the view from above


I have spent the last week exploring the South West of America. We saw a lot of dirt and not a lot of trees, beautiful mountains larger than life, a small band of 13 faithful Christians holding their church service in a conference room of the YMCA, a glitzy city called Vegas packed to the brim with LOTS of people, a stretch of 106 miles in Utah with no towns, rest stops, or even gas stations, and one of God’s many miraculous wonders called the Grand Canyon.

It was the farthest away I’ve ever been from my small Alabama town and probably one of the greatest things I’ve ever experienced.


From the top of the Gateway Arch, you can see the order of everything. You can see the way the roads connect and overlap one another and the thought that was put into planning each pathway. You can see the layout of St. Louis and the planning that went into its organization. You can see the paths that tiny looking people are walking and what their destinations will be.

From the top of the Las Vegas High Roller, you can see the city lights go on for miles and miles until they finally fade out into the surrounding desert. You can determine the beginning and end of the city.

From the top of the Grand Canyon, you can see the dips and ridges and valleys. You can see the pattern of the rocks and the layers upon layers of sediment that it took to create the height of the gorge. You can see the years and years it took to carve the canyon into what it is today.

Here on the ground, life can get spinny. You know?

There are people everywhere walking around you with all different opinions, backgrounds, culture, family systems, and beliefs and values. They argue and complain and condescend and discourage. There are deadlines and meetings and events and parties and people to please and standards to meet. There are decisions to make and success to create and a reputation to uphold and friends and family to care for.

And everything just sorta twirls around you all the time and you don’t ever think you’ll get a break because life is so demanding and just moves way too fast…

But from up above, it’s different.

It’s calm. Peaceful.

You can’t hear the noise below. You can’t hear the complaints and demands of people or the cars whizzing by or the booming parties drawing you in or the buzz of the due dates and events drowning your planner. You can’t hear the clock ticking the time away or the pressures and demands of life crying your name.

Everything has order and purpose.

We just can’t see that from the ground.

Which is why I’m glad that Someone is up above, without the noise and confusion, who can see the order and purpose in my life.

In fact- not only sees it- but arranges it.

While I’m down here running around clueless trying to go, go, go and do, do, do- He’s up there planning the beginning and ending of my story, and taking care of me all the steps of the way through.

This is why I can give my complete trust fully over to Him, because He does have a purpose and a plan. It’s a beautiful and immensely comforting thought to me that God watches over my life the same way as I looked over the streets of St. Louis- seeing the order and the plan.

The city is doing some major construction around the park surrounding the Arch. It took us a long time to figure out where we were going and how to make our way through all the construction zone mess. It didn’t look like it was going to be anything spectacular- there was fencing up everywhere and piles of dirt and bricks and machinery. There were sections of pathways that lead to nowhere and pipes sticking out of the ground. It just looked like a big mess and I thought how are they ever going to finish this, much less make it look appealing?

Once we got inside and traveled to the top of the Arch, I could see it. I could see how the pathways would eventually all connect and what each section of the park was going to hold- where different ponds, structures, flower beds and trees were going to be placed. Walking through it on the ground, none of it made sense- but looking down from the sky, I could see the layout of this grand design.

Which is exactly how God sees your life- orderly, planned out, and purposeful.

I don’t know what your life looks like right now- whether it’s messy and confusing, or maybe you’re looking down several different pathways and don’t know which to choose. Maybe you feel like you’re at a crossroads, maybe a big change is coming or maybe you feel as if your life is on hold. Maybe you’re looking at your current situation and you have no earthly idea how it could possibly work out.

Whatever the case may be, rest in the fact that your loving, all knowing, Father is looking down at your life at this very moment, and He can see the purpose, plan, and most importantly, the beauty in everything. Trust in His unwavering providence and grace in your life. Trust that He will guide you through the mess- so that you will eventually see the purpose and beauty and also the honor and glory of God through it all.



you don’t have to be pretty like her


I have a story.

On one particular Wednesday morning, I was running late for class. Having an hour long commute to school, and an 8 AM class preceded by a 5:45 AM alarm, this not an uncommon occurrence for me.


This morning, like many other mornings, my eyes were doing this really cool and unique thing where one is slightly more open than the other. I can wash my face, I can stretch my eyebrows, I can apply lotion, but nothing solves this problem. It’s great.

So, I have two options: put on a full face of make-up to the point where the smaller eye looks like it’s caved in (not a good option) or wear no make-up at all (a worse option).  On this particularly rushed occasion, I chose the latter.

So I run down the stairs after throwing on an outfit that I’m highly dissatisfied with because it makes me look like a safari tour guide and I begin to make my cup of coffee. My cup brews, so I pull out the milk and pour some in. And then I smell something.

And I look down at the expiration date and realize that I just poured spoiled milk in my coffee.

So no coffee today.

So here I am, no make-up, one eye half closed, unhappy with my outfit, and no coffee. And away to school I go.

In my first class that day, I meet a girl. She’s tall, literally the size of a toothpick, with a beautiful face, hair piled into a cute messy bun, and perfectly polished fingernails. She’s wearing athletic clothing, so she obviously must be in perfect shape, and her blonde straight hair definitely beats out my frizzy, air dried, semi-waves in any kind of imaginary beauty competition.

And I put her image up against my own in my mind. And nearly every ounce of self-esteem I had inside me drains out.

Lies spill into my heart telling me that I am not as pretty as I should be. I don’t try hard enough to look presentable for class. Why do I ever skip the make-up? I know I don’t look good without make-up. I am not who I should be. This girl must have her life completely together, I mean just look at her. She’s probably less clumsy than me, more feminine, more organized. She’s probably happier. Probably never misses an assignment. Probably has a clean room. Probably has a nicer car. The list goes on and on and on…

Unfortunately, this type of situation is not a rare one in my life. And I have a feeling it’s not rare in yours either.

What I’ve been trying to convince myself since that day, and the thought I hope you can sink into your heart is this: You are, by no means, under the obligation to strive to reach someone else’s standards of “perfection”. Because you are not placed on Earth to be someone else. You are not placed on Earth to please anyone else.

Someone else’s beauty does not take away from your own beauty.

Someone else’s skills and abilities do not take away from your own talents.

Someone else’s cute outfit does not take away from your own unique sense of style.

You don’t have to look, talk, dress, or act like that girl. You can look, dress, talk, and act like you.

You don’t have to be pretty like her. You can be pretty like you.

I have another story. It’s about a girl named Leah. Leah was a young woman who always seemed to come in second place to someone else.  The Bible tells us that Leah was pleasant, but her sister Rachel was beautiful (Gen 29:17). When a man named Jacob asked their father, Laban, for a wife, he was promised Rachel, but received Leah instead. When Jacob realized this he said, “What is this thou hast done unto me? Did not I serve with thee for Rachel? Wherefore then hast thou beguiled me?” Not only was Leah not as beautiful as her sister, but she also became a newlywed who was rejected by her own husband.

Don’t you have days that you feel a lot like Leah? Don’t have days when you feel as if you’re always second place to someone else, like you’re supposed to be so much more than you really are?

I have those days too.

God eventually blessed Leah to give Jacob a child. Despite the fact that this man has rejected her, Leah praised and thanked God for blessing her with a child to give Jacob (vs 35). Leah understood something that is should be such a precious reminder for all of us.

Leah understood that she was not placed there to serve people. She was not there to serve Jacob, to please her Father, or to try to live up to her sister’s standards. God placed Leah on Earth to serve and praise Him. And that’s exactly what she did. Leah was not beautiful like Rachel, but she was beautiful because she was a young woman who remained faithful to God and served and praised Him.

When you allow yourself to believe that you are not as good/pretty/skinny as other girls, you begin trying to please people more than you are trying to please God. You are admitting that others’ approval is more valuable to you than God’s approval.

Dear friend, you do not exist to please people around you.

You do not exist to win beauty contests, to win over all the boys, or to win anyone’s approval.

You exist to serve God.

You are not beautiful because of the color of your eyes, the color of your skin, the style of your hair, or the shape of your body. You are beautiful because God created you for Himself. You are beautiful because God is pleased by your praise and faithfulness. You will become so much more content with who you are when you have a firm grasp on what your purpose is- to serve God, to spread love, to honor and worship the One who made you beautifully and perfectly.


writing your own version of success


I have found lately that one of the most common things that people my age worry about is their success. Between conversations with many friends and family members, it seems like everyone spends all their time and energy on “making the mark”. They have to reach the goal. They have to make the grade. They’re worried about graduating on time or what they’ll do after they graduate. And if something doesn’t work out the way they’ve planned it, that automatically means they have failed.


The world defines success as: the accomplishment of an aim or purpose; the attainment of popularity or profit; a person or thing that achieves desired aims or attains prosperity.

That definition of success sits heavily inside me. The thought of my life being measured by whether or not I attain popularity or prosperity places a heavy burden on my heart. If you at the same stage as me in life, there’s a lot of pressure to begin figuring out what your life is going to look like and to start paving your “road to success”. You’ve got your five year plans, and benchmarks, and long term goals.

There’s a weight on a lot of us to make the grade, get the diploma, marry the rich guy, or get the 4.0 GPA. And your joy can easily be consumed by the wave of other people’s success. Other people’s success forces you to try to reach their standard. It causes you to push yourself farther and farther down a path that is eventually going to be damaging to your well-being.

We so often try to reach the mark that other people set for success. We try to measure up to their definition of success, the world’s definition, and not our own.

Well I’m writing my own definition of success. Because I don’t believe that my life is measured in bank accounts or report cards. I believe my life is measured in something less tangible, something that is more easily seen than felt.

I believe my life is measured in love.

My definition of a successful life includes building lasting relationships, learning all I can about life and love and people. It includes soaking in all the life-changing experiences that I can, and learning more about myself and what kind of person I want to be. I want my success to be defined by the moment that I can wholeheartedly announce, “God has been faithful and loving this far, and I trust that He will continue to be for the rest of my days”. I’m deciding that even if I don’t make the grade, have a 4.0 GPA, or get the dream job once I graduate, I will still lay claim to success as I have defined it.

Your definition of success isn’t going to look like everyone else’s. Your success doesn’t have to be measured in dollar amounts, diplomas received, job interviews scored, or trophies placed on your shelf. The success of your life can be measured in people, in the depth of your relationships, in the number of laughing fits that brought you to tears, and in the warmth of good conversations with your people.

I find that the Bible does not place a lot of importance on worldly success.

Colossians 3:12-14 says, “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness”

I cannot find anywhere in the Bible that says “go make lots of money and find a standard 9-5 office job with a three figure salary and only then will you be happy”.

In fact, Luke 12:15 tells me that “a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth”. Your life is not solely made up of the abundance of your riches. Your identity and your worth as a human being can never be placed on the amount of Earthly possessions you have.

That takes the pressure off. That statement alone relieves you of the burden to be successful. The weight of attaining the world’s definition of success can be crushing. It causes you to feel like a failure when you only barely missed the mark. The world’s definition of success will tell you that you’ll always have something or someone to measure up to, and since you fell short this time, that means you’ll always be a failure.

Your life is not measured in possessions.

Your worth is not measured by the success that the world has to offer.

It’s found in love. It’s found in the things penned down in Colossians: kindness, mercy, forgiveness, and patience. That verse in Colossians places importance on who you are, not what you have. Success as the world defines it will drain the life out of you. I wholeheartedly believe that rewriting your definition of success will cultivate more joy in your life that anything else ever could. Because this new definition of success brings you closer to God.

You know when I feel closest to God? When I’m pouring out love, forgiveness, and patience. When I’m kind and when I reach out to those in need. I don’t feel close to God when I’m studying or checking my grades or when my paycheck rolls in. I believe that our success as a person largely has to do with how much of God’s love we can fill ourselves up with, and then how much we can pour out.

At the end of my life I don’t care about being able to say that I made lots of money or had lots of diplomas or medals. I want to be able to say that I touched lives, that I gave love to people who maybe had never received it before, that I helped those in need, and that I poured out God’s love to everyone around me.

Find purpose and meaning in the definition of success that you find in God’s word, and let it sink into your heart. Relieve yourself of the pressure to “measure up” to those around you, and rewrite your own version of success. Remember that your worth is not found in tangible things like a bunch of “important” pieces of paper. Your worth is measured in something that’s a little harder to see, but much easier to feel, and much, much more valuable to God: love.