Show up to give


As my husband and I drove home from Birmingham this weekend, we listened to a sermon titled “Why do we go to church?”  I expected all the answers I already knew: We go to church to worship God. We go to church to hear sound teaching from the Bible. We go to church for fellowship, to be with other believers.

The preacher quickly addressed all of those points and then landed on an idea that really convicted me.

We go to church to give.

The preacher posed the question, “What would it look like for you to pray each week and  ask God to give you something to give at church?” It could be money, talents, a specific way you serve, an encouraging word to someone in need… But what would that look like for you and I to show up at our churches every week with the intent of giving in some form?

Most of us go to church with the purpose of being fed. We want to be led in worship, taught the bible, and given a message that encourages our hearts enough to press on. Right? I mean, we all need those things at some level. I’m not saying that’s wrong, but what happened to God’s church being His people? You and I are the people. The “church” as defined by God is not the paid staff who does all the work on Sunday.  It’s all of us together.

What would it look like if you and I showed up to church every Sunday with the intent of giving in some way?

As my husband and I began to talk about what that might look like for us, my thoughts started getting even more radical.

What if everywhere I went, I went with the purpose of giving?

When I go to work, when I show up for coffee with a friend or student, when I grab lunch with a coworker, when I go to the gym, the grocery store, the dry cleaners, when I go home to my husband, literally everywhere. And what if every time I transitioned to the next thing, I simply prayed, “Ok Lord, give me something to give.”

Lord, give me something to give in every place I go and in every human interaction I have.

That is so counter-intuitive it probably makes your bones hurt. Your brain (ahem–your sin nature)  is wired to think “me, me, me.”  What am I getting out of this situation, this work day, this coffee, this gym time, this interaction with the barista? Me, me, me. But if we all just agreed to flip that on it’s head? What if you and I showed up everywhere, every day, with the intention of giving something in someway?

Of course, the key is that we have to look to God to provide it. Right? Otherwise, if you and I just tried to give all the time out of our own strength, we would be exhausted.  We would be totally empty and dried up. But if we look to God to provide not only our every need, but our every thing to give away— I firmly believe we would never run out.

Jesus said it himself, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

We may hear that a lot in the context of material goods or money, but I think He was covering all forms of giving. Once again, as the way this Christian-lifestyle goes, you and I have a choice. Are we going to live like the world tells us? –Take care of you, look out for you, it’s all about you.  Or are we going to live like Jesus encourages us? It’s better to give than to receive.

If that’s true, that it is more blessed to give, then that’s where I want to be. Let’s show up to give. 

Marriage isn’t a 50/50 partnership

o-COUPLE-HOLDING-HANDS-facebookThere’s a story I frequently hear my husband tell other men. It goes like this:

One night Tyler was lying on our bed while I was getting ready in the bathroom.  It had been a long day and he was resting before we headed out to meet some friends.

“Hey babe, can you change the light bulb in the bathroom?” I asked. Silence. Then a tentative “yeahhhh” came from the bed.

He laid in bed for about another five minutes before getting up to fetch a new lightbulb.  I never thought anything of it. Then one day I heard him tell this story and he said,

“I was more miserable for those five minutes I laid in bed than if I had just gotten up when she asked and changed the light bulb.”

We’ve all been there, right? You’re exhausted, have a headache; it was a hard day at work. You just want a few minutes to rest in peace and someone asks you to do something for them.  Can’t I just have five minutes to myself?!  But then you lay there and stew, getting angrier and angrier as your selfishness swallows you whole.

Tyler would say, “It always turns out better if I chose to serve her rather than feed my selfishness. Even if we’re talking about a lightbulb.”

During one of my bridal showers, we went around the room and each woman shared a piece of marital advice.  When it was my mom’s turn she looked at me and said, “Hanna, there is one verse in the Bible that will almost guarantee a successful marriage if you live by it.

Consider Tyler’s interests as more important than your own.

Consider. It doesn’t mean you always have to make a decision in his favor. It doesn’t mean his interests are more important than yours. Just consider.

There’s a verse in Philippians that says,

Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself. Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests of others as well.” (Philippians 2:3–4, NET)

Now, that’s a hard pill to swallow–especially in our culture, which tells us that YOU are the most important person in the world and that if YOU don’t look out for YOU, no one will.  Our culture tells us that a successful, healthy relationship is 50/50.  You give 50%, I give 50%. You take 50%, I take 50%. But that doesn’t sound much like treating your spouse as more important than yourself, does it?

I’m not talking about self-deprecation here.

I’m not saying you and I aren’t important or that we shouldn’t take care of ourselves because we are valuing our spouse as more important than ourselves.  But what does it look like to consider our spouses’ interests as more important than our own?  What does it look like to treat them better than ourselves? Not that they are more important than us, but because we are so selfish by nature, we have to force ourselves to consider them as more important in order to act out of humility.

A piece of advise I hear Tyler constantly give to dating or married men is:

Your goal is to out serve her.

Instead of trying to live 50/50, our goal should be to out serve our spouse. –Not out of competition or by keeping score, but out of the desire to treat your spouse as more important than yourself.  Because that is the real beauty of marriage–learning to love someone more than yourself and treating them as such. And then, when you fail to do that–because you will fail some days–being humbled by receiving the love and grace your spouse gives to you.

So today, what would it look like to treat your spouse as more important than yourself?  What decision do you need to better contemplate in order to truly consider your spouse’s interest?  For me, it’s usually in the minutia. It’s the lightbulbs, the dinner menu, the laundry that needs to be folded, the shoes by the door, saying no to plans with friends because I know he’s exhausted. It’s learning to make decisions in his favor because it makes him feel cared for. And do you know what the very best part of that is? If my husband feels cared for, served, and loved, he does a really good job of taking care of me in return.

And if you’re dating or single, how might that verse change the way you choose your spouse?  You may notice we are called to consider others as more important than ourselves regardless of their behavior.  There are no conditions to that verse.  So, if the key to a successful marriage is out serving your partner, perhaps you look for someone who is servant-hearted, cares for others, and will treat you as more important than themselves.

How to Find the Right Person

Stanley book

For the majority of my twenties, I was single. I went out on a lot of dates, but had very few committed relationships and those ranged from just a few months to around a year.  For the most part, I was content being single. My life was very busy and I was fiercely independent which didn’t make me the easiest girl to pursue. If a guy asked me out, he usually had to wait about two weeks before I’d make room in my schedule. The same went for the second and even third date.

I had some friends who would occasionally call me out on this scheduling habit. “You’re never going to be in a real relationship if you won’t make time for one,” they’d say.

“Look, when the right guy comes along, I’ll make time for him.” I’d say.

The right guy.

In some way or another, we all use that excuse.

I just haven’t found the right guy yet. 

That relationship failed, but it’s just because he wasn’t right!

When it’s right, I’ll know.

I’m just looking for Mr. Right...

I had a friend who used to tease me, “He may not be Mr. Right, but he could be a pretty good Mr. Right Now.”

When looking for a life partner, we’re all just looking for the right person, the right fit. And that is a crucial piece. Don’t get me wrong. But there are two major problems with our approach.

1. We don’t even know what “right” looks like.

When my husband and I started to date, a friend gave me a book called The Sacred SearchIt flipped my idea of “the right guy” on it’s head. My entire dating life, the “right guy” I had been searching for was more or less the wrong guy for me.

The past weekend my husband and I went on vacation and both devoured Andy Stanley’s latest book The New Rules for Love, Sex & DatingAnd when I say devoured, I mean devoured. I was laughing, cheering, yelled a few “amens!” and was even punched in the gut a few times. You know those books you read and every page you think of a friend or family member who needs to read it?  Then, eventually you get to the chapter that slices you open? Yeah. That’s this book. Single, Married, Divorced, Dating, Engaged… every person I know needs to read this book. And Andy hit the nail on the head with our typical tactic for finding the right person.


While most everybody has a mental list of what makes the right person the right person, most people abandon their lists for physical attraction and chemistry.

When you’re physically attracted to someone and there’s that extra something we will refer to as chemistry, it just feels right, doesn’t it? 

When it feels right, it’s easy to assume that it is right. (p. 24)

And here comes the gut punch. Ready?

You are sexually compatible with far more people than you are relationally compatible with. (p. 25)

Sexual compatibility is important. Real important. But sexual compatibility is not the litmus test for relational compatibility. (p. 26)

WE ALL DO THIS. Whether you want to admit it or not, we pick the right person by our sexual compatibility. And I’m not even talking just straight “how’s the sex?” here.  I’m talking about, “he makes me laugh, puts me at ease; we have the best time together, and we just have that spark!”  That is sexually compatibility.  And while that has to be there, it fades really quickly if the relational compatibility isn’t also there. That’s the piece we need to be much, much more intentional about.

But I said there were two major problems with our search for the right person and the second is the most important piece of the puzzle.

2. Before you can find the right person, you have to become the right person.

Andy says it this way, we all assume that “there’s a right person for you, and once you find your right person, everything will be all right.” That expectation right there, is the best way I know to make a relationship fail. If all your hope for happiness in life is wrapped up in another person making things right for you, oh baby, have you got disappointment in your future.

The only way to find and attract the right person, is to be the right person.  

Becoming the right person is how you prepare to commit. (p. 47)

Becoming the right person dramatically increases your odds of sustained relational success when you finally meet the right person. (p. 47)

Becoming the right person dramatically increases the likelihood of you being attracted to the person who is right for you. (p. 47)

Someone who is merely looking for the right person usually winds up with someone merely looking for the right person. (p. 55)

Like attracts like. (p. 55)

Instead of being so focused on looking, perhaps you should commit a bit more energy to becoming. (p. 55)

I could quote this book all day, but I won’t.  But if you are on the hunt for the right person, can I beg you to pick up this book?  We need to totally reframe the concept of who is right and, more importantly, how to become the right person.

And a quick note to the married people: I told you I thought everyone needed to read The New Rules for Love, Sex, and Dating and here’s why. We’re all still a work in progress. Even though our dating years are over, you and I should still be doing everything we can to become the even more right person for our spouse. In this book, Andy Stanley breaks down the 1 Corinthians 13 love chapter and it will punch you in the stomach (in the best way possible). What does it look like to love your spouse with patience, kindness, and humility– not with sarcasm, criticism, dishonor, selfish motives, or keeping score? While you and I may already be married, we still have a lot of work to do.

I received this book from North Point Publishing ( in exchange for this review.

What if a wedding isn’t about the bride + groom?

View More: you follow me on instagram, you know that my husband and I just celebrated our one year anniversary. I was slightly obnoxious with the amount of pictures I posted, both of our beach vacation and photos from our wedding. I couldn’t help myself. All day long on our actual anniversary, I was constantly reminiscing about our “big day”.

The great irony in all of this is that I did not want a big fat Christian wedding. I wanted to elope with only our immediate family, say our vows on a remote island somewhere far away, and avoid all the hoopla.

But hoopla we had. And as we scrolled through all our photos and watched hours (yes hours) of video footage from the day, I realized something profound. While March 22, 2014 was an important day for Tyler and me—the pieces of the day that I kept reminiscing about, that made my heart so full, were the ones that pointed to the faithfulness of our God and the honoring of our friends and family.

Our wedding day wasn’t so much about us as it was about testifying of God’s goodness and honoring the people in our lives.

Were Tyler and I the reason 200 folks gathered in a Nashville chapel on a Saturday? Sure. But the central figure was God and the guests of honor were those friends and family who worshiped, dinned, and danced with us.

Not to pat our own backs (truly), but I have to tell you that we were very intentional about this. After the wedding, my dad kept saying, “People showed up for a wedding and a worship service broke out!” Yes, it did—but that was not a surprise to Tyler or me. That had been our intention and prayer the whole planning season.

Pretty much every decision we made while planning (ok…except my dress) was filtered through the lens of how to best honor God and our guests. And while that sounds all good, Christian, and godly—that’s not my point. My point is that our intention paid off.

Because if our wedding had just been about the bride and groom, it would have fallen flat.

Looking back over our photos and footage would have been nice, but not as meaningful. Think about it. Think about the last time you achieved personal success. It was really important to you in the moment, but as time passed it faded. You are now hungry for more, even greater, success. I’m the same way. My personal achievements never satisfy for very long. And that’s what our wedding day would have been if it was just about us. A fun, expensive weekend that was great—but fades pretty quickly and leaves me a little unsatisfied.

Instead, as we reminisced, my heart only got fuller. LOOK HOW GOOD GOD IS! LOOK AT THESE AMAZING PEOPLE THAT GOD PUT IN OUR LIVES. Every way we turned, that weekend was about how rich our lives were because of God and friends and family.

Which finally (phew. I know. Thanks for sticking with me) leads me to my point.

Reminiscing over my wedding day made me realize that someday, hopefully many, many years from now, I will be reminiscing over my life. And how I feel about the success of my life isn’t going to be about me.

 What if my life isn’t about me?

 My heart is only going to be full if I’ve made my life about testifying of God’s goodness and honoring the people He puts in my life.

I know this is insanely counter-cultural. In our society, a wedding is all about the bride and this American life is all about me, me, me.

But we’ve got it wrong. And deep down you know it.

What if you and I lived every day with intention to testify of God’s goodness and honor the people He puts in our lives? Every day. With fierce intention.

I think our hearts would be much, much fuller than they are now. When I live for me, each day eventually falls flat. But when I live for God and people, each day grows fuller and grander over the years. That’s called a legacy.

Hannah’s Prayer: Rejoicing amidst sacrifice


When I was a little girl, one of my favorite books was called “Hannah’s Prayer”. Of course, my true interest as a five year old was that the main character shared my name– though she spelled it wrong– but after hearing Hannah’s story probably hundreds of times, Hannah’s Prayer became one of my favorite passages in the Bible.

The children’s book was based off an Old Testament story found in 1 Samuel. Hannah was married to a very good man but struggled with infertility and desperately wanted a child.  After years of crying out to the Lord, she makes a vow to God that if He gives her a son, she will dedicate him to the Lord by having him grow up in the temple in order to become a priest.

If you are familiar with the story, you know that God hears Hannah and answers her prayer by allowing her to become pregnant and give birth to a son. And then, the author of 1 Samuel records what I think is the most beautiful and amazing prayer perhaps in all of Scripture. Now, I will admit I am partly drawn to this prayer because it is spoken by a woman but it really is the most captivating and breathtaking prayer.

Hannah prayed,

“My heart rejoices in the Lord;
my horn is exalted high because of the Lord.
I loudly denounce my enemies,
for I am happy that you delivered me.
No one is holy like the Lord!
There is no one other than you!
There is no rock like our God!
Don’t keep speaking so arrogantly,
letting proud talk come out of your mouth!
For the Lord is a God who knows;
he evaluates what people do.
The bows of warriors are shattered,
but those who stumble find their strength reinforced.
Those who are well-fed hire themselves out to earn food,
but the hungry no longer lack.
Even the barren woman gives birth to seven,
but the one with many children withers away.
The Lord both kills and gives life;
he brings down to the grave and raises up.
The Lord impoverishes and makes wealthy;
he humbles and he exalts.
He lifts the weak from the dust;
he raises the poor from the ash heap
to seat them with princes
and to bestow on them an honored position.
The foundations of the earth belong to the Lord,
and he has placed the world on them.
He watches over his holy ones,
but the wicked are made speechless in the darkness,
for it is not by one’s own strength that one prevails.
The Lord shatters his adversaries;
he thunders against them from the heavens.
The Lord executes judgment to the ends of the earth.
He will strengthen his king
and exalt the power of his anointed one.” (2 Samuel 2:1-10)

Does that not make your heart swell with praise and gratitude? Phew. But here’s what I just discovered last week.

Though I knew that story like the back of my hand, I had one detail wrong.

(I’m learning more and more that the bible stories we are sure we know, we usually remember some piece of it incorrectly.)

In my memory, Hannah uttered that beautiful prayer after she gave birth to her son, Samuel. She was thanking God for answering her prayer! But that is not the case.   Hannah did not pray that prayer right after she realized she was pregnant or right after Samuel was born. She proclaimed that prayer right before she gave her son up and left him to be raised by the temple priest. 

Hannah prayed and rejoiced in the Lord– not when God gave her what she wanted– but when she was facing sacrifice and loss.

For five or six years, she had cared for and cherished Samuel as her one and only son. She headed for the temple knowing she had to make good on her promise. Her prayer is not one of weeping, complaints, or asking God for another way. Her prayer is full of confidence, hope, joy, and trust in the Sovereign and Almighty God.

How opposite is that from how you and I operate?

We love to worship God and sing His praises when things are going our way, when we are being given what we want.  When was the last time you praised God like Hannah in the midst of loss, hardship, or sacrifice?  When was the last time God asked you to give something to Him and instead of praising Him you whined, complained, or begged Him for another way?

You and I need to learn how to recognize God’s goodness, faithfulness, and perfect provision in the midst of challenging times.

And not just recognize it– how to shout it out for all to hear. Because here’s when it gets really good: After Hannah prays her magnificent prayer and leaves her son in the temple as she promised, God blesses her even more. After years of struggling with infertility, Hannah ends up having three more sons and two daughters.

When we joyfully look to God and keep our eyes fixed on Him in the midst of grief, hardship, or sacrifice, God will overflow our cup with His goodness and abundant provision.  It’s in His nature to care for those who choose to praise Him in the difficult times. And He is always, always worth of our praise.