Unmasked

Hello, fall and hello, Halloween. Well, almost. Texas weather often makes fall a continuation of summer; but the change in Starbucks drinks, pumpkins in stores, and the color change on trees tells me it’s coming. It’s almost here.

Though my mom hates the color orange, she loves fall. Go figure. So we decorated heavily for this season growing up. At one point we even made a scarecrow from things we had lying around the house and called him Thanky. He is a bit worn now and so has been given a prime sentry position in the backyard where he governs the happenings of the alley from his chair.

Fall is also a time for masquerades. Growing up, I spent almost every Halloween at our church’s fall festival. I dressed up as Mary, Belle, and a scarecrow over the years, just to name a few. Dressing as something else is often empowering, don’t you think? No limitations, no expectations. You can be whoever and whatever you want to be, if only for a night. The insecurities and responsibilities you tend to carry temporarily fall away as you don the life of someone you’re not.

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People come out of their shells on Halloween. Or rather, they jump out of theirs and into someone else’s. And it’s always fascinated me. Unfortunately, dressing in costume isn’t really my thing. Rather than feeling empowered, I usually feel like a fish out of water. I’m much more comfortable in my own skin. Most of the time. Except when I’m not. Which is also most of the time. Man, that hits at satisfaction, doesn’t it? Always craving more. Always wanting to be someone we aren’t and then realizing that even that reality doesn’t satisfy. It just provides escape.

Too often I find myself focusing on my diet and exercise routine, expanding my thoughts with books, building my connections and relationships, shopping for clothes that make me feel more confident. And at the end of the day, I fall in bed exhausted and realize I missed what mattered most – character building with Jesus.

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

When Halloween is over and the costumes have made it back in the closet, will I confidently slip back into my skin because I remember who I am and whose I am? My prayer is that I will stand before the Lord someday, confident that I spent more time pursuing Christ-like character than pursuing masks that provided temporary satisfaction. Either way, the Lord sees me as I am – unmasked when I come before Him. As vulnerable as that state is, I want to be comfortable there because He wants to make me a better version of that unmasked character. He is in the business of removing my masks and costumes to refine me.

About the Writer:
Kariss Lynch writes contemporary fiction about characters with big dreams, hearts for adventure, and enduring hope. Shaken, her first book in the Heart of a Warrior series, released in February 2014. Her second novel, Shadowed, releases March 3, 2015. A former freelance writer, she now works as the writer for the communications ministry at a church in Dallas.

A Season to Celebrate

Fall is upon us, and while the temperatures in Dallas may still feel like summer, school is in full swing and college football has begun. Can I get an Amen? I adore all things fall; pumpkin everything, soups for dinner with crusty French bread and aged cheddar, spiced cider, chai tea lattes, cozy sweaters, boots, jeans…you get the idea. Fall is my very favorite season. The Duncan girls know at the first sign of a somewhat cool day, we will have our inaugural pot of chili, the first of many to come. Aside from the brilliant colors and divine smells of fall, my love for this season is rooted in the traditions we have set as a family. I have been told I am the “keeper of traditions.” I anticipate hosting friends and family throughout the entirety of the season. It is no secret that I love a celebration.

A Season to CelebrateI asked each one of my girls what their favorite tradition was. Each had a different answer, which is not a surprise given their personalities. My youngest loves Halloween. We dress up as a family; one year we were the cast from Alice in Wonderland. After a few hours of tricks and treats, we head home to host a party on our front porch. We hand out thousands, yes thousands, of pieces of candy. For my middle, fall means the great State Fair of Texas. There is a reason this fair continues to land on the “best state fair” lists. It is unlike anything we had ever experienced, and it is certainly a highlight of our fall. My oldest relishes simple pleasures, so her answer was quite fitting. Her favorite tradition is a simmering pot of spiced cider on the stove; the aromas of cinnamon and clove filing our home, and she can leisurely sip on mug throughout the day while she is doing school work.

Every fall I am reminded of how faithful the Lord has been to my little family. While no family, including my own is perfect, we certainly do enjoy one another and love spending time together. I believe this is one of the many gifts He has lavished on us.

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” Psalm 133:1

About the Writer:

Born in Kentucky, growing up in Arkansas, and now living in Texas, has given this southern preacher’s daughter many unique experiences. Whether setting a table for a new friend, preparing a meal for family, or sharing the love of Christ with a wounded soul, Nesli does it with passion and style. Married to her best friend, a mom to three precious girls, and a life long learner of Gods word, Nesli is excited to share her journey.

October Bride

It’s been close to seventeen years ago, but it seems like it just happened yesterday – my wedding that is! It is the happiest of all my fall memories because it truly was the day that I married my best friend. He and I are high school sweethearts. We’ve been together twenty-one years and will be married for seventeen years on October 18th. We were fifteen and sixteen years old when we met and fell in love, and our relationship has only gotten better as the years have gone by.

As the summer months come to an end and the leaves take on those vibrant fall colors, it signals the arrival of another year we get to celebrate being together. My precious husband is my rock, my protector, my lover, my counselor and my best friend. In so many ways he’s been a savior to me. My heart loves him fiercely. Marrying him will go down in the history of my life as one of the best decisions I ever made!Fall wedding

The physical world mirrors the spiritual. You see, whether you are male or female, married or not, if you belong to the Lord Jesus Christ, you are His bride. Like our physical husbands, Christ is ultimately our Rock, Protector, Lover, Counselor, Best Friend and most importantly, our Savior. Marriage is beautiful when done correctly; it honors God who created the institution in the first place.

Ephesians 5:21-33 outlines how husbands and wives are supposed to interact with one another. It speaks on submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ and summarizes the roles men and women play in the marriage relationship. When you have two people submitted to God and one another, who do marriage the way God designed it, it works. It’s never perfect. Problems still arise and disagreements happen, but when God is the center, He makes things that we as humans typically dislike, such as compromise and sacrifice, much easier.

As daylight gets shorter and the days get colder, I get closer to my wedding anniversary. If you are married, my prayer is that you and your spouse would surrender to God’s headship in your lives; and that your relationship would be blessed, enjoyable and something you look forward to working on making better each day!  If you find yourself on the other side of the equation, my prayer for you is that you would remember what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 7. Please take the time to read it in its fullness, but pay close attention to verse 34 which reads, “…her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit.”  If you are not married, devote yourself to God, and He will take care of the rest.

I thank God for marriage and the husband He blessed me with. I pray that as I near my favorite fall memory, that you would remember that you too are a bride – the bride of Christ. I pray that your heart would love Him fiercely. I know from experience that giving my life to Him will go down in the history of my life as THE best decision I’ve ever made!

About the Writer:
Nicole enjoys reading, writing, cooking and spending time with her two favorite people – her husband and son. She realizes marriage takes a lot of hard work and commitment, but the payoff is one of the most awesome relationships God has given mankind. She and her husband have found it to be worth the effort on both parts.

Eternity after Fall

Not long ago we had an atypical band of cooler weather here in Texas to quench the hot summer sun. The usual triple digit temperatures were wafted away by a lovely summer rain. For a few days the temperatures were in the low to mid 80’s and even the air carried the scent of fall. Almost immediately I found myself reminiscing—memories so vivid that I could literally feel the gentle rain blowing against my face and tousling my hair. Happy thoughts lifted my mood and put spring into my step until I realized that the former fond memories were dead. They would not be coming back with the change of seasons.

Fall is a bittersweet season for many. Within the beauty of change and the anticipation of holidays, something else is dying and will most surely die. The golden hues of autumn remind me that life is fleeting, as the leaves — here today, gone tomorrow (Psalm 144:4). The effervescence of life’s most precious moments is very much like the fallen leaves, vapid at my feet.

As sadness and grief for what is already lost or what is sure to pass fills my heart, there is a promise from God’s Word that quickly catapults my resolve (Matthew 6:19-21). God has already told me that this life is but a tiny extraction from my eternity (2 Corinthians 4 & 5). I have a kingly inheritance awaiting me and the promise of a future that is wholly restored and free from tears (Revelation 21:3-4). This season of life, outside of Eden, is not for amassing fond memories. It is for serving my KAs Jesusing.

Though I may bask in the blessings of God’s goodness, deeply drinking in the loving-kindness that He pours out in abundance; He gives me a higher calling for my short time here. The One who called me out of darkness and into light also gives me the chance to join Him and His purposes (1 Peter 2:9). This life on earth is a dynamic relationship with Him — one where He is changing me, teaching me and pouring me out for the sake of others. If I choose to cultivate my relationship with God above the pleasures of this world, I need not grieve the passing of the temporal. God is accomplishing within me and through me things that will last forever.

“Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.”

Hebrews 12:28-29

About the Writer:
Lyndsay has been many things in her past, but no career, experience, or calling define her more than the desire to follow after Christ. At present, she teaches movement classes and works as a wellness consultant in addition to raising her daughter to know and love the Lord.

Lyndsay has a blog dedicated to sharing and celebrating the work of Christ through her experiences as a missionary, world traveler, knowledge seeker, and recipient of God’s lavish grace.