Have Hope for Yourself

Have Hope for Yourself

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
Rainer Maria Rilke

I had a friend a few nights ago who sent out a text asking for help. She was hurting, the darkness reaching higher than she seemed to be able to get herself out of. She was needing her people to battle this with her, and so she reached out and asked us to contend in the late hours of the night. And as I received her message and began to pray, I was filled with so much hope. Because I love this friend and I can see the hope and the favor and the grace that covers her life. I can see that heaviness and despair are not the defining marks of her story. I believe that what God says is true, that He is with her, He will not leave her, that His promises to her hold true. And so I prayed these things and I hurt, and in that quiet hour of the morning, I felt a stirring in my heart for a similar thing, only this time it was also for myself. I felt this small whisper that said, “Hey, Mary Cate, you can hope for yourself in this way too.” And that surprised me, because through this prayer for my friend I came to find that I am way more hopeful for others than I am for myself.

And isn’t that how it always works? We pray, and contend, and support, and see past our friend’s weaknesses and their struggles and grab hold of the promise of breakthrough, but when the table is turned and we’re the ones needing help, it feels so hopeless, like there’s no way we’re ever making it out of this. We can’t seem to see or believe that the same God who is working in the hearts of others is alive and active in our own hearts, and is willing beyond measure to help us heal and grow, too.

I’m so guilty of this–believing that my sin and my sadness and the messy parts of my life are never going to leave me. And in some degree that’s true, because we live in a broken world. But in this conversation I was having with God and myself, I realized that by denying myself the right to hope for my own growth and healing, by denying myself the belief that God cares about my freedom and my healing too, that I was not allowing myself to fully live into the promises of God. I was refusing to live into the healing and relationship and grace He was offering me right now. And I bet a lot of the time you aren’t letting yourself live this way either. Because we live in a world that says that you must fix yourself, and you’re not lovable until you do.

But the truth is that we serve a loving and compassionate God who will never leave us in our process. We can breathe. We can trust. We can hope.

What do you think would happen if you chose to believe that God and others care about you just as much as you care about others? What would happen if we chose to extend grace to ourselves, to breathe and to hope for what is to come, instead of shaming ourselves for being less than we thought we would be by this time?

As always, I don’t have all the answers yet. I’m just beginning to process this idea. But for today, I’m choosing to hope for myself in the way that I choose to hope for the people that I love. I’m choosing to rest and be kind to myself, to allow the scary and messy parts to come home and be welcomed into what God is doing in my heart. I’m believing that I will always grow, that I will always come to know and love Jesus and others more and more, that God cares about me deeply, and that He is helping me become.

And that hope makes the promise of change just a little bit easier. Even still, the change isn’t really even the goal, deep relationship with Jesus is the goal. For without Him and the revelation of His Great Love, the good that comes out of me would be entirely in vain. There would be nothing substantial about it.

Romans 5:3-5 is stirring in my heart as I think about this newfound hope I have for this process. It says, “ Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

Hope is coming my friends. Hope is already here. Even in the process, even in the darkest places in your soul.

You will not always be where you are today. The Father is coming to rescue you, to breathe life once again into your weary soul. Like the Christmas hymn says, The thrill of Hope, the weary world rejoices. For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn. You can rejoice for today. You can have hope for yourself. Take a breathe, rest. And choose once again to trust, to believe, and to hope. Abba’s taking care of you. Amen.

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Grace for the Gaps

Grace for the Gaps

“In the thin air of advent, you may not even know how to say it out loud: ‘I thought it would be easier.’ And your God comes near: I will provide the way. You may not even know who to tell: ‘I thought it would be different.’ And your God draws close: I will provide grace for the gaps. You may not even know how to find the words for it: ‘ I thought I would be… more.’ And your God reaches out: I will provide me.

God gives God, That is the gift God always ultimately gives. Because nothing is greater and we have no greater need. God gives God. God give God, and we only need to slow long enough to unwrap the greatest gift with our time: time in His Word, time in His presence, time at His feet…

Advent is the time to see the tree in your thicket and whisper the echoing words of your God: Now I know. Now I know: ‘Since You did not spare Your only Son, how will You not also graciously give us–even me– all things you know I need?’ (Romans 8:32).”

–Ann Voskamp, The Greatest Gift

Oh, this season of Advent. Oh, this season of my life. It is so funny the way things start to piece together when you slow down enough to really see them. And in a semester that really felt like I never got on the right foot, where I started running full force and really stumbled through the entire thing, the last week or so has been like a shock to my system. I’ve had a lot of slow and quiet time. A lot of walks in Sequoyah, pausing to sit and soak in the sun and the Son, a quiet and a stillness that I used to really know but had become unfamiliar with.

And in this stillness, in the quiet waiting of Advent, I’ve been able to see how my desires and my reality and my ideas about how things should go do not always line up with what God is wanting to do.

I’ve had unreasonably high expectations for what it would be like to be engaged. And who doesn’t, really? I can’t tell you how many people have said to me, “You must be so happy! You have everything you’ve ever wanted!” And it probably appears that way, because we all put forth our best selves on social media, but I hope that I’ve become transparent enough for you all to see that I am a real person and life can be hard and so good all at the same time, and I’m choosing to wrestle through it all instead of putting up the facade that everything is always sunshine and roses. Life is glorious! But the glory comes from being friends will all the pieces of my heart, not just the shiny ones.

And I’m growing to love the man I’m marrying more and more every day. It’s not the same relationship we had this time last year when we were just starting to talk about creating a life together forever (yes we talked about getting married really early on in our relationship–remind me to tell you that story another time because it’s a great one). But it’s so much better. We’re growing and wrestling. We’re just becoming real. And there are a lot of places in our lives right now where it feels like there are huge, gaping gaps and we can’t fill them in no matter how hard we try. Colton is living in Texas, working a ton of hours, going to school, leading a lifegroup, discipling guys, and lots of other amazing but very busy things. I’m living in Knoxville going to school and doing a lot, but at the same time, I’ve been focusing a lot on the next season of my life and feeling hurt that it hasn’t been reciprocated in the way I thought it would be or wanted it to be. For Colt, preparing for the next season of our lives looks like growing with God and being faithful to what He has asked him to do in Texas. He’s building character. And while that should be my preparation too (and has been to some degree), I’ve also been trying to jump the gun and be totally connected and on the same page about everything and totally confident about our entire future, and you see where this is going with all my unrealistic and unmet expectations. I’ve been trying to build the life we will have together before it’s time to really step into that life. I’ve been preparing for the next season and robbing myself of a lot of the joy that comes with the season I’m actually in.

And I think for a long time, Colt and I have both been digging and shoving and demanding that the other person pull their weight to fill in the longings that we have. Colt is longing for support and encouragement to do what he is doing, and I’m longing for connection and attention and validation that this is hard. And it’s easy for us to push back and get angry and defensive and say again, “But no, you just don’t understand, I need… You’re not…” and let it be a wounding thing. But thankfully, a few nights ago Colt was brave enough and loving enough to quietly knock on the door of my heart and say, “Lovey, I really can’t do it all. And I just need grace. Grace to be where I’m at, to be fully present where I am. Grace to not pursue you in the way that you need to be pursued. Grace to fail you where you’re longing for me to come through. Grace for this to be a process.” And while that really sucked to hear at first, it shook me and totally humbled me. But it also freed us up, because now we can move towards one another not our of obligation, but out of love.

See, (pardon my language) entitlement is a bitch that blinds and sinks its claws into our hearts and demands, “No grace, no grace, no grace.” There is no room for other people to fail because their failure becomes less than we deserve, and we deserve it, and so we better get it. Whatever it is. That other person is obligated to do it, because we deserve it and need it. For me, I want to be pursued, and adored, and fought for, and sacrificed for, and a lot of other things that sound really noble and right, but are heavy, heavy burdens for another person to bear when they become demands. Slowly over time, as I’ve become aware of my own neediness (which I have ran from for years and tried to avoid), I’ve placed more and more responsibility on Colton instead of taking these aching places to God. I’ve given Colton little bits of rocks, and now it has become a really heavy load. There have been a lot of times in the past semester that I’ve basically stood and pointed to that gaping hole in me and yelled at Colton, “FILL THIS! This is your job!! Help me feel better! Help me fix this!” And if the truth is that I can’t fix myself, then it has to be true that Colt definitely cannot fix me. It’s just time to let him set down the rocks and breathe.

It’s so painful to realize how you’ve hurt the person you love more than anything, and to realize just how much I’ve been writing a story of heartache and woe instead of weaving a story of grace and redemption. I’ve been pointing my finger, and screaming that it’s hard, instead of being thankful, and believing that God really does have good things for me in this season, that He’s using everything for my good.

In all of this process, I’m learning that God has grace to fill in the gaps, because they were His to fill in the first place. The longings of Advent and the longings in my own heart line up so well because we’re always longing for something, and when we come face to face with that longing, when we befriend it instead of pushing it away, we open up the door for that longing to be satisfied my our Father, a scalding burn rubbed with ointment from our Daddy’s hand. Comfort and joy coming out of the pain. It hurts a lot of the time, but the relief really comes when we run to Him and stop trying to fix it ourselves.

God is so good to give us what we need, especially when it looks a lot different than we thought it would. And sometimes, we have to (with the help of Jesus) take the claws of entitlement out of our own hearts and out of the hearts that we’ve hurt along the way in our attempt to take control and gain what we desire. I’m having to repent. I’m having to confess that I am needy, and I’m having to take that need to Jesus instead of to my people, so that I can love and receive love, no strings attached. When I go to the well of Living Water, I don’t have to drink up other people’s energy, emotions, and gifts. I can receive the love they have the ability to offer and thank God, I can call it good. God can take the little that we have to give and multiply it like the fishes and the loaves. God has the grace to fill in the gaps, to come through in ways that we don’t.

I really don’t have anything figured out, but I’m learning to trust that He’s faithful, that He will not let us fall. He has grace to fill in the gaps.

He has grace for us all.

Be More of Yourself

Be More of Yourself

Earlier this week, I had one of the most profound conversations I’ve had in a long time. I was having coffee with my new friend Kayla, and we had the opportunity to talk a lot about the things that have been stirring in me. This season is a really good and really interesting one. And by interesting, I mean that every two or three days, I feel like my world is going to slowly crumble down around me. I get really frustrated with myself, or frustrated with Colton, or my friends, or my circumstances. And I’m not the most pleasant person to be around. And my people have been so gracious. Because this is a process that takes time to fully work through and they see the light at the end of the tunnel for me when I’m too blinded to see it myself. Thank you Jesus for good friends like these. The world is so much more hopeful with them in it.

Engagement is such a transition season. Everyone knows it’s only temporary, but for those who are engaged, you know that phrase only helps so much. Because while yes, the wedding is only x number of months away (Six from today! Whoohoo!!!!), you still have to live in the tension of these months. You still have to wait and hope and trust. And that’s okay. It is a real and true fact that engagement is so good and messy and there are a ton of things you never thought you’d be dealing with, and suddenly you have the choice: work through them with God and your future spouse or ignore them, pretending that everything is totally fine, and let them fester and grow. And in my personal opinion, we need to stop shaming our friends who are working through something (whether it’s engagement or something else) that seems really messy, and instead start praying and hoping for them. We need to be sounding blocks and fresh air for them to breathe, and we need to be like the friends of the paraplegic who lowered him down to Jesus and went off rejoicing with him when he could finally walk. We need to believe in the process and stop demanding results.

For me, one of the big wrestles for God and me in this season is my upcoming role as a wife and what that’s going to look like. I can tell you now that there will never be a greater gift and honor in my life than to be Colton James LeBoeuf’s wife. I get to marry my best friend. He is a man of such incredible character. He is the kindest person I’ve ever met. He’s so patient and gracious, and has supported me and loved me so well even before we ever started dating. He’s better than I could have ever dreamt up for myself. I am so blessed. When I stop to think about what a crazy honor it is that God lets us live this life out together for so many years, it blows me away, I do not deserve this gift.

And Colt wants to be a pastor, and spend his life ministering to others, helping them encounter the love of God. What an incredible gift! I prayed that my husband would love God more than he loves anything else in the world (including me), and God gave me that. All glory back to Him.

Yet somewhere along the way, I got tripped up in what that means for us, and specifically what that means for me as a wife of a man in ministry. Something was communicated to me that said, “As a woman and as a woman who’s in ministry, this is your role: be quiet. Be submissive. Because you matter less. Your voice matters less. It doesn’t count. You don’t count. You will only play second fiddle.” And while that isn’t at all the truth, it really shook me and made me afraid. Because I want to matter and to become fully all that God has created me for. And for a long while, I’ve been working through what God actually wants my role to be.

I know that everyone has very strong and different opinions about women’s role in the home and church, and I respect your opinions. I’m not going to have a debate with you. I’m merely explaining that the quiet servant isn’t the role I want to play, or even feel comfortable playing. Loving wife and mother? Yes. Supporter of everything Colton does? Of course. I want to come along side Colton and love him and serve him and love and serve other people. But I believe that I matter too. My dreams matter. My voice matters. I mean, I obviously have things to say or I wouldn’t be over here writing all this out. I can’t keep these things in.

And what I think we’re missing when we push women, or anyone for that matter, into one specific role, and declare “THIS IS WHO YOU ARE” without even considering who we’re talking to, we are simply trying to play God, and that is NOT our job. The fact is that we need people to love and serve in their own ways, in the ways God created them to serve and love. We need to let people be themselves, and stop pegging them into certain categories. And that looks different for everyone. I’m marrying a man who wants to be in full time ministry, and yes that means I’m signing up for a life of full time ministry too. But Colton is also marrying a writer and a teacher, and that means he gets to partner with my callings too. There will be seasons where one of our dreams is at the forefront, and the other one will have to wait and cheer us on. And vise versa. But that’s the beauty of marriage. We’re always laying down ourselves to life up the other, and when they’re doing the same thing, God comes in and blesses us more than we ever thought He would. It really doesn’t make sense, but it’s good. It’s the beauty of the Gospel. Death bringing forth life. Again and again and again.

For a lot of my life, I heard over and over again these phrases: “Mary Cate, you’re so nice,” “You’re so motherly and nurturing,” “You’re so sweet.” And while I totally agree these are facets of my character, and very sweet gifts that God has given me in personality, it got to the point where I started wanting to punch the next person in the face who told me that. Because it’s not all that I am!! I wanted people to tell me I was funny, and smart, and creative, and even hot. Just anything but sweet and motherly. I am not a big fully marshmallow. I am a woman—creative, firey, kind, gracious, intelligent, etc.

And I could go on for a while, but here’s the truth: this is ministry. My life is ministry. I am not confined to a church building or a children’s ministry or a certain character trait that someone speaks over me. It’s me again and again saying yes to God in the ways He is speaking to me. It’s fanning into flame the gifts that He’s given (2 Timothy 1:6)

Here are some things I now know about myself after this conversation with my friend and I need to keep remembering. Here are just a few of the ways I feel like God is speaking to me right now:

 

I am an artist. I have to create. I need to be around beauty, to see it, to hear it, to feel it, to create it and write it and express it and manifest it myself. And this is not an airbrushed magazine beauty; this is not a commercialized beauty or a flawless body beauty. It’s messy, and it’s emotional, and colorful, and full of bits that I don’t really understand. It’s offensive to some and scary to others, but for a few it does something that breaks through the mundane and offers a chance to breathe and see again.

 

I am a feeler. Which probably comes with the art thing. I need to feel things deeply, both the good things and the bad things, in order to create. In order to meet with Jesus. In order to become whole and more of myself. It’s like a plant that sits in a closet—I will die shut up in there. I need to be planted deep in the soil, need to soak up the rain and savor the sunshine. I need the clear air. I need the breath of God.

 

I am so many things, so many things that I don’t even know yet. There are facets of my character that have not developed, that I’ve yet to explore. It’s like a diamond, or a cave full of tunnels, we are complex beings, there’s a lot that we have yet to see, and we can stay up near the mouth of the cave where we can see, or we can grab our headlamp and crawl around and the dark and discover new things. We can grow.

 

And I don’t know about you, but I want to keep growing. I want to become more of myself. My friend Kayla said to me, “You must be more of who you are.” Because who I am is good. Who I am is necessary. When I am fully myself, it blesses Colton; it blesses my friends. It heals me. It’s a fragrant offering to God. And being myself brings a little more like into the world. Being fully myself pushes back against the darkness in the world.

 

And the same is true for you. Are you holding back parts of yourself that you know you need to share? Has someone spoken over you that you’re not something, when the truth is that you are? Are you waiting to become something or do something beautiful? Why are you waiting? Why are you holding back?

 

We need you to be who you fully are. The world is waiting. That song in your heart, that piece that’s bursting into being as your paintbrush hits the canvas, that meal you prepared for a hurting friend, the way you love to listen, we need those parts of you. You cannot keep them in. It’s my to let them out, to watch God take your fishes and loaves and breathe on them and feed the hungry.

 

You must be more of who you are, for who you are is good.

 

It’s your reflection of God piercing the flesh of a dark and hurting world.

Earlier this week, I had one of the most profound conversations I’ve had in a long time. I was having coffee with my new friend Kayla, and we had the opportunity to talk a lot about the things that have been stirring in me. This season is a really good and really interesting one. And by interesting, I mean that every two or three days, I feel like my world is going to slowly crumble down around me. I get really frustrated with myself, or frustrated with Colton, or my friends, or my circumstances. And I’m not the most pleasant person to be around. And my people have been so gracious. Because this is a process that takes time to fully work through and they see the light at the end of the tunnel for me when I’m too blinded to see it myself. Thank you Jesus for good friends like these. The world is so much more hopeful with them in it.

Engagement is such a transition season. Everyone knows it’s only temporary, but for those who are engaged, you know that phrase only helps so much. Because while yes, the wedding is only x number of months away (Six from today! Whoohoo!!!!), you still have to live in the tension of these months. You still have to wait and hope and trust. And that’s okay. It is a real and true fact that engagement is so good and messy and there are a ton of things you never thought you’d be dealing with, and suddenly you have the choice: work through them with God and your future spouse or ignore them, pretending that everything is totally fine, and let them fester and grow. And in my personal opinion, we need to stop shaming our friends who are working through something (whether it’s engagement or something else) that seems really messy, and instead start praying and hoping for them. We need to be sounding blocks and fresh air for them to breathe, and we need to be like the friends of the paraplegic who lowered him down to Jesus and went off rejoicing with him when he could finally walk. We need to believe in the process and stop demanding results.

For me, one of the big wrestles for God and me in this season is my upcoming role as a wife and what that’s going to look like. I can tell you now that there will never be a greater gift and honor in my life than to be Colton James LeBoeuf’s wife. I get to marry my best friend. He is a man of such incredible character. He is the kindest person I’ve ever met. He’s so patient and gracious, and has supported me and loved me so well even before we ever started dating. He’s better than I could have ever dreamt up for myself. I am so blessed. When I stop to think about what a crazy honor it is that God lets us live this life out together for so many years, it blows me away, I do not deserve this gift.

And Colt wants to be a pastor, and spend his life ministering to others, helping them encounter the love of God. What an incredible gift! I prayed that my husband would love God more than he loves anything else in the world (including me), and God gave me that. All glory back to Him.

Yet somewhere along the way, I got tripped up in what that means for us, and specifically what that means for me as a wife of a man in ministry. Something was communicated to me that said, “As a woman and as a woman who’s in ministry, this is your role: be quiet. Be submissive. Because you matter less. Your voice matters less. It doesn’t count. You don’t count. You will only play second fiddle.” And while that isn’t at all the truth, it really shook me and made me afraid. Because I want to matter and to become fully all that God has created me for. And for a long while, I’ve been working through what God actually wants my role to be.

I know that everyone has very strong and different opinions about women’s role in the home and church, and I respect your opinions. I’m not going to have a debate with you. I’m merely explaining that the quiet servant isn’t the role I want to play, or even feel comfortable playing. Loving wife and mother? Yes. Supporter of everything Colton does? Of course. I want to come along side Colton and love him and serve him and love and serve other people. But I believe that I matter too. My dreams matter. My voice matters. I mean, I obviously have things to say or I wouldn’t be over here writing all this out. I can’t keep these things in.

And what I think we’re missing when we push women, or anyone for that matter, into one specific role, and declare “THIS IS WHO YOU ARE” without even considering who we’re talking to, we are simply trying to play God, and that is NOT our job. The fact is that we need people to love and serve in their own ways, in the ways God created them to serve and love. We need to let people be themselves, and stop pegging them into certain categories. And that looks different for everyone. I’m marrying a man who wants to be in full time ministry, and yes that means I’m signing up for a life of full time ministry too. But Colton is also marrying a writer and a teacher, and that means he gets to partner with my callings too. There will be seasons where one of our dreams is at the forefront, and the other one will have to wait and cheer us on. And vise versa. But that’s the beauty of marriage. We’re always laying down ourselves to life up the other, and when they’re doing the same thing, God comes in and blesses us more than we ever thought He would. It really doesn’t make sense, but it’s good. It’s the beauty of the Gospel. Death bringing forth life. Again and again and again.

For a lot of my life, I heard over and over again these phrases: “Mary Cate, you’re so nice,” “You’re so motherly and nurturing,” “You’re so sweet.” And while I totally agree these are facets of my character, and very sweet gifts that God has given me in personality, it got to the point where I started wanting to punch the next person in the face who told me that. Because it’s not all that I am!! I wanted people to tell me I was funny, and smart, and creative, and even hot. Just anything but sweet and motherly. I am not a big fully marshmallow. I am a woman—creative, firey, kind, gracious, intelligent, etc.

And I could go on for a while, but here’s the truth: this is ministry. My life is ministry. I am not confined to a church building or a children’s ministry or a certain character trait that someone speaks over me. It’s me again and again saying yes to God in the ways He is speaking to me. It’s fanning into flame the gifts that He’s given (2 Timothy 1:6)

Here are some things I now know about myself after this conversation with my friend and I need to keep remembering. Here are just a few of the ways I feel like God is speaking to me right now:

 

I am an artist. I have to create. I need to be around beauty, to see it, to hear it, to feel it, to create it and write it and express it and manifest it myself. And this is not an airbrushed magazine beauty; this is not a commercialized beauty or a flawless body beauty. It’s messy, and it’s emotional, and colorful, and full of bits that I don’t really understand. It’s offensive to some and scary to others, but for a few it does something that breaks through the mundane and offers a chance to breathe and see again.

 

I am a feeler. Which probably comes with the art thing. I need to feel things deeply, both the good things and the bad things, in order to create. In order to meet with Jesus. In order to become whole and more of myself. It’s like a plant that sits in a closet—I will die shut up in there. I need to be planted deep in the soil, need to soak up the rain and savor the sunshine. I need the clear air. I need the breath of God.

 

I am so many things, so many things that I don’t even know yet. There are facets of my character that have not developed, that I’ve yet to explore. It’s like a diamond, or a cave full of tunnels, we are complex beings, there’s a lot that we have yet to see, and we can stay up near the mouth of the cave where we can see, or we can grab our headlamp and crawl around and the dark and discover new things. We can grow.

 

And I don’t know about you, but I want to keep growing. I want to become more of myself. My friend Kayla said to me, “You must be more of who you are.” Because who I am is good. Who I am is necessary. When I am fully myself, it blesses Colton; it blesses my friends. It heals me. It’s a fragrant offering to God. And being myself brings a little more like into the world. Being fully myself pushes back against the darkness in the world.

 

And the same is true for you. Are you holding back parts of yourself that you know you need to share? Has someone spoken over you that you’re not something, when the truth is that you are? Are you waiting to become something or do something beautiful? Why are you waiting? Why are you holding back?

 

We need you to be who you fully are. The world is waiting. That song in your heart, that piece that’s bursting into being as your paintbrush hits the canvas, that meal you prepared for a hurting friend, the way you love to listen, we need those parts of you. You cannot keep them in. It’s my to let them out, to watch God take your fishes and loaves and breathe on them and feed the hungry.

 

You must be more of who you are, for who you are is good.

 

It’s your reflection of God piercing the flesh of a dark and hurting world.