please come back…

You may be thinking, “Come on, it’s not that bad.” And it’s really not, but this repetitive season of less-than-joyful has characterized my high school years. I want that to be different this year. After all, It’s my last chance.

So how do I find the “lovely” in all of this? While my situation is not grave, how do I combat the negativity that is threatening to take over?
Here I am at the crossroads. To complain or to search— to seek out the beauty and rejoice.  

So that photo at the top, of the cotton field. That’s the beauty I find when I look for it. The photo is dark and blurry, but a filter actually helped me see it as beautiful. Am I letting my circumstance or the Gospel filter my view of life?

I don’t have all the answers, but for now I am called to be where my feet are while remembering that there’s so much more than this. He uses cotton fields, conversations, and His still small voice to remind me that he is in control.

This winter, I will combat negativity, but not with my own will or a fake smile. God, please help me see you working, even in the mundane and even on the hard nights. Remind me of truth. I want you to be the source of my joy instead of my circumstances. When I am discouraged, remind me of how blessed I am, how GOOD you are, and the depth of your love for me— love that is not dependent on my performance in a game or in life.

//Anna Claire

A Generous Dad

Hey guys.  So over the past week, I have needed God in a lot of little dumb ways.  I am thankful to be in a season which holds only minor trials, but nevertheless God is teaching me how to trust him.  I’m a stressor.  I get worked up over little things, I’m really hard on myself, and when I have a lot on my plate I tend to go 100 miles per hour without stopping to talk to people or God.  So last week, everything was falling apart as I was supposed to leave to go out of town.  My car broke and I lost my drivers license the day before the trip… so it wasn’t looking good.  But you know what?  It may sound silly, but I just gave the little things to God.  I simply asked for his help.  The only thing at risk was making it to Birmingham in time for a concert, but he still helped me.  My car was fixed in an hour and a friend in my biology class showed up the next morning with my driver’s license… she had found it in the school parking lot.  THANKS, GOD!!!

This is only one example of the countless little blessings he gives me every day, whether I notice it or not.  The point is that he cares.  He’s teaching me things about himself that I have had all wrong.  I have put myself under too much pressure, viewing him as a boss– checking off my work and holding me to a high standard–  instead of the Father who is overflowing with love and generosity.  I know this… but my competitive, people pleasing, task-oriented self had forgotten the true character of my sweet, sweet Jesus.  He doesn’t ask me to struggle and race and accomplish… he asks me to love and trust him.  I swear I have to realign my priorities like every 5 seconds.

So what I have learned, or been reminded of, is the grace, mercy, love, kindness… character of Jesus.  He doesn’t give based on our actions or our resume, he gives freely because he just loves us.  I don’t understand it, but he just does.  He showed it on the cross.  He knows exactly what we need, and he loves to make our day.  When our focus strays from him, he can accomplish absolutely anything in order to regain that attention and remind us of his love.

Just dwell on that.  He is always thinking of you.  He wants to bless you and he will.  Just like a dad on Christmas morning, he’s overjoyed at the sight of your delight.  His love is so much stronger than an earthly dad, his passion and affection for us is beyond our comprehension.  Seeing him this way should change everything about our relationships with him!!  I am SO thankful he isn’t a boss or a master.  He wants your best, but more than that he just wants you.  This doesn’t sound like the love I’ve seen or experienced from people, but there He is with open arms.  Perfect love, not at all dependent on me.

So whether its a reminder like having your driver’s license handed to you or a rock-your-world kind of event, I hope we all remember Jesus as our friend, helper, and generous Dad.  P.S. I used to think calling God “dad” was super weird too, but the more you get to know him, the more you realize that’s exactly what he wants to be for us. 🙂

“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”  (Romans 8:15)

//Anna Claire

Give Yourself Some Grace

This week, the last of summer, was supposed to be amazingly productive. I had 70% of my summer assignments left to work on, I had a college application essay to write, and I had a good and deep blog post to work on too because its been a while since the last one.  It’s Friday evening now, my history assignment still lacks a good bit, the essay has only been outlined,  and there is a halfway done blog post about Haggai sitting in my too-full draft box.  And the thing is, I really did try.  I woke up this morning with a plan for the day, and when that schedule to get back on track was already ruined by me oversleeping, I began the last real day of summer with a frustrated, frantic attitude.  Before I could even get out of bed my mom looked at me and said, “It’s okay! You’ve gotta give yourself some grace.”  And she reminded me of our favorite book (Looking for Lovely by Annie Downs) talking about giving others grace abundantly but not forgetting to give it to ourselves as well.  That shook me and stopped me in my negative tracks.  And I think I would have enjoyed this past week a lot more if I would have remembered God’s grace.  Although some things are still not done, I enjoyed my day and celebrated the little victories.

I think I needed to learn this lesson today so that my senior year is not a whirlwind of stress and feeling less than enough.  Because no matter what the checklist looks like and no matter how full the agenda, there can be peace.  It’s always available.  I can be very efficient and successful this year, in college, in life– but not if tasks and activities are the first thing on my mind.  A perfect day cannot produce real peace.  Experiences cannot produce real joy.  Jesus can… and he is an overflowing fountain of both.

He’s not just an item on the checklist either. He is a person. Our sustainer. He is peace. He is joy. He is life. And even if we have quiet time every day, or go to 3 Bible studies a week, we have to let him be the center of the rest of our life.  We have to surrender every single detail of life for him to really be our Sustainer.  The word itself is self explanatory actually.  If I needed a ventilator to live, I would start dying the moment I decided I could make it on my own.  The same goes for my spiritual Sustainer.

This isn’t very long or theological and I don’t even have a verse to go along with my own imperfect words, but I do know that Jesus wants to be my sustainer and yours.  He wants to flow peace and joy into our lives but most of the time we cut off that source because we want to do life our own way– according to our agenda.  He’s so much better than that.

Here’s to a new year, a fresh start, and daily surrender.  This year isn’t going to be perfect, but it’ll be a heck of a lot better if I’m connected to a spiritual ventilator, my Jesus, instead of my empty self.

//Anna Claire

p.s. If you go read Haggai, this happens to be the theme there too. 🙂

Pura Vida

I’m currently in Playa Grande, Costa Rica– and I don’t want to fly out tomorrow. Life here is simple, relaxed, flexible, and fun, and I wish I could say that about life back home. Although appointments and schedules are a very crucial part of our daily lives in America, Costa Rica has proven to me that they are not essential. I have realized that I might need to reevaluate my life at home.

They have this saying here, and of course you know it. “Pura Vida” means pure life, simple life, good life.  And they chase it hard here. There is no American Dream or ladder of success. It is more common to chase waves than money actually; many people work for a period until they have enough to feed their family and then quit the job to get back to surfing or skating. The idea of storing up money and chasing riches is shockingly foreign.  

This morning, we had church on the beach. Pastor Chris from 3 Circle Church is here and we looked at John 6:25-69. It is a long and action-packed chapter, but he was specifically talking about Jesus’ statement of “I am the bread of life.” Prior to verse 25, Jesus had miraculously fed over 5,000 people, so naturally he was attracting a huge crowd and they were trying to follow him everywhere. But Jesus knew that they were only seeking another free meal.

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35

Life with Jesus is full. Life with Jesus is meaningful. Life with Jesus is eternal. And you know what? About 20,000 people left Jesus and missed that because they didn’t want to hear that their lives were lacking something.

I am so glad that I have this eternal, lasting life in Jesus! But this trip and the Costa Rican lifestyle has taught me that I need to focus a lot more on what is eternal. I should enjoy my stuff, my food, my experiences, and my people, but I know that the more I seek Jesus the more satisfied I am. He gives life to the full, but more importantly He himself is the Bread, the Way, the Truth, the Life. He is it. And the Christians here don’t have much besides Him (not even a church with walls), but they have everything they need and more. In him I have everything I need and so much more. 

I am so so thankful for the Bread of Life. I challenge you to evaluate how often you consider the eternal aspects of life versus the immediate and tangibles of life. For me, it was unacceptable and I hope this trip is a turning point. Money, success, fame, status– it’s always gonna leave us hungry for more. 

Jesus is all we need, and with that we can forget the rest and say Pura Vida 🤙🏽

//Anna Claire

Life on the Beach


Sitting on the porch of an oceanside hotel this weekend, God taught me a lot about himself and reminded me of his greatness as I listened to the waves crash.  It had been a long hot day on the beach, and by the end of it I knew my soul needed some alone time with God to respond to all the blessings he had given me throughout the day.  Though my frantic pursuit of family time, fun, sun, and relaxation almost had me convinced I didn’t need him, he kept showing up in big and small ways– through books, music, and even some weird little jellyfish.  I sat down outside to reread some scripture I had come across while reading a book that day (check out Proverbs 2:1-11) and journal.  With the Gulf breeze in my face, what naturally flowed out of me was descriptions of the ocean that simultaneously reveal God’s character.  I think he intentionally designed creation to reflect his beauty…

He is mighty but graceful.  He is powerful but gentle.  He is endless but specific.  He is overwhelming but mysterious.  He is endearing, deep, and majestic.  He is full of life.

And as I sat there writing my prayers, I was overwhelmed by the sound of that roaring water and the presence of God.  He taught me another analogy. If you’re reading this, you probably live somewhere in South Alabama.  We are close enough to the beach for it to be convenient, but far enough from it for a trip to require effort, planning, gas, and time. If you know me, you know that my favorite place to be is near/on/in the water.  But no matter how hard I try to hear those ocean waves crashing in Fairhope, I won’t.  Even if I muted every other noise, the distance would still drown out the sound.  I must go to the water to hear it.  In the same way,  I had been feeling a little distant from God and not hearing his voice clearly.  I can sit quietly and strain to hear his voice, but no matter how hard I try, if I have not invested time and effort into getting closer to him, there is going to be distance and distractions that drown out his voice of peace and direction in my life.

In my journal I wrote, “Like the ocean waves crashing right now, creating a constant sound and presence, may your voice be in my life. Just as I must go near to the ocean to hear it, I must actively seek out your voice.  Everything between us has to go…  I have to clear the path and run to you.”

Additionally, like the water roaring right now, never ceasing in the Gulf of Mexico, his voice is constant.  Our God does not change– we wander from Him.  He always desires to speak love, truth, and wisdom in our lives, and when we draw near and listen, it changes us and affects every aspect of our lives.

I can sit on the beach and read, write, play, tan, walk, eat, swim, and spend time with people while simultaneously hearing that soothing roll of the waves.  I don’t have to be focused on listening to hear it.  That sound is constantly flowing in my ears if I am near to the water, and that is what I want my life to look like.  If I am close to Him, everything that I do can be enhanced by the presence of God speaking and working in my life (that’s what the Holy Spirit does)!

So friends, let this be an answered question, a wake up call, a stir for your affection for Christ.  Let’s live our lives on the beach. Or better yet, jump in the water 🙂

//Anna Claire

Happy

A good place to be happy is here.  A good time to be happy is now.  -Unknown

I’m starting a brand new journal today, and it’s preaching these words to me from the cover.  Obviously I like my journals to be nice and cliché… but it’s going to be a good reminder for the next couple of months.  I don’t want to spend my time and energy looking back or anticipating what’s to come, I just want to slow down and enjoy the day.

Today, it’s easy.  It’s 11am and this morning my best friend and I sipped coffee together and paddle boarded in a serene, glass-like Mobile Bay.  I’m now sitting on my back porch listening to a perfect combination of worship music and the birds’ morning songs.  My little brother is inside watching the Andy Griffith Show, our all-time favorite.  It’s 82 degrees outside, the rainy forecast has turned sunny, and my only responsibilities for the day are giving my dog a bath and hanging out with some really cute kids later.  Maybe I’ll play the piano or paint.  I always feel happier in the summer, but today my heart is overflowing just a little bit more.  When I opened my Bible to Psalm 1 this morning, I was reminded of why.

1 How happy is the man who does not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path of sinners, or join a group of mockers!
2 Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night.
3 He is like a tree planted beside streams of water that bears its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. (CSB)
Usually the Bible talks more about joy, contentment, and peace– so this outright promise of “happy” caught my eye. If you think about it, most of the things that steal your joy are results of putting too much hope in people.  This happens to me daily, maybe even hourly.  Wicked is a word that describes every human, and when I put too much hope in myself or any other person I am always let down.  Happiness is guaranteed only when we are planted by the stream of water that is Jesus, letting his love, affection, and life literally flow right through us.  That doesn’t mean that every day or situation will be filled with butterflies, rainbows, lollipops, and prosperity, but this living water will absolutely fill every void that the “wicked,” “sinners,” and “mockers” have left gaping with horrible emptiness.
I definitely don’t meditate on the Word of God day and night.  I’ve been trying for weeks to get back into the habit of memorizing scripture, but I could probably recite one line of that memory verse if you asked me today… so I must not be delighting in it too much.  But when I make time to sit back and remember who He is, the promises of God start flowing freely.  Not because of anything I do, but because of what Jesus already did.  He is the one that transplanted me from the path of sinners to an ideal spot on the bank of the stream of living water.
And because of this truth, my happiness will remain through the rainy days, the get-up-early-for-practice days, school days, work days, and everything in between.  This kind of happiness isn’t only a result of my situation, but a result of the living water that so miraculously runs through me.


Lord, help me delight in your Word.  Grow me from the twig that I am into a strong tree that is raised up by your love and your strength. I cannot find lasting happiness in my abilities, my circumstance, or other people, but I can meditate on your Word and let it transform me.  Teach me to run to you first for advice and reassurance, not to fellow sinners. Thank you for being perfect so that I don’t have to be.  Thank you for happy summer days, and on the harder days, remind of who you are– the Living Water that fulfills me in any situation.

Be happy today! Just don’t try to do it on your own. 🙂
//Anna Claire