Thursday, November 15, 2012

Throw in the Gavel

Apparently I'm just on fire with this whole blogging thing -- two days in a row!

This post stems from not a revelation, not one specific instance of anything, but simply from shallow thinking. I often struggle with the pressure of being judged. Heck, I even have trouble with constructive criticism! (But that's neither here nor there... back to my point we go.) It seems as though I spend more time worrying about myself, than I do uplifting others. So, Facebook, you really want to know what's on my mind?

What can I do to become accepted into this group?
Why would a person have an issue with me? What have I done?
How come I am not good enough for this person or that person?
How do I measure up, or compare to others?
What if they're judging me right now? My clothes? My personality? My weight? My intelligence? Heaven forbid, my profile picture?!

Get over myself, right? I'm judging myself enough for everyone!
"The least amount of judging we can do, the better off we are."- Michael J. Fox

It is an important thing of which to be cautious. Most people are, in some way, concerned about being judged. Be careful, tough, to not become the biggest critic of them all. I will be the first to admit that I am very self-aware when it comes to my image, personality, work ethic, reputation, and other various aspects of my life. Yes, you should definitely be mindful, but it shouldn't leave you with a feeling of inferiority... or even superiority, for that matter.

"To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment."- Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Accept everything about yourself - I mean everything. You are you and that is the beginning and the end - no apologies, no regrets."- Clark Moustakas

It is a great thing to always be improving yourself--working out, eating healthy, setting goals, etc. Just remember that we should do these things to glorify God! ... Not to glorify ourselves.

God made you in His image! That makes you pretty neat.

....In the word's of Lit, "It's no surprise to me, I am my own worst enemy." Word.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tough Love

It has definitely been a while since my last post, but I try not to write unless I feel that the message is inspired by God. However, tonight's interaction is certainly worth sharing.

Lately, I have been on fire for the Lord, and He has blessed me in many amazing ways. There have been great messages at church, and I have spent wonderful time with my friends and church family. However, being the busy-minded bee that I am, I have been asking God for answers. I don't let the unknown overwhelm me, but I do frequently ask Him for answers regarding various aspects of my life. That doesn't sound too horrible, right? Well, let me illustrate it in another way.

Picture the all-time famous scenario of the "mini-van family". Headed out to an exciting destination--father behind the wheel, children in the backseat. Okay, so what does this scenario have to do with my situation? Well, I am the children in the backseat constantly nagging at the driver: "Are we there yet?", "Dad, where are we going?",  "Are we there yet?", "When are we going to stop again?", "Are we there yeeeeet?!"

I know that's a silly way to look at it, but that's what I see. Instead of trusting in God as the leader and driver to the ultimate destination, I was questioning his leadership.Instead of asking God for patience, and peace in His plan, I was expecting black and white answers. Rest assure that He is as powerful in mystery as He is in understanding.

Okay, back to tonight's conversation. As I was thinking of the next steps in my life, I started asking for clear answers (even specific names). I started begging for a sign, or a message, or ANYTHING that showed me a path, one way or the other. As He remained silent, I started to become defensive. Questioning turned into negotiating.

"Okay, God, I've followed you this far blindly, can you please give me a vision? A sign?"

"I will continue to follow you faithfully, but I need some kind of reassurance that I'm doing the right thing."

"If you just give me direct instructions... If you, I will... If you, I will..."

His response?

"I don't owe you anything."

Yeeeeeouch! That is some tough love right there... and absolute truth. With those few words, He said so much. He pointed out the biggest (what should have been obvious to me) point--that He does not owe me an answer, He does not owe me a vision, and He does not owe me a blue print of my life. On the flip side, it reminded me that it is I who owes Him EVERYTHING. I owe Him my trust, my obedience, my life.

I often get a kick out of some of the things God speaks to me, for it's usually in a similar humor of my own. When He spoke those words to me, I immediately shut up. When I did, I had to smile, because I visualized Him telling me to "put a sock in it."

Tonight was an excellent reminder that God is in control, He knows His plans for you, and it is not His responsibility to fill you in on all the details. I will continue to follow the path on which He is leading me, blind, but walking by faith.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." - Jeremiah 29:11

Thanks for reading!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Trusting through Troubles

I’m beginning to get an idea of just how powerful living in the Spirit can be. It’s no longer just a thought or belief—but a feeling, a sensation, an experience.

Lately I have been feeling very calm, relaxed, and genuinely happy with life. I have found rest in God, and peace with the story that he has written for me. I have been able to see the beauty in his creations here on earth, and take time to be thankful for all He has given me. For the first time (in a long time) I have surrendered my desire to control my own life, and have given up the control. In this, I have felt a sense of freedom that I have been missing for quite some time—a feeling of not only joy in Him, but happiness as well.

Just to provide a bit of background before this story, keep in mind that I have been volunteering at my church—working in the children's ministry. Because I spend some of my Sundays worshiping in this fashion, I’m not able to attend every service and hear the sermon. It has been a few weeks since I have been able to sit in (with vacation and what not), so I was extremely excited to hear God’s word yesterday morning. I woke up way too early for a weekend, enjoyed the precious gift of a beautiful sunrise, and took time to pray and thank God for his mercy. I was calm, and my soul was at rest.

On my way to church I was fired up. I wasn’t sure exactly what would be covered in the sermon, but I was eager to hear God’s word regardless. Church started and as I started worshiping through song, I started to get an uncomfortable feeling all throughout my body—as well as my mind. I started losing track of the words… I was staring at the screen, but my focus turned to myself-- and my pounding heart, shortness of breath, and dizziness. I was confused. It had been months since my last full-blown anxiety attack. I had shown no signs of issues lately, and had been extremely cool, calm, and collected. Why was this happening—and why NOW? I started to think back to what I had eaten, if I had taken any over-the-counter medicine earlier, or if I had consumed too much caffeine. Nope, normal routine. Then it hit me—there is someone who really does not want me to hear this message, let alone enjoy hearing it.

In most situations it would be a normal option to just remove myself from whatever position, to help subdue the attack. However, as soon as I heard that I would be hearing a sermon on the crucifixion of Christ (important, important, important for the good news of the Gospel), it solidified that my previous hunch was correct. There was a force pushing me away from the Word, and making it almost impossible to concentrate and understand the message.

I refused to remove myself from the sermon. In my head, I repeatedly yelled at this awful and selfish being—out of frustration, fear, and utter anger that he was challenging my faith. When having an attack, it’s easy to make things about “me”. It’s, essentially, what causes it. What is happening to me? Why is he picking on me? What if people can tell? What if I’m uncomfortable? Until, at one point I thought, “Hey, this isn’t about you. It’s only part of the story, and He isn’t shocked that this is happening.” Ouch. My comfort isn’t on the top of everyone’s priority list? I’m not number one? Reality check.

During an anxiety attack, the world around me is blocked out. Because of the focus on my own situation, I rarely remember much of what went on around me. But this day was different. I wasn’t in church to be comfortable, but I was there to hear His Word. Even through the whirlwind of emotions, physical sensations, and thought patterns, I was able to hear the message that day. Think of it like tunnel vision—I couldn’t tell you who was sitting in front of me, or even if someone’s cell phone started ringing during service (let’s hope it didn’t). However, I can remember piece-by-piece the message of Christ dying on the Cross—for us. I made it through the sermon, but still slipped out of the worship service a bit early. Once at my car, I was relieved to feel normal again, yet frustrated that I left early. It was eerie how quickly the onset was, and how quickly it went away (this isn’t typically how they are for me). Again, I realized that there was a third (and much, much lesser) party involved.

This scared the hell out of me—no pun intended. Knowing that the closer I cling to Christ, the harder evil is going to try and pull me down, is a terrifying thought. It’s easy to settle with this thought, “If I back off on the worshiping, maybe he’ll back up on terrorizing.” I mean, it makes sense, right? You’d think he had bigger fish to fry. Wrong-o. I realized that I need Christ at all times—in these times more than ever. It may seem like you’re losing the battle with (insert any of the million possible answers here), but in reality, this war has already been won. This verse has spoken, greatly, to me lately, so I thought I would share.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” -John 16:33

Later that afternoon, I started running my Sunday errands. At the store, I usually browse through the “What to Read” books. However, today, I was led to a section that I don’t normally visit, and there was a book that caught my eye. I picked it up and debated on whether or not I should spend the money to buy it. After flipping through a few pages, I actually decided to put it back on the shelf.  I continued my shopping, but with a gut feeling that I should go back for the book. Needless to say, by the grace of God, it ended up in my shopping basket.  

When I returned home, I immediately started reading it. A few hours later—after inspiration, chills, and messages from his word, I was sat at the end, astounded. God knew exactly what I needed to hear, and He was determined to get me to listen. There was actually a quote in the book that referred to this.  

“God is very, very patient. He will continue calling to us, He will shout when He must, and He will always welcome us back with loving, nonjudgmental arms” –Mary Neal, MD.  (Cue goosebumps.)

Even after a scary and confusing attack during the service, I strived to obey Him. I may have had a horrible experience for a few minutes, but the benefits to following him are eternal. I will continue to trust and follow His guidance to the best of my ability. Life may not always be filled with happiness, but I am certainly filled with joy. As long as you keep your eyes focused on Jesus, He will carry you through the troubles. I can feel God working in me right now, and I feel something big on the horizon. Good or bad, I’m patiently awaiting whatever it is He as planned for my future.

The following verse was in my book—and I absolutely love it! I try to pray this every day on my way to work (my version’s not as eloquent).

“Remind me each morning of your constant love, for I put my trust in you. My prayers go up to you; Show me the way I should go.” –Psalm 143:8

Wonderful song (below) about how God will lever let you go. You should check it out. I love you all, and thanks for reading! 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Messy Misinterpretations

In today's society, we constantly encounter misunderstandings of tone, attitude, and context through the use of social media. It has created a barrier between ourselves and those with whom we communicate. That being said, it is easy to fall into the habit of misrepresenting our intentions, or even misreading someone else's. Although still young, I have learned many lessons regarding the attempt to decode a message received from someone--especially from someone of the opposite sex. 

I have included three scenarios, and with these, a bit of commentary. Remember, you are fearfully and wonderfully made--don't join in on the games that can ultimately lead to hurt, heartbreak, and even hate. 

Scenario One:
Receiving that text after midnight. You know, the one that comes out of nowhere on a Friday night, simply stating "Hey ;)". I can assure you, that wink becomes dangerous after the sun goes down. It's tough to assume that anyone would want to strike up a decent, worthwhile conversation at that hour. Remember, for most people, feelings are somewhat amplified in the evenings: sadness, loneliness, vulnerability.  Be cautious of how you respond and even with how you let a late-night discussion alter your emotions. 

Scenario Two:
Oh, the ever-so-common drunk dial. You can't help but to feel a bit of satisfaction when someone's slurring through their undying confession of love for you...right? It's possible that I am making it sound silly, but how often does he confess it sober? More importantly, how often does he show it sober? If you're having a difficult time coming up with an answer to that, it's probably a phone call that never should have been answered in the first place. You deserve to hear it from a sober mind and honest heart. 

Scenario Three: 
Ah, the old "You should come over."--winner of the Most Deliberately-Ambiguous Statement of the Year award! It's 1am, and you are inviting me over to make cookies and play video games alone? Maybe, but not likely. It could be loaded with mischievous [scary, messy, confusing, misleading, heartbreaking, selfish] intentions which may remain undiscovered until it's too late. Always think through the situation before making a decision. 

Rough news for you ladies: These scenarios are endless. However, if you cling to Christ and pray for wisdom and guidance, many of the deceptions and temptations can be overcome through Him.

Only God can turn a mess into a message, a test into a testimony, a trial into a triumph, a victim into a victory.

Beth Moore makes a strong suggestion in one of her sermons, which I feel is applicable to this post:
"Desperation does not make good decisions...ask God to fill you with His Spirit--to fill up every empty, broken place in you, and then see how you feel about that situation."

I realize that these specific situations may seem trivial, but the danger lies in how you allow yourself to respond to them: physically, emotionally, spiritually. Trust me--letting yourself get mixed up in these schemes can lead to a loss of self-respect. Let me ask you this: If you don't respect yourself, are you crazy enough to believe someone else will? 

I don't mean for this post to make guys look bad. Being on the other side of those scenarios brings just as much heartache and pain.. so I would not recommend tempting others either! This was simply to bring awareness to the fact that times are changing, and social media makes it easier to share personal and intimate information with the click of a button. Temptation is high, and tools are more accessible than ever. Be smart!

As you meet new people this academic year, hold strong to your values and principles. Once compromised, it is extremely difficult to patch-up your integrity. You're a beautiful being, and should always be treated with respect. I pray that God blesses you all this year, and that he provides discernment for the trying times. 

"See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ." -Colossians 2:8

This song, "Steady My Heart", has a great message--and of course it rocks because it's Kari Jobe. You should give it a listen. Much love! 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Summer Fun

Hey, ya'll! In celebration of summer, I have decided to put together a list of some fun activities that will allow you to de-stress and enjoy!

Find a Beach:
Whether it's alongside a lake or an ocean, find a place to enjoy the sand between your toes. 
Pack a towel, your favorite tunes, and you're ready to soak up the sun!

Shop Small:
Small-business shopping can have a very therapeutic effect.
Whimsical towns and bustling brick streets can sweep you away from the big-city buzz
and allow you to unwind with the locals.

Discover a New Hobby:
Take that adventurous step to find something new. Maybe it's something you've thought about, and maybe it's something you've never even heard of before. Look in your area for classes, lessons, and other opportunities to satisfy your curiosity. You never know--you might just find a new pastime.

Improve Your Space:
A bedroom, an apartment, or a home--update your living area! Don't have money to spend? 
Cleaning, organizing, and rearranging can make your space feel brand new. 

Have a Picnic:
Simple and chic. Pack for yourself, or for you plus one. 
Visit a neighborhood park, or try somewhere you have yet to explore. 

Visit a Gallery or Museum:
Visiting an art gallery is an excellent way to leave your worries behind. 
Escape to another time and place with each piece. 

Get Physical:
Join a gym, enroll in a dance class, or simply take a walk. 
Any way you can be active will keep you healthy and improve your mood. 
Not to mention, it will boost your confidence in that little bikini!

This world is full of need. There are so many different ways you can help! 
I have listed some ideas to get your search started. 
Habitat for Humanity: 
Big Brothers, Big Sisters:
Make-a-Wish Foundation:
American Red Cross:

Hope everyone has a wonderful and relaxing summer!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Find You on my Knees

It is difficult to explain in words what I have experienced in the past few months. My hope is that you gain some encouragement within the words that I do find.

About eight months ago, I entered what was the most terrifying time of my life. I was beginning the first season in my new job, as well as my first semester of graduate school. Let me point out that this, in itself, was not the scary part. Rather, it was thinking that I could do everything on my own ability, not through the power of Jesus Christ. I have always been the type of person to stretch myself quite thin with activities and opportunities. Regretfully, I began to enter into a mindset of self-glorification. I was concerned with straight A's, becoming the teacher's pet, making a name for myself in the workplace, and proving myself to those around me. 

"This is what the Lord says: 'Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,' declares the Lord." Jeremiah 9:23-24

I pushed myself to the point of physical and mental illness. I spent four months trying to understand the numbness, insomnia, slurring motor skills, loss of  ambition, and my battle with faith. Throughout my struggle, I entered a dark and discouraging time, which ultimately led to many foolish life choices. I was stuck, running in circles--confused, scared, angry with God; turning to convenient and temporary fixes. 

I remember sitting in church on Sundays, with a voice in the back of my head repeating, "Why ask for forgiveness when you know you're going to do it again? You don't deserve to even be here." I began to live by these words--a vicious pattern that  convinced me I wasn't worthy of calling myself a child of God. The harder I prayed, the stronger the enemy pushed back at me. It wasn't until I realized that this voice in my head wasn't God's, nor was it even my own, that I was able to believe differently. 

"Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings." 1 Peter 5:8-9

I began to read scripture, heavily. I would post it anywhere I had history of these physical and mental attacks--in my car, my home, my office. The Word would pull me back into focus, and the onset would fade. I prayed, constantly, that God would provide something in my life that would help me hold myself accountable, and bring me closer to Him. 

For the past few months, He has been putting my life back together according to his plan. There have definitely been trials, temptations, and even failures. But through Him, I have the strength to get back and up and keep walking by faith. He has shown me that I am not defined by the mistakes I have made in the past, nor am I limited by the mistakes I will most certainly make in the future. 

From "You Are More" by Tenth Avenue North:
'Cause this is not about what you've done,
But what's been done for you.
This is not about where you've been,
But where your brokenness brings you to.

Everyone has battles. Some may even believe that mine seem relatively trivial compared to their own. This message was not meant to evoke sympathy, but to encourage those who are also struggling and to glorify God.  It is only thanks to His mercy that I am able to tell this story with hope and joy for the future!

As always, I have attached a song that has spoken a million words to me lately. It is a beautiful song, and so inspirational. Enjoy!