Happy Friday!

 

The past few weeks I've fallen in love with quiet time. Honestly... I've never been good about making intentional time to be with the Lord and read my Bible, except for spotty weeks here and there, and never has it been the first thing I do in the morning. I go to bed now excited that I get to wake up, make a cup of coffee and sit on my couch for thirty minutes to an hour with Phoebe. It's definitely not easy to get up at 5AM but I began praying that the Lord would make Himself my desire first thing in the morning... and ask and you shall receive. This morning I even woke up at 4AM dreaming about a Bible verse that talked about the ocean. I had to make myself sleep longer. WHAT.

The most special thing that's happened for me during my quiet time is that I feel waves and waves of peace come over me. I have so many questions, and I feel like this is the perfect place to bring them. First thing in the morning, I get to lay all my cards out on the table, ask my questions, then shift my thoughts to praying for others – instead of starting off my day thinking about my own personal to-do list. It has been so wonderfully freeing (like every other thing God has been teaching me this past year!). My heart is being made new every day by a God that delights in me, knows all one billion of my weaknesses, and desires to fill those weaknesses with Himself. Yes, Lord.

If you get the chance on Monday, I encourage you to get up fifteen minutes earlier than usual to just sit. On the couch. Out on your porch. Upright in your bed. You don't even have to say anything... just listen. Cup of coffee in one hand, palm up in the other. And take in your peace for the day ahead. I promise you won't regret it.

 

+ some links for your weekend:

 

Image via That's Pretty Ace

Meet a Ruby... Beth Johnston

 

Today I am so excited to get to introduce to you the lovely Beth! Beth and I met at (you guessed it) Abilene Christian University, and I got to see first-hand the spunky zest for life this girl has. Beth is such an incredible and giving friend who truly loves to bring light into the darkness. Get to know her below...


Tell us about yourself!  Hi! My name is Beth Johnston. I am an Assistant Speech Language Pathologist, which means I provide pediatric speech therapy. I work at a home health agency, so I drive around and see kids for therapy in their homes. I am from Abilene, Texas. I moved there when I was three and lived there through college. I still love Abilene, but have lived in the Metroplex for a year, and am glad to have spread my wings a bit. 

What inspires you? My family inspires me everyday. I am so undeserving of the unconditional love, grace, strength, and support my parents have shown me my whole life even through those rough teenage patches, and on the days when it seems that all I do is complain about the challenges of life. My brother is my best friend, and inspires me to work hard, never give up, be myself, and never settle.

One thing that not everyone knows about me is I am a complete history buff. If it were up to me, I would spend days and weeks traveling to different historical sights and museums just to learn from the people who have gone before us, and the different cultures they have left behind all around the world. I have been fortunate in my life to have the opportunity to travel abroad on multiple occasions and see incredible places – I've been humbled by places I’ve been to and things I’ve seen, yet I still feel like I have barely dipped my toes in the water, and would go see all the places I’ve read about and seen in movies if I had the chance. Traveling to these places would be my first option, but take me to a museum and I’ll be happy as well.

If a museum is not an option, a good historical biography will do the trick – which reminds me that books inspire me, too. I have loved to read ever since I learned how. From a good Nicholas Sparks book that will bring tears to my eyes (every time) to classic literature, I love getting lost in the stories. If you only get to read one novel ever in your life, I would recommend Les Miserables. Yes it’s long, but you can do it. Trust me it will be worth it. I could write a great deal more about how much this book inspires me, but I will let you discover it for yourself.

 
 

What are your gifts and talents? This is tough. I have been told that I am good at bringing joy and encouragement to those I love. I am a loyal friend, and I love celebrating their victories and supporting them through hard times. I am a very emotional person and often treat it like it’s a bad thing, but at the end of the day I’m thankful that I clearly experience emotions of life. I feel the joy and I feel the pains of life thoroughly – when I love I love, and when I hurt I hurt. I can’t hide things or lie to myself... this is an odd thing to list as a talent, but I have learned to be grateful for this trait. I love being outside and being active, whether it be throwing the football with a friend, playing an all-out competitive game of volleyball, or hiking anywhere outside. Being active (preferably outdoors), is good for my soul.

How do you use your gifts to serve others? I think I need to show love and treat more people the way I treat my closest friends. I want to remember to always see the best in people, and let people in, so I can bring joy to their lives and let them share themselves with me, instead of waiting for people to prove that they “deserve” my love. So many times when I have done this I’ve learned that my initial assessment of the person was wrong, and I would have missed out on a new relationship. 

What would you do if you had nothing holding you back from your dreams? I would travel with someone I love. I would go everywhere I’ve wanted to go. I would learn from as many cultures as possible and make a difference in the world, even if it’s in a small way in as many places as possible, or change lives in a huge way where I can fill a need. Or maybe I would be an archaeologist. :)

 
 

Tell us about a season of suffering that lead to good things in your life. When I was in the eighth grade I went to a youth conference in Arlington called Winterfest. I’m sure many of you have heard of or attended this conference. The weekend was fun and powerful. The theme was Master and Commander – making God the Master and Commander of our life. It was a wonderful weekend of worship and friends, and I still clearly remember singing “There’s a Stirring” on that last Sunday where several of our fellow youth group members made the decision to claim Jesus as their Master and Commander. We caravanned to Winterfest that year, and were all assigned a specific vehicle for the duration of the weekend. My friend and I somehow were assigned to a suburban full of 6th grade boys. At the time the age gap between an 8th grade girl and a 6th grade boy seems to be a lot bigger than two years, and my friend and I were wary, but after just the 3-hour road trip to Arlington, we had made new friends and were having a very entertaining trip with these same 6th grade guys who had been too shy to talk to us only hours before. On the way home we were in a very serious car accident, which claimed the life of one of the sweet boys with us, and seriously injured five others. I was not among those seriously injured; the injuries I walked away with were just emotional. I can still close my eyes and think back to the scene of that day if I try now. I remember the emotions I felt as an 8th grade girl, despair, guilt, heartbrokenness, helplessness, and fear. I couldn’t bear the fact that one minute our sweet friend had been joking and stealing our candy, and the next, he wasn’t there. I couldn’t understand why I walked away with no physical injuries when my friend lost his life, and the others were so seriously hurt. I felt awful, and I didn’t want to go to school like normal or play basketball. I was confronted with the, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” question early on in life, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. I didn’t understand why this had happened. I couldn’t understand. I just wanted to be an 8th grade girl, but I had grown up so much in one afternoon. I’m thankful for all the help that we received from church, from our families, from strangers on the road who stopped that day, and from each other. I learned that bad things happen, and we don’t know why. People try to answer that question, but they really can’t. I know this: I felt that God was real that day, I saw him rally for us, I saw him heal my friends, I saw him bring his people together, I saw him empower heartbroken people to choose to rely on him and trust God instead of turning to despair. I grew to know him on a personal level, and clung to the verses: 

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your path straight.”
– Proverbs 3:5-6
“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
– 
Psalms 34:18 

When life gets hard, or when I am asked how I know that God is real, I always think back to this time in my life when I was desperately unsure of so many things. Through the pain of true heartbreak, one thing I did know for sure was that God was holding us close to him, and healing our broken hearts. I fully comprehended that this world is truly not our home, but there are better days to come.

 
 

Share your proudest moment. I can’t think of a specific moment, but on a very small scale, there are little moments in sometimes the most chaotic of days that I see how I helped one of my kids, or I see the relief and gratitude on a parent’s face, and in that moment I’m thankful for where God put me in life.

"I feel my purpose in life is to..." How would you finish this sentence? This question was hard for me. So many things seem unsure right now for me, I can’t even think about the future without feeling a little anxious and unsure. I’ve come to this: My Purpose is to love God and love others. REALLY love God, and REALLY love others. This means even on the days when I’m in survival mode, I need to depend on God’s love, and to truly show every person I come in contact with love every day. It’s not always about what you are doing, but how you are doing it. I want to do everyday life loving God and loving others, and if I’m doing that, the rest of the details of life will work themselves out.

 
 

To meet more Rubies, check out the rest of The Ruby Project! 

All images via That's Pretty Ace

The War Against Fear

The War Against Fear | That's Pretty Ace
 

So I was meeting with a friend over coffee last week (Mudsmith, order KC's Special, thank me later), and we were sharing with each other how fear had been consuming our lives the past few months... how it creeps in the backdoor and suddenly scares the crap out of you when you realize how big it's become. And then we started planning our war against it.

We had both just finished reading Celebration of Discipline, and there were several chapters weighing heavily on our hearts. I mentioned this book a few posts back when I talked about fasting – the way the book is set up is that each chapter focuses on a different spiritual discipline and lays out very simply how to live your life walking in them. I loved Richard Foster's gentle way with honesty (ex: "The Bible never says if you fast, it says when you fast..."). The chapter my brave friend and I started buzzing about was on prayer. Foster says, "To pray is to change. Prayer is the central avenue God uses to transform us. ... The closer we come to the heartbeat of God the more we see our need and the more we desire to be conformed to Christ." 

What was especially interesting were some other things I had listened to and read 24 hours before our meeting... the night before, I had tuned into the IF:Local Leader Vision Cast (round two) which was completely about prayer. Pastor Jim Cymbala was brought in to share how his church powerfully practices prayer in huge Tuesday night gatherings. He made the incredibly simple and impactful point that over and over in the Bible, God tells us to ask Him. "Seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you." Jim pointed out that God has immeasurable power to use through us, resources to give us – we need only to ask. Lauren Chandler was also brought on camera to chat about how she prayed through her husband, Matt's, battle with cancer (we are members at The Village, if you're curious!). Another thing that had happened that day was that I downloaded and began using the She Reads Truth app. I actually shared a segment Hayley Morgan wrote in that day's devotional on the power of Jesus and on prayer: 

"We shouldn’t kid ourselves and see Jesus as just a small piece of the answer. He shouldn’t be relegated to a brief prayer in the car on the way to work. He shouldn’t be the face we turn to on Sunday, while the rest of the week we try to go it alone. Author Nancy Guthrie says, 'When Jesus is small in our estimation, so are our courage and commitment.' We would be wise to see Jesus in all His greatness, believing Him to be our only answer, and throw off all our pride."

Dang. Talk about hitting me right in the heart. So my friend and I made a plan that night that we would be each other's prayer encouragement. That this month, we are putting on prayer as our armor and going to battle against our fears. We talked back and forth, sharing when we could find time to devote to quiet and prayer and listening. I mentioned praying on my runs. She mentioned setting an alarm for her and her husband to pray together each evening. I mentioned my friend Taylor, who sometimes keeps a sticky note on her computer monitor to remind her to pray every time she's done with a task at work. We talked about carrying our Bibles in our purses. We gathered up our weapons, and we're going to work. 

If you're in a place of fear – maybe you're like me and you were literally drowning in it – choose to fight. Fight with us. When I tell you that there's a war going on, that the devil is working to take your heart and capture it for himself right now, I'm 100% serious. Be watchful. Step back. Pick up your sword and shield and pray. It's the best defense you could ever ask for. 

Happy Friday!

A New Season

Unsplash via That's Pretty Ace
 

My heart is in 100 places at once. 

Growing old friendships. Meeting new people. Investing in my family. Learning to love my husband in new ways. Getting to know my city. Becoming a gentler co-worker. Constantly soaking up more and more of God.

I feel completely inadequate for the things being put on my plate... but I keep feeling God whispering to me:

"I am capable.

I can do these things through you if you let me.

I want you to share your life.

I'm bigger than your fears. 

I have plans for you, daughter."

My whole life has been turned upside down these past few months, and I feel wrecked in the most amazing way. Truly beginning to understand who God is and who He calls me to be changes everything in my life. It changes how I use what I've been given: my time, my money, my skills, my heart, my whole life. It changes how I treat everyone around me. It feels massively huge in my heart, like I'm awake for the first time. But when put simply, I'm learning how to walk with my God. There's an endless amount of learning to be done, and I'm so thankful knowing that there will never be a moment when I am "done" or "complete" on this Earth. My expectations of myself needs to radically change, and I'm thrilled God gives me the grace to do so. 


Here's where my heart is being led this month: 

  • Reading "Let's All Be Brave" with my 14-year-old sister, Blair. She's growing into the most amazing young woman, and often she and I don't get the chance to spend real time together. I searingly remember how hard being 14 was for me. I've been seeing this new book from Annie Downs pop up in my newsfeed for awhile now, and it looks like the perfect book for Blair and I to read together. Since we live in different cities, we'll be calling or Skyping once a week to catch up and discuss what we read. I'm looking forward to getting to know her heart better.
  • Investing in a specific group of girls who have been on my heart in a unique way. There are three other women who I've gotten to know better in this past year, and it was definitely a moment of God-inspiration when I realized how perfect they would all be as friends. Each of them had mentioned to me that they were seeking an intimate female community in their lives, and the way this came together just couldn't have been more perfect. Inspired by the IF:Table concept, we've committed to sharing dinner together in our homes once a month and asking the good heart questions. I personally have a bad history of fearing friendship, so sometimes you have to tackle things head-on, right?
  • Outserving Chris. Jamie Ivey wrote a blog post awhile back about "outserving" her husband – refusing to get caught up in her own selfishness and going out of her way to really love her husband well. I've been trying to find new ways to support Chris this past month as he's started his last year of law school, and having this perspective has really changed things for me. It's kind of amazing that all of the things I'd been longing for in our relationship have suddenly started coming to us so easily. We hear each other better, we have deeper and more challenging conversation (that doesn't feel accusing or purely logical – it feels so full of love), and have been doing a much better job of understanding how to attend to each other in the small ways (example: I forgot how much Chris loves head and back scratches – I don't think I've done that for him since we were dating!). 
  • Lastly, I'm working on building more margin into my weeks. Summer was full of so many social events... things every night of the week and multiple activities each weekend. I'm desperately wanting to make time to really study my Bible and my God (I have the longest list of books and sermons I'm wanting to read and listen to!). This summer I felt like I was being carried through a really hard time by getting to know people who poured love into me. I'm so thankful for that, and I think now I'm moving into a season where that still happens, but I need to also make room for myself alone. I know it'll be hard to stay on top of that, but I'm really looking forward to moving and growing in this way over the next month or two. 

I share all this to let you know that those things God is whispering to me... He's whispering to you, too. He's asking for you to flip up your palms and show him your open hands – to trust that He is good, and that He will produce the fruit in your life. He sees you, and loves you, and cares for you. He is strong, entirely capable, and filled with justice and mercy. 

Love y'all.