The Best of Company

Some nights I reflect on the day I just experienced and am so grateful to have spent my time in such good company. After meeting with old friends, mentors, and spending time with my family, I truly appreciate the people in my life. But I often find that those days in good company don’t measure to other days I’ve spent in the best of company. It is the days that I haven’t taken the time to be in the presence of the Lord that I’d like to go back in time and do differently. My days are completely different when I spend time with Him.

Hebrews is a great book in the Bible that encourages me in my faith. There are so many pieces of wisdom in each chapter that I often only read one chapter at a time. I could write down thoughts for an hour on just one chapter. This morning, as I continued in this book to Hebrews 6, the author seemed pretty blunt in what he was saying to his audience. This letter was to encourage people in their faith and help them hold on to what they believed in. One verse says this,

 

“So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding…” (Hebrews 6:1)

 

I read this and stopped to question why the author would write this in his letter. He wasn’t out to condemn people and make them feel immature in their faith. No, instead he wanted so badly for God’s people to move forward in their faith because he knew of the blessings that come from a growing trust in the Lord. He had incredible hope when he put his trust in Jesus and he wanted these people to experience the same thing.

 

We can experience this hope when we choose to seek Him more and more in our lives. We should always want to be growing in our faith as Christ followers. Let’s not settle, but continue to learn more and more about who God is. The more time we can take to learn about who God is, the more we can be like Him in our everyday lives.

 

The words of this letter highlight God’s promises that come to those with faith and endurance. Hebrews 6:19 says,

 

“This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls”.

 

I read this and see the hope we have because of the God’s promises. He wants to give us so much. If we knew just how much He has planned for us, we would want to sit with Him for hours upon hours everyday and just listen for a glimpse of the future plans He has. Why don’t we? Why don’t we want to spend time listening for those promises and plans? He has promised you life when you receive Jesus Christ into your heart. He has promised you life after death because of what Jesus has done on the cross and on Easter day. He has promised you blessings after obedience because He delights in giving to His children.

 

The words I read this morning reminded me of the strong and trustworthy anchor I have because of the hope God has given me. In a world with many problems, many arguments, and many situations that bring a loss of hope, I hold onto the fact that my God has redeemed me and the world for a bright future. Because I was able to spend time with Him this morning, I am ready to take on the day with the hope I have in Him.

 

This post was meant to be very simple because I believe spending time with God is very simple. If you don’t know where to start, open up the book of John. Read a few chapters and take notes on who Jesus is; His character and His actions. Get to know the One you follow and aim to be like. The only complication comes when we choose to come up with excuses or don’t give God the time of day. I encourage you to take some time reading His Word and pouring out your heart to God in prayer today. He is waiting to spend time with you and you will walk away being thankful that He is in your life.

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‘Who’ Instead of ‘What’

I am writing today for the young college students, high school seniors, and, quite frankly, anyone else who is stressed with figuring out what they want to do with their life. This season of my life is coated in questions. I’m constantly being asked, “What are you going to do when you graduate?”, “Where do you want to work in a few years?”, and “What are your plans?” All good questions. At times, I think those of us on the receiving end tend to twist those questions into doubts and worries about the future. They can even make us worry so much that we start to quickly map out a five-year plan in our heads.

A recent conversation with a wise friend brought me to this conclusion: You can’t always choose what you’re going to do for the rest of your life. What you can choose is who you are going to be. Despite location, age, family situations, relationship status, current job, or economic status, I can hold on to an identity I choose to keep my roots planted in.

I’ve always been a fan of consistency. When I find a good restaurant, I find all and any opportunity to eat there with friends. Whenever I start watching a TV show that I thoroughly enjoy, I have to watch it the whole way through and finish it. I have even attained the same place at our family dinner table since I was in elementary school. So when the road gets twisted and curvy, I’d like to think that I at least get to ride in my same car the whole way through.

When you embark on a road trip, think of the constants you hold on to. You have whatever you packed in your suitcase, your vehicle, and the people who tag along. These things are what we count on to have throughout our journey. But what if I left my favorite pair of shoes at the hotel we stayed in last night? What if we pick up another friend along the way? And what if our vehicle breaks down and we have to buy bus tickets to get back home? No, sometimes there things aren’t constants. The people, the things, and the places are not always going to be what we planned. The one thing we can be sure of is who we are going to be in those situations. That is our constant on this journey.

As I just finished this last semester of college, I realized that I am halfway done with my undergrad schooling. That statement has not sunken in to my skull yet. Wow, how the years have already flown by. And before I know it, I will be walking across a stage, shaking a hand that will hand me a diploma with my name on it. This will be an accomplishment I never dreamed I would achieve. You see, college wasn’t even on my agenda until March of my senior year of high school. Plans changed, dreams changed, but I didn’t change.

While I’m growing up and seeking opportunities to someday make a living and use my talents for a greater purpose than myself, I find more and more that I need to stop asking myself what I’m going to do in the next few years and start asking myself who I want to become. Right now is a foundational time of my life where I get to learn and grow in an environment that acts as a launchpad for my future. I’m learning many lessons and growing in more ways than I ever have before. The most important lesson I am taking away is the lesson of being true to myself and my calling in this world before I worry about my future career. It is when I find security in who I am that my future will unfold and be more fulfilling than I could ever plan it to be.

Who do I want to be after I graduate? Before any career, any specific position, or any location, I want to be these three things:

  1. A passionate, faithful Christ follower
  2. A selfless, loving friend, daughter, sister (and someday wife and mother)
  3. FUN

Make a list of who you want to be, not what you want to be and keep them close to your heart. Don’t let questions about your future bring anxiety or unnecessary planning. Plans change! Be who you are and hold on to this in any season of life. You will reach the mountain tops with your talents and abilities. We often forget to get to the top, we have to climb. And life, like our good friend Miley Cyrus once said, is ‘The Climb’. Scenery will change, people may change, and tasks to keep climbing may change. Don’t forget who you are along the way and let go of worries that hide who you are. It is when we let go of those worries of careers, jobs, relationships, and future plans that we feel lighter on our feet as we gradually reach the mountain’s top.

First Things First…

“You got so much to do and only
So many hours in a day.”

-Billy Joel

These words written by my good friend Billy are so true. Time is fleeting. It is constantly slipping from our fingers. Middle school feels like it happened a week ago. High school flew by right after I blinked. Here I am at the end of my first year of college… Now THAT is weird. Time goes by so fast. We know that. We live that. But we still have problems managing the time given to us. There are games, practices, homework assignments, papers, family events, school events, church events, birthday parties, dentist appointments, coffee dates, etc. They all fill up our schedule and keep us really tired.

What is the solution? Cutting things out of our lives? Trying to say “no” more  when people ask? Losing sleep to get more things done? Drinking six cups of coffee to stay awake?

Scheduling our time is important and should be considered a discipline in our lives, but there is a far better solution. Something greater than stressing about what needs to get done. Something greater than setting five or ten alarms on your phone to remind you of what is coming up next. We can do what Jesus claims to be our first and greatest task:

The Greatest Commandment

34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together.35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[c] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[d] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

 

Let me explain myself.

 

If our first job is to love God, I look at all the worries of my day and think of how small they are to the powerful God I have a relationship with. Because God is a Provider, Friend, Listener, Healer, Redeemer, and Guide for us. Having God on our side is the best thing we can have to face our day. Not only for our benefit but for the benefit of the world around us, for His Kingdom. If He is all we got, we have got everything we need to do what we are called to do everyday. He is more than enough and will provide our every need. Having His guidance will help us keep our sanity and cool when there seems to be so few hours in the day.

He is Provider because He is Father. His love for His children transcends all boundaries and barriers we may face in this life. His love wants to carry us through our struggles, hurts, and stress. So loving Him first, growing in relationship with Him first, will affect the rest of our day to day lives. Being filled up by Him each day can be enough for us to face our day and find the strength to continue on. He can support us more than coffee, more than sleep, more than the things that we go to for refuge. Those things are not even close to the power of of the Holy Spirit and the Father’s love for us.

Think of your very best friend.  That person in your life who carries your burdens with you, listens to your problems, and wants to do everything in their power to support you through your struggles. God wants to do that for you and more! He wants to do that for us. He is doing that for us as a Heavenly Father. His love shows how He wants to be in the center of every part of our lives; good or bad. That means the chaos in our lives as well.

So each day, when you wake up to take on new challenges, first things first… Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and with all your mind. Your relationship with Him matters much more than your paycheck or your deadlines or your social life. Make each day worth it by letting Him take control and lead you through the busyness. His love never fails and will not fail you when time is running out. God values your time and wants to help you use it wisely while you have it. He is Provider, Giver, Healer, Redeemer, and Friend. Love Him first.

A Dream of Freedom

I had a dream the other night that everything in my life was being controlled. I was in bondage and imprisoned to someone who controlled me. My money was his, my job was his, my friends were his, my relationships were his, my wardrobe was his, my time was his, and my words were his. I was constantly aware of where he was because he was always there, watching to see that I did what he wanted.

This dream became a nightmare as I kept falling deeper and deeper into the bondage of a sort of slavery to this man. It was terrifying. Every move I made had to be done just the way he wanted. I feel suffocated and shaken by the grips of this captivity. And it all felt so real.

I woke up from my  nightmare in the middle of the night and started contemplating what I would do. Because I was still half asleep, I still thought the dream was real. Even if it wasn’t, that feeling of captivity was still fresh on my mind. I felt unsafe and unsure of what to do.

As I started feeling more awake, I started thinking about what this dream meant. Why was I having a dream about an evil man controlling my life? I had never experienced anything like this before. It didn’t relate to anything in my life. But God showed me that it had everything to do with me and my story. It had everything to do with many of our stories. We all can relate to this story of slavery to an evil one.

Before I became a Christian, I was a slave to sin, fear, and the devil. I was constantly being tempted and drawn to things that were meant to kill and destroy me. The evil one doesn’t care about my well being. He only wanted to steal my happiness, joy, and ultimately, my soul. The bondage I felt in my dream was representing his grip that he had on my life. But that was all before I turned to the One who set me free.

As I lay in my bed, contemplating how I shake this horrible feeling of my dream, I asked myself, “How do I break free from this evil?” And in my tired daze, I said to myself, “Jesus! That’s how!”

I know it was only a dream. This may sound silly to you. But that simple reminder of what I’ve been saved from was a game-changer for me during this Easter season. Do we actually realize what we’ve been saved from?

The world can often shield our eyes and make sin look like the good guy. It can make the lifestyle of living in slavery to sin look like freedom! Like we can do whatever we want. But once we step back and think of the devil’s motives behind the lifestyle he wants for us, we see how true this verse is:

John 10:10

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy…”

Being reminded of the captivity of sin has made me see just how significant Easter is for us! For me, I am reminded of how Jesus showed His love for us and set us free. I believe I had this dream to remind me of what I’ve been saved from and what I am now promised.

This dream was about the promise of freedom. Freedom from pride, abusive relationships, racism, sexism, sex trafficking, addictions, illnesses, fear, abandonment, physical pain, past mistakes, doubts, and loneliness. The only One with the power to give us freedom from these things is Jesus Christ. Through His death and His resurrection, we now have the choice to choose new life with Him that is apart from our bondage and our past. His act of love for us created a new path to leads to life.

John 10:10

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

We have so many problems in our world and in our society. There are things we can cry and complain about and be disgusted with and angry about. But I’m telling you, your only hope and only solution to these things is Jesus. Because of what He did on a cross, we know that Jesus conquered sin and the devil so that we no longer have to live with those things anymore. He has the power to free us from the chains of our slavery to sin today!

You don’t have to be enslaved to the devil’s standard of money, careers, friends, relationships, wardrobe, time and talk. He wants you to let all of these determine your joy when we know that ultimately, these things don’t fulfill us. The enemy keeps telling us that they will. He has no problem with lying to you. All he wants is for you to be entrapped to live his way with these things.

Jesus Christ wants you to have an abundant life. We see that through what He did on the cross. This season of celebration is important because it is a game-changer for all people. We now have a way to escape bondage and run in the gift of freedom. I am so thankful that Jesus saw us in our captivity and longed to set us free. He didn’t just talk about it, He did something about it. He did something we remember thousands of years later. It’s that important to us and this world.

He is risen! Get excited about what He did for you. Don’t worry so much about your Sunday outfit or Easter meal or Easter baskets as much as you simply celebrate Jesus and what He has done. He has set you free and longs to free the rest of the world from captivity.

He has a dream of freedom for all people. I hope you do as well. Tell the world of what Jesus had done!

1 John 5:12 

Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

Romans 8:28

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Luke 24

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ”

 

One Year Bible

January 1, 2015 was the day I decided that I wanted to read the entire Bible in one year. It was a goal that I had been thinking about for a long time. The Bible is a big book and there is so much to uncover inside it. As someone who has heard endless sermons, devotions, and verses to recite in Sunday school, I had never read all the way through a book that was supposedly the foundation of my life. I based my faith, my philosophy behind the little portion I had read of this book. There came a point in my life where I realized that if I was to go around preaching the Word, I needed to know the Word.

My favorite books of the Bible were always in the New Testament. The Timothy’s have always been my points of reference when I don’t know what else to read. It’s clear and challenging to me of how I need to live my life in the Church. The letters of the New Testament were always more intriguing to me because I could understand what they were saying. Compared to the Old Testament, filled with names and rules, it was more relatable to me and I would walk away with a verse I could easily apply to my day-to-day life. But like I said before, I have never read all the way through the Bible. That being said, I had never read through the whole Old Testament.

The Old Testament often gets pushed aside if someone was asked which Testament is their favorite. I read through the Old Testament little by little in my One Year Bible. The One Year Bible broke up passages so that I read an Old Testament passage, a New Testament passage, a Psalm, and a Proverb everyday. I was always excited for the first story I would read in the Old Testament each day. It was so interesting to learn the full history of our faith through the trials and the people who came before us. There were Kings and Prophets and cities that have stories that contribute to the family tree of Jesus! The stories that are often pushed aside are so important to where we are today as Christians. If the Old Testament didn’t happen, the New Testament wouldn’t have a foundation to build upon. A passion grew inside me for learning the foundation and starting marks of the amazing moments we read about with Jesus and His disciples in the New Testament.

 

Growing up going to church every Sunday taught me a lot about the stories written down in the Bible. When I say every Sunday, I mean every Sunday. I’ve heard the stories of Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Samson, Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection, and more stories of His miracles in the Gospels. I thought that I had heard them all! That was a lie that I had told myself for years. I kept telling myself that I knew enough about the Bible and that I was set for just learning more about the stories I’ve been told since birth. If this year has shown me anything, it has shown me that I know so little and there is so much left to uncover in God’s Word even after this year.

 

I would find myself sitting in my dorm room with my lamp on, reading my passages for the day, and thinking, “This is in the Bible?” There were stories that I had never read or talked about with anyone. There were verses that I wish I had seen last year when I was struggling with the very situation a prophet would be talking about. When people say live by His Word, I actually saw how applicable it really is.

 

This book was written thousands of years ago, yes. But it always blows my mind how God inspired these words in people in a different time and culture that still shows me the best way to live out a purpose-filled life today. It is so good. It was worth the read.

 

I finished reading through the Bible on January 1, 2016 (I had one extra day because I had a few days to catch up on… oops!) As I sat on my bed, reading the last few passages for December 31, I tried to recap what I had read over the past year. That was impossible… I read SO much truth in one year that I know I will need to go back and read again. But there was one thing that always stood out to me during my reading times. Yes, there were a lot of rules and regulations. Yes, people messed up a lot in Bible stories. Yes, there are stories filled with pain and regret and death. But these stories always had the same outcome. There was always a God who was present and waiting for His people, His children, to look to Him in those times. Because right besides stories of hurt, there was a following story that showed how God gave hope to His people amidst the trials and pain. He was always there. From the beginning, He was there with His people. Sin crept in and stole His people away, and He still wanted to provide a way back to Him. I saw a plan unraveling throughout the whole Old Testament of how God was planning to send His Son to redeem what had been lost on earth in the book of Genesis. He was to bring back life and salvation for God’s people. Every person from Noah to Moses, from David to Ezekiel were ones that God used to set the stage for the day Jesus would come and change the world forever. What a beautiful story!

 

When I read through the Old Testament books that had all the rules and regulations for God’s people, I had a new perspective on the rules that we all can so easily decide to dislike. Going from the Old Testament passages to the New Testament passages each day showed me how God wanted to grow closer to His people in both times. Before Jesus came to earth, God wanted His people to know a better way to live in Old Testament times. He wanted more for them than the brokenness and darkness that they lived in. God wanted His people to live purpose-filled lives that were apart from sin. And like a good father would, He set boundaries and laws for His children to stay away from the trouble He could foresee down the road. When Jesus came, He wanted to save His people from the trouble He could foresee down the road: eternal death. He came to bring life. The Word (Jesus) was flesh. Jesus knew the laws and regulations but wanted to show His people the best way to live them out with a purpose-filled life. His life was an example for us as Christians and how we are to live out these laws that God made for our benefit thousands of years ago.

 

Let’s think about this as if you are a parent. Or maybe you’ve babysat kids before or have younger siblings. I am not a parents but have younger siblings and have grown up babysitting younger kids. Let’s imagine you’re responsible for a group of 4-year olds for one day. You are all by yourself in your home with 5 children that are hyper, loud, and messy. Say you are going to make macaroni and cheese for lunch. Now imagine if the stove was on and you turned your back for one second and one of the kids was fascinated by the blazing fire and reached out to touch it. You know the responsibility you have for these kids and don’t want to see them get hurt. And if we love someone as much as we love ourselves, an example set for us by Jesus, we would do everything we could to make sure that this child wouldn’t burn themselves on the stove. That is how I see God’s laws that He set for His people. He is the Creator, He knows the best way for us to live a purpose-filled life! Reading through these laws and then seeing the consequences of people going against these laws showed me how necessary God’s laws are to live a life of purpose without the darkness of the world to weigh us down.

 

I think it always comes back to one word: love. How is God’s love active today and how was it active back in Bible times? Reading through the Bible showed me story after story of how God was looking out for His children. He was often asking them to turn from their wicked ways because the things they were doing were full of destruction and pain. He was often asking them to take a path that they may have not wanted to take because He saw the blessings that awaited them at the end of the journey He had planned. God loves His people so much that He often stepped in the way to show them a better way. That is how loving our Father is.

 

I am not a reader. It was often difficult for me to sit down and take the time to focus on the long passages I had to read. But the thing is, each day in the One Year Bible is designed for the reader to take about 15 minutes for reading. That is not long at all! When I put in perspective about how much time I was really spending in the Word, it wasn’t even as long as an episode on Netflix. There is some perspective, people…

 

This year showed me the importance of knowing the Word. As Christians, we need to know what we are talking about. We need to know the truth that we claim to base our faith on. If someone were to ask you about your faith and he or she didn’t come from a faith background, would you have scripture to back up what you believe? We can’t simply speak from opinion about Christianity. We need to speak Truth. That is what Jesus did. He would speak scripture to people. His opinions never got in the way of the truth that God wanted to speak through Him.

 

I’ve realized how much more I need to be in the Word. Now that I’ve read through the whole Bible, I want to study it with a different perspective. Instead of focusing on the whole Bible, I want to focus on each book inside of the Bible. There is so much to learn from God’s Word. There is so much truth that gives me hope for the day because they come from God’s heart. He gave us this tool for us to know Him better and to know how to live better for Him. If we aren’t using this gift from God, how can we better know Him? These are HIS words. The best way to get to know someone is to know their heart and to know their story. You have a story written by God for His people in a tangible form. Don’t let your Bible be a decoration on your shelf. Pick it up and open it up everyday. Oh, the things that we could give up for a few minutes in our day to instead spend in the Word! Oh, how we waste so much of our time doing the same thing everyday: posting and liking and retweeting and staring at a screen. Think about it… That is our daily routine! We will always make time for that. And I believe what we give our time to shows where our heart lies.

 

I’ve realized how many lies the enemy throws at us when we are challenged to read the Word. When looking back at my year and remembering days that I skipped reading my Bible, those days started stacking up on top of each other. If I had an excuse one day to skip it, there would always be another excuse for another day. It wasn’t until I started making myself sit down to read through the daily passages that it became apart of my routine everyday. It wasn’t always the same time everyday, it was always during a time that I knew I could give up something else to read God’s story.

 

“I don’t want reading my Bible to just be a ‘check off my checklist’. I want it to be a desire for me to sit down and read it.”

 

This was the biggest lie I heard from the enemy and from other people. We don’t want reading the Bible to just be a routine for us. The reason I see this as a lie is because unless we’ve been reading the Bible everyday of our lives since we could read, I don’t think we automatically get a desire to sit down and read the Bible. There were days that the last thing I felt like doing was reading. I either wanted to lay down and watch Netflix or sleep. But making sure that I read the Bible before the end of my day was the most important thing I could do. Even I felt like I was checking it off my ‘checklist’, reading the Bible was way better than anything else I could’ve been doing during that time.

 

If we aren’t making sure we check off ‘reading my Bible’ on our daily checklists, when will reading our Bibles become apart of our daily routine? We need to make the effort to do so before the desire to read God’s Word comes in our life. It’s like training for a race. If you never start running, how will you ever reach your goal of 5, 10, 15 miles? Most of us don’t have a desire to run. I know some crazy people that do but that is beside the point… We have to start somewhere. At the end of the day, we know that running is good for us, but we have to build that desire to do so by simply starting. For you to have a desire to read the Word, you need to start reading the Word. And if at first it is something you have to ‘check off the list’, it is the best thing you can be doing with that time of your day! Every time I made myself sit down to read the Word when I first started the One Year Bible, I never regretted it when I was done. You won’t regret the time you set aside to read the Word. It will forever impact your life, friendships, families, attitude, and relationship with Christ.

 

It is a new year. We may all be posting about our new year’s resolutions and what our goal is for 2016. How about we don’t just commit to our resolutions for this year, but start something this year that will continue for a lifetime? What if this was the year you said, “I am going to be in the Word everyday starting today”? I believe, as Christians, that is the most important thing for us to do if we want to change this world and spread the Gospel with our lives. We need to know the Word!

 

Favorite Verses Of The Year:

 

Psalm 85:8– I listen carefully to what God the Lord is saying, for He speaks peace to His faithful people. But let them not return to their foolish ways.

 

Colossians 2:7– Let your roots grow down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.

 

1 Thessalonians 1:11-12– Because we know that this extraordinary day is just ahead, we pray for you all the time—pray that our God will make you fit for what he’s called you to be, pray that he’ll fill your good ideas and acts of faith with his own energy so that it all amounts to something. If your life honors the name of Jesus, he will honor you. Grace is behind and through all of this, our God giving himself freely, the Master, Jesus Christ, giving himself freely.

 

Ecclesiastes 5:18-20-After looking at the way things are on this earth, here’s what I’ve decided is the best way to live: Take care of yourself, have a good time, and make the most of whatever job you have for as long as God gives you life. And that’s about it. That’s the human lot. Yes, we should make the most of what God gives, both the bounty and the capacity to enjoy it, accepting what’s given and delighting in the work. It’s God’s gift! God deals out joy in the present, the now. It’s useless to brood over how long we might live.

What I Want To Be When I Grow Up

For the first few years of my childhood I had decided that I wanted to be a ballerina. Dancing was, and still is, my favorite activity. If I could dance for a living while looking beautiful in my tutu, that would be the day that I made it in life. It all started with The Nutcracker. My wonderful mother told me and my sisters that she would take us to the ballet for our 5th birthday. It was something that I looked forward to as the time neared for me to dress up and go observe the ballerinas dance so angelically. When the day came, I was not disappointed.

The grace and beauty and peacefulness of the ballerinas inspired me at a young age. How they were so careful with every step they took and how their choreography was meant just for the music that was played by the orchestra… It all was so beautifully done. My eyes were pried open when I sat in that theatre.

You have probably already assumed the obvious: I am not a ballerina. Because over the years I went from wanting to be a ballerina to a teacher, a doctor, a veterinarian, a singer, a “rockstar” (probably because I watched so much Hannah Montana), a writer, a composer, and a screenwriter. Somewhere in the mix, I think I wanted to be a pastor. I would have never admitted this because I was a pastor’s kid. Or as the pastors’ kids call it, a “PK”.

Growing up in the church was so good for me and God knew that when He was planning out my life. He knew that seeing my dad pastor to the young people in our church would grow inside me a desire to minister to young people. He knew that I needed to grow with people who would care enough to teach me the Bible and why people believe in it. He knew that I would be doing who-knows-what if I hadn’t been connected in my youth group every week and weekend. He knew that the church wass where I would grow best.

While I was growing up, specifically in middle school, I denied the possibility of being a pastor or being in ministry of any sort. At this time I wanted to be a musician and travel the world. College was the last thing on my mind. But as I stayed connected in the church, opportunities kept knocking at my door for me to serve and lead. I never said no because I loved serving in the church. Even though I wouldn’t admit to having a desire to minister to people, I loved ministering to people! It was at first through music, then Bible studies, then speaking in front of my peers. God gave me all of those opportunities in the church.

The reason I tell you all of this is because even though I don’t know all the things I will do with my life, I still know what I am doing today. Isn’t today  yesterday’s future? Can’t we live it now?

Yes, some of us may be young and in high school or college. We are still figuring out a major and a profession that fits us best. Those things are important, but to get there, we need to be in the here and now.

Like I said, I’m what you call a “PK”. My dad has been one of the greatest inspirations in my life. His wisdom has affected my life greatly. One of the things that he has told me for many years is that to figure out what you need to do in your future, you need to look at events from your past as puzzle pieces. Look back to the most significant events in your life that helped shape who you are today.

Maybe one of your pieces would be winning the Science Fair in fourth grade. Maybe you remember being a helping hand to someone who got hurt on the playground. You may even count one of your puzzle pieces as the time your parents got divorced or a really bad break up. One of your puzzle pieces could be giving a speech in class, scoring the winning point, or creating your best painting you’ve ever painted. What are those things that brought you here today?

What I’ve learned from my dad and many others is these puzzle pieces need to be put together. When they are put together, they can create a picture of a map. It can show you where you have been and a sneak peek of where you are going.

You have a calling and a purpose. I don’t know if anyone has ever told you that before. I believe that every single person has a purpose in this life. You aren’t just here to waste air and be someone that others can be compared to. You are unique and talented. Maybe not in obvious ways. Maybe your talents need to be unpacked and developed. That is okay. I am still figuring out what gifts God has given me in certain areas of my life. We are always learning. We can always grow. Look for the special gifts and abilities that you see in yourself and develop them.

I am 19 years old. I don’t expect you to think that I am some intelligent, put-together adult that can help you figure out life. But what I’ve learned from the amazing people God has put in my life, is that we may never be sure of where to go next. We may never be sure of our calling for tomorrow. It may be different than today’s.

I know that for me, I am resting on God’s plan for my life, not mine. Who knows what He will ask me to do tomorrow? I don’t! But day by day, I am saying yes to where the path on my map is pointing. The puzzle pieces in my life give me just a little picture of my life’s road map. I don’t have the full picture yet because I haven’t lived my whole life yet! But right now, this small picture can help me find the other pieces that I can add to the puzzle.

God has put significant puzzle pieces in your life. Even if there is hurt and pain in your life, God can use that pain and heal it. He didn’t want you to go through that, but can use it to create a puzzle piece of the bigger picture. He wants to use that because He doesn’t want to see that piece clogging up your life anymore with pain and regret. He wants more for you.

You don’t need to have life figured out. I am very blessed to have people in my life who repeatedly tell me that. Now I want to tell you. You don’t need to have life figured out. But if you want someone to guide you and help you figure out the best path for you life, I’ve known God to be a pretty great friend for adventures. He will go with you and He will never leave you.

This season of life is exciting for me because I am majoring in Christian Ministries and have no idea what that will mean for my future. I know that I’m supposed to minister to people but who knows where? Not me! That is why I am trusting in God to lead me to more open doors with more opportunities. He gave them to me before, so many years ago. He is and will continue to bring more opportunities for puzzle pieces.

What do I want to be when I grow up? I think that is a silly question. The better questions is where do I want to be when I grow up?

I want to be on the right path set out for me.

 

Proverbs 4:26

Watch the path of your feet And all your ways will be established.

Proverbs 3:6

In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5

Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding.

Trust Issues

I want to be authentic. I want to be real. I hope that is what we all try to be. And if we are honest, while we are trying so hard to be real and be the best person we can be, we fail. A lot. I fail a lot.

Something that I fail at is trust, but not in the way you think. You see, I tend to trust people too much. When I don’t know where else to go and when I feel all alone, I tend to find the nearest friend to confide in so they can help me get through the rough patch. I trust them to pick up my spirits and carry me through the pain.

My stuff is heavy. My burdens and troubles aren’t light. After expecting my friends and family to carry these things, I’ve seen how many backs I’ve broken with my stuff. It has been a long road and I expected too much of the people that walk alongside me in my journey. My trust weighed heavy on their shoulders and I thought they could help me out of the pit I had fallen into.

I struggle with trusting people too much.

Don’t get me wrong, I love people! I live for friendships and relationships with others. Over these past few months of being away at college, I’ve realized how much I do love people. But I have also realized that my trust in people has gotten in the way of my trust in God.

I have written before about being lonely in different seasons of my life. This is an important topic that I think we need to talk about. A LOT of people struggle with loneliness… more than you think. I often find myself feeling lonely because I was expectant of someone to come through for me and be the “perfect friend” in a single moment. I know that I need comfort so I expect someone to give me the comfort I need. But I rarely find that. And when I do find that, I have slowly figured out that it wasn’t them providing what I needed in that moment, it was God.

Learning to trust in God is a journey in itself. I have trusted God in a lot of areas in my life, yet I still don’t go to Him first when I am struggling with loneliness. The one that is known for being present and with us is the third or fourth one I run to in my times of trouble. I have preached about running to God first time and time again, thinking I had it right. But I want to be honest and say that I am still working on going to God first.

In the moments before I sat down to write this, I had a much needed moment with God. He made me realize how I viewed my circle of loved ones in my life. I trust them too much. I trust them to always make my day better when I’m down, I trust them to always pull through for me even if their schedule is crazy or different than mine, and I trust them to always know what to say when I trouble comes my way. I trust them too much.

The wonderful people in my life have always loved me and cared for me with the gifts and abilities given to them by God. I love them so much for that. But they can never be what God can be in times of trouble simply because, like me, they are human. They cannot fill His place as a Provider and Healer. He is the One that always pulls through, is always able to be with me (because we are always on His schedule), and always has the best words for me when trouble comes my way. I don’t trust Him enough.

People will fail. Yes, people get it right some of the time. But I need to stop expecting the people in my life to be perfect in my time of trouble. They are going to fail me sometimes. When I say that, I say it in the most lovingly way. There is no bitterness behind what I say. Because when I understand that people will fail me, I understand that I fail them! I have failed and will continue to fail people. I’m human and I don’t always get it right. This is an even bigger reminder that my Father in Heaven always does. He always gets it right.

I never want to be a person that holds grudges against people for not following through for me. It is not about me and I do not want it to be. I wrote this post because I want to be real with you. My life is not perfect, I struggle, and I am always learning. I am learning so much about how I’ve been leaning on people for so long that I sometimes forget to look to the Lord when I feel like I have no place to go.

He says this,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

I want to apologize to people that I have made feel like they let me down. I ask for forgiveness for asking you to take my stuff and carry it for me. That is not your job. The wonderful people in my life have always helped me carry the weight on my shoulders so the load is lighter without my asking. For that I say thank you for walking alongside me when the road gets tough. God really used you to help me along the way. I don’t want anyone to think that I don’t appreciate them in times of trouble. God made us for community and like I said before, I love people. Being around people will always cheer me up.

This post may seem random to you.. Maybe even a little sad. These posts that I write are me simply learning and growing as I process more of who I am and who God is. I encourage you, learn who you are and learn who God is. Those two things will get you far.

In whom or what do you put your trust? This is a question I want to ask myself and you, Curious Reader. I hope and pray that God is the answer.

Home

We all long to feel like we fit, like we belong. We search and search for that perfect place that we fit. Day and night we think, plan, and pray for that perfect place. A place where we can dwell and a place to call home.

Be we are not at home here. This is not our home.

Earth is like a pit-stop on our journey. Believe it or not, while the days and hours and minutes are long, they are literally nothing compared to the eternity waiting for us outside the walls of this “temporary home”. But no, this is not a home. For now, we will call it a “temporary home” but remember, we can’t get comfy. We can’t “make ourselves at home” here. Why?

1 John 2:17

And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

His Will is that we come to know Him and be in relationship with Him. When we do that, we fall in love with a God that we want to faithfully follow all the days of our lives. We can follow Him home.

As Christ followers, we have the hope of a home waiting for us and being prepared for us in heaven. A Savior named Jesus Christ ascended into this dark, broken world only to rise in a Light that opens our eyes to this truth:

The best is yet to come!

I don’t know your thoughts and opinions on this trilogy called “The Hobbit”. Yes, I understand that it doesn’t follow the book perfectly and many could argue that the Lord of the Rings wins the favoritism vote between the two, but that is not what I’m talking about right now. I want to quote something the wonderful Bilbo Baggins said in “An Unexpected Journey”. He says this,

“You’re right, I often think of Bag End… See, thats where I belong. Thats home. That’s why I came back, because you don’t have one… a home. It was taken from you. But I will help you take it back if I can.”

This quote made me love this story. A lowly hobbit got out of his comfy chair, in his humble home in Bag End, to begin a journey that had no promises of a good ending. And his motive was not for himself. His motive was not so that he could say he had been to the Misty Mountains or Rivendell where the Elvish lived. His motive was not to brag about his heroic deeds. His motive was not to come out on top.

Bilbo Baggins wanted to:

  1. Escape his routine, boring life
  2. Help the Dwarves find their home

Isn’t that exactly what Christ followers need to do?

Don’t we need to get out of our comfy chairs and escape our routine, boring lives to embark on a journey that could forever change the lives of others? If we have a home with Christ, why don’t we invite others along for the journey and help them find their home in Christ? If we are all looking for that place to belong, a place to call home, then why do we fix our eyes on this “temporary home” and allow our friends to do the same? There’s is so much more than this world. We know that. But a lot of our friends don’t know that. They are out searching for their home. Let’s join their journey and help them find home.

God is calling us all home to be with Him. Let’s stop looking for home in things of this world. Like 1 John said, this world is fading away. Don’t let this scare you, but let it remind you of why we are here and the purpose of this life we live here on earth. Someday, we will be home with God. It will be perfect. We do not know perfect, but we can strive for it. We can seek a perfect God who picks us up as we stumble along the path of life. And one day, we will be made perfect and dwell in the House of the Lord forever. It will be good. It will be where we belong. It will be home.

The best is yet to come.

75 Tops, 25 Pants, 3 Skirts, 7 Dresses, 9 Jackets, 18 Pairs of Shoes.

Often when I pray for something God has laid on my heart, issues that I pray for in our world start to reveal to me my own issues. God shows me that I have some things that I may be trying to hide or bury as deep as I can so I don’t have to deal with those things I don’t dare identify as “issues”. One night, as I was praying for a dear friend and that she could feel her worth in Christ, I was convicted of where I found my worth. I was sitting on my bed and staring at my closet. It was full of colors and sweaters and layers and patterns, etc. That is when God hit me with a big issue in my life: I base so much of my worth on my clothing.

When it comes to spending money, I freely give it away for coffee or an on-sale-item at the mall. But it doesn’t just have to be the mall. If I find a good deal anywhere and I like the clothing item, I buy it because I think it will add so much more to my wardrobe and worth. In reality, that top that I just had to get will get old in a couple of weeks and it will go to the back of my closet to only be worn once or twice a year.

That was how it went with me and clothes.

As I continued to pray for my dear friend the other night, I kept looking directly at my closet. When I finally opened up my ears to what God had to say, I instantly thought to myself, without a doubt in my mind:

“I need to give up buying clothes for a year.”

In the moment that I knew this was something I needed to do, I was completely calm. I was actually excited for this challenge that God had given me. The next morning was when I started to panic. I looked through my closet and starting telling myself lies such as, “You don’t have enough tops to get you through a year!” and “All of these clothes are worn out and old, they will never last!”

I am thankful that God brings peace when we ask for it. In that moment, I sat down and just thanked God for the clothes that I had. In reality, I have MORE than enough. I think we are lost in some fantasy that we need the newest style and need to continue to fill up our closets with more and more options so we can constantly impress people with what we wear. But the reality is, in this country we are spoiled to not just have an outfit that can keep us warm or covered up, but to have a different outfit to wear every day of the week! I know that this is not the case for every person in this country because there is poverty and devastation everywhere you go. But think of how much you have right now compared to a family with six or seven kids and no income. They are focusing on paying for food, not a new pair of designer jeans. We really have more than enough.

I went through my closet today and counted the clothes that I packed away for college. This is what I decided to bring with me to college:

75 Tops

25 Pants

3 Skirts

7 Dresses

9 Jackets

18 Pairs of Shoes

When I look at those numbers, it seems like my closet is overwhelmingly full. But looking at my closet, it seemed so small and simple. I realized more than ever that looks can be deceiving. I knew I could actually wear a different outfit everyday for a few months but even then, I still thought that I needed more. I had to get out of this fantasy and come to the reality that I have more than I need.

I will not be buying a clothing item to fill my wardrobe until August 16, 2016. This is a challenge I felt God needed me to face because I can no longer focus so much on my appearance. Its time to focus more on my heart and my complete worth in Jesus Christ alone.

This is what God calls us to do. He calls us to radical lives where we are different. We are not meant to be like this world. We are not meant to obsess over the trends and the cutest shoes or how good our new jeans look on us. We are supposed to be completely in love with Jesus Christ and leave the things of the world behind. Simply liking the trends and fashion is a different story, but an obsession can lead to false idols in our lives. I saw that happening in my life.

I want to challenge everyone reading this blog right now. If you love shopping and buying new clothes, that’s okay! I don’t want you to feel bad about buying new clothes because you can spend your money where you want to. But if shopping and filling up your closet becomes an idol in your life (something you think about and do most of your time) think about your intentions and how often you really wear all of your clothes. Sometime today, I challenge you to go through your closet and count how many items of clothing you have of these things: tops, pants, skirts, dresses, jackets, and shoes. Comment your numbers below and post them somewhere else to be honest with yourself and others about how much you really have in your closet. Then think about those numbers and how you are using what God gave to you. He is the ultimate Provider who provides our resources and income. How are you using what has been given to you?

Thanks for reading. I would appreciate any prayer for me over this next year as I stay away from the shopping world. It is going to be a long but fantastic year. God is the ultimate Provider and I have more than enough. I am not just blessed, but spoiled with all of the clothes that I have. Having a choice to pick out a different outfit everyday is a privilege and I don’t want to take advantage of this privilege anymore.

Thank you to everyone who has already encouraged me and kept me accountable as I start this journey. I am looking forward to what I can learn from this “Fast From Shopping”!

1 Samuel 16:7- But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

Genesis 1:27- So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

1 Peter 3:3-4- Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.

When It’s Hard To Hear His Voice.

Have you ever prayed for something for a long time and didn’t hear a clear answer on what you should do? Have you ever felt like God was distant? Or that your prayers are just words disappearing into thin air? Has it been hard lately to hear His voice?

In my life, God has spoken to me in different ways. I have felt His voice in my dreams, in visions, through people, in His word, and many times during musical worship. He always shows up in different ways. And I have found that the moments that I heard Him were the moments that I was focusing my life on seeking Him. That is when we can hear His voice. When we are pursuing His presence and His power. If we aren’t, we get distracted by all the other voices talking into our ears. How can we tell those voices apart when we are paying more attention to the voices of this world?

I have this devotional that was published in 1962 by an author named Eugenia Price. For May 23, she writes about the darkness that we may be engulfed in that keeps us away from God.

We can either be chasing darkness or God’s light. God’s light is always there, darkness cannot overpower the light. Light breaks through the darkness. But sometimes, we can turn our backs to the light and pretend it’s not there. We may be intrigued and interested in the mystery of the darkness. It may not hold good things, but we walk further and further away from the light to explore the darkness.

Maybe the reason that we can’t hear God’s voice is because something in your life is casting a shadow. What is standing in the way of His light in your life? We have to get rid of that something. There can’t be any distractions. We can hear voices all around us everyday telling us to do this and do that. Focus on Jesus and you will find His voice.

John 1:5- The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.