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More Like an Elf

Staring at this picture, I can't help but relate to it.  The quick scribble, the simple word, the smudge that I didn't take the time to correct. 

My thanks is full of haste these days. 

With Christmas just around the corner, I feel more like an elf than Santa.  I've been so busy and past the point of exhaustion that I can barely take a moment to simply enjoy this season.  Instead of being filled with joy, I've got a crick in my neck and a sharp pain in my back.  My eyes are tired and my mind is mentally exhausted.  At night, I lay my weary feet into bed and wish for a day of sleeping in.  This has been my December.

Last week, some of our friends got together for a Christmas Cocktail.

Over a decadent meal of pork loin, garlic potatoes, parmesean-coated asparagus, and molten lava cakes, our friend JW asked everyone what they were thankful for this year besides our families and friends.  Sitting quietly in my seat, I couldn't come up with a good answer.  Silently, I huffed at God asking Him, "What do YOU think I should be thankful for?"

God has been challenging me lately.  Or, better yet, I have been in a slightly annoyed position with God.  I know God has given me so much to be thankful for - the girls' health, Raleigh having a job, our wonderfully supportive family & friends - but I don't feel very thankful.  I feel tired.  And defeated.  I've been in this season of wanting what I don't yet have...and wondering if these wants will ever be fulfilled.  Because, I've been trying to fulfill them - through hard work, discipline, and prayer - but it just isn't happening the way I thought it would.

To put it bluntly: life is hard.

Typically, glass half-full Christen has hope.  She believes.  She trusts that all good things will happen to those that ask.  But, lately I've seen that God isn't a magician and He isn't going to grant me three wishes just because I asked for it.  Instead, He chooses to prune me.

Yep, you heard me right, prune.

John 15:1-2 says, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful."

Prune is not a pretty word.  When I looked it up in the dictionary, it literally means "to cut or lop off superflous or undesired twigs." Ouch.  Pruning hurts.  It isn't a fun process to go through but it is necessary to get to become more fruitful.  Right now, pruning feels a lot like getting beat up.  Being in a season of discouragement, the only thing that gives me hope is this one simple word:


"Remain in me, and I will remain in you.  No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.  Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me" (John 15:4).

Deep down, I know God has a plan for my life more awesome than I can imagine.  I realize that the more I remain in Him, the better decisions I will make that will ultimately point me down that path.  The Greek word for prune is purge which simply means "to cleanse from filth, purify."  With my stubborn chin pointed accusingly in God's direction, I don't agree that my life is in need of pruning or that my wants need to be made more pure.  I want my wants to come true.

But, is that truly remaining?  Am I walking hand in hand with Emmanuel?  Is that truly believing that God is with us even when we don't immediately get what we want?  Will I remain in faith and trust in the One who gives me Life even if I never get what I want?  Or, will I be dead like those branches?

I want to bear fruit. 

So, I must remain.

And, give thanks.

Till next time, let your light shine!

Blessings, christen

*Pictures are by JW Godwin



Err on the Side of Love

Everyone has their favorite misheard lyric story. Personally, I'll never be able to top the moment I heard a friend as she was singing Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" and realized she was belting out "Hold me close, I'm tryin' to daaance... uhhhh." Seriously. But more recently, I've discovered something even more fun: misheard meaning. The more I listen to songs that I've known by heart since I was a kid, the more I realize I had absolutely no idea what I was even singing about. My favorite song growing up was always the Beach Boys' "Kokomo." I mean - what did I know about getting there fast and taking it slow? (Although I must admit that I'm just as confused now by Toto's "Africa," a current favorite.)

My mind was blown a few months ago when a friend and I were listening to Garth Brooks on a road trip, and the song "Papa Loved Mama" came on. We both noted that we weren't quite sure what was said in the second line of the chorus ("Mama was a looker/Lord, how she shined"), so I looked it up. [If you don't know the song, it's all about Papa - a truck driver - who comes home early and catches Mama cheating on him.] Reading through the rest of the lyrics, I looked up and said "Sara Beth, did you know that Papa killed Mama?" I expected her to laugh at me, but was surprised when she said "WHAT?" Neither of us, in our childhood ignorance, realized that Mama's in the graveyard and Papa's in the pen because he dun' killed Mama dead! (Crazily enough, we both had thought Mama died from some unknown reason while Papa ended up in the pen from drunk driving his truck into a motel... not realizing Mama was IN that motel room.)

So what does this have to do with this post's title, you ask? We'll get there. But for now, I charge you with this:


Think That You Might Be Wrong. 

I took the picture above this past summer in New Orleans, and I go back to this thought often. I can't tell you how many times in my adult life that something has happened to rock my world, blow my mind, and completely change my views on something I truly thought I knew. And we aren't talking song lyrics, folks.

  • I thought I knew how I felt about social issues like health insurance until I watched helplessly as a friend had to declare bankruptcy at 25 because even though she worked hard and had a full-time job, she couldn't afford insurance, got sick, and racked up medical bills in a matter of two weeks.
  • I thought I knew how I felt about homosexuality until people I loved came out of the closet.
  • I thought that if a person was a Christian, that meant they were immune to making bad decisions and giving into what they knew was wrong... until I truly understood what it means that no one is perfect.
  • I thought I knew about God's love until I realized that I was only being told one person's view of it.

There are so many more, and I assume I'm not the only person learning these lessons that come with (welp) age and maturity. More than anything, what I do know is this: if we all "took a walk in someone else's shoes" every once in a while, the world would be a different place. We would realize that there is no black and white, and that the possibilities are endless for what could change the lives of you or your loved ones. Sometimes we're the bad guy. Sometimes there is no good guy. And most importantly I've learned that no matter what, and don't miss this -- No. Matter. What. -- God's greatest gift to the world was unconditional love. This is true of both His love for us, and also His charge to us to love one another. Not to judge one another. Not to belittle one another. Not to hurt, and certainly not to hate one another. [pullquote_left]When I have doubts, I always err on the side of love.[/pullquote_left]

There are tons of things, especially when it comes to God, that I don't think I'll ever know. But I do know that Jesus called us to love, so when I have doubts, I always err on the side of love.

One song ole Garth wrote that I never misunderstood was "We Shall Be Free."

Check out the lyrics here. This post wasn't about politics, though I'll admit that all of the fussin' and fightin' going on brings these thoughts to my mind more and more. I don't write any of this to sway opinion, but only to share my experience and what I've learned in this life. But I will tell you this - I'm publicly declaring myself a member of the "Garth Brooks Freedom Party." He's got my vote.



31 Days Of Living Life Out Loud

Hey truth seekers!

How's your weekend been? I sure hope you found time to dwell in God's house and rest in His presence.  I've been in Chi ago for the past few days learning about children's ministry at the KidMin conference put on by Group.  It's been an amazing experience and it came at such a perfect time that only God could have ordained.

Last week, I honestly wasn't sure if I felt ready to begin another 31 Days Of challenge. Since I asked y'all your opinion on what I should write about, I've been racking my brain for a topic.  This weekend, as I've listened to amazing speakers, toured the heart of Chicago, conversed with people just like me, and spent much needed time with my Savior, I've come to a major conclusion: I'm ready to live my life out loud.

You might be wondering what that means. That's great! Hang out with me for the next 31 days and we can discover what living out loud means together.  It's my hope that when the month of October ends, that all who journey on this adventure walk away a little more courageous and ready to live life vibrantly for Christ.

Be ready for posts that approach this topic in creative ways. It's my goal to have fun with this series while being meaningful at the same time. I've got to get R to make us a cute little button too! :)

Ya'll ready to jump higher, dream bigger, and stand taller? Good, I am too!

Till next time, let your light shine!

Blessings, christen



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Mean People Suck, Vol. III

As many of you know, I made my writing debut here talking about how Mean People Suck. This article, based on both the event itself and the aftermath of the now infamous Harvey Updyke/Toomer's Corner tragedy, was my commentary on the fact that there are just plain-out mean people out there, and best practices in dealing with them. I followed up a bit later with a post about how my faith in humanity had been restored due to the kindness of strangers during the holidays when my grandmother was sick, ending with a challenge to be kind in 2012. Well, folks, in just a little over a week, we here in the South face our fiercest catalyst in the battle of good and evil. I don't have any statistics, but I'm willing to bet that domestic arguments (in houses divided) triple during the last four months of the year. I've witnessed my fair share of them myself. I've bitterly uttered words out of hurt or just pure rage that would never come to my mind or lips at any other time. I'm not talking about the election, Chick-fil-A, the August heat, or the return of school, friends. It's college football season, y'all. 

It's enough to just make me want to stick my head in the sand until January. With that being said, I'm going to start building an arsenal in my head of all the reasons I LOVE other humans! We'll call this the "Mean People Suck" series... but more as a reminder that the suckier people are, the more we appreciate the kindness in others.

Here are some examples of People Who Do Not Suck:

  • First, let's whet the palate this post on Buzzfeed, called "21 Pictures That Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity." I've kept this saved in my bookmarks and go back to it regularly when I'm  having a "I Want to Kick the Shins of Everyone I Know" kind of day.
  • Ok, now think about the Olympics. Picture Michael Phelps on the stand, holding back the tears as he accepted his last gold medal. Picture the sweet smile of Gabby Douglas and that awesome "You Can Do It!" from Bela Karoli. Got that warm and fuzzy feeling? Now watch this (another from Buzzfeed). Boom! Instant rush of patriotism and love for your fellow man. I recommend revisiting this when the presidential election gets particularly ugly.

  • Speaking of the Olympics, if you want a good laugh at my expense, read here how I got so inspired by the Olympics and decided to break out my nonexistent cheerleading skills and try out some backyard gymnastics, only to end up with a fracture in my knee, a fancy brace, and 8 weeks of physical therapy. What I only touched on in that article, however, was just how stinkin' nice everyone is being to me. I'm kinda known for milking these sorts of things, or possibly exaggerating pains and such just to be babied a bit (my poor roommates, sister, and best friends will attest to this), but this time it's real! I'm not supposed to walk about! And it's different with coworkers - not even I am comfortable asking my office-neighbor to fill up my water glass every time he goes to the kitchen. But without even asking, the wonderful people around me have taken it upon themselves to help me out with everything except escorting me to the bathroom. I've had more people check in on me, offer to help, and just baby me than I've ever experienced outside of my group of friends and family. These, I'm guessing, are the perks for working for a church. Regardless - I'm forever grateful and will not be forgetting these kindnesses anytime soon.


  • Westboro Baptist Church. Yall heard of them? These are the vile people who have the website and have made a name for themselves by picketing soldier's funerals. (They are absolutely not connected to the Southern Baptist Church  in any way.) You can read up on them here, if you aren't familiar. You're probably surprised I began this entry with mention of them, because the group certainly does not elicit nice thoughts in any decent human being's head. (They absolutely, in no way, represent the teachings of Christ as they spew hatred in His name... ) Anyway - see how quickly I digress? So on their site, they have a list of people/churches they are picketing, and word got around that they had set their sites on my church back in June. They cited our "Everyone is Welcome; No one is perfect; Anything can happen." motto as their reasoning (seems that opens us up to allowing sinners in our church!). My pastor released this official response from the church, in which he basically says "be graceful to the gracekillers" and do not do anything but pray for them, because they are so obviously lost.So on that Sunday morning, I arrived at church, ready to stand my ground, not react, and honestly just a tad bit excited because let's face it, nothing gets our adrenalin going like the chance to spot yourself in the background on the nightly news. Before the service let out, one of our campus pastors let us know that the protesters had been there, but they were already gone. It was quite anti-climactic... until I found out why. People had organized a counter-protest, still keeping Pastor Pete's thoughts in mind, not to combat them, but simply to form a wall (literally, with plastic sheets) between the protesters and the church-goers. These were not members of the church. Some weren't even Christians. They just simply felt out of the goodness of their hearts that it was important to let people worship in peace and not be accosted on their Sunday morning. Unfortunately, the news article about this from our local news station has been taken down, but I remember very well how much my heart swelled when I heard the woman interviewed say (something along the line of) "There's just no reason for these good people to be hurt when all they want to do is worship." That, my friends, is the true human heart.



So that's what I've got for now. Anything to add? Anything help you sort out the goodies and the baddies lately?

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Toy Kitchens and Greedy Worms {When Jealousy Creeps In}

Christen, thanks again for the chance to guest post here at The Uncontainable Truth!

My four year old daughter's shoulders are sagging as she tugs my shirt and stares at me with round, pleading eyes.

"It just makes me so sad," she moans.
I'm sad, too.  Slightly amused at her, but sad for entirely different reasons.


"Did you see her toy kitchen? It was pink!  She has an apron!  I'm just so sad about my green toy kitchen. It's not so cute and pink like hers."   She's been moping for a full ten minutes.
Caroline's toy kitchen is green, and so is she, with jealousy.  My generous, joyful girl has, for the first time, been bitten hard by the monster of envy.  I wrap my arms around her and tell how Mimi and Pal gave her the green toy kitchen for Christmas when she was tiny.  I tell her how her beloved Pal pieced it together, while bald, tiny Caroline trailed behind him, scattering screws and making the task hard and sweet.


Within moments, Caroline is belly laughing and ready to pretend cook.  While she stirs make-believe stew, my own thoughts brew about envy.


How skinny girls make me want to lose weight.

How spacious floor plans and tall ceilings make me miss our old house.
How fashion magazines make my own closet depressing.


We compare ourselves to others constantly.  Where we win, pride festers in our soul.  
... at least we're thinner/smarter/nicer/wealthier/more stylish/more holy than her.


Where we lose the comparison competition, jealousy breeds.
Our green toy kitchen is no longer nearly as fun, now that she has a pink one.
Our house/car/body/abilities are no longer worth gratitude, since hers are better.
And how do we pick whom we compare ourselves to?
When I chastise myself for gaining five pounds,
I'm neglecting to compare myself to the woman overtaken by cancer.
I bet she'd prefer my body.
When I call our home small and cramped,
I forget to compare myself to almost half the world (3 billion people) who live on $2.50 each day.
I wonder what their homes are like.
When I groan at a closet overstuffed, partially with clothes I don't like,
I'm forgetting our church asked me to thin that closet by sending items to international refugees who move to our city with nearly nothing.
They're thankful for clean clothes to cover their backs, even if it's not the latest style in Vogue.


Who do we think we are, anyway, that we should always have more and better?
Didn't God Almighty call us "worms" in scripture? (here, here, and here)  Do worms dare pout for better cars, careers, and figures?
Our merciful Father, even as He calls us worms... He promises to help us.
"'Do not be afraid, you worm Jacob,
little Israel, do not fear,
for I myself will help you,' declares the Lord,
your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel."
Isaiah 41:14
He knows how weak we are.
How prone to sin. How wrecked with jealousy.
The God who laughs as His worms send space ships 352 million miles to Mars yet still cannot fathom the hugeness of their Creator...
He humbles Himself by living with us...
in the hearts and lives of mere worms...
healing us of our jealousy and sickness and sin.

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