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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

I'm Not Getting into Heaven (And Neither are You)

It was the crux of the salvation journey. We were taught to open with the line when we were talking to our friends about Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

If you died tonight, do you know where your soul will go?

I was one of those who knew.

But few of us ever had the boldness that we'd need in order to look our peers–the ones who didn't know about Christ, the ones who didn't grow up in the church–in the eye and ask them about death. It's a scary thought, no matter your assurance for salvation.

It's what made me, at the ripe age of four, with long curly hair and short pink bows, accept Jesus into my heart. The very day I started Kindergarten. This time of year always makes me think of that. How scared the little-girl version of me was to embark on her first day of school.

And then, with just a prayer and a miracle, how calm I became after I knew Jesus would walk through those darkened halls of classrooms with me. How His presence held my hand as that big yellow bus carted me away.

But I had also heard of Hell and the burning that happened there. There was weeping. And gnashing of teeth. I wasn't even quite sure what gnashing meant, but it sounded far from the pleasantry streets of gold and gates of pearl.

My praying hands, on the cusp of the big girl phase, still growing, growing, growing, and catching fireflies in the curtain of dusk where also afraid. Afraid for my soul and the souls of my friends.

I wasn't just afraid of starting Kindergarten. I was afraid of falling asleep and waking into death's dream. And I didn't want to go where the bad people went.

I wanted to run into the arms of a Savior in a white robe.

We were assured that we couldn't get into heaven. This was childlike faith. This is what I think a lot of us have been missing. All we had to do was believe. All we had to do was ask Jesus to fill up the space in our hearts. And we were assured of this.

We couldn't get into Heaven no more than we could get into a club before we turned 18. We had to trust that our salvation was enough. We had to trust that God's grace was sufficient for us. Even when we messed up.

A few years ago, I was leading a Bible study for a group of women. I was speaking about our sinful nature and how tempting it is to be led astray.

One thing I was always careful to do when I was leading this small group was to explain how much what I was teaching also applied to my life, too. I didn't want to be a hypocrite or be leading out of arrogance.

"This is a devotion I'm leading because I need to hear it, 

too," I said. "I'm not perfect."

Then a voice from the group uttered, "Oh, we know."

It was rude. It was unnecessary. And it was also completely true. I was trying to live like a squeaky-clean Christian kid. With no outer (visible) sins that people could gossip about. My struggles were internal–my thought-life, my pride, my esteem for some people over others.

But see, I was trying to live like I was getting into Heaven. I was trying to keep the veil of perfection over my life. And apparently I wasn't as good at hiding my outward flaws as I thought I was. Because they were certainly there then. And they're certainly there now.

But then you look at the Joel Osteens of the Christianity pocket. You look at the leaders who have changed the world and simultaneously changed their perspective on how a government or business should be run. With dollar signs instead of integrity. With a hunger for votes and support instead of a hunger to serve others.

And I see myself falling into the same trap. Not in the same way, of course, but with wickedness at my epicenter. With failure to live like Christ wedged and coiled into every facet of my life. Living like I'm getting into Heaven. Like I need to hide my shortcomings from others.

Like I can hide them from my friends, family members, boyfriend and Christ himself.

I take comfort in the fact that this means that I am not the only cripple at the table. I am not the only liar, beggar and thief to be ushered into heaven.

We forget that Heaven is for Real and that it's not just a 

marketing strategy.

It's not just a way to make a national bestseller and a film adaptation. It's not merely a way to create a political platform. And it's certainly not a venue we can create a fake I.D. for.

We're not getting into Heaven. Grace is letting each of us in.

I need grace to let me in. I need to believe that all I need is Christ to cover my imperfections. Because I'm not perfect.

And you don't have to say it: I already know you know.

photo credit: Lotus Carroll via photopin cc

photo credit: Andreh Santos via photopin cc

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Am I Single Because I'm Fat?

Happy September, friends! Today, Prodigal Sister is featuring a guest post from my special, sassy, beautiful friend Holly. She and I connected through Jon Acuff's 30 Days of Hustle back in January (Seriously? Has it been that long?) and she has been a sweet encouragement ever since.

This is her story. And I'm so glad she was willing to share it with us.

Holly writes at the Common Queen Blog, and her updates on Facebook are hysterical. Follow her if you're looking for a few laughs throughout the day.

Yesterday, a friend told me I should really start working

out again.

She had great intentions, I’ll give her that much. She’s struggled with her weight, too. I know she loves me and she even made it a point to remind me of it at the end of the conversation.
We need people spurring us on in bettering ourselves, but sometimes that spurring cuts deep.

What my friend hadn’t realized is that I’ve been carrying a lot of shame around concerning my weight. Her words felt like one more burden on my heart and one more doubt in my head.

You’ll never overcome this, Holly. You are always going to

be gross and fat.

Like any rational person, I went home and got the ice cream out of my freezer and filled my bowl extra high. I would have licked the sides of the ice cream container, but I decided to leave a smidgen just in case there was another “emergency” in the near future.

With my bowl full of chocolate0therapy, I texted my BFF about how disgusting I was feeling. I reiterated my fears that she’s heard a million times over and yet that always boils down to this one question:

“Am I single because I’m fat?”

All of this comes just a few short days after I posted a blog about being fat AND lovable. God’s got a sense of humor, for sure. I knew I was still in process, but there’s nothing like some raw emotions to remind me that I’m not quite as far along as I’d like to be.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been the fat girl in the group. The funny fat girl, which has its perks but fat none the less. That, like many other characteristics, had become my identity. We all do it.

We identify ourselves by our relationship status (all the single ladies, holla!), by our education (or lack thereof), by our occupation (crazy Church Administrator here), by our past experiences, by our sports teams (Let’s Go! Buffalo!), by our favorite brands …you see my point. The list goes on.

The problem is that it’s not important who WE think we are,

but who GOD says we are.

Maybe I’m oversimplifying things, but I don’t think that would be a bad thing. You see, God is always going to tell us the Truth about ourselves. Our brains (or the Enemy….whatever) have this sneaky way of lying to us in our own voices. Or if not outright lying, only giving a half-truth. And those are just as dangerous.

The truth is, yes I am fat but I am also worthy of love. My pants-size, boob-size, or double chin doesn’t change that. God calls me his beloved. Not His fat, disgusting beloved. Just simply, beloved.

The truth is, I’m a Church Administrator that feels like she’s never going to get anywhere, occupationally speaking. God says, I’m highly favored and He has good things in store for me.

They might not be MY plans, but they are HIS and He is good.

The truth is, just because I spent my childhood as an orphan doesn’t mean I’m not wanted or desired. My natural genealogy does not define my eternal lineage. I am not fatherless, but the daughter of the King.

The truth is, I am single, but I am not alone.

Sure, I get lonely, but so do married people. At the end of the day, I am His and He is mine. He isn’t going anywhere.

The truth is, the Buffalo Bills suck whether Donald Trump buys them or not.

It’s not easy to combat the lies we hear so often–that’s why friends are so important. When we struggle, we can shoot them a text full of our toxic thoughts and they can flush them down the toilet where they belong.

God will remind you, too. He’s so lavish like that.

A few months ago, I was driving past our local grocery store that had a sign out front advertising a sale they would be having on roses the next day. I really love roses and had the thought: I’d really like some roses, but I don’t have time to get any tomorrow.

I spent the rest of the evening volunteering at my churches youth group when one of the parents came up to me and asked me to go to my office before I left that night. What did I find sitting on my desk for me? One dozen pink roses. My absolute favorite! No one had known that secret thought of mine, but God. There on my desk sat a reminder that He knows my hearts desires and He longs to give them to me and that He loves me so very much.

So, lovely ladies, please know that you are not defined by who you are, but by who God says you are and you are very much treasured and adored. You might not feel like that’s true, but it is.


Holly is a 30-year-old aspiring writer who strives to share honestly and transparently in hopes that it will encourage others to be open about their own struggles and lessons learned. She’s been accused of being sassy, which she finds to be an admirable attribute. 

Her favorite things include: making people laugh, chocolate, sweatshirt weather and authentic conversations over coffee. One day she hopes to find herself a bearded lumberjack to call her own. You can find more of her writings at thecommonqueen.wordpress.com on FB at facebook.com/thecommonqueen or twitter @thecommonqueen .

photo credit: Helga Weber via photopin cc

photo credit: Chiara Cremaschi via photopin cc
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