I miss my Nenney today.
She was not my mother, but she chose to mother and disciple me.
Like Annie F. Downs said, “Sometimes discipleship looks like carrying biscuits to the end of the driveway.” My Nenney’s discipleship was a little different.
My Nenney made the best sweet tea. Every day when I came home from school, she was there asking me if I wanted a glass of tea. How could I say no? She also had fresh cornbread made for us. It had the perfect crumble with just enough butter on top.
She drank black coffee every morning. She was up before the sun with a cup of joe and News Channel 5 to start the day.
She fell asleep to soap operas on tv and denied that she watched them. They were simply “background noise.” But if you stayed long enough, she would let you know the drama of the episode.
She could not carry a tune. Standing in church by her was an adventure. As she sang loud and strong, her voice would go all over the place. She knew every word, and she would not deny her Savior joyous praise.
She loved to laugh, and her laugh was so wonderful. No noise would escape her, and her body would shake from uncontrollable laughter.
She had the most beautiful face. Her green eyes and delicate features welcomed you in with a warm embrace—an embrace you didn’t know you needed.
She gave the best hugs. Ever since I can remember, she would squeeze me tight and say, “Ohhh, you ‘ole sweet thang.” A term of endearment you didn’t know you wanted, until it fell off her tongue.
She was so kind and so generous. She would give you the clothes off her back if she could.
She was diagnosed with dementia several years ago, but that did not stop her from being my Nenney. She still laughed hard with no noise, she still called me her “mat mat” and “ole’ sweet thang,” she still drank black coffee every morning, and she still could not carry a tune.
Then one day, I came and she did not know who I was. She had a biscuit and jelly, a bowl of oatmeal, and her signature cup of coffee. She didn’t know me, but I knew her. That was one of the only days she didn’t know me, but I can still taste the sourness in my mouth when she asked, “And who are you, Dear?”
One day, her hospice nurse told us she had about 3 days to live. Her pulse was so low that they could not detect it with the monitor, and her brain had cut off communication with her stomach. A natural part of life that I was scared to endure. The heartache that I would feel from such a loss as my dear Nen.
My sister and I stayed with her and our grandmother that week. A few nights before she passed away, my sister, my grandmother, and I all sat around her bed and loved on her. We sang her favorite hymns “Love Lifted Me,” “Because He Lives,” “The Old Rugged Cross,” and more. She breathed. We sang. A night that will be engrained in my memory forever.
She passed away in her daughter’s (my grandmother’s home) in August of 2017. She lived a week, instead of 3 days. She held her stubbornness until the end. I remember coming in and seeing her look so peaceful. She had met Jesus face to face and all that was left was her physical remains. Her warm face still there, but the life behind it gone. I could not help but kiss her forehead. She would have done the same to mine.
My Nen loved me. She took care of me. She bandage my wounds. She fed me meals. She made me laugh. She hugged me every time she saw me. She discipled me and showed me who Jesus was.
Sometimes, discipleship is carrying biscuits to the end of the driveway. Sometimes, it’s making sweet tea and cornbread and laughing so hard no noise comes out.
It’s been almost two years, since she passed. It’s still hard to go to my grandmother’s home and not feel the empty space where Nenney’s presence should be. I miss her smile. I miss her laugh. I miss the smell of her black coffee on the table and cornbread in the oven. I miss hearing her unable to carry a tune. I miss my Nen.
Happy Mother’s Day, Nen. Thank you for loving us all so well. I miss you every single day. I hope you’re laughing so hard that no noise comes out and singing out of tune with Jesus.
I get it. You feel hopeless. You have messed up too many times for the Lord to forgive you. He can forgive everyone else… but how can He forgive your sin?
You feel unworthy. You look at your life, and you have nothing to give God. You have nothing to lay at His feet. Why would He ever want…you?
You feel burnt out. You are exhausted. Life is coming at your from every angle, and you just want to give up. Is life really worth it?
Friend… Can I just tell you that I completely understand?
It is so hard to see myself as forgivable, worthy, loved, treasured… How could God forgive my sin, when I fail Him so much? Why would He want me when I have nothing to give Him? Why did He create me?
Friend, can I just tell you that we have a great Lord? We have a Redeemer, Healer, Comforter, and Defender. We have a God that is the same today, yesterday, and forever. He created us in His own image.
While I was at the Passion Conference, Francis Chan spoke on Ephesians 1:15-21, which says:
“For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.”
Y’all. The Lord looks at us as His glorious inheritance. If you do not believe me, go read it for yourself from the written word of God. We are His inheritance, and to Him, we are glorious.
No matter what part of life you are in, no matter what sin you have done, no matter how worthless you feel, you are loved by God. You are His. Come. To. Him. Bring your sins, your shame, your doubt, your disbelief, and lay it all at His feet. He will forgive if you ask, and forgiveness is only the beginning…because He wants to make you new.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” -2 Corinthians 5:17
“My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!”
I still cannot believe it! I am loved by the Creator, and He is making me new.
Friend, He loves you. Come to Him, just as you are. Give it all to Him. Be made new in Christ.
Two weeks ago, I had this crazy urge to buy makeup. I wore mascara almost every day, but anything other than that terrified me.
What if I wouldn’t look okay? What if my skin would break out? What if I was awful at it?
Those are some questions I would ask myself. I mean, come on, I didn’t even start wearing mascara until the 9th grade… and it literally took me 10 to 15 minutes to put it on. No exaggeration. My need of perfection even went into putting on mascara. I could only imagine what I’d be like putting on foundation and blush.
But like I said, I had an urge to buy some. So, I took Lex and we drove to Ulta to get some simple makeup for me. I didn’t get much, just some BB cream, foundation, concealer, and blush. I also bought some brushes from Walgreens. (No contour palette for me just yet.)
That night when we got home, I laid in bed watching YouTube videos for “Beginners in Makeup.” I felt so weird, but I didn’t want to mess up the next morning.
When I woke up, I put on the makeup in the way the videos had taught me, and I was so proud of myself. I called Troy later that day to tell him those series of events and that my fear of makeup was gone, and I was wearing it. He got very quiet on the phone for a few seconds, almost like a hesitation to speak. Then, he said, “Maddy, I don’t want you to get mad when I say this, but you are beautiful with or without makeup. I don’t want you to feel like you have to wear it to look beautiful.”
It took me a few seconds to understand why he had said that, but I knew.. He knew all of my insecurities about my self-image and my need to be perfect. He was nervous that I was wearing it simply to hide my imperfections.
When I got off the phone, I really thought hard about why I had bought the makeup. Had I subconsciously bought the makeup, because I wanted to feel more beautiful? because I wanted less visible flaws? Why did I really buy it?
Troy had realized before I did: I had bought the makeup because of my insecurities. I told myself it was because I didn’t want to be afraid of makeup. I wanted to be able to do it on my own and not have to ask my sister to do my makeup.
For as long as I can remember, my insecurities have always outweighed how God sees me. The way I see myself is ugly, not photogenic, etc. I forget that I am made in God’s image. I forget that He is the potter and I am the clay. I forget that I am beautiful, with or without makeup. I forget that outer beauty fades, but inner beauty does not.
Leah and I went to Franklin last weekend. I told her my struggles with my self-image, and that I was trying to see myself as God’s beautiful daughter made in His image. She then proceeded to tell me she had a store she wanted us to go to called Imago Dei (which means made in the image of God). One of the first things you see when you walk the store are these cards (featured in the image above). It says…
Deeply Loved | Worthy | Set Apart | Seen
Chosen | Warrior | Alive For Such A Time As This
Forgiven | Purposed | Redeemed | Accepted
My eyes filled with tears as I read all of those sweet, real, and true words. They are meant for everyone who reads them. I am loved. I am worthy. I am His child.
After these realizations, I’ve had to constantly remind myself that I am made in His image, that I am beautiful regardless. Some mornings I have to sit in front of the mirror and say, “Madelyn, you are beautiful. You do not need this makeup, but you are wearing it because you want to get better at it. You are loved. You are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of the Creator.”
I am praying for each and everyone of you who stumble across my blog and this specific post. I pray that if self-image is something that you struggle with, you know that you are not alone. So many people struggle with it. I hope that this post reminds you how beautiful you are, and how you are made in God’s image. You are loved, my friend. You are beautiful, with or without makeup.
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” -Genesis 1:27
“I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are Your works; my soul knows it very well.” -Psalm 139:14
“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” -1 Peter 3:3-4
What does it mean to be a Christian? What does it mean to truly be a follower of Christ? What does living like Jesus look like?
It all goes back to the scriptures, to His ministry.
I believe, most of the time, we try and conform our view of Christ to how we view ourselves. We try and justify our logic and actions, even if they are unjustifiable. We point out the sins and flaws of our brothers and sisters and the lost, even though we have our own sins and flaws. We point out the worst in others to make ourselves feel better, to ease the guilt of our own transgressions. We try and argue, until we are blue in the face, about how we are right and the opposition is wrong.
But if you look back at Christ’s time on earth… did He do any of this? It’s unfathomable to me how our humanness can darken our hearts so much to others.
When I read the New Testament, when I read Jesus’s words and actions, I am deeply moved. He healed the ill and injured. He had dinner with tax collectors. He befriended prostitutes. He showed compassion. He showed grace. He showed love.
Why aren’t we trying harder to do the same? Why are we staying comfortable in our small boxes with people who only fit in our categories? Why are we not helping others? Why are we angry at people who are not like us? Why do we continue to point out the speck in a person’s eye but we neglect to see the log in our own?
My friends, our faith should be more than this. Our faith has the ability to move mountains. We have the ability to bring others to Christ, the One True King… and yet, we sit back and judge others, we sit back and say, “Well, I know someone is going to do that.”
Judging and feeling hatred towards people who are different than you is a sad and lonely road to walk on. Being self-righteous only gets so far, before you realize you are emptier now than you ever were.
Christ has so much more in store for you than that. He wants you to be like Him: to speak life, to give grace, and to love with no limits. What would your life look like if you lived like Him?
Put down those pointing fingers and judgmental stares, close your mouth when you want to shame others, and lay down your pride and surrender to the Creator of the Universe. You are His child… but so is the woman at work who got an abortion, so is the man next door with a drug addiction, so is the college professor who is an atheist.
Open your eyes, brothers and sisters, to this broken world in need of its Savior. Open your eyes to more than just your small box. Get uncomfortable. Live out your faith. Be more than your crooked heart, friends. Live with love. Walk with Christ. Strive to be more like Him.
“After eighteen years of pastoral ministry, I have never met a person who fell in love with Jesus because a Christian scolded them about their ethics. Have you? … Grace comes before ethics. No condemnation comes before the morality discussion. Kindness leads to repentance. Love–the broad embrace of Jesus’s narrow path–creates the most life-giving experiences you will ever be a part of.” –Befriend by Scott Sauls
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” –Matthew 7:1-5
“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” –Luke 6:27-28
Dear Younger Me,
Middle school is going to be hard. Let me just spare you embarrassing memories: do not date until you are ready to date for marriage. Every boy’s frontal lobe will still be developing, and both you and them are too immature to “talk” or “date.” Trust me on this one.
Middle school is such an awkward time. You will be learning who you are. I know that it can be so easy to compare yourself to others, but you are not those girls you are comparing yourself to. Do not be jealous of what they look like or what they have. God created you to be you…not them.
High school will be better (more frontal lobes are developing, so less drama and immature people). You are still so insecure, so depressed… Oh, Younger Me, I know all the thoughts and feelings you are thinking and feeling, but I cannot tell you enough how it is going to be okay. You are going to make it through these trials. I know self-image for you is hard, and the self-harm sounds so much better than the emotional pain…but you will realize: it isn’t. No, you are not ugly. You are not fat. You are not worthless. You are not a waste of space and time. Suicide will not solve the problem. Your family loves you. Your friends love you. God loves you.
Start a quiet time now. I know you will be busy with soccer, honors classes, and clubs, but you will need the Lord to get you through some tough times ahead. You need time with Him more than you know.
The latter part of high school: self-image and insecurities will rise often, but you will remember that you are not your scars and you will remember to stay strong. Your scars will fade. Slowly but surely, you will realize your worth and realize that your identity is found in Christ. Hey, and listen… When people ask about your scars… This is not a moment to be ashamed. This not a moment to hide. This is a moment for you to share what happened: that you were depressed, you wanted to die. BUT… that the Lord and His unfailing love broke through to your soul and reminded you how much you were and are loved. Remind them how much they are loved: by you and by the Creator of the Universe. You will be surprised how the act of being vulnerable and the Holy Spirit can open up conversations. Be bold with your faith.
And… You are going to meet your high school sweetheart, and your life will never be the same. You will see his spiritual transformation and being raised into a newness of life. You will witness what Jesus can do. You will watch the Lord change him 180 degrees and make him whole. When that transformation happens, be a better example than I was. His love language in this season of life is Words of Affirmation (hello, just like you), so encourage and uplift him in Christ! He will need it, because as you know, the Christian walk is not an easy one. Love him, but do not make him an idol. The Lord is the ONLY God you worship.
Also in the latter part of high school: do not be confused when the number of friends you have dwindles. You are going to cry…a lot…but this needs to happen. The Lord is allowing this pain, so that He can fill you up…so that you realize you only need Him (but this won’t happen until you are a freshmen in college).
Speaking of college: it is SO much better than high school. Do not stress so much. Picking a major is hard…but the Lord is going to guide you to the one you least expected you wanted to do, and you are going to be so excited when you find out and begin doing research. I know you won’t want to get close to anyone, because you are scared to get hurt…but life is made to be messy! If we did not make relationships with people, how could we show them what God has done in our lives? How can you pour into people when you have no one pouring into you? The people you will meet at the BCM are so genuine. They truly love the Lord, and they will encourage you every step of the way. The day you rededicate your life to Christ…remember that crying is okay. 🙂 Remember that He makes beautiful things out of us.
The Lord is going to work so much in your life, Younger Me. I look back now, and I can’t help but tear up as I think about how My Savior “saved a wretch like me” … Every decision you make is a part of you, your testimony… So go! Be a light in this dark world. Open up your heart to others. When you feel ugly, remember that the Creator of the Universe made you. He knew every mistake and flaw you would make, and He still died for you. When you are afraid, remember the Lord is ALWAYS with you. When you feel weak, remember that God is your strength. Jesus is worth it. Tell others about Him and what He has done for your life. You will not regret it.
I know I cannot go back and change the past by writing a letter to myself. But man, I am praying that if you are reading this, you know you are loved! All of this advice is from my heart, and I pray and encourage you to let go and allow the Lord to pour His Spirit into you. You are so worth loving!
At church on Sunday, I talked to my good friend, Judy Harrison. She told me how God shattered her “into a billion little pieces,” and piece by piece He is putting her back together to be a vessel for Him.
As she was talking, God spoke to my soul and said, “Maddy, this is what I have been doing for you.”
In Italy, God broke me. When I faced a tough situation, I could not run into the comforts of my home. I was a thousands of miles away from home, across the Atlantic Ocean, on a different continent.
In those six weeks, the Lord taught me about the beauty of friendship and exactly what it means to bear one another’s burdens. In those six weeks, the Lord taught me to fully rely on Him. In those six weeks, the Lord broke, mended, and made me whole again.
This summer, the Lord has been working within me, even at times when I could not understand what He was trying to accomplish. I know it will sound cliché when I say this, but I thought when God told me to go to Italy He was going to allow me to plant seeds and change peoples’ lives…but as I look back, I think He allowed me to go to Italy, so He could change my life.
While I was there, I read Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. It is an incredible book for the believer and nonbeliever alike. It shows each reader what Christianity is about without forcing the reader to believe anything. It has had such an impact on me, and I am so thankful for people like C.S. Lewis who write the truth with no sugar coating. He also puts into perspective what we Christians believe with examples that I would’ve never thought of. There is one section that stuck out to me, especially as I am writing this blog post. C.S Lewis says, “Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
No wonder I had to go and serve in Italy for 6 weeks… He had a lot of repairing, removing, and replacing to do within me!
I’m thankful for my time in Italy. I’m thankful for Mrs. Judy allowing the Lord to work within her, so He could show me what He was accomplishing within me. I’m thankful that the Lord made a broken vessel, like me, beautiful.
So… If the Lord is working in your life and you cannot see how it is going to be beneficial in any way at the moment, just know that the final product is so worth it. Allow God in to the very depths of your soul to make you a new creation. He knows exactly what He is doing.
I am praying for all of you today…that you would see the Lord working in your life and give Him praise!
I love you all so much.
“We are afflicted in every way but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed… So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” -2 Corinthians 4:7-9, 16-18
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” -Colossians 3:16
Well, everyone. Here is another post from yours truly.
Around a year ago, I started reading in Ephesians. Chapter by chapter, I have slowly inched my way through the New Testament. Today, I finished Galatians: completing my first and full NT reading.
I began this journey in a season of life where I wanted to know God more. Through this season, God has taught me so much about His faithfulness, how to trust in Him, and about what it truly means to be a follower of Christ.
What a hard and beautiful journey it has been.
In four days, I will be stepping on a plane to head to Italy for the next six weeks of my life. It is the start of a whole new season, a whole new journey, in my life.
I do not know what this new journey will be like, and I am nervous. But… I know that God is with me through every step. I know that He is faithful in every season of life.
I pray whatever season of life you are in, whether it’s a testing season, a stagnant season, or a fulfilling season, that God is with you. I pray that you use this season, and every season, to praise Him! If you are tired, if you feel like you can’t go on, just know that in God’s presence, He can fill your cup back up. Immerse yourself into God’s Word. Even in the hard times, I have never felt more full than in the presence of God while I am reading His Word. I pray He is teaching you all something incredible. John Piper once wrote, “God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be only aware of three of them.” So even when you feel like God isn’t doing anything in your life, He is!
“Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” -Galatians 6:9-10
Do not grow weary! Keep living, keep growing, and keep fighting that you may immerse yourself in Christ and that the gospel may go forth.
I am praising God for this new season of life. I can’t wait to share it with each and every one of you.
I love you all!