a love to receive

I’ve never felt the weight of what Jesus did on the cross for me until today.

It took two hip surgeries to get me here.

It took this long for me to understand what selfless love really is.

It took this long for me to learn how to simply receive.

Because this is my second hip surgery, that means it is my second year in a row hitting my out of pocket max with my health insurance – a reality I wasn’t quite financially prepared for, so when God stepped in and laid it on the hearts of some of His people to take care of my medical bills this time around, I was stunned. Unable to even process the magnitude of such a gift. 

I remember hearing the words, “We are going to pay for your surgery,” and I was left speechless.

How do you respond to such an extravagant, undeserved gift? “Thank you” feels too small, so inappropriate. 

And yet, it really happened and people who owe me absolutely nothing have come around me and given sacrificially to take away this financial burden I was going to have to carry by myself.

A gift of true selfless love that I did nothing to earn.

This is the second time in six months I have moved back in with my parents, taken over their bedroom, and asked them to become my caretakers. Keeping track of my meds, bringing me food, driving me to physical therapy, doing my laundry, massaging the muscles that hurt.

With no word of complaint, they stepped right into this role and have helped me when I was incapable of helping myself.

My friends and family have showered me with grace, treats, and words of encouragement. All things I would never expect, but feel so thankful for. 

When Crumbl cookies show up on my doorstep. When someone sends me dinner. When someone calls just to check in and see how I’m feeling. When someone gives me a gift or brings flowers. When someone offers to give me a ride. When someone takes me to dinner to get me out of the house. When someone offers to carry my bag for me. When someone listens to me vent my frustrations and disappointments. 

It’s one thing after another where I’m showered in something representative of undeserved love.

Earlier this afternoon I had a meltdown. I knew it was coming. I could feel it brewing this past week and today as I sat on the back porch with my mom, I broke and the flood of emotions came rushing.

I said, “I’m so tired of needing help from people when I can’t return the favor and help them. I feel like I’m only taking and not giving.”

My mom so kindly reminded me that it’s only for a season, and one day I will have the chance to give back, but for now I just need to accept the help. Nothing more.

No one expects me to repay them. They helped and gave because they wanted to. Because they loved me.

A few hours later, still emotionally overwhelmed and struggling to maintain composure, I showed up at church to be sure everything was ready to go for our Good Friday service happening that evening. I saw my boss and pulled him aside to ask him a question about next week and how he wanted me to handle a scheduling issue because of my current limitations.

Without asking for any sort of explanation from me, he told me to do what I needed. To give my body the rest it needed. To give my mind the space it needed. 

He assured me that my church cared far more about how I recovered than what I could offer them right now. 

When the conversation was over, I crutched my way back to my seat and the tears began to flow.

In an instant, I became so overwhelmed with the kindness, patience, and love that everyone was showing me in this season of life.

I sat and wept over the financial sacrifices people were making to free me of the financial burden of this surgery. I wept over the kindness and grace my coworkers and bosses were showing me. I wept over the way my village was stepping in to help me and shower me in love before I even asked for any of it.

In that moment, I was overcome with gratitude, but struggling with one thing – I have done nothing to deserve any of the love people are showing me.

And as I sat there, the weight of that truth rested heavily on my shoulders. 

I am a less effective employee right now, but my job is showering me in kindness and grace. I am a less intentional and helpful and fun friend right now, but my friends are continuing to show up for me. I am a helpless emotional wreck right now, but my family is caring for my needs each day.

None of the love they are showing me is deserved. It is all just pure selfless love.

And I get the gift of being able to receive that love. Nothing more is asked or expected of me.

And that is beautiful. And life-giving. And heart transforming.

As I sat and wept over this truth, Jesus stepped in and whispered something to me. He said, “Morgan, this – this pure selfless love –  is the story of the cross. You did nothing to deserve My sacrifice. You didn’t earn it. You didn’t have to work for it. I gave up My life for you because I love you. And you don’t have to repay Me. You don’t owe Me anything. It was My gift to you. Because I love you. Your job is simply to receive the love. That’s all.”

An hour later as we took communion during the service, I ate the cracker and drank the juice like I always do, but this time it was different.

This time I felt the weight of the gift of His sacrifice in a way I never had before.

You see, I’ve always been someone who wanted to give more in a relationship than receive. I’ve always wanted to “add” to someone’s life rather than “subtract” from it. 

But for the first time in my life, God has brought me to a place where I am incapable of giving in the way I am used to, and I have had to learn to receive. To receive help. Kindness. Grace. And love.

Pure selfless love from those around me.

And in experiencing what it feels like to be showered in undeserved love, Jesus finally helped me feel the weight of what He did on the cross for me.

I see it. I get it. I feel it.

I feel that love. A love I don’t have to earn, repay, or work for. A love I’m simply supposed to receive.

And the same goes for you.

Jesus died on the cross for you not because you earned it. Not because you deserve it. Simply because He loves you.

And He expects nothing in return. You aren’t expected to go serve at church to repay Him. You aren’t expected to tithe to repay Him. You aren’t expected to move to another country and become a missionary to repay Him. All of those things, serving Him and loving His people, are good things, but He is not sitting around waiting for you to make yourself worthy of His sacrifice.

You were found worthy of this gift because your Father saw you, chose you, and wants to spend eternity with you.

It was a gift of pure selfless love . A love you’re simply supposed to receive.


a reason to rejoice

Tonight as I sang Christmas carols with hundreds of people, I had a moment. One of those moments where you can just feel His nearness. Sense His peace. Feel the warmth of His embrace. And even more so, a moment that fills you with hope.

Tonight as I looked out at the people who filled the seats, I couldn’t help but grin from ear to ear. The room was filled with faces of so many people I know and love dearly. The faces of fellow believers I’m fighting alongside for His glory, His name, and His Kingdom.

We stood and sang songs about the joy that comes with the birth of our Savior, the angels singing praises on the night He was born, and how in a season such as this, we are reminded of the power that comes when we take a posture of adoration. And then during the fourth song we sang a line in O Holy Night that says, “A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks, a new and glorious morn.”

A weary world rejoices.

Weary.

I don’t think I could come up with a better word to describe the overarching state of people right now. People are worn out. Run down. And flat out exhausted.

Everywhere I turn, people are getting hit left and right and no one seems to be catching a break.

It feels a bit like we are all stuck on a hamster wheel and can’t find a way off. At the beginning of 2020 we were just minding our own business, when all of a sudden someone named COVID gave the hamster wheel a big spin and it has been swirling and swirling ever since. At first we were able to put on our best running shoes and stay on our feet. But overtime, we have grown tired - weary - and we’ve lost our footing. We are now flat on our face being thrown around on this hamster wheel while it just keeps spinning and spinning.

No resolutions have come about. Tensions are still high. Life is still muddy and uncertain.

And people are weary.

I know I am. It’s not exactly COVID that impacted my last two years, but rather a massive change in my career, new callings I stepped into that stretched and challenged me, a big surgery that has taken a huge toll on me emotionally, physically, and financially, changing family dynamics, and my continued attempt to navigate this thing called life.

I am tired.

And while for months I kept telling myself that a break was coming, one day when I sat down to look at the calendar and think about when that moment might come, I realized it wasn’t.

You see, life doesn’t stop and it doesn't slow down. The hamster wheel just keeps spinning and if we put our hope in the belief that a moment will come when the hamster wheel will stop and we will be able to catch our breath, we are going to find ourselves utterly disappointed. Because the reality is, that moment isn’t coming.

People will continue to fail you. Relationships will continue to have their challenges. Sickness will continue to creep into the lives of those you love. Finances will continue to cause a bit of a headache. Fighting for a well balanced healthy life will continue to take discipline. Your children will continue to frustrate you and make mistakes.

Sin will continue to permeate this world. And what comes from sin is what causes us to be weary. So until our time on earth is done, the hamster wheel will continue to spin.

As we sang the song O Holy Night and I looked out at the faces of those who filled the church, I could just feel it - they were weary. I could have pointed to one person after another and told you something going on in their life I knew was painful and hard. I knew that room was full of broken, hurting, and tired people. People who wish the hamster wheel would just stop spinning for a moment.

But in the midst of all that weariness, I also could feel the hope. I could see it in their eyes and hear it in their voices.

Because you see, the story doesn’t end there.

As the song says, our weary world has a reason to rejoice.

We have a reason to hope.

Tonight we sang songs and lit candles to remember the gift that was given to us. The gift of our Father desiring to step into our lives in such a real and personal way that He sent His Son in the sweetest and purest and humblest of ways to bridge the gap between Him and us.

And because of that, we can rejoice.

We know the hamster wheel won’t stop spinning. We know the problems will keep coming. We know the war will continue to wage on. We know the fight isn’t over.

But our hope isn’t in the resolution of our problems. Our hope is in the One who reigns over our problems.

Is life going to get easier? Probably not. Is life going to slow down? Probably not. Is life going to start being less painful? Probably not. Will the weariness go away? Probably not.

But amidst that weariness, is hope and a reason to rejoice and it came in the form of a sweet little baby wrapped in cloths lying in a manger.

He is the reason we rejoice. He is our hope.

Your hamster wheel will continue to spin. A break from life like you want probably isn’t coming. But take heart and find hope in the truth that because of our sweet Savior, you can be weary and still rejoice.


one step at a time

So often this is my prayer: “Make clear my next step.”

Not my next five steps, ten steps, or next mile.

“Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, ‘This is the way you should go,’ whether to the right or to the left.”

Isaiah 30:21

“We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.”

Proverbs 16:9

So many different times the Bible tells us our Father will guide us. He will make clear the path before us.

But the Bible never promises He will reveal the whole path to us. That He will show us the destination before we begin our trek.

It just tells us He will guide us as we go.

One of my favorite things in this whole world – aside from Jesus, my family, friends, and donuts – is summiting Colorado 14ers.

I’ll spare you my enormous passion-filled soap box speech about how immaculate and magnificent they are and instead just help you imagine one piece of it.

As most everyone knows, Colorado weather is highly unpredictable. We can go from sunshine, to rain, to snow, and back to sunshine in a matter of an hour. While this can annoy some people, personally I think it adds to the adventure of life and it keeps us humans a little more flexible. That’s the enneagram 7 in me…always wanting more adventure and more fun.

Anyway, at an elevation of 14,000 feet, you often run into afternoon storms, which can be detrimental. Your goal, and plan, is to get up and down as fast as you can before you catch yourself hustling down a slippery slope and seeking shelter. The best way to do this is to get an early start, and best early starts are in the dark.

When you start before sunrise, your path is illuminated about five feet in front of you with your headlamp, so aside from those five feet, you can’t see anything else. You simply follow the guiding light one step at a time trusting it is the way you need to go.

While it has a different and a bit of an uncomfortable feel to it, I always say my time spent climbing in the dark is so sweet because I don’t have the chance to get worked up about what’s coming next. If there is a massive hill to climb, I can’t see how long it goes for or how big it is. Instead, I just take one step at a time slowly gaining mileage and elevation.

Most of the time, whether I’m summiting a 14er or just making my way through life, I have found that seeing too much of the journey at once can be debilitating.

There is one reason our Father doesn’t reveal our whole life to us at once.

He knows we can’t handle it.

If we knew the trials, challenges, obstacles, and tough times we were going to encounter in life, we would panic and find ourselves full of fear or potentially even change courses to try and keep ourselves from those experiences.

Naturally, we want to take the easiest, most painless route.

But if we do that, the destination is disappointing.

We might find ourselves in the wrong relationship because staying in it seemed easier than ending it.

We might find ourselves in a career we have no passion for because fear stopped us from pursuing our calling.

We might find ourselves lonely and isolated because we aren’t willing to give the effort that is required to find community and close-knit friendships.

But the truth is - the easy route doesn’t equal the fruitful route.

Life is better lived in the dark where you can see what’s right in front of you and nothing more.

A five-foot radius around us is about all we need.

Looking back, we can see some of our past, on either side we have access to those closest to us, and in front of us we see the next step we have to take.

Anything more and we would flounder.

We may not know our destination, what trials are coming our way, or exactly what our route is going to look like, but we can trust the light guiding us. 

“Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.”

Psalm 119:105

When we ask Him, He will always show us the next step.


hold tighter

I love Colorado for so many reasons, one of them being the weather.

While some complain about the reality that in a matter of 24 hours we can go from sun, to rain, to hail, to snow, and back to sun, I find it endearing. It’s fun. It’s unpredictable. And it keeps you flexible.

But more than that, you know it’s only temporary. 

The hot summer days mean cooler weather is just around the corner. The rain storms never last long and the snow melts the next day.

Whatever the weather, it’s only for a season...a few hours, a few days, or a few months. 

And that brings me joy - to know I’m not trapped in the current season forever and that change will come. 

It also encourages me to relish in the seasons I love. 

When May rolls around and we get that first day with temperatures in the low 70’s, you better believe I’m out basking in the sun because for the last six months I’ve been waiting for a day like this. 

But then when that first snow comes in late fall, you would think I’d never seen a snowflake in my life. For me, it’s tradition that on the first snowfall of the season to-do lists are replaced with hot chocolate and Christmas movies. 

The budding flowers in the spring make me grin. The fall colors in October make me swoon. 

Because each season is fleeting, I hold onto it more. I take it in. I try to appreciate it. 

And on the days I don’t like the weather, I just wait a few minutes for it to change.

The book of Ecclesiastes reminds us that the weather isn’t the only thing made up of seasons, our life is too.

 

There is a time for everything,

and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,

a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

a time to search and a time to give up,

a time to keep and a time to throw away,

a time to tear and a time to mend,

a time to be silent and a time to speak,

a time to love and a time to hate,

a time for war and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Our life is a compilation of different seasons. Seasons of financial success or financial distress. Marriage bliss or marriage turmoil. Expanding families or losing loved ones. Saying yes to new opportunities or saying no in search of rest. Health and wellness or fighting disease. Times of loneliness or times of budding relationships. The options are endless. The seasons are ever changing. Nothing is forever.

And because of that, there are two important things we must remember.

First, this too shall pass. If you are looking for change, it will come. The change may not come as soon as you want it to, but life won’t be like this forever. And until that change comes, your Father is walking alongside you, giving you the strength needed to keep fighting, keep showing up, and keep going. 

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

Second, hold tightly to the seasons you love because they too are fleeting.

One of the greatest gifts given to me was the chance to teach second grade. Growing up I dreamed of being a teacher and when it finally came true I couldn’t believe it. My time in the classroom was so sweet and wonderful. I loved every minute and never imagined it would end so soon. But after four years of teaching, my Father told me it was time to end that chapter and step into a new one. And now I find myself saying, “Had I known that season was going to end so soon, I would have held tighter to the moments. I would have complained less and appreciated more. I would have slowed down to enjoy every moment rather than rush through the hours. I would have thanked my Father more rather than have taken the opportunity for granted.”

When I find myself sitting at the dinner table with all the people I love, I do my best to take it all in. I try to put the phone down, forget the to-do list, and stop the hurry. Because right now dinner with my whole family is nothing out of the ordinary, but I know that one day I will look back and wish I had recognized that those moments were actually extraordinary.

When I drive to church on Sunday mornings, I take time to thank my Father for the opportunity to lead worship that day. It was a dream I never imagined would come to fruition, but one I never want to take for granted. I never want to assume there will be a “next” time. 

Prior to the pandemic of 2020, traveling was something I loved. Now, after experiencing a season of it being taken away, traveling is something I cherish.

Here’s what I’m trying to say - relish in the seasons you love. 

Appreciate the job you have. Find joy in the energy of your young kids. Be good stewards of the time you have with your spouse. Be wise with the financial success He has given you. Love the people around you.

Right now I’m sure you are at the beginning, middle, and end of many seasons, despising some and loving others. 

So, take heart. Just as the Colorado weather is ever changing, so is your life. He has it all sorted out and it’s our privilege to just ride it out. 

And please, hold a little tighter to the good things, because what might feel ordinary right now will one day classify as extraordinary.


our daily bread

Growing up with brothers, you learn a few lessons very quickly. 

First, be ready to roll down the window at any moment during a car ride.

Second, as soon as they become bigger than you, utilize your gift of tattling rather than trying to solve a disagreement with physical contact.

And third, eat fast.

You see, when we sat down for dinner and Mom put fresh crescent rolls on the table (this was before someone ruined all the fun and broke the news that Pillsbury was not nutritious) we were only allowed to take one at a time. Once you ate everything on your plate, then you were allowed seconds. Well, each Pillsbury can makes eight crescent rolls. There are six people in my family. Do you see the dilemma? 

So while it was natural for my brothers to scarf down their food like typical boys, I learned very quickly that if I didn’t do the same thing, I would miss out.

As kids, our mindset was never about rationing the food so we could have leftovers and make Mom’s life easier. Instead, when we sat down at the table we were worried about one thing - eating enough so we weren’t hungry going to bed.

As a kid, having enough of something meant that it met our needs at that very moment. 

We had enough food if everyone walked away from the table with full bellies.

We had enough money if you could buy what was needed that day.

But somewhere along the process of maturing and growing up, we began to believe that having enough of something equated to having a surplus.

Our nation is used to surplus. Extra is just a way of life.

But, here’s the thing, when it comes to provision of needs, surplus and extra are not guaranteed.

In Exodus 16 we find the Israelites about two months into their escape from Egypt on their way to the Promise Land and believe it or not, the situation is unfolding just like your family road trips do. 

It tells us that the whole community was grumbling against Moses and Aaron saying, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.

Parents, sound familiar? (I can hear my mom giving a resounding “Amen” right about now.)

After finding freedom from slavery, walking through the parted Red Sea, and finding safety on the other side, they all question whether or not God is going to provide them with food to eat.

How often do we do this? Day after day He provides, and yet we still question where our next meal, paycheck, or bout of strength is going to come from.

But here’s what I love, God hears them, answers them, and provides...no questions asked.

God tells Moses that in the evening He will give the people quail and in the morning He will give them manna. They are given clear instruction to only gather what is needed for that day, and nothing more, except on the sixth day they are to gather double the amount and prepare it so that on the Sabbath they are able to rest.

“The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. And when they measured it by the omer, the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little. Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed.”

Those last few words are what we need to really focus in on…”just as much as they needed”.

They didn’t end up with what they wanted, what made them comfortable, or loads of surplus - they got what they needed that day.

And I love this…“Then Moses said to them, ‘No one is to keep any of it until morning.’ However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell.”

It even tells us that some people went out on the seventh day to gather manna even though God had already provided for their needs that day.

We have been a people wanting surplus and extra from the beginning of time. Why? Because it makes us feel comfortable. It provides predictability and stability. 

But what happened when the Israelites tried to create leftovers from their daily portion? The food went bad. 

In Matthew 6:11 we are taught to ask for our daily bread.

So, what happens when we try to ration our daily bread? Things go bad.

If we skimp on eating, we get hangry (and leftovers never taste as good).

If we hold back on paying something off, interest accumulates and it becomes more expensive.

If we hold out on giving generously when He asks us to, we miss a chance to be Jesus to someone who needs it.

If we go through our day trying to ration our patience, kindness, and love so we have extra for tomorrow, we miss the opportunity to represent who He is to the world.

Each morning He promises to give us exactly what we need for the next 24 hours - nothing more and nothing less - and it is our job to be good stewards of those resources. To use them fully to honor Him and to trust that tomorrow when we wake up, He will refresh the areas of depletion to the right amount.

If we lived a life of surplus and extra when it came to our daily needs, what use would we have for Him on a daily basis? 

Believing that every 24 hours He will show up and provide is an exercise of trust and faith.

It leaves us desperate for Him. Lost without Him. And hungry to see Him show up. 

It reminds us on a daily basis that without Him, we have nothing. That He is our daily bread.


a life of privilege

A friend said to me, “Once you see it, you can’t unsee it.”

I didn’t know what she meant, until I knew what she meant.

I can’t unsee it.

And I had no idea.

I had no idea that mistreatment of black people did not end with the Civil Rights Act back in 1964.

I had no idea that black people still encountered racism on a continual basis.

I had no idea that black people had to be so fearful and so careful.

I had no idea that so often black people are told they are less and are treated like they are less.

I had no idea the reality black people are living in.

I admit. I am white and I am privileged.

Privilege is defined as a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group.

Before this week, I believed privilege was most related to your monetary status and the family, friends, and support group that was around you.

Because of that, I would have told you that my sister and I would experience the same amount of privilege in this world.

Now, I see that I am wrong.

You see, my sister is half black.

We were raised by the same parents. We were surrounded by the same family. We were given the same opportunities, yet, I’m not sure that matters as much as I thought it did.

Before this week, I never feared her being mistreated because of the color of her skin. I simply wasn’t willing to let that thought enter my mind. I allowed myself to believe that all people saw her the way I did- perfect, beautiful, and a true treasure gifted to this world.

Now, I’m not so sure everyone will see that.

If in our country privilege has to do with the color of your skin, then I have to fear for her.

I have to worry that my sister, my special girl, might encounter someone who chooses to see her color before they see her heart. I have to worry that someone might decide her story before she even gets to tell it. I have to worry that someone might silence her voice even though she has big things to say.

And I am just not okay with that.

I will not stand for any of it.

You see, this country has it all confused.

Privilege isn’t something earned. It isn’t something granted.

It doesn’t have to do with your monetary statues, your family history, your race, your gender, or how hard you try.

True privilege is offered. And it is offered to all.

“God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” Ephesians 1:5

This is privilege. Privilege is having the special right and opportunity to be adopted into God’s family. Privilege is experiencing immunity from the hell that awaits us at the end of our life.

This truth, the opportunity to be set free and saved for eternity, is the true equalizer.

Our Father saw EACH ONE OF US, every single one of His children, and desired that they might come to know Him and be saved.

He hoped that each one would choose to gain access to the privilege of what it looks like to be called a son and a daughter of the most high King.

This isn’t just offered to the wealthy. It isn’t just offered to the whites. It isn’t just offered to the people who live a good life. It is offered to everyone.

Every color. Every race. Every gender. Every personality. Every murderer. Every sinner. Every cheater. Every liar.

EVERYBODY.

I have learned a lot in this last week, but I realize that I have so much further to go. I have only seen the tip of the iceberg.

As I told my sister the other day: I will never pretend to know what you are going through, but I will do everything in my power to learn and understand so that I can support you and stand with you when the time comes.

That time is now.

As I sat and listened to her share about the moment in class when someone called her “negro”, my heart broke.

I knew it had happened, but I could hear in her voice as she shared about it again, how much it truly hurt her.

There is no easy answer to all of this except that we are called to be Jesus to everyone and recognize that He chose us all.

Our Father tells us to pray for those who persecute us. To love our enemies.

He touched those that no one would come near. He ate with the people that were hated by all. He prayed for the people that murdered Him.

Here, on earth, many of my brothers and sisters have and are experiencing real and deep seated pain because of the color of their skin.

I am sorry. I wish I could fix it.

But, the hope I can offer you in this desperate time, is that a life of advantage, opportunity, and immunity is offered to YOU.

Your Father adopted you into His family. With that comes endless joy, peace, love, and grace. Your troubles will continue on Earth, but the hope of eternity spent with Him is awaiting you.

I can’t unsee it. And although it hurts, I am glad I now see it, because rather than live a privileged life that results in a naive life, I can choose to walk alongside all my brothers and sisters and love them in their pain.

It is easier to turn the other way and pretend this isn’t happening, but that’s just not how a family works.

WE ARE A FAMILY.

HE IS OUR GREAT EQUALIZER.

WE ARE ALL OFFERED A LIFE OF PRIVILEGE.

It doesn’t mean everything will be perfect here on Earth, but it does mean that we better love the way He loves while we are here.

Choose to offer grace. Choose to lavish in love. Choose to rest in the hope, joy, and peace that comes from the privilege you’ve been offered through a life lived with Him.

 


a chance for redemption

This past weekend I got to go to my spot. The spot where the world seems silent and all I can hear is His gentle voice.

It’s been a place of refuge for me for so many years. I can think of countless moments in my life where I have felt helpless and the only thing I could think to do was head to my spot, so I could meet with my Father. Rest in His arms. Hear His gentle whispers. Be filled with His peace.

See, up at my spot, there are no distractions. Only mountains that extend forever and remind me of His power and His sovereignty. At my spot, I am both reminded of my weakness, but also the strength He equips me with. Up there every voice is silenced other than His. Every worry seems small. Every fear becomes powerless.

I have wrestled with my Father up there. I have cried out to Him for answers. I have begged Him for guidance. And every time, He comes through. He comes through because He’s always there. Always present. Always faithful. And never fails His children.

I have sat in the same spot for years and looked at the same mountains, but somehow it never gets old. They never lose their grandeur and I never cease to be amazed by them. One of my favorite sections is a part of the mountains that were burned during the wildfire many years ago. These mountains were burned to the core. They were stripped of everything and left with nothing but ashes.

This is exactly how I have felt these last few months. Like I have been burned to the core. Stripped of so many things I thought I knew. I now feel completely naked. Fully exposed. Beat up and tired.

It’s exhausting. It’s defeating. It’s scary to be in a place where you are reminded of your humanness and deep need for Someone else to carry you. It is hard when you come face to face with the reality that life will hurt, it will be confusing, and it will not go as you had planned.

Yet, at the same time I am feeling all of those things, I feel like I am standing stronger than ever.

You see, these last few months my Father has taken so many things that I thought I knew to be true, things that I was finding safety in, things that are no longer for me...and He took them from me. In the most loving way possible He broke down walls and barriers inside my heart that I didn’t even know existed. He revealed to me a part of my heart I didn’t even know was there. He has planted dreams in my heart and shredded my plans for the future. He has left me completely vulnerable, entirely bare, and fully surrendered.

These mountains lost all of their trees. Before the fire, they were full of them. But now that the trees are gone, you can see so much more. You can see every crevice and every hill. You can see the charred wood. You can see the evidence of the disaster that took place. You can see the story of the mountain etched into every little detail.

My heart is no different. There is this freedom I now feel. Like the chains that had once been holding me back are no longer there. All sense of control has been lost and I’ve simply given it all to Him knowing He will do great things. When I take a look at my heart, I can now see so much more of my story and who I am. My desire for perfection. My obsession with control. My need to know it all. All of those things have been burned and rid of. The story of what He has done in me and through me is etched all over my heart and if you look close enough, you can see the details of it all. Real hopes and dreams revealed. Fears vanished. Newness awakening.

While I have experienced so much transformation in these last few months, it is a daily choice I must make to wake up and choose to let Him do a work in me. Some days it’s easier than others. At times I feel a lightness to my step like never before and surrendering comes easy. Other days though, it’s a struggle to sit down and feel His peace. It takes work and dedication. It is a never ending process of laying it all at His feet and saying, “Here I am Father. Here’s all of me. Use me. Mold me. Transform me.”

My favorite part of these mountains is the new growth you can see. Because of its bare state, the baby pine tree that stands one foot tall is seen and celebrated. Eventually, the new growth spreads and something healthier and stronger is created.

It is the same with my heart. Without all the lies and idols, I can now see the newness He is awakening in me. The things He is growing. The dreams He is planting.

Rather than a heart covered and overwhelmed with my expectations, my desires, my plans, my fears, my cares, and my needs, I now have a heart fully exposed. Completely naked. Utterly vulnerable. Sprouting with new growth. I have a heart that tells a story of His redemption for me.

I believe that right now, this redemption is also happening within our world.

As a society we had ourselves completely covered up and overwhelmed. Our schedules were full. We spent more time at work than with our family. We swept problems we were having with our marriage under the rug. Our financial choices were selfish and unwise. We sought experiences to capture and compare rather than seeking conversations and time with the people we loved most. We took for granted the opportunities that surrounded us and the ability to live freely. We forgot that going to school was a gift. We began to lose sight in the power of a hug. We talked to our Father when it was convenient and served His people when it seemed easy. We chose to care about ourselves and ignore the power of helping others. We as a society created a culture that left no room for new growth. We suffocated ourselves. We were unwilling to shift our focus and unwilling to be better.

And now here we are. Completely naked. Fully exposed. Helpless. Desperate. Beat up and tired.

We are finally stripped of all that has held us back.

And now, we have a chance for new growth. We have a chance for redemption. We have a chance to come out stronger. To come out better. To come out more beautiful than ever before.

Maybe, just maybe, this was the wake up call we needed. We might have ignored the voice of God before. But now, we have no reason but to listen.

So, let’s rise up and be better because of this. Because He was not surprised by any of this. He still reigns as King. He is still all-powerful. He is still victorious.

We were a society who refused to rest and we are now being forced to rest. To be still before Him.

What will we do with that rest and stillness? What will you do?

Will we allow Him to work in us and through us? We will face our problems head on and decide to invite Him in to bring redemption and healing to situations? Will we ask Him who we can serve and how we can love those who need it most? Will we choose to rest in His promises or allow the fear and unknown to rattle us to our core?

Never again will we experience a time like this.

We have been stripped down. We are exposed. We are vulnerable.

Will new growth sprout from us? Will we come up healthier and stronger than ever? Will we allow Him to do a miracle in our society like never before?

I urge you…do not let this season pass you by. Fall to your knees. Cry out for Him. Ask Him to do a work in you. To heal what is broken. To redeem what has been lost. To equip you to serve and love His people like never before.

I pray that years and decades later we look back at 2020 and are reminded of the miracle He performed in our nation and our world. That we will remember 2020 as the year we were awakened, renewed, and transformed. That we will look back and know that we did not let this season pass us by, but instead that we pressed into this season and came out looking more like Him.

 


grace upon grace

Dear Maliyah,

Before you, I lived in a box.

A box where people who didn’t do the right thing didn’t fit. Those who struggled to be kind couldn’t be a part. And if they had a hard time making friends they didn’t belong there.

My box was for those who didn’t have struggles. The people who were perfect. The ones who had it figured out.

And my box was a very empty place. Just me and my judgmental thoughts.

Then you came along.

And you smashed that box into a million pieces

I have a good life. Many might say it’s an “easy” life…not one without problems, loss, frustration, and all the other things that are guaranteed, but one that from the outside looks pretty picture perfect.

I’ve made friends easily. I always did well in school. I never had problems fitting in. I am disciplined and orderly in all I do. I find joy in most everything.

Life just came easy for me.

And while that sounds wonderful and like something to be envied, my “easy” life is so much of the reason I began building this box around me.

A box where my expectations of people were not realistic. Where my standards for all those around me were incredibly unattainable and only set people up to fail. Where my judgmental thoughts flowed much too freely.

This made my world was so small.

And then you came.

In all of your squishy, cuddly, baby perfection, you came and showed me a world outside of my box.

A world where we all were designed to live. A place where imperfection is expected and even encouraged.

Maliyah, you were born with a story.

We picked you up from the hospital two days after you were born and as a thirteen-year-old girl, all I could see was a six-pound bundle of perfection. A baby girl I was going to love forever. The cute outfits, baby giggles, and snuggles consumed me.

I didn’t know enough to predict what would come next.

There were first steps, smiles, and baby jabber. Eventually it led to preschool, learning to swim, and getting excited about Santa…all the wonderful things that come with the first few years of life. Then, it went onto kindergarten, learning to make friends, trying out different sports, having your first sleepover…all those big milestones. Those childhood years that should be perfect and fun.

But they weren’t always like that for you.

Along with all those wonderful moments came other things. The understanding of what it means to be adopted and the struggle of coming to terms with that. The reality of family genetics and the impact it had on you. The hard truth that life isn’t always “easy” for everyone.

All of those seemingly perfect and easy moments weren’t often perfect and easy with you. Because while you were trying to navigate this thing called life, you were also trying to fight the battles that came with your story.

You still are.

You see, so many moments in time when you have not responded the way I would expect someone to respond, my only thought is, “Morgan, you don’t know what it’s like to be in her shoes. To be adopted. To carry the weight she carries daily. You just have no idea.” 

When you would get angrier than ever, when you would say unkind things to me, when you would panic over something that didn’t even matter…I thought the same thing over and over, “You have no idea what it is like.”

My grace for you was so immense, because my love for you was unconditional. There was nothing you could say and nothing you could do to keep me from covering you in that grace.

You see, grace was not a part of my vocabulary before you were born. There was right and wrong. There was reward and consequence. No in between.

But with you, I discovered the in between.

Grace.

Slowly but surely, over the years this grace has begun to permeate so many of my other relationships.

As I learn people’s stories, encounter people different from me, or hear of someone’s struggles, I think of you.

I think about your story, your battles, your heart…and I can’t help but think, “Morgan, you have no idea what it is like to be in their shoes. You have no idea what else is going on.”

That box where no one fits has been smashed to pieces.

I now understand that behind each action, each word, and each person is a story. It could be one full of blessings or it could be one that includes shame, guilt, heartbreak, abuse, fear, addiction, or mental illness…we just never know.

God never designed His children to build boxes. He created us to live in unison with one another, lifting each other out of the pits, and celebrating the triumphs together.

And this can only come when we adopt a heart of grace.

People are going to drive us insane. People are going to make us angry. People are going to do weird things. People are going to be annoying.

And this is where I now say…grace upon grace.

“For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”

John 1:16

Daily, He offers us that grace. That chance to try again. To ask for forgiveness. To run to Him and bask in His love.

None of us are without fault, and the quicker we can accept that and choose to love one another despite that, the quicker we can make His truth known.

Maliyah, you wrecked my world. You showed me the beauty of struggling. The victory that comes with fighting. And the life change that comes with offering grace.

Grace upon grace…

All my love,

Sis


the heart behind a prayer

I have learned that prayer has the power to change lives, but the heart behind a prayer matters even more.

I prayed all growing up. It was modeled by so many people around me, and so it became a part of my life. I prayed for those who were sick, a math test I had the next day, or when I felt hurt by a friend. They were simple prayers lifted up by a child, and were lovingly heard and received by my Father. For many years, there was never anything urgent I needed to pray for. No massive requests or heartbreaking situations I was going through, and all of my prayers were answered the way I would have expected. It made prayer a very simple, fundamental, logical way to approach life.

But, that all changed.

In May of 2012 when our sweet grandpa, Fuzzy, was diagnosed with stage four esophageal cancer, it was the first big hit I had ever experienced. It was the first time I felt real fear about losing someone. As we learned more about the cancer and how much it had invaded his body, the reality set in of the fight that was about to go down, and the chance he had of winning.

I remember the night after I found out, I prayed for healing, but I also begged my Father to protect my faith through this. I knew that it was in moments like this, moments full of uncertainty, fear, and potential heartbreak that the devil was on the prowl and I was determined to not make any space for his lies to seep in. I had watched too many people lose their faith because of moments like this. I knew I couldn’t survive without my faith, so it was vital that it be the strongest it’s ever been.

For six months we all prayed and fought alongside him, but on October 25th, 2012 our sweet, strong, and loyal grandpa went to be with Jesus.

Initially, I felt relief. Relief that the fight was over and that he was free of pain. Then, I felt sadness as I realized the massive hole that was now left in our family. After that, it turned into frustration and anger at our Father for not healing him in the ways we had been praying for and suddenly Matthew 7:7 became a big lie to me.

“Ask and it will be given to you…”

For the first time ever, what I asked for was not given to me, and my heart was shattered. This book of truth wasn’t all truth…

And so I wrestled. I sought guidance from others, I prayed, I read up on it, but I could not figure out why my Father would tell me that whatever I asked for He would give me when the biggest prayer of my life was just ignored.

Eventually, I was sick of fighting it. I knew that my Father was good, and so I stuffed my feelings deep down. For many years after, when certain songs would come on the radio that reminded me of this, I would turn it off. When someone spoke on Matthew 7:7, I would ignore them. I decided that the Bible was mostly truth.

After Fuzzy died, I began to pray every morning that my family would be safe and healthy. And if I’m being completely honest, I had this deep-rooted fear that if I one day I didn’t pray this prayer, a family member was bound to get sick or get hurt. I felt such incredible pressure to keep everyone alive daily with this prayer.

Four years later I was in the middle of a podcast series on prayer and I was in the middle of training for a half marathon. It was five in the morning and as I was running and listening to this podcast, my Father tapped me on the shoulder and revealed something to me that changed everything.

He told me that when I prayed, it was out of fear and gaining a sense of control. That rather than putting the power of prayer in the hands of the One I prayed to, I was putting the power in my hands believing that my words were what really mattered. He assured me that it was His job to care for His children, not mine, and that rather than making prayer a burden in my life, He desired for it to be something that brought freedom.

As He reminded me of His power, His strength, His perfect will, and His insane love for His children, I realized how little credit I had been giving Him. Me, a simple child who knew so little, had been using prayer as a way to dictate to God the things I wanted, believing that was how it should work.

And in His most gracious loving way, He gently tapped me on the shoulder and revealed to me not only my inadequacy to do this, but also the lack of need to do this.

That His desire for His children is to be a refuge. A safe place. A place of freedom and peace.

That when we come to Him, it isn’t stemming out of fear and a need for control, but rather an intimate knowledge of who He is.

This truth that He is good. He knows all. He sees all. He has our best interests in mind. He adores us.

And in knowing this, all fear is gone because it is replaced with an unexplainable trust and faith in His plan.

In that moment, my Father was offering me a life of freedom. One where I can come to Him at all moments of the day, with anything, in any state, with any feeling, and pour out my heart to him in complete surrender knowing that He will take care of it all.

Rather than a prayer life dictated by fear, He was asking me to adopt a prayer life rooted in trust.

A prayer life where I surrendered it all to Him, and then waited expectantly for what He was going to do.

“In the morning, Lord, You hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.” Psalm 5:3

And now, that is what I do. At all moments of the day, with any worry, joy, or frustration I bring to Him, eager to see what He will do with it.

“Ask and it will be given to you…”

I see now where my misunderstanding was. It isn’t an “ask for whatever you want and what YOU believe is best” but rather “bring it all to Me, pray for My will, and trust that I will take care of it”.

I think of my students and the way they come to me. Whether they need their shoelace unknotted, they can’t figure out to spell a word, their water bottle spilled, someone said an unkind word to them, or they are being hurt at home…they come to me with no filter and no fear, trusting that I will take care of their problem because they know I love them.

Our Father is no different. He desires for us to come to Him, trusting in Him, resting in His love, and surrendering it all to Him eager for what He will do.


i will be imperfect

You can’t be everything and do everything.

So don’t even try.

From the outside, my life has always seemed perfect. I have always been the girl who did it all, and did it well.

I got good grades and now I have a great job. I’ve traveled to different parts of the world, I’m involved at my church, have a tendency to be a leader, and I know exactly what I want and what I need to get there.

I’ve been called perfect by many.

A compliment meant to flatter and encourage, but as I have gotten older it has begun to slowly and forcefully pull me down lower and lower until I have become stuck in the reality of trying to fulfill that compliment. That word. That stigma.

I have always wanted to do it all. I want to invest in every friendship and every relationship with all I’ve got. I want to do all things active on a daily basis. I want to lead small groups and lead worship. I want to spend time outdoors exploring. I want to travel and see the world. I want to volunteer my time to people and places that need it. I want to write. I want to read. I want to be the best teacher I can be. I want to do it all.

And so I do. I plan my schedule minute to minute and have decided that 5.5 hours of sleep is about all I can fit in my day. Because come on, I have things to do.

To anyone who knows my schedule, it seems impressive. Like I have endless energy and stamina. A vigor and a love for life. An inability to tone it down and take a break.

And all of this is true, but I have also come to realize that my love for life and taking opportunities has become suffocating in a way. Many days I feel like I barely have room to breathe.

And when life starts to become overwhelming, on those days where I am on the verge of a breakdown, that word “perfect” creeps up on me and tells me that I can do it all. I mean come on, I am Morgan Colander. I can handle anything.

And so I keep pushing. I shove down the emotions, the feelings of being overwhelmed, the fear of the unknown…and I keep going.

Until my Father decides it’s enough. I have stood on my pedestal long enough believing that I could be everything and do everything. And so He knocks me off.

He brings me to my breaking point, when I can no longer be strong on my own. When I can’t hold back the tears anymore. When the only thing I can do is fall on my knees and rest in His presence.

And always He whispers, “Be still.”

“For you, daughter, were not created to be perfect on your own. You were created to be perfect in my image. You were created to be weak, so I could be strong. You were created to fail, so I could succeed. You were created to fall, so I could raise you up. You were created to be my vessel. You were created to need me. You were created to rest in me.”

Day in and day out, I am unintentionally trying to fill this role of perfection that the world has put on me, and without knowing it, I am stripping myself from the sheer joy, peace, and stillness our Father created us to have as a part of our life.

Rather than recognizing how much I need Him in a moment of weakness, I am so apt to figure out what I need to do to make everything better. What I can do better to improve the situation. And once again, I begin loading myself up with projects, challenges, and tasks, when all my Father asks me to do is to be still.

He tells me that His strength is made perfect in my weakness. That in my weakness He can perform His greatest miracles. That in my imperfection, His Kingdom is built.

My Father never told me I was perfect. Actually, He told me the opposite. He promised me I would mess up. I would fail. I would fall short. I would be put in moments of struggle and temptation. I would be human, and that He would be God.

The God who sent His Son to die for me, so my imperfection could be forgiven, redeemed, and covered in mercy.

So, if it’s a guarantee that I can’t be perfect, maybe it’s time I stop trying. After all, my Father tells me that it is not about seeking the approval of man, but rather living a life that honors Him. He tells me that in this world I will have trouble, but He has already overcome that trouble for me, I only need to rest in Him.

I am not perfect.

My life is not perfect.

I can’t be everything and do everything.

But that’s okay, because I don’t have to.

In those moments where I feel human weakness begin to creep in, feelings of being overwhelmed take over, and the need to just say no washes over me, I am going to stop fighting it. I am not strong enough on my own. I am not unbreakable. I can’t do it alone.

I will be imperfect, and proud of it, because in my imperfection, He shines. In my imperfection, He does His greatest work. In my imperfection, He wraps His arms around me and covers me in His unconditional boundless love.

And that, letting my Father do the heavy lifting He has already promised He will do for me, is far better than attempting to live up to a standard of perfection the world has put on me. Living life entranced in His peace is the best life to live.

I am not perfect; instead, I rest in my perfect Savior.