Wednesday, August 29, 2018

A Word for the 'Hills and Valleys': Finding God Everywhere

Hills and Valleys
Tauren Wells - Hills and Valleys (2017) / Amazon

Last week, after I checked out “Known” by Tauren Wells, I decided to explore more of his discography. I decided to take a listen to the title track from his album Hills and Valleys (2017), and I loved it. Wells has a voice that...centers you. His voice is the kind that you listen to in the proverbial valley, when there’s chaos all around, and on the proverbial mountaintop, to remind you Who set you there in the first place. His album is certainly aptly titled.

The lyricism in these tracks is absolutely superb. The mellow tone of his voice pairs wonderfully with lyrics that are easy to learn, but also force the listener to think about the meaning they carry:

I've walked among the shadows

You wiped my tears away

And I've felt the pain of heartbreak

And I've seen the brighter days

And I've prayed prayers to heaven from 

my lowest place

And I have held Your blessings

God, You give and take away

No matter what I have, Your grace is 


No matter where I am, I'm standing in 

Your love

This is the perfect example of how God is a God of highs and lows. Everything that happens in life, good or bad, He allows. Job 1:21 says “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (NIV). This song teaches listeners how to trust God when times are hard and how to praise Him and reverence Him when everything is going well:

On the mountains, I will bow my life

to the One who set me there

In the valley, I will lift my eyes to the One 

who sees me there

When I'm standing on the mountain, I 

didn't get there on my own

When I'm walking through the valley, I 

know I am not alone

That was the part of the song that really hit home for me: I know I am not alone. Seasons and people change. The valley doesn’t last always, and neither does the mountaintop. Only one thing stays the same: Whether we’re up high or down low, God is always with us, even if we feel alone. We’ve all been in the valley at some point, and let’s be honest, it gets lonely at the top sometimes, too. We will always need God, even when we feel like we’ve got it all together, and especially when we don’t. So, today and every day, let’s challenge ourselves to make space and time for Him in every hill, every valley, every nook and cranny of our lives. He’s right there beside us all the time. All we have to do is look for Him.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The Beauty of Being 'Known'

Known (Music Video Version)
Tauren Wells - "Known" - Single (2017) / Amazon

In the car the other day, I heard Tauren Wells’ “Known" from his 2017 release, Hills and Valleys, for the first time (You’ll have to excuse me. I’ve apparently been living under a rock. SO good!). His mellow tone coupled with the classic simplicity of guitar hooked me, and by the end of the song, I was singing along:

It’s not one or the other

It’s hard truth and ridiculous grace

To be known, fully known

And loved by You

I let those lyrics marinate for a bit, and I haven’t stopped thinking about them for a few days now. What a gift it is to be known.

The lyrics above depict what a true relationship with God feels like. A real relationship full of “hard truth and ridiculous grace” goes beyond religion, beyond the four walls of the church. It peers into the inside of you and reveals every part of you to yourself—the good, the bad and the ugly. It allows you to clearly see the areas in your life that need fixing...and it gives you grace for the renovation process.

It's so unusual it's frightening

You see right through the mess inside me

And you call me out to pull me in

You tell me I can start again

And I don't need to keep on hiding

God is not a God of “one or the other.” He won’t just highlight what’s wrong in you and not give you grace to fix it. He calls us out on our mess, not to punish us, but to bring us closer to Him. We don’t have to be ashamed of our past, all we have to do is be willing to come out of hiding and He’ll help us start fresh. There’s no use hiding from Him anyway. He’s omnipotent and ever-present. He knows us better than we’ll ever know ourselves.

It's so like You to keep pursuing

It's so like me to go astray

But You guard my heart with Your truth

The kind of love that's bullet proof

And I surrender to Your kindness

God pursues us even when we pursue the wrong things. Although every action has consequences, He guards our hearts and keeps them from being shattered...and even when we feel like they’re broken, His love mends them.

The last line in this verse resonated with me so much, “And I surrender to Your kindness.” That may seem like a small thing to most people, but it’s huge in building and maintaining a solid relationship with God. One of the biggest perks of being known is knowing He’s got you! Surrender it all. Let Him be kind to you, and lean on Him as He takes you through. He loves you and He always sets you up to win!

How real, how wide

How rich, how high is Your heart

I cannot find the reasons why

You give me so much

God's grace is ridiculous. It’s unfathomable. You’ll never be able to wrap your head around it. You may be confused about what He’s doing, but just know that He’s doing it for your good! Let Him be God. You’ll never know why He’s so good to you, and you’ll never be able to repay Him. All that’s required of you is to live a life that is pleasing to Him, a life worthy of “Well done.” That’s the beauty of being known.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Evergreen Illusion (feat. Jonathan McReynolds' "Comparison Kills")

Jonathan McReynolds - Make Room (2018) / Amazon

I’ve blogged about a few songs from Jonathan McReynolds’ latest project Make Room (2018), and I’ve covered the subject of comparison on this platform several times as well, but this time is different. I was listening to “Comparison Kills” in the car the other day, and it wrecked me emotionally, much like it did the very first time I heard it. As I meditated on the lyrics, God downloaded something deep into my spirit: Comparison is an inside job. 

I was reminded of a quote by Thomas Cooley that completely shifted my perspective on the concept of comparison, challenging me to consider how susceptible we are to other people's opinions of us. It reads, “I am not who you think I am; I am not who I think I am; I am who I think you think I am."

Whether or not we'd like to admit it, we care so much about what others think of us that we consciously or subconsciously shape our sense of self around who we ASSUME people think we are. In actuality, they probably don't think much about who we are...because they're busy wondering what WE think of them. The entire world’s system of thinking is fueled by comparison...and the root of it is selfishness.

We are, albeit somewhat inadvertently, so self-absorbed that we think everyone is watching us, waiting for our next move. This may be a tough pill to swallow, because we all like to think we’re important (and we are, in God’s eyes), but guess what? For the most part, nobody cares! The very people we look to for validation, acceptance, pats on the back, etc., are the same ones going to great lengths to make sure that they don’t make fools of themselves in front of us...and everyone else, for that matter.

“Grass was fine,/ ‘Til it looked greener on the other side...” The truth is, the illusion you see where it looks like the grass is greener is probably fake grass (fake happiness, fake success, and/or fake satisfaction with life) because they wanted their grass to look as real as yours (And yeah, I know, yours is fake, too. Don’t worry. Your secret is safe with me.). “Pressure gets hot,/ And with heat, come mirages/ So you think it’s cool over there...” We all take pains to make our proverbial ‘yards’ look pretty, but the pressure to do so doesn’t come from other people. It comes from within. At the end of the day, all everybody else sees is the finished product: The perfectly manicured lawn.

You spent all night admiring pictures

They make life look perfect as they


But you don’t know the picture’s story

And how long it took to make it good...

While we’re on the subject, you shouldn’t envy those with real grass either, because real grass requires more maintenance. Before you compare yourself to someone else, ask yourself if you'd really be willing to walk in their shoes. If wearing their shoes means walking the WHOLE distance in the journey to who they are now, could you really handle it?

Don't take people's stories at face value, because the story is always deeper than it looks. Don't pray for the EXACT route to success as the people you admire. Your route will be different because it's tailored to your purpose. Real grass requires real sacrifice.

The bottom line is this: Most people either judge you at the start of the journey where they can’t see your finish line, or they judge you at the end when they see what you’ve got and think that the journey was easy. They don’t know what they’re talking about because they weren’t there during your process! If you let it, comparison can kill your dreams. “It makes you chase what’s not meant to be chased/ ‘Cause you’ve possessed it all along.” Believe it or not, everything you need to succeed is already inside you! Forget about society’s deadlines and let God write your story in His time and on His terms. He makes everything beautiful exactly when it’s supposed to be (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

The Weight of Glory vs. The Weight of Waiting (feat. Jamie Grace's "Wait It Out")

The other day, I was having a “Why is everybody in a relationship except me?” moment. I was talking my way through it with my aunt (I’m convinced she must have the patience of Job to sit through my ramblings. God bless her.). Anyway, somewhere amongst all the “Woe is me!” I started talking about what I want in a relationship. Seemingly out of the blue, I said, “When my future husband proposes, I want my ‘yes’ to him to be almost as easy as the ‘yes’ I gave to God when I got saved.” My aunt quickly corrected me, “No ‘yes’ should ever be equal to the one you gave Him.” I sat in silence for a moment, and then I repeated my original statement. Saying ‘yes’ to my future husband should be almost as easy as saying yes to God because if it is, I will know that our union is God-ordained. As my purpose partner, my husband will be responsible for leading me in the Christian walk. I need my ‘yes’ to be 100 percent sure because I need to know who I’m submitting to...and who he’s submitted to. When my husband asks for my hand in marriage, there should be no “maybes” or hesitation, only yes, because I’ll know he has said yes to God. This is why I’m waiting.

Jamie Grace - "Wait It Out" (2018) - Single / Amazon

I told myself that whenever the wait gets me in my feelings, I’d turn up the volume on music that reminded me why it would be worth it, so I did just that. My most recent go-to is Jamie Grace’s pop/hip hop hybrid, “Wait It Out.” I’m so inspired by Jamie’s testimony. For years, she’s been very vocal about her choice to save herself for marriage and wait for God’s best. Before she met her now-husband, Aaron Collins, she penned “Wait It Out,” a song that acknowledged the single struggle, but also stressed the importance of self-worth during the wait:

Everybody got that ring by spring, yeah

Graduated M R S degree

Gonna get dressed up, gonna stand by 

your side

And I'm probably gonna, probably gonna 


But I stay single, team single

And it ain't 'cause I don't wanna mingle

In the song, and in several videos on her YouTube channel, Jamie emphasized that she was single by choice, not because she didn’t want to date, but because she wanted to do so intentionally. She recognized that in order for her to commit to a man, there had to be more to him than just a “real nice face.” I concur.

Image source: Amazon

Last year, in one of my favorite posts on this blog, “Dating, Sex, & Looking Beyond Boaz,” I posed a question to single women: “Will we be prepared if, instead of sending us Boaz, God sends us a man who is a work in progress? If He sends us a man who needs to lean on us in order to walk in the fullness of who God called him to be, will we be ready to support the weight of the call?” Since that post, one of the many important realizations I have come to about singleness is that I myself am a work in progress. Just as much as my husband will need to lean on me in order to fulfill his purpose, I will need him to support the weight of glory on my life. Before I trust a man with that mantle, I need to be absolutely sure that he’s equipped with the grace, the strength, and the prayer life to help me carry it. We’ll need to be able to lighten each other’s load. So, as Jamie so eloquently put it, “I locked this heart with a key from the King,/ You better talk to Him if you wanna talk to me.” I don’t believe in “casual” dating because there’s nothing casual about my calling. 

My purpose is to carry out God’s purpose for my life, and that purpose will be tied to who I end up doing life with. I can’t afford to compromise, no matter how real the struggle is (and I won’t lie, it is REALLY real!). Y’all pray my strength in the Lord, because while the weight of glory is heavy, so is the weight of waiting. This walk is not for the weak of spirit, and it is DEFINITELY not for the weak of flesh, but the reward will be so worth it. I hope you all will be encouraged by this post, but I need this word, too. Wait it out!

While you wait, Check out the “Wait It Out” video below. It features footage of Jamie and Aaron’s wedding, and it’s a beautiful reminder of how God keeps His promises:

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

#WednesdayWisdom: Perpetrating Purpose

This week's dose of #WednesdayWisdom speaks to how we perform purpose. Are you playing your own role, or are you reading someone else's lines? Let's talk about it.

Image source: The Clean Space

I used to say my biggest fear in life was not finding my purpose. I've changed my mind. My fear is not in wondering whether or not I'll find it, my fear is knowing what my purpose is and not walking in it--or, even worse, knowing what my purpose is and still trying to walk in something else...or someone else's.

I've been a lot of things thus far: Daughter, sister, friend, writer, blogger, poet, giver, thinker, doer...the list goes on and on. I've been purposed to wear all those "hats" and so many others. Some days I feel like it's impossible to wear them all. Above all that I am and all that I have yet to be, I am a follower of Christ. At the end of my life, I want to hear God say "well done." I want to stand before Him knowing that none of my potential was wasted, that every aspect of who I am was used for His glory. A huge part of being "used up" means knowing what my purpose is--and knowing what my purpose isn't.

You have to know what you're graced for. You can choose to be good in several areas, or you can hone in on one thing and be GREAT at it. I'm not saying you shouldn't try new things. I'm just saying, if you know that you're not called to something, no matter how badly you want it, no matter how much you thought this was it, no matter how glamorous it looks, if God tells you it's not for you, accept it and ask Him to show you how to walk in YOUR calling. Look at it this way: Each and every one of us is the answer to a specific problem in the earth. If you try to walk in someone else's purpose, there will always be a void where you should be. Find the problem you are called to solve and solve it well. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Somebody, somewhere, needs what you've got! #WednesdayWisdom