The Broken Sea Shells


I remember waking up early at the beach as a child, the first thing I heard was the crashing of the waves through the cracked sliding glass door to the hotel’s balcony. The first thing I saw was my Momma, wrapped up in a robe, sipping coffee and reading her Bible on the balcony, glancing up occasionally at the beach with such awe. Look what Jesus did. Look how massive. Look how constant.

That’s one of my best memories, and it’s funny, because the older I get, the more I think about times like those. No matter how far I wanted to walk down the beach or how many sea shells I tucked into my Momma’s hand, she always obliged my desire to find “just one more.” I’m so thankful she always encouraged my excitement, no matter how big or how small my passions might have been.

My favorite thing to do at the beach was always look for sea shells. To this day, I still call them “she” shells, and I have a large collection of the thousands of them I’ve picked up lovingly over the years. I still love looking for shells, and this weekend, I had the opportunity to do just that.

Isn’t it funny how we always look for those perfect shells? The unbroken sand dollar, the starfish that still has all five legs, the uncracked conch… What is it about us that makes us think only the seemingly unscathed shells are beautiful?

When I was walking down the beach staring at the broken shards of what were once probably beautiful shells, before they’d been crushed and tossed and jarred and cracked by the powerful force of the ocean, I couldn’t help but thank my Savior.

Oh, you’re broken, I don’t want you.

Oh, you’re damaged, I don’t want you either.

Look at that big crack! I can’t use you!

I’m so glad God doesn’t look at us that way. He loves us so much that He sees beauty where the world sees brokenness. He knows that the cracks we’ve earned in our hearts by being tossed around by the world have given us character, molded us, and often times, led us straight to Him. What you think are flaws make you beautiful in your Father’s eyes. What a gift.

You are altogether beautiful, my darling. There is no flaw in you. Song of Solomon 4:7

Eyes on the Prize

How do we, as Christians, decipher the difference between

Satan trying to keep us from something because he knows there is great potential for us to be blessed or used by God


God protecting us or asking us to wait for His best?

This is a question that I think every Christian faces at some point in their life, if not all the time (like me). Now, I’m in no way claiming that I have this all figured out, because I definitely do not, but I have learned a lot lately and today, I want to share my heart on the matter with you.

There is a very special place in my heart for Haiti. I had wanted to go for a long time before God opened the door for me to go for the first time in 2012. My first trip was overwhelming and eye-opening, but it was really my second trip that changed my life. Instead of going with no idea what to expect and spending the majority of the time “breaking down walls,” or what you might call getting to know the people, I arrived in Jacmel for the second time to friends, having earned their trust, and knowing (pretty much) what my time there would be like.

This December is my next trip to Haiti, and although I can hardly wait to be back on Haitian soil, it has been a very rocky emotional roller coaster leading up to it to say the least. I feel called to go, no question. I want to go, no question. But, somewhere, deep within my heart, I’ve kind of thought in the back of my mind for several months that I wasn’t actually going to go. I’ve thought that something isn’t quite right. I’ve focused on reasons why I shouldn’t go.

But here’s the key (and this was only revealed to me after prayer and seeking lots of Godly council)- if God is the one speaking to you, warning you, protecting you – He is most likely not going to do it through dissension and hurt feelings. I was allowing unforgiveness, frustration with lack of leadership, and sensitivity to distract me from the whole reason I’m going to Haiti in the first place (which is for Jesus). Instead of remembering that if God calls me, He will equip me, I was too busy thinking about what so-and-so did that made me mad, or how so-and-so left me out, or what so-and-so said that hurt my feelings. None of that matters. All that matters is my obedience to God, and that means tunnel vision. Not looking to the right, not looking to the left, but simply focused on the task God has set before me. Obedience to God is a prize.

It’s so clear to me now, that this lack of confidence and abundance of doubt came straight from Satan. John 10:10 says that “the thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy” and that’s exactly what he was trying to do to me. He was trying to steal my passion for missions, he was trying to kill my joy, and he was trying to destroy my desire to obey the call God has placed on my life. He filled me with such a feeling of unworthiness and lack of zeal for the adventure of service set before me. That’s not God. Jesus calls us to live an abundant life, and He loves us too much for this kind of confusion and hurt to ever come from Him.

I hope that if you are going through a similar struggle, this short little glimpse into what God’s laid on my heart has helped you and reminded you of His abounding love for us. You’re loved more than you’ll ever know by Someone who died to know you. Keep your eyes on the prize.

Confident Expectation

This past year has been nothing like what I imagined my first year in the “real world” would be.

I’m not sure what I thought this year would bring – it’s not like I was imagining some kind of fairy tale or anything – but whatever this was, was not what I had envisioned. All within a years time:

  • I graduated from college
  • I started a small business out of my home to fund the mission work we do in Haiti
  • I got my first dog (the sweetest, most precious golden retriever)
  • I made my first “big girl” purchase (a car)
  • I went back to Haiti, and Grayson went for the first time
  • We lost my grandmother, after an excruciating month in a coma-like state after having a massive stroke
  • Grayson and I bought our first home
  • We got married
  • We went on an amazingly wonderful honeymoon
  • I began my career
  • Grayson changed schools for the 3rd time in three years (because of moving)
  • We lost our Pastor who had been serving my church for my entire life, baptized me, and took me to Haiti for the first time
  • I lost my cousin, Tony, after he fought a horrible battle with cancer
  • Grayson’s home church burned to the ground right in front of our eyes

Needless to say, that’s a lot for anyone to handle. Those are some of my happiest and most devastating moments, and I honestly don’t know why the Lord allowed all of it to happen at once. But He did. And I know He loves me. And I’m stronger because of it.

This is the thing, though- I have been thinking about the fire at Bethlehem Baptist and wondering how to even begin writing about it, because I see it from lots of different perspectives. I see both the heartache in it all because of the precious memories there and the stress over finances for the people employed by the church itself or the daycare, but I also see the good that has already come from it, the unification of the community, and the opportunities for growth that God set into motion the very second lightening hit the steeple. As Christians, we know that God works all things together for good for those that love Him (Romans 8:28), and that truth is what got the wheels in my mind turning about a specific thought: expectation.

It seems like every time I think of the word “expectation,” it’s in some kind of negative context. Like, I have these expectations and they leave me disappointed if things don’t go like I thought they would or should. But, lately, God has convicted me about this word. Instead of having expectations about what I think things should be like, I should be waiting with confident expectation of what Jesus is going to do. For instance, my church is approaching what may be the end of our long-prayed-over pastoral search, after having a (wonderful, precious) interim for almost a year. We are so excited and there is a contagious new energy awaiting this position being filled that has put a spring into almost everyone’s step. It’s this situation that has got me thinking even more about expectation. Instead of expecting this new pastor to be a certain way or do things a certain way or handle things a certain way, I want to have no expectations other than what God is going to do. What if, instead of letting ourselves get disappointed when things don’t go as we expected, we asked ourselves the question: what is God trying to do through this?

It’s not always easy to approach life with this attitude, but I think the best way to train our minds to look at life like this is to constantly remind ourselves that Jesus sees the big picture, He wants us to have the best, most abundant life, and He can make beauty out of ashes.

Beauty out of Brokenness


I remember the first time I stepped foot inside Bethlehem Baptist. It’s resemblance to the church I grew up in was striking, the sun streaked through the stained glass that crisp, Fall morning, and I heard my at-the-time-boyfriend, now husband make that beautiful grand piano dance in a way you have to experience to truly understand. At that time, I had no idea I would be marrying that tall, charming boy there four years later, walking down that isle by candlelight dressed in white. No, I didn’t grow up at Bethlehem, I didn’t get baptized there, and I don’t know every one of its precious members by name, but it does have a very special place in my heart, it’s where I became one with the man God chose just for me. It’s in pieces now, just like the stained glass that we cherish so deeply, but I’m confident that Jesus is going to do amazing things through this tragedy, and make beauty out of this brokenness.

God’s Protection

It’s time for me to share a story. Some people dismissed the events I’m about to tell you about as “nothing,” and it may have very well been “nothing.” But next time, it may not be… and it could have changed from “nothing” to tragedy in just a fraction of a second.

A few months ago, as I was pulling up to church on Wednesday night for supper before prayer meeting, a car pulled over on the wrong side of the road across from the church caught my eye. When I got out of the car to go inside, I heard a rustling in the woods and saw a man wearing a masquerade mask standing in the woods, watching our church. Terrified, I called 911 immediately, and as soon as they pulled up, he ran to his car and sped off, clearly up to no good. They did catch the man a little ways up the road, but all they could fault him for was not wearing a seat belt.

I was shaking all over and something in my gut told me that something just wasn’t right, but what could we do? Prayer meeting began and I was sitting about midway up on the right side closest to the inner isle. About halfway through the service, I heard the double doors at the back of the church creak open, and as I turned my head, our eyes locked. It was the man in the masquerade mask, standing in the center of the isle at the back of the church. He was wearing a huge coat, his hair was disheveled, and his eyes were wild, darting from one side of the room to the other. He hesitated for a second, then took a seat a few rows from the back. My heart was beating out of my chest, and I decided that it was my responsibility to protect my family. I got up as calmly and discreetly as possible, walked out the back door, and called 911 again. He was back, they hadn’t stopped him, he had on a mask, he could have a gun. Help.

It only took a few minutes before the police surrounded our humble little church building. Our fearless leaders, Tony (youth pastor and associate pastor) and Josh (head of the deacons), who had been at Youth Meeting, had been alerted of what was going on, and came quickly, speaking to police, keeping the few people who were aware of what was happening calm, and letting the ladies working in the nursery know what was happening so they could get the children to a center room, and lock the doors.

During the service, Pastor Max was fearless. He stood bravely, behind the pulpit, and preached through what could have easily been his last sermon. The man in the mask moved from the back of the church up to the front during the middle of the service, making jittery movements, looking around, and fidgeting with the mask. It was the most terrifying moment of my entire life, and I watched through a window, as some of my precious church family in the pews began to pick up on what was happening. I watched as their eyes widened, then closed in prayer, asking God to protect us, and change this man’s heart if he had ill intentions.

After the service, I saw some people bravely greet him, thank him for coming, and walk away. He could have been an angel, for all we know, and of course we want everyone to feel welcomed at our church, but I don’t think he was. I think, sometimes you have to trust your instincts, and my instincts told me he came there to kill.

The police couldn’t just barge into the sanctuary and tell the man to leave, because technically he hadn’t done anything wrong, just suspicious. He could have just been crazy or mentally sick… or he could have been a gunman that changed his mind because he felt the presence of God. We will probably never know, but what I do know without a shadow of a doubt, is that God protected us that night, and He allowed us to see a glimpse of what people all over the world in countries that don’t have the freedoms we do in America face everyday. It was my worst nightmare coming true, and nothing mattered except Jesus. Yes, I knew that if I was to die that night, I would instantly be in the presence of the Lord, but it was so terrifying.

This morning, when I heard about the shooting that took place yesterday at the church in Charleston, it all came flooding back. I still remember every detail of that night as vividly as if it had just happened yesterday, and there will never be words to explain how grateful I am to God that He spared our lives. What happened in Charleston could have happened to us, and my heart goes out to the families dealing with the loss from this tragedy. It breaks my heart that we live in a world where evil is not only accepted, but embraced whole-heartedly, and everything seems to be tolerated except for Christianity.

It’s time for us, as Christians, to start speaking up, standing up for the religious freedoms that our country was founded upon, and sharing our stories.