I finally made it, finally did it, I'm graduated! I can't even begin to explain the relief I feel! But friends, my amazing graduation experience doesn't begin at the ceremony, but a couple days before...
Shortly after being surprised!
For those who don't know, my brother and his wife live across the country from us. I haven't seen him since his wedding, a year and a half ago. That's a really long time for siblings and I've missed him like crazy! More than 3 months ago, when I asked them if they were flying out, the answer was unfortunately no. My brother was scheduled for a work business trip the very week of my graduation, I was crushed. "I've done all I can, there is no way to reschedule." I really was disappointed. I love my brother and I would have wanted nothing more then for him to be cheering me on in that audience. Fast forward to a week ago, June 22. My mom was working 12-5 and my dad had errands to run, so Lauren was at home alone all day. My dad left the house early that afternoon to shop. (The plan was for all of us to meet at a restaurant that evening.) Hours clicked by and my mom left work early. We arrived at the restaurant where my dad was already waiting for a table. After a few minutes of waiting, the hostess led us to a table set for 5. I didn't really think about it until my mom started asking my dad if he had planned for more people to be here. I sat there watching and listening for a few minutes when all of a sudden I felt a hand on my shoulder. I looked to my right and my brother and my sister in law were sitting next to me. My jaw dropped and I immediately started sobbing and shaking. I really couldn't believe it, I truly thought it was a dream. I dropped everything I had in my hands (including my purse and phone!) and hugged him, crying, for a good five minutes! All I remember saying was "Oh my gosh!" over and over. It was unbelievable! I was in shock and so thankful for the surprise! So my dream came true, my brother was there for me, cheering me on, it was priceless and better than anything I could ask for.
God has thrown me some curveballs lately. Things that I never would have seen coming, God has placed into the picture. Last night, as I sat listening to the key note speaker at my graduation, I began to think about my road ahead. Where God is sending me, the summer ahead, and possibilities that are looking more and more like reality. It was a scary thought. One of those thoughts that makes your stomach drop and your legs shake. But it is in that moment, the nerves so away and you let your guard down, you get excited. Excited about new adventures, where they will take you, and what will be waiting for you on the other side. So here I am, ready, finished and open for any outcome. I sitting here, looking at the blank pages before me with courage.
"For I am doing something in your own day. Something you wouldn't believe even if someone told you about it."
The beginning of this story will not surprise any of you at all. I was in line at Starbucks waiting for my non-fat Carmel Macchiato when I looked up to see the cutest little girl sitting in a stroller. Not only was she adorable but she was sitting in her stroller, clutching her stuffed kitty as if her life depended on it. Call me a creeper but I snapped a picture to send to my mom, it was just too precious. After I took the picture, I continued to watch this pair. The grandmother ordered her coffee, a cake pop, and placed a vanilla milk on the counter. The little girl's eyes grew, I could tell she was dying to reach up and grab that milk and cake pop. But, to my surprise, she sat ever so quietly and squeezed her kitty even tighter. After what seemed like forever, the grandmother popped open the drink and handed it to her granddaughter. The little girl smiled all the way out the store, and so did I.
"The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you."
2 Peter 3:9a
I feel like this situation is very similar to our walk with the Lord. He wants to bless us, He wants to reward us, He wants to shine His face upon us. We just have to be patient. Many times in my life, I want to jump feet first into things, that's just who I am. I'll take a break when I'm done, I'll relax when it is over. I can't tell you how many times the Lord has had to physically slow me down this past 6 months. Yes, He will give me bronchitis so I have time to catch up on school work. Yes, He will make me pull my back out so I can sit in bed and read His word for a whole day. I just have to be patient. My future as of now is so unknown, it really is in His hands. Would I love to have an answer now? Absolutely, but I have to know in my heart that He will give me His answer in the best timing possible, His timing. Sit tight, He knows. Be patient.
Have you ever been so overwhelmed by the greatness of our God? I have and I like to call it "divine chaos". I experienced this last night. He heard my prayer, answered it, and surrounded me with His love and guidance. I was in shock, speechless and so in love with my Savior. Let me tell you, never doubt our God. If you put your trust in Him, He will give you the desires of your heart. Last night, The Lord opened my eyes and showed me just how much He could do. I was so thankful that I immediately fell to my knees and gave it all up to Him. He holds the keys and I will follow Him. I'm so excited for some great things to come. Be praying for me friends, because I'm in the middle of divine chaos and my life is about to change in the best way possible.
This blog is something really special, I has always felt that way. I could never explain it, I just always knew it. There is something priceless about hitting that "Publish" button, that comment, that follower, that reader, the whole thing. I thank God everyday for this blog. If you would have asked me a year ago about having a blog, I would have thought you were crazy. If you would have told me what a blessing it would be and how many amazing people I have met, I would have never believed you. This has been my place of reflection, where I run.
I read an amazing book this week. It is called "Called to Write: Biblical Truths for Authors and Bloggers". You can read it for FREE here! I seriously suggest all of you to read this book. There are some truly amazing quotes. It got me thinking about why I'm here. Why do I do what I do? And that was it, in that moment I felt so much peace. This is what God has called me to do. No matter how many people are listening, I will proclaim His name.
With all that being said, over the past month, the Lord has placed this blog heavily on my heart. I know now beyond the shadow of a doubt, this is where God has called me to be. My passion and my dream is right here. Here in these words, these relationships, successes, failures, and growth. I just want you guys to know how passionate I am about this blog. It brings me such joy to sit here and see how God has His fingerprints all over it.
"If we sow our writing into the soil of prayer and dedication, saturated in the desire to glorify God, He will bless our words and the fruit will be pure."
My Dear Heavenly Father,
I don't know how to say it. Thank you so much for opening the door for this blog. I had no idea what You were going to do or where You were going to lead me. The journey so far as been better than anything I could imagine. I'm giving this blog up to You. If it succeeds, it will be because of You. Not by my words or efforts, just You. I asked that my Words will be Yours and not mine. Let these words encourage others and bring them even closer to You. I pray for every single person reading this. I pray that have a relationship with You. I hear Your call, I'm listening, I will follow You."
Hey guys! I'm so excited to be sitting down writing this post for you! I feel like it has been forever since I've typed on these keys and relieved some built up stress. It has been a crazy crazy week! But, guess what? I finished my classes! I'M DONE! I can't tell you how much relief I feel, it's amazing. I am one more step closer to bible college and walking down the path the Lord has set before me!
You read right, this girl has a Twitter! Tweet Tweet! You should follow me, you truly should. @markedbygraceb
Ahh, summer reads. Blissful aren't they? This book has been sitting on my bedside table for weeks now. I have been wanting to read it for so so long! I can't wait to learn new blogging tips! (If my real life friends heard me say that....)
Like I said, this week has been crazy. I've had some ups and downs and some life experiences I wasn't quite ready for but, The Lord is in control and He knows exactly what He is doing. Praise God to whom all blessings flow....
Here is my-I'm going to be real with you guys-post. No one likes talking about this kind of stuff but, I'm personally tired of telling myself lies day after day. Let's be real with ourselves and each other and know that we were all made perfect in God's image. You are beautiful and cherished. The size of your jeans will never change that.
My body image is a constant struggle. And I don't think I'm alone on that one! It is crazy how we are surrounded by images of the "perfect body", how to "look your best", get that "body you've always wanted", etc. We are feeding ourselves lies. It is hard enough to stand in that dressing room and try to tell yourself "I'm beautiful the way I am". Talk about a truth we should be telling ourselves more often! I found this verse in Isaiah and it was almost the Lord's way of telling me "You know what? You don't have to find comfort in that little number or letter behind the tag of your clothes. I love you and have saved you for who you are."
"Because you are precious in My eyes, and honored, and I love you..."
I had an experience the other day at H&M. An experience that has happened to me at many stores. Same story, different day. I'm currently looking for a graduation dress. (Yeah, I still haven't found it) I tried a dress that didn't fit wasn't the dress for me and immediately began to put myself down in the comfort of my dressing room. Where no one was there to stop me or tell me differently, I could completely destroy myself without anyone ever knowing the difference. "If you weren't so curvy, that dress would look perfect." "If you were a few pounds lighter, this would fit." "Did you see that girl out there with her pile of workout clothes? Yeah, where are yours Lauren? How many sun-salutations will you be doing in those yoga pants you are buying? None-that's what I thought too."
Am I alone here? You know you have had a few conversations like that before. We need to stop ourselves right in the beginning. Yes, I believe that you need to take care of your body and practice healthy habits. But that doesn't mean submitting ourselves to unrealistic expectations. I have come to realize, regardless of my stage in life, I will never be a size 0. (If you are, go for it girly. Rock those skinny jeans for me, cause I certainly can't) I just wasn't made that way. I could have the perfect diet and exercise routine and I still wouldn't be a size 0. And that is okay.
"She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her."
I have a choice to make every single day when I look in the mirror. Do I let my own personal criticisms run or do I look at myself and say, "Thank you Lord, for making my unique and special in Your eyes."?
"I praise you because you are fearfully and wonderfully made."
I challenge you, sisters, to find your beauty not in the size of your jeans or how perfect your hair looks, but in your hearts. I know some truly beautiful people, their hearts are full of love for the Lord and His word and their words are clean, edifying, and encouraging. So, when you look in the mirror today, what do you see? Be still and know that He sees pure beauty. A women who is a princess of the Most High Kingdom. A daughter to the Almighty God. God is within her, she will not fall.
"Do not let your adorning be external-the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear-but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious."
Who doesn't love Instagram? I have to admit, I'm a tad bit obsessed! For those who don't know, my lovely friends Candice and Sarah started an Instagram challenge to post a picture every day for the next...year! That's right! 365 days of pictures! Crazy right? But it has really been fun to look at everyone else's pictures each day. So here are a couple of my favorites from the past months! Make sure to follow me on Instagram for the rest of the challenge! @markedbygraceblog
I was given a rose on Mother's Day and was told "Happy future Mother's Day!" It was so special.
I laugh at this every time I see it! Thanks Ryan, I'm glad you enjoyed it;)
I'm truly in love with my new bag from Target! It is perfection! You can actually get it here! (This is for you Candice;)
This is by far my favorite picture. I started one of my bible college classes early and have learned so much! One of my favorite things to do is sit down in Starbucks for a few hours and immerse myself into learning more about the word of God. It is so refreshing to the soul!
I've received quite a few emails and comments asking about my devotional routine. What devotional plan I use? How does your plan work? When do you do your devotions? This is a extremely important part of our Christian walk. While a lot of us probably do roughly the same thing, it is a very personal experience. There really is no specific way to do things and you can do whatever you feel comfortable with.
She Reads Truth:
I have gone on and on about this wonderful site. It's amazing and it you still haven't started one of their devotion plans, pull a Nike and just do it. They will change your life. (I talk about how they have changed mine here) She Reads Truth is avaliable via the You Version bible app or just through old fashion e-mails. (That is personally how I do mine) They aren't very long and would take about 5-10 minutes out of your day to complete. Normally, She Reads Truth goes over one book of the bible at a time. Currently we are studying 1 Peter. Each day, they will give you a group of verses to read and a short "journaling" about that particular scripture. I personally don't go ahead and read each given scripture at a time. I don't think I have ever been disappointed by the devotions. And they are delivered straight to my inbox!
I don't think I can tell you how important this aspect of my devotions is. There is just something special about being able to always look back at it later and reflect on what God has taught me. Now you may ask, what do I journal about? Well, anything! My devotion journal is filled with just about everything. Quotes, scripture, lyrics to worship songs, etc. I try to write out a prayer every day, talking to the Lord about what He has spoken to me through His word and desires of my heart. The more and more you let go and write what ever comes to mind, the more you will benefit from it.
When and Where:
This is an interesting answer because, a lot of the times, it's not consistent. On a perfect day, I would love to wake up, get my coffee, and venture back into my bed and have my devotions that way. Unfortunately, that can't always happen. More often than not, I find myself most free of time and distractions late at night. Oddly enough, I get most of my work and projects done late at night, I have found that it just works for me. But, sometimes, life is a little crazy and I will do my devotions just about anywhere. That's whats great about having She Reads Truth sent straight to my email. I can read the passage for the day, read the prompt from She Reads Truth, and take notes all on my iPhone. Whether I'm in between classes, waiting for my drink at Starbucks, or on my break at work, my devotion time is only a few taps away. (Did that sound like an informercial? Sorry...)
All the Extras:
Now, you could stop there and I can tell you that your spiritual life will change drastically. But for me, I have found two more things that really make a difference.
I love listening to music. It truly is a way for me to escape and be in a completely different head space. I would say that 95% of the music I listen to is worship music. (It truly becomes a habit once you begin to lead worship. No complaints here!) If I have the time and resources, I love to listen to worship music while I'm doing my devotions. Here are a few that I have enjoyed lately:
Hungry(Falling On My Knees)-Joy Williams
Divine Romance-Phil Wickham
You're Beautiful-Phil Wickham
Shine Into Our Night-Soverign Grace Music
Here For You-Matt Redman
Every once and a while, I find a book that I read along with my devotions. Right now, I'm going through The Search for Significance by Robert S. McGee. I really enjoy it and I totally recommend it. I have to admit, I'm slow with books like this. I don't crack it open every day....or every week....kind of just whenever I have the time.
What is your devotion routine? What are your tips and tricks? Let me know, I would love to learn some new things!
reading: Psalm 62-someone has a very important guest post to write! Wonder who that person could be...hmmmm.... writing: posts on posts on posts-for some reason I've hit the inspiration jackpot today! listening: Jack Johnson's "In Between Dreams" album thinking: about those clothes that are still sitting in the dryer...le sigh smelling: white barn christmas candle hoping: my evening will be productive and full of class work! loving: my dorm bedding, scored this one 3 months early! wondering: how in the world I'll be able to transfer from my lovely queen bed to a twin:( wanting: taco bell...seriously, how many weeks in a row can a girl crave mexican food? needing: new headphones-i'm pretty sure mine are some kind of fire hazard feeling: so blessed by the wonderful feedback I received on my very first vlog! I really have the best readers anyone could ask for. Thank you all!
Capture my heart. I give it all to you. My desires, my passions, and my mind. I give them all to You. Capture them and direct them towards Your shining light. Let me fall deeply and furiously in love with You. Consume me with Your word and open my eyes to things I can't see. Teach me how to love like You have loved me. I know I have doubted Your direction for my life. I know that You will never fail me or lead me down the wrong path. Your plan will always be better than mine. "Your loyal love, O Lord, supports me." Psalm 94:18 You are always by my side and You never leave me. Thank you for being constant, never changing, and everlasting. Capture my heart Lord...