NYC in Photos

On NYC: Uber drivers with colorful dreads and determined driving. Traffic in the misty rain with commuters blaring rap music. Swapping photos with kindred tourists. Coffee for warmth and energy while shouting, “No sleep. Till Brooklyn.” Hidden skyscrapers in the fog. Subway passengers dressed for Friday night in the city. More walking, always looking up.

On 9/11 Museum & Memorial: Waterfalls surrounded by the names of victims. Visitors’ notes scribbled on the wet plaques, like love notes left on shower glass or fogged up mirrors. Watching 9/11 unfold before us with a few thousand people in complete silence. News clips & paper headlines & timelines of events. Mementos found in rubble & never-heard cell phone messages. Burnt flags & dust-covered clothes. All of the photos—the passengers, the employees, the onlookers, the rescuers & the rescued; the hijackers, George Bush, Bin Laden. 
And all of us—walking through the exhibit, the remnants of tragedy, the graveyard of faces—lost in thoughts and prayers and questions and disgust. 
But still, I think it is good and important to remember.


Explored: Brooklyn Bridge & Park, Times Square, 9/11 Museum & Memorial, Rockefeller Center & Top of the Rock, Broadway- Gershwin Theatre (Wicked), St. Patrick's Cathedral, City Sightseeing Tour- Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, Central Park

Ate: Hourglass Tavern (need reservations), Shake Shack, Cascabel Tacqueria, Melt Shop, 5 Napkin Burger, Schmackary's (cookies)


The Time I Almost Shoplifted
 
IMG_4273.jpg

Let's start with my excuses: It was a crazy day. We lived in Atlanta at the time and I was sleep-deprived and under-caffeinated, wearing yoga pants and a messy bun. I was carrying my black purse on my shoulder, tugging it constantly as it slid down my arm. I walked into the grocery store, grabbed a basket, and started gathering the items from my list.

I made the trip through the store pretty quickly, and all I had left to grab was a new toothbrush. I held my cell phone in one hand and grabbed the toothbrush with the other hand. Without thinking, I slipped the toothbrush into my purse instead of my basket.*

(*Yes, I realize this sounds like the guys discovered with drugs in their pockets, arguing to the police, “These ain’t my pants!”)

I made it down the rest of the aisle before I realized my mistake. I started sweating immediately, like I had already committed the crime, and yanked the toothbrush out of my purse and placed it firmly in my basket. I waved around my phone and placed it back in my purse, like I had meant to do originally. I shook my head enthusiastically and started laughing at myself, like some sort of loon—hoping that anyone who might have been watching on camera would realize that I am just an idiot and not a thief.

I was still shaking when I headed to check out, waiting for the manager to jump out at me and confront my negligence, but that never happened. No one even noticed. And that’s when I realized how easy it is to steal.

Thus began my life as a thief on the run.

 

Okay, that isn’t true. I would never have the nerve to take something without paying (example: nervous sweats when I almost accidentally stole), even if my beliefs lined up with the lifestyle.

While I watched the ignorant checkout lady ring up my $2 toothbrush, I sighed relief, like I had narrowly escaped a firing squad. On the drive home, I kept looking in my rearview mirror, still half-expecting to see those dreaded red and blue lights.

I thought about this experience the rest of the day. I thought about shoplifting and jail and toothbrushes, thieves and desperation and law-breaking. It would be a terrible way to live, constantly looking over your shoulder and buying time, worried you would be caught at any moment and the charade would be over.

...

Isn’t this how we sometimes act about God, too? We try to pretend we have it all together, but we know deep-down that we are a nothing short of a giant mess. The guilt starts to settle in and we wait for God to strike us down or punish us for our endless list of imperfections. We constantly look over our shoulders, wondering if we barely missed the lightning strike. We live timidly and afraid of this God we serve. We check the rearview mirror for those dreaded red and blue lights. 

But the beautiful truth is that we do not have to live this way. His mercy and grace on the cross changed everything for us. And if we believe this wonderful gospel story—I mean, really believe it and surrender to Him—then the grace of God follows us; His blood saves us from ourselves. We do not have to wait for the firing squad. Instead, we eagerly await the glory of heaven. This does not mean we succumb to our sins, but we seek for our lives to align with His holiness all the more. 

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
— Romans 6:1-4

I cannot get over these truths. I keep trying to understand grace— like there’s a dictionary definition that will encompass its grandiosity. Like it’s a math equation we can solve or a puzzle piece that fits perfectly into place. But grace cannot be summed up so easily. I cannot muster up enough metaphors to describe its beauty. I am starting to think that grace can’t really be understood, only felt.

I feel grace at the oddest of moments, when I’m cooking dinner or driving down the interstate. I feel grace when I’m running errands or while I’m dog-earing pages of a good book. It seeps into my senses, smelling like lavender and glory all at once—bringing tears and smiles and gratitude.

I don’t know; maybe these moments aren’t odd places to feel grace. Maybe the routineness of it all is actually what makes grace stand out. Grace is the stream in the desert, the song with only the good notes. Grace is a sunset; we can see it a thousand times and still stop to admire its beauty. We did nothing to deserve it or earn it, nothing to be worthy of its experience. But there it is, day after day, in the tiniest and holiest of glimpses.

And I don’t have to understand it completely to stop and say to myself, “Wow. There it is: grace.”

So I may not fully comprehend this way of grace, but I am fully embracing it. The atonement and the blood and the cross, the breaking of chains and turning ashes into beauty and the freedom from the law—I am living in it, running to it, falling on my knees in gratitude for it. 

Because His grace is enough, every single time. 

 
 
 
Alex Fly
The Hardest & Holiest of Days
 
IMG_6188.JPG

There was a different post scheduled for today, but then life happened. My grandfather went home to be with Jesus and those difficult days played out slowly and beautifully, shaking up our souls in the most glorious of ways.

I am not ready to write about it quite yet, but I can tell you this: our lives will never be the same because of a preacher from Midfield, Alabama who gave everything he had to follow Jesus and to love people. And our lives will never be the same because of his last eight hours in a hospital room one Saturday in February.

...

I read the following at my Papa’s burial and celebration service, which I hope gives you a tiny glimpse of his wonderful life:

Dr. Alvin Douglas Sager. Thousands knew him as their pastor. Most knew him as "Brother Doug." But I simply knew him as "Papa." When I first sat down to write about him, I was overwhelmed because there are no words that could possibly sum up his life or describe the depth of his impact on our family or on our world.

So, I will take a page from Papa’s book and just focus on the one.

When I was little, Mimi and Papa would visit us in Birmingham and Mimi would take me to get manicures. One time specifically, I was determined to get stick-on plastic diamonds on my nails (no doubt, influenced by Mimi). Later that day, the whole family went to eat barbecue at Johnny Ray’s. At some point during the meal, I looked down to notice that one of the fake diamonds had fallen off my nail. I panicked and started looking for it, all around the floor and under the table.

As I was searching, I noticed Papa stop and get down to help me search for that one plastic and meaningless diamond.

Like the shepherd seeking his lost sheep.

Like the person seeking the lost coin.

Like Jesus seeking each one of us.

And it was not meaningless, because this is just one of the many times when Papa lived out the gospel—he met us where we were and said, “I am going to be right here with you, and I am going to help you find what you’ve been looking for all this time.”

...

It has been said that “people will forget what you said and they will forget what you did but they will never forget how you made them feel.”

But I am not sure this is the case here. Because when it comes to our Papa, we will quote the wise and silly things he said. We will try to emulate the selfless things he did. And we could never possibly forget how he made us feel: loved, secure, and valued beyond measure.

As we continue to grieve the loss of this great man we all knew and loved, it has truly been the hardest and holiest of days. I do not know what God is up to, but I know who God is. And He is a good Father whose timing is perfect. This truth has been proven time and time again, most recently by the life of Papa—in the fact that I was given the beautiful blessing of being his granddaughter and the privilege of walking with him until he reached the gates of glory.

Hallelujah, Papa is home.

And all of heaven rejoices.


In loving memory of Doug Sager

Our family is finding comfort in the sweet peace that comes with knowing our Savior and the opportunity to keep learning from our Papa through his recorded sermons, which you can find here.

 
IMG_6186.JPG
 
 
Alex FlyComment
5 Truths to Remember When You're Feeling Fragile
 
DTS_Chi-To-LA_5.jpg

Have you ever been in a season when you felt incredibly fragile? Or maybe you are in one now. You have higher levels of anxiety or fear or you are just all-around burnt out. You are at your most vulnerable, afraid you will completely fall apart at any given moment.

Maybe the trials keep coming and the earth keeps spinning and you are just trying to put one foot in front of the other. Maybe you sit in your car, pleading with God and trying not to cry. Maybe you wear the mask of having it all together, when in reality it feels like the drumbeats of Jumanji are about to erupt from your heart. Maybe you are about one rude comment away from losing your ever-loving mind and pulling a Britney Spears.

(At the time she went off the deep end and shaved her head, I remember thinking, “Wow. What kind of mad (wo)man does that sort of thing?! She is crazy.” And now I’m like, “Eh. We all have those days. Cut her some slack.” She just cracked a little more clearly than everyone else. Because maybe she isn’t so lucky. And she does just cry, cry, cry in her lonely heart.)

I digress.

I guess my point is this: we have all been through seasons of fragility or we will face them in the future. We are living in the not-yet, and the brokenness is all around us. The brokenness is inside of us. Life can be hard and incredibly Toxic. (Oops…I did it again. Guys, I’m just saying: she has been sending out cries for help ALL ALONG.)

...

But because of all of the brokenness, it’s easy to react to our fragilities in not-so-Christian ways. Sometimes we play the victim and sometimes we play the martyr. We might take out our pent-up weaknesses out on others, trying to hurt someone else in the ways we are hurting. Or we might just embrace the emotional train wreck in which we are living and little by little—we lose hope. 

Here are 5 truths and Scriptures to remember when you’re feeling fragile (I am preaching to myself here, friends):

1.     When you find yourself anxious and afraid, remember that there is no chaos in God. Anxiety and fear are not fruits of the Spirit. Our God is a God of perfect peace. The more I battle worry and fear, the more I think anxiety is a form of spiritual warfare. Satan feeds on these weak spots and hits us in the pressure points; he wants us to become trapped in his web of lies. We have to re-align our focus on God approximately one million times a day. This is a discipline worth fighting for, over and over again.

 
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You because he trusts in You.
—  Isaiah 26:3
 

2.     You are not a victim; you are a warrior. It’s okay to feel fragile, but it’s not okay to play the victim. You are a part of God’s army and we need you to be who God created you to be. We need you to show up with your beautiful gifts and abilities, taking up the space in the world like only you can. If we are constantly feeling sorry for ourselves and licking our wounds, we are still being self-centered and self-focused. Once again, we must shift our gaze and remember our identity is from the Maker, not from this world.

 
…yet I will not forget you.  Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands
— Isaiah 49:15-16
True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.
— Rick Warren
 

3.     When you are deeply hurting, remember that it becomes increasingly easier to hurt others. This is part of the problem and not the solution. We have to get out of this crazy spin cycle. I know we all crave a good revenge story—but while revenge might make us happier in the short run, it is an extremely toxic (I promise that time was inadvertent) way to live. Forgiven people forgive people in this beautiful, upside-down Gospel.

 
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
— Matthew 6:14-15
Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.
 

4.    You are not alone in this. Dear one, I know it sometimes feels like you are taking on the entire world by yourself. But there are people around you, ready to jump in the game and cheer you on. Ready to speak truths with you and pray over you. If there is no one in your life right now that you feel comfortable sharing the burden with, go out and find someone. In the meantime, I am raising my hand over here. We should not ignore the importance of community. We all need each other more than we know. 

 
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
— Galatians 6:2
 
We sometimes choose the most locked up, dark versions of the story, but what a good friend does is turn on the lights, open the window, and remind us that there are a whole lot of ways to tell the same story.
— Shauna Niequist

5.     When it feels like you’re falling apart, remember that God is in the business of putting pieces back together. This is the best news, isn’t it? No matter how many times we crumble, our Father is there to pick us up off the floor. He sees our mess and loves us still. He wipes our tears and calls us by name. We are deeply known and forgiven and made new, washed by His blood. God’s arms are always open for the brokenhearted. Especially for the brokenhearted.

 
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in Spirit.
— Psalm 34:18
 

FRUITFUL FINDS

I know I'm always looking for podcast, music, and book recommendations, so I thought it might be helpful to share a few of my recent favorites as well (and feel free to send any my way that you've been loving)!

To Watch: Priscilla Shirer's talk at Passion 2018

Turn off Netflix and turn on this. I am so serious, y'all. I was working while I was watching, and I kept stopping what I was doing so I could write down all of the brilliant, Spirit-filled things she was saying. The last ten or so minutes, I could not look away because our sister Priscilla was plain BRINGING IT.

"Yes, come as you are, but don't stay as you are."

"We have sacrificed holiness on the altar of impressing people...You [have to] live for the applause of heaven. You [have to] decide, 'I will not be politically correct before I will choose to be holy.'"

To Read: 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You by Tony Reinke

I am finishing up this book, and I'm finding myself talking about it constantly in everyday conversation. We are learning the advantages and disadvantages of this smartphone era, and this Biblical perspective on all things technology is worth the read for anyone who is prone to the Instagram-comparison trap or the occasional Netflix binge. 

“The more we take refuge in distraction, the more habituated we become to mere stimulation and the more desensitized to delight. We lose our capacity to stop and ponder something deeply, to admire something beautiful for its own sake, to lose ourselves in the passion for a game, a story, or a person.”

To Listen: Face to Face by Mat Kearney

All of his new songs have been on repeat over here, but especially this one. 

"I feel your thunder pourin' like rain
Down on the mountains of all my mistakes
Rolling like rivers, running with grace
Into the ocean of your embrace
Your hand of my side, leading the way
Ten thousand horses couldn't pull me away
I hear the music, heaven has made
Oh when we're standing, standing
Face to face."


 
feb2018-the-harvest-letters.jpg
 
 
The Anti-New-Year's Resolution
 
IMG_5362.jpg

A Time to Plant Roots

Every time the new year rolls around, it seems we are always dreaming up and listing off all the changes we are going to make this year. This year I'm hitting the gym at least three days a week. This year I will spend less time on my phone. This year we are sticking to the budget. No, really-- this year I am going to eat healthier. 

It's great to have goals, to make changes where they are needed and set out to accomplish something great. We should dream and plan and make the most of this life we've been given. 

But I’ve been learning the importance of being rooted. To plant one’s roots deeply in a soil—in a community, in a church, in a neighborhood, in a career, in the Word, in prayer and a mission field—it’s a hard but beautiful experience. This doesn't have the glitz and glamour of goal-setting. We don't list our non-changes into cute little blog posts featuring funny GIFs and styled photos. 

We know that the new year is not going to bring about changes in every facet of our lives, and we would be entirely too overwhelmed if it did. But still, we skim over the consistencies. We tend to attribute long-term routines to the elderly or complacent or OCD. 

And while we recognize deep-down that it’s not great for our well-being to move every year, to constantly change jobs, or to cycle through friendships when stuff starts to hit the fan-- we still like a good escape plan. So we prep the getaway car, just in case.

...

Being rooted is difficult, isn't it? Friendships can be messy. Community is imperfect. Neighbors blare their music too loudly or mow their lawns too early. Cities become stagnant. Jobs become boring. Distractions are abounding and hypnotizing. We forget to invest in the place we are because we are busy thinking about the places we would rather be.

Often, it seems a heck of a lot easier to make new friends, change churches, move to a new place, get a new job, give up completely. But if we keep doing this—if we keep skipping town and ditching people, we will miss out on the really good stuff. We will uproot too quickly, and we’ll never witness the harvest. 

The main verse I based the name The Harvest Letters on is Galatians 6:9: “Let us not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

I think that says it all. There is so much beauty to be found in everyday faithfulness. When we pour out grace in relationships and stay rooted even in the storms, we are imitating Christ. Through our commitments and disciplines and sacrifices, God shows up and pours out His glory. It is a privilege to invest where God has planted us. It is a privilege to be here, in this wonderfully-ordained moment in time, to show up day after day in perseverance and patience and humility. 

...

There is a flip side to this, though, and I don't want you to misunderstand me. Some of us do not have a choice in the changes; we get fired or dumped or we lose a loved one, and the changes come whether we wanted them or not. There are reasons for these turn of events, which we probably will not understand until much later. This is a really annoying part of life, and we will almost always question Jesus during these unwanted changes. I think it's okay to question Him. After all, He's the One with the answers.

Also, I am not saying we need to claim martyrdom all the time. We do not need to tolerate everyone. Toxic relationships and false teachers, verbal abusers and crazy exes-- we can shake the dust off our feet. 

Gosh, I know there are a lot of us who have been burned-- by the church, by friends or family, by organizations or anonymous social media bullies or cowardly strangers. To you, I say: I am so, so sorry. You do not need to get burned over and over again. There is a difference between giving up and moving on. 

So these scenarios I just listed? I am not talking about planting roots there. I'm just saying that we don't give up on someone who looked at us the wrong way. We don't leave a church because they never play our favorite worship song. We don't move cities because we are starting to feel slightly uncomfortable. We don't break a relationship off because they told us a hard truth. We should value rootedness a little more and stop running from our problems all the time.

We should listen to the Holy Spirit, who sometimes pushes for change and sometimes wants us to invest in the place He has planted us.

...

I don't know about you, but this does not come naturally to me. I want to put up a wall around my heart with an army of protection. I want to care less, be the one who is less invested. I want to make tentative plans and then cancel them at the last minute. I want a code word to leave parties early. I don't want to be disappointed in people, which can't happen if I keep everyone at arm's length. I can't fail as a farmer if I never plant the seeds. 

But God did not design us to have surface relationships. He did not put Adam on this earth to end it there. We are made for deep, real relationships. It is not good for man to be alone. We are meant to plant the seeds. We are made to grow the roots.

I suppose I've been learning this, however imperfectly and inconsistently, in the past few years. Throughout the first two years of our marriage, Kevin and I moved three times. We were residents of Alabama, then Arkansas, then Georgia, and finally we made it back to sweet home Alabama.

While we were thankful for the lessons we learned in each place, we both felt the Lord nudging us toward planting deeper roots. We knew we wanted to end up back in Alabama, so we took a leap of faith and moved back to our hometown.

We bought a house we could grow into and joined an imperfect, but community-filled church. Now it’s been almost three years of developing relationships with our neighbors, both on our street and in our city, and it’s been three of the sweetest, hardest, light-filled years. Unless the Lord leads us in a different direction, we are filled with expectant hope in remaining rooted in this place where He has so wisely placed us. 

And when the time for more changes arrives at our doorstep, we hope to stay rooted in the most important thing; we seek to remain rooted in the unchanging Gospel Truth.

Because even in waves of change and confusion, He is steady and sure, a perfect and holy anchor for our souls. And if we reach out a hand to the Lord of the Universe, He will never let go. 

...

Let's not give up, friends. There might be a harvest on the horizon.


 
Alex FlyFaithComment
Twenty Seventeen.
 
IMG_6378.jpg

This year I tried to be David. I picked up my slingshot and stones and then aimed at my giants. My slingshot broke apart. The giants kept standing, taunting, confronting me. I backed away... slowly and then all at once. I am not David.

This year I tried to be Noah. I bought the wood and started building my ark. Please, God. Am I doing this right? I don’t want to face the floods. I don’t want to drown. But I threw away my hammer. I am no carpenter.

Then I found myself in the lion’s den, so I tried to be Daniel. Be brave, I thought. Be strong. But I was so scared. I ran away before the lions could attack. I am not Daniel.

...

Finally, I decided to wear my own heart. I carried it around on my sleeve like a badge of honor, like a beautiful broken trinket I kept bringing to show and tell. It felt strange and wonderful and free.

At some point along the way, an exposed heart becomes even more broken. And all broken hearts need a remedy.

This year I gained a few more scars. I lost a few battles I never even knew I was fighting. I found myself crying to God more than I’d care to admit.

I suppose when He asks us to walk through fire, some of us are bound to come out burned.

But don't scars have the best stories?

...

I lived in the middle of the ocean this year. Waves pounding. Sea roaring. I lost sight of the lighthouse a few times. But no matter how severe the storms, I never drowned. There was always another breath to take, another glimpse of the light.

It had nothing to do with me and everything to do with Him, holding out a lifesaver when I grew desperate. He has saved me so many times.

He keeps saving me when I stand there stubbornly saying I can fight the waves myself. He waits, patiently, faithfully—because He knows. We are never able to save ourselves.

 

Thank God. I would make a terrible savior.

 

I am staring at 2017 in the rearview mirror now. And the truth flashes across the highway pretty obviously: I was never meant to be David or Noah or Daniel. But we do have one thing in common: we are not the heroes in our stories. God is. He keeps saving all of us. No matter how small or insignificant or broken we are. No matter how many times we try to run away.

 

So I may not consider myself

a poet, a prophet, a king or a priest.

But I will forever attempt to describe

this radical, wonderful grace.

For He keeps rescuing me—

A sinner, offender, the very least. 



12.29.The-Harvest-Letters.jpg