Journalist Work Samples
The Lioness Within- The Hope Table Ministries
Psalm 3
“Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Many are saying of me, "God will not deliver him." But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the Lord, and He answers me from His holy mountain. I lie down to sleep and I wake again because the Lord sustains me. I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side. Arise, Lord! Deliver me, my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked. From the Lord comes deliverance. May your blessing be on your people.”

Many people are familiar with the story of Esther. A woman who was chosen to be queen and saved her people from the tragic plot of the king. She stood before him boldly and pleaded for the freedom of her people. She stood confidently knowing that in all things, God is faithful. God worked through an unequipped woman to bring forth His glory in the most scandalous way. We see God in a different light through Esther. Not the God of rainbows and sunshine, but a God who calls His brave warriors to step forward in confidence. The God who is not hindered by danger and whose love is raw, reckless, and fierce. 

​A wild woman wrapped in the grace of God will see every struggle as an opportunity to be obedient to her King. She does not have the time to feel insecure because she is busy serving and keeping her eyes on the one who created all things. She walks forward knowing that her weakness will bring her straight to the throne of God and will illuminate His power within her. And she knows, deep down in her heart, that the God of the universe stills her, leads her, reassures her, encourages her, comforts her, calms her, convicts her, delivers her, and sustains her. 

By the fierceness of God, you are becoming a woman of courage, a woman of strength, and a woman of discipline. You are obedient in the storms of life because you know the life-giver yourself. You know that His will is found in the eye of the storm and your fear has no place to live in light of who God is and how powerful He is in you. You move forward one step at a time because at any second, God could throw you off your path and onto another. But nonetheless, you do not fear the wind and waves because your footing is made firm in the hope of Jesus. 

He will meet you there. 

You look dead into the eyes of fear and move forward in confidence that His rod and staff will comfort you all the days of your life. He is a wall of fire around you and a canopy from the scorching heat. He will lead you by green pastures and through seasons of harvest and wilderness... yet He is faithful every second of every day of your life. This battle you are facing is forcing your heart to take courage to mold you into the warrior that He has called you to be from the beginning of time. He will take you on paths where danger lurks at every corner, yet you bravely take strides knowing that God cannot be hindered and is not afraid of the unseen. 

There is a lioness within you, sister.

This is what we see in Esther. We see how God's work "behind the scenes" established a sense of strategic fierceness. The heart of Esther reveals to us the heart of God. She had grit. She was bold. She was ravishing. She was strong. She was wild. She was fierce. 

We see, through her, how God established His kingdom, how He redeemed His people, and how His heart was a reflection of it all. Even in the darkest of times, when He feels the most absent, we can trust in His promise that He has never, nor ever will, abandon His people. ​
Obedience- The Seed Planters Blog
Matthew 14:29-33 says,
“Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?” When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. Then the disciples worshipped Him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed."

It is time to put your fear behind you and move forward to the hand of your Confident Commander.

Maybe God has put something on your heart lately that you have been too afraid to pursue. Or maybe the Holy Spirit is convicting you.

Do you feel that God is asking you to step out on the waves? To trust Him fully and make that leap? 

Sometimes the deep water seems too much to bear, but God calls us to bravely walk out on it anyway.

That time is here. Right now.

There is a special place we all know so well called the frontline of obedience. This line is not for the weak and is not for those who are easily bent out of shape. It is a place that is often feared and neglected because the uncharted territory is beyond daunting. It is a call for the most grounded, grit-filled followers of Jesus.

Whatever frontline God has called you to, I pray that you do not fear the wind and waves because the One waiting for you on the other side is none other than your sweet Jesus. The hard and the holy is right in front of you. 

Isn’t it comforting to know that even when God calls us to the frontline, our footing is made firm in the grounded hope of our Redeemer? That even through Spiritual battles, God is breaking down our barrier of fear? 

Being on the frontline means seeing the roaring waves around you, yet not fearing because God is your Deliverer, your Strength, your Sustainer, your Warrior, and your Protector. 

Are you being called into the deep? 

Here, on these waters, we experience the rawness of God. There is no other way but to trust Him.

No matter where God has placed you in life, there is no other option but to break down our barrier of fear. He will take you deeper, I promise. If you are in the fierce pursuit of holiness and fullness, there is absolutely no other way.

But maybe your frontline is not overseas or as a healthcare worker. Maybe your deep waters lie within the walls of an office cubicle or even the walls within a classroom, as it is mine. The dangerous mundane is a slippery slope— to be caged in our comfort zones and remain caged there forever. God doesn’t care if we are comfortable, He cares that we are obedient. 

But deep in our hearts, isn’t there a desire to be pushed past the borders of the seas to find Jesus on the other side? To be pushed past our own fear to experience God’s power and sovereignty at its fullest? To see God as your fierce Protector and Warrior on the frontline that God has called you to? Don’t you think there is a reason why Peter challenged Jesus to call him out on the water? We crave wildness.

So my question to you is this… are you going to walk on the water to Jesus or are you going to stay in the boat?
Come to the Well- God's Word Translation
Jesus sat down by the well because he was tired from traveling. The time was about noon.

A Samaritan woman went to get some water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink of water.” (His disciples had gone into the city to buy some food.)

The Samaritan woman asked him, “How can a Jewish man like you ask a Samaritan woman like me for a drink of water?” (Jews, of course, don’t associate with Samaritans.)

Jesus replied to her, “If you only knew what God’s gift is and who is asking you for a drink, you would have asked him for a drink. He would have given you living water.”
The woman said to him, “Sir, you don’t have anything to use to get water, and the well is deep. So where are you going to get this living water? You’re not more important than our ancestor Jacob, are you? He gave us this well. He and his sons and his animals drank water from it.”

Jesus answered her, “Everyone who drinks this water will become thirsty again. But those who drink the water that I will give them will never become thirsty again. In fact, the water I will give them will become in them a spring that gushes up to eternal life.”

The woman told Jesus, “Sir, give me this water! Then I won’t get thirsty or have to come here to get water.” John 4:6-15 GW

Jesus offers the gift of the Living Water to not only the Samaritan woman, but to you and I as well.

Are you weary and needing rest? Are you living in guilt and need forgiveness? Are you thirsty and needing to be quenched? We all know what it is like to be left thirsty. Our bodies crave to be filled with life.

The well is here for you. Right now.

Come and be filled.

You see, the Living Water will not only fill your cup, but will be your sole source of strength. The Living Water will be the very breath you take. So often, we drink from the wrong well  and find ourselves feeling empty and dry inside. 

The victory that was meant for us loses its strength in the wrong well. 

We are missing this freedom and it breaks my heart because the victory was ours when Jesus ran out of that grave. If we are filled to the brim with the Living Water, why are still dwelling in our very own graves?

We are missing it, my friend! 

So here is to the Living Water—the Holy Spirit in us that fills our souls with life. Here is to the weary finding rest, our guilt finding forgiveness, and our thirst being quenched. 

Lord, we are thankful for the fullness You offer to us through the Holy Spirit. We are thankful that we can arm ourselves with the very words of Your heart. 

Thank you for our empty pots to remind us of Your promise.
The Unfolding- God's Word Translation
My sweet friend,

One day our hearts will fill with song again and one day all of our souls will dance in the presence of our Creator. I wish this day was now and I am sure that you do, too. I wish that I could walk in the presence of my Jesus and lay my tired head on His beating chest. That I could ask Him all of my burning questions and finally be able to hear His every word. That even in His silence, I can be reassured that He never, ever left my side.

There is something beautiful about the unfolding of a greater purpose.

Even when we find ourselves on our knees in sorrow, we can have enough hope and trust in Jesus’ sovereignty to know that no matter what this stained life throws at us, His blood was painted all over it on the day of His last breath.

I pray that one day we can finally see the burning fire in Jesus’ eyes and all of the times where we felt a crushing weight will all come into focus in the exuberance of that moment. We find that when our eyes meet His, we can finally understand why all these years were full of steep mountains and low valleys. Because there is no need for a Savior when life is purely glassy waters. We give up our own desires at the foot of the cross and feel the excruciating pain of leaving them there. This life is about handing over this control and sin-stained heart of ours for a new name. A new life. A new heart. An unfolding of His purpose for you.

He is making all things new in you.

The one sitting on the throne said, “I am making everything new.” He said, “Write this: ‘These words are faithful and true.’ ” He said to me, “It has happened! I am the A and the Z, the beginning and the end. I will give a drink from the fountain filled with the water of life to anyone who is thirsty. It won’t cost anything. Everyone who wins the victory will inherit these things. I will be their God, and they will be my children.
Revelation 21:5-7 GW

Are you ready for the unfolding?
I See Myself in Them- Hands of Hope Ministries
709 Days. 709 days of learning to love. 709 days of finding hope in the hopeless. 709 days of seeing God work in strong and powerful ways. 709 days sweet little Brison and Harlem were in foster care.

Since the year 2017, Ashton has fallen in love with serving with Hands of Hope through care communities and watching kids during foster parent training and support group meetings. She began, and continues, to serve as a volunteer in the two-to-three year old room, where she clicked with Brison and Harlem almost immediately. After giving a celebration gift for their official adoption, she received a special letter from each one of them. Inside one of the letters was not only powerful words, but a powerful gift. Two dollars gently placed in the card as a “thank you for what you have done for me.”

The truth is this… I see myself in those little eyes— begging Jesus for something that this world cannot, nor ever will, be able to provide. Searching for love in the most deserted places and crying out to the one who knows my heart for a sense of belonging in this foreign world we call our “home”. We open our hands to the gifts of the Creator, but when will we ever give them to each other? When will we realize that our hands were made for more than receiving? Our hands were made to give. Even if it’s two simple dollars shoved between a folded piece of paper.

The truth is, our lives look more similar to theirs than we could imagine. We look at these little ones and feel this love that is so far fetched from what we have ever known. It is a harsh, yet hopeful, realization when we finally understand that this is how God sees us… broken, but of immense value and treasure.

Because of your “yes” to Jesus’ call to care for orphans and vulnerable children, your time has given hope to many. After all, the one thing we know for certain is that God is still, and always will, remain faithful even in seasons of wilderness. The same God who paints the sky with colors that roar the anthem and victory of Heaven selflessly looks at your child and sees in them a king or a queen even in the midst of their chaos and pain.

I see myself in them.

One thing that I know for sure is that the Jesus who sees our wrecked life, pulls our pieces together so very beautifully into the woven web of grace that we all know so well. Even these little ones, who have lost so much, were created with such passion and intention for a very specific and special purpose. God has chosen YOU to take part in this extravagant journey!

Galatians 6:9 says,
"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." 
Front Line of Obedience- The Esther Project Ministries
Sweet sister,
The front line of obedience is the place where there is no other option but for us to fight fiercely. Our front lines could be within the precious walls of a classroom or office as it is for me, or it could be the front lines of war, torment, and disease in a land far from everything we have ever known.
Whatever front line God has called you to, I pray that you stand firm in courage and strength. I pray that even through your spiritual battle, God is teaching your heart to rest in the shadow of His wings and trust Him fearlessly in the midst of life's biggest battles.
We look at the people standing on the far away front lines with wide eyes and quite frankly, forget that there is a Spiritual battle on this broken land we call our “home.” We are meant to feel crushing compassion and conviction for a hurting world that was meant for fullness and fruitfulness. 

And what I know is this— this, my sweet Sister, is love. Being on the front line means seeing brokenness in its fullest and choosing to love anyway. It is finding hope in the cracks of the sidewalks and not forgetting that they, too, are fighting the soul-crushing battle of sin and death. It means leaving your pride at the door and following the quiet voice of the Holy Spirit no matter how crazy it seems… letting Him lead you in the fearless pursuit of servanthood. I have lived the life of the front line and I have seen God perform miracles… especially within the minds and hearts of my little ones.

The front line is a gift. It means experiencing the rawness of God’s protection and hand of guidance no matter what season He has you in. It means knowing that no matter where God has placed you, there is no room in your soul for fear because you are in fierce pursuit of holiness and fullness. It also means being content even in the face of danger and affliction because you know that God’s faithfulness covers you through every war that is waged within and around you. But if your life is like mine, a ministry within the walls of a classroom or office, it looks a little different. The front lines of the mundane are dangerously convicting. We see at face value our brokenness in its fullest and just pray to the God of the Universe to forgive our reluctant hearts. 

But isn’t there a craving to forgo our mundane for an adventure immersed in the sovereignty of God? Isn’t there a craving deep in our bones to see God as our fierce Defender and Warrior on the field of adventure?

The front line, ultimately, is God’s call to obedience.

God called Jonah to the front line of Nineveh, present day Iraq, to heal the hearts of many. But what was the first thing he did? He ran from God. The story always makes me laugh because we can see so clearly that God wants nothing to do with our shenanigans. God is serious about obedience even when we are not. When Jonah told the people in the boat that he was running from God, they threw him into the water to calm the raging seas. When he landed in the water, the Lord sent a big fish to swallow him. When he was in the belly of the fish, he realized what he had done… isn’t that what happens to us? Don’t we realize the heaviness of obedience when we are caught in the middle of our disobedience? Can’t we see that God’s call to the front line requires sacrificial obedience? That His call to the front line cannot be hindered by human weakness, but rather is made known through His sovereign, and sometimes absurd, ways? 

The ministry God laid at your feet, in the here and now, wherever He has placed you, is just waiting for your obedience. 

The enemy will attack the front liners, so be prepared. But take heart, for He has overcome the world. 

John 16:33 says,
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
Love Ran Red- The Esther Project Ministries
In the pits of our hurting hearts, it almost feels as if the cross was meant for others more "worthy" than ourselves. I have felt this, and I am sure you have, too. But let me tell you, my friend, He knew you before the womb and set you apart (Jeremiah 1:5) and deemed you worthy of the cost. The lamb of God took your place. Your chains. Your sins. Your pain. He delights in showing you mercy... even after wandering far from home. Like a sheep who wandered from His shepherd, in joyful celebration, the shepherd carried His lost sheep home.

Luke 15:4-5 says,
Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn't he leave the ninety-nine plus the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? and when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, "Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep." I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who do not repent. 

Make yourself at home, sit before the cross, and let's talk about why it is important. 

The cross taught us about the gravity of our sin. The gravity of His love. It ran red for you, and yes, it ran red for me, too. 

It was not the nails that held Jesus on the cross. It was you. It was me. It was our mistakes. It was our pain. It was our selfishness. It was our wandering hearts. He died at the highest cost for our sin knowing that the love may never be returned. Knowing that a life of deliberate sin would become the daily lifestyle of many. While others dwell in the life they "created for themselves," God is asking you, in the boldest way, to kneel before Him humbly knowing that His love has deemed you worthy. 

Matthew 27:50-52 says,
Jesus cried out in a loud voice and gave up His spirit. At that moment, the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split, and the tombs broke open. 

In a sense, the cross of self-giving is the most profound to carry. There is hope in knowing that the weight we carry is never heavier than the chains that once held us captive. The cross has become our place of redemption. The place in which God's awaited promise was firmly established. The place in which God stood victorious as the light demolished the darkness. The sacred veil tore in half, and in the most glorifying and excruciating way, the wrath of God was satisfied.

Lay it down, my friend, the cost was too high to not. Lay down your pieces at the foot of the cross knowing that His love willingly ran red for you. He was pierced for your transgressions, crushed for your iniquities, the punishment that brought peace to you was on Him, and by His wounds, you are healed (Isaiah 53:5). His love was the reddest kind. Isn't this what He requires of us, too? That we recklessly love until it hurts?

"Long before you woke up this morning and long after you go to sleep tonight, the Spirit of God was circling you with songs of deliverance. He has been circling you since the day you were conceived, and He will circle you until the day you die. He is praying hard for you with ultrasonic groans that cannot be formulated into words, and those unutterable intercessions should fill you with an unspeakable confidence."
-The Circle Maker, Mark Batterson

Rise up, child, and run out of that grave! For it has no hold on you! 
The Evergreen Tree- The Esther Project Ministries
She ran.
​Like a warrior, she drew out her sword feeling as if she always had to fight. Rawer as she had ever been, she left. She ran far, far away. Leaving everything that she had behind.
Little did she know, freedom wasn’t found in running away, but in running home.
This is me, and maybe this is you, too.
​Jonah 4
Jonah had gone out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. Then the Lord God provided a leafy plant and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the plant. But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered. When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.”

But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”

“It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.”

But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight." 

​Jonah ran.  
Let me tell you about when God sent a worm to chew my plant away. A time when I chose to run.
For those who are unaware, a year and a half ago, to spare the messy details, I went through a breakup that left wounds. BIG wounds. A breakup that left my heart shattered in pieces. After several years of being together, the last thing I ever thought would happen, happened. It was unhealthy, very unhealthy. He was my security blanket, the place in which I found my identity. I felt like a lion whose mane had been stripped away. I felt like the biggest part of me had been taken away. Although God was beyond patient with my wandering heart, I now realize that I can't give my heart away like I did. My heart is His, and His only. I yelled at the Lord, I told Him that I didn’t want anything to do with Him, I questioned Him. It was the Lord; it was He who was fighting for my heart. In my anger, I ran.
But even then, God knew. He knew that my heart needed time to heal. Even then, He knew that no matter how far I had run, I would come running back. God chose to let me run. How profound is that? The creator of the universe, the one who craves my heart more than anything else, let me run away. Only then could I truly value His consistency and grace.
The refining process kills, a lot. It hurts like no other. He will put you through the fire, my friend, because His love is much deeper than to let us fall short of what He created us to be. Fire scorches, fire melts, fire refines. Although many plants require water to grow, some evergreen trees (such as the Lodgepole Pine tree) need to be stimulated by fire for growth initiation. Gently held and refined, evergreens encompass the nature of patience. Year after year, surviving the seasons of frigid winters and scorching fires. Oh, how you can as well. You are resilient.
Psalm 66:10-12
For you have tried us, O God; you have refined us as silver is refined. You brought us into the net; you laid an oppressive burden upon us. You made men ride over our heads. We went through fire and through water, yet you brought us into a place of abundance.
Please listen to He who loves you more than you can even fathom. You do not need to run away any longer. Throw away your armor that has hurt you so many times in the past and run back into the arms of grace. There is nothing more joyful to our King. He knows that your heart is shattered, He knows that growth will be unbelievably challenging for you, but you need to know that it is not too late. It is NEVER too late. There is never a time in which you are too broken to come back. He loves you, regardless. You are His prize, and He is fighting for your heart, no matter how far away you have run.
He paints the sky every single day in hopes that you will be reminded to come running back. Your lover is calling you home, in the biggest and most profound way; in colors that roar the praises of Heaven. He doesn’t care how far you have gone, He is begging you to come home. Let Him satisfy you.
And once again, you reach the arms of grace, gently welcoming you in, with the biggest celebration Heaven has ever seen. God has handed you His shield of victory (Ps. 18:35). God snatched you from the grip of the one who was devouring you. 
He will not keep you here, however. Like a potter, He will shape you. Like a potter, He will refine you.  
Listen carefully, your King is calling.
The Utter Humanity of the Life-Giver Himself- The Esther Project Ministries
I wonder if sweet little Jesus shed tears when His mommy had to leave, or if He was given free fruit at the market for just being too darn cute. Just like us, He probably stumbled across the floor upon taking His first steps. I wonder if Mary and Joseph cuddled their sweet little boy to sleep, or if they read stories to Him and sang silly songs while He sat there and giggled. ​
Sometimes our perception of Jesus is this man who was constantly on the run while healing people and casting out demons at the same time. And although He did those things at the proper time, what about all the in-between's? When Jesus was just simply still before His Father. Or when He was hyped up while playing competitive games with His disciples?

I wonder if He played games with all the little town children. He probably came home at lunch time to find his mommy already prepared for His arrival. I smile at the thought of Jesus belly-laughing with tears in His eyes. I wonder what made Him laugh and His eyes light up. 

You see, day after day, the disciples were able to see Jesus in His utter humanity. I could only imagine the funny stories and inside jokes between He and His disciples. I wonder if they poked fun at each other for their silly mistakes or laughed at Jesus when He spilled food all over the floor. I wonder what it would have been like to be bear-hugged by the one who created every star in every galaxy. I bet He was really funny and creative just like His Father. I wonder if people were on the edge of their seats eager to learn from the one who healed their loved ones or if His voice became raspy after a long day of teaching. Oh what I would give to sit at His feet and just simply listen to the life-giver Himself. 

Oh what it would be like to lay down, weary and exhausted, with your head on His shoulders watching the sunset with the one who spoke it into existence. What blessing it would be to  battle life with the one who fills your lungs with His life-giving breath.

All in all, Jesus could have come in with a boom and stunned the whole world with His power, but He just simply came. He could have demanded that all the world would drop in awe as soon as He walked through the door, but He chose to just simply come, quietly and gently illuminating the light of His Father. He bear-hugged and loved on the poor and needy and served those who were considered "unlovable". 

Jesus was human, just like you and I. But my friends, please remember that you are His child. You are loved and welcomed every second of every day.

You are the child of King who is never thwarted, never moved, and never held back or defeated. You are the child of King who believes in you, loves you unconditionally, and understands what it is like to be human with heavenly desires. He is overjoyed by that marvelous heart of yours. 

Whether you are being swallowed by a deep valley of heavy emotion, or whether you are on a plateau just craving to hear His voice, or whether you are dancing in fields of abundance, please know, that no matter what season God has you in, you are exactly where He wants you to be. 

Even when if feels like you are stepping out on uncharted territory not knowing what season He will place you in next, may you always find contentment and rest in who He is. Everything that God has ordained to happen, will happen. There no need to fear the storm that seems too much to bear. And no matter what, may you always see the need for Him both in the deep valley, the plateau, and in the fields of abundance. 

With grace upon grace, He lifts you up. With grace upon grace, He keeps you steady. With grace upon grace, He keeps you from sinking. With grace upon grace, you are filled and satisfied by the breath of the life-giver.
In you, He will accomplish His work at the prepared time. And although it seems like He is bringing you to the edge of yourself, He is ever so near, He is stretching and molding you, and is gently whispering "You are mine and I am so proud of you". 

My friends, I want you to listen closely. God is purposeful with you. He is constantly steadfast and undeservingly loyal to His beloved children. How beautifully He is teaching you the art of surrender.

Please remember, as Christ fills you daily, that your cup is meant to be emptied again. You are shaped and refined by the creator Himself. His freedom is your forever dwelling place. Be content and joyful in each season He has you in, because your cup will soon be overflowing. 
Ground-Breaking, Veil-Tearing Hope- The Esther Project Ministries
They killed my Jesus.

How could they kill my Jesus? How could they kill the only one who fills my breathless lungs with life and leaves the ninety-nine to rescue me?

Luke 14:4-5
Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn't he leave the ninety-nine plus the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? and when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, "Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep." I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who do not repent. 

Make yourself at home, sit before the cross, and let's grieve the loss of our Savior.

The cross taught us about the gravity of our sin. 

It was not the nails nor the soldiers that held our sweet Jesus to the cross. It was you. It was me. It was our mistakes. It was our pain. It was our selfishness. It was our wandering hearts. It was every lie we have ever spoken and every person we have held above Jesus. It was every moment we thought we were better and more important than others and reacted with unjustified anger. It was every time we looked past those in need and craved the better that others had. It was every time we chose ourselves over Jesus. 

It was me who should have been bound to that cross. It was me who Jesus looked at with merciful eyes and chose to show love in the most excruciating way. It was me who He looked at and saw a future that I could not even see for myself. It was me who He chose to fill with ground-breaking, veil-tearing hope. Oh, how abandoned my sweet Jesus felt on that cross. Screams of anguish and redemptive pain. Screams of surrender and sorrow. Screams of I love you's. 

Matthew 27:50-52 
Jesus cried out in a loud voice and gave up His spirit. At that moment, the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split, and the tombs broke open.

In a sense, the cross of unhindered self-sacrifice is the most profound and painful to carry. There is a timeless hope in knowing that the weight of the cross we carry is never heavier than the cross our Jesus carried for us. The hill of Calvary has become our place of excruciating redemption. The place in which God's awaited promise was firmly established. The place in which God stood victorious as the light demolished the darkness and our guilt and shame were stained with blood. The sacred veil tore in half, and in the most glorifying and excruciating way, the wrath of God was satisfied and the barrier between human weakness and unexplainable strength was crushed under the foot of the Almighty. It was the only time in history where Heaven held its breath for a miracle. And in that very moment, the torn body of Jesus held the weight of a soul-crushing, sinful world on His shoulders. 

Lay it down, Sister, the cost was too high to not. Lay down your broken pieces and burning desires at the foot of the cross with full surrender and sacrifice. He was pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought peace to us was on Him, and by His wounds, we are healed (Isaiah 53:5). Loving recklessly until it hurts is the weight we hold as followers of Jesus. But we know that even when the world hates us, it hated Jesus first. We know, through Him, that not only are we forgiven, but that pain was the way in which God chose to show His unhindered love for us. 

I pray that we see this season as a time to mourn and grieve the death of our Savior. That we realize we are nothing apart from the grace and mercy of Jesus. Every wound on His body was a wound that was meant for mine. 

So we know, from what He has done, that He is not finished with us yet. His love and sacrifice does not end on the cross. It carries us with each and every breath we take. His sacrifice on the cross was not just something that happened a long, long time ago, but rather carries us through the conviction of our sinful hearts and sets us free from the chains that hold us captive. He took upon Himself the most horrific death for the sake of our reconciliation. 

It is the hope of the cross that holds us fast. 

The story does not end on the cross. If Jesus was held by the grip of death, we would never be able to see the other side. When we were alone in our sorrow, He ran out of that grave!

"Long before you woke up this morning and long after you go to sleep tonight, the Spirit of God was circling you with songs of deliverance. He has been circling you since the day you were conceived, and He will circle you until the day you die. He is praying hard for you with ultrasonic groans that cannot be formulated into words, and those unutterable intercessions should fill you with an unspeakable confidence."
-The Circle Maker, Mark Batterson

You are the daughter of the Risen King. You were chosen and hold value in the Kingdom of God. Jesus needs you to run out of that grave, too. Oh death, where is your victory? Oh death, where is your sting?!
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