Plant Your Feet Before Moving Forward

Imagine your life as stepping stones that lead to a final destination. You can see the stone you are standing on and a shadow of the one ahead. There is only a glimpse of what is to come but you know it is there, awaiting your arrival. The rest of this picture is dark. Around you, all you can see is trees because you are deep in a forest trying to find your way through. You can hear the wind gliding against the trees and the sound of wildlife. What you cannot hear is any sound of human life nearby. You are walking this path of stepping stones on your own. Your destination is close, but you are oblivious to how many stones it will take to get there because they are hidden from your sight.

This picture is the story of my life. As a person who loves to know what is going to happen next and to plan for it, I struggled with this scenario for a long time. Throughout high school I tried to find who I was in my future. My career, my location, and my relationships were the areas of my life that seemed to have the answers of who I was becoming. While these things can tell a lot about who we are, they are not who we are.

A loss of identity can get us way off track from where we need to be. When I talk about where we need to be, I mean that sweet spot where we know we are doing what we were made to do to the best of our abilities. Isn’t that what we love? Being able to do what we are naturally good at for a greater good and purpose? Finding that purpose and fulfillment in our lives is so important, especially at a young age. Finding success in our passion is something we strive for in years of schooling and training to become what we have dreamed about becoming throughout our short lifetime. The question we want an answer to is ‘How do we get to that sweet spot’?

Let’s go back to the stepping stones. I believe this picture was given to me by God to help me see how to reach my goals in life. It is a reminder, everyday, that my sweet spot is not ten stepping stones ahead of me. My sweet spot is where I am now. The stone where my feet rest is my calling and my purpose today, tomorrow, and everyday until it is time to move onto the next stone. I first need to plant my feet before I move.

I’ve learned from so many wise mentors in my life that my future is decided everyday by what I decide to do on the stone on where I stand today. Living today like it is my last but also as a launch pad for the dreams I strive to see become reality. There is a combination of both that get us to our goals.

For the first time in my young life, I feel like I am exactly where I need to be in order to fulfill my purpose in this life. The gifts and abilities given to me are being used and grown for a better purpose than just myself. I say this not to lift myself up but to lift up the One who’s plan excites me everyday. My Heavenly Father has guided me to this place in life to where I can see success in ministry and things He calls me to do because I allow Him to do immeasurably more through me than I could ever do by myself.

A wise woman once told me that the greatest success in Christian leaders has come from not just listening to God, but listening to God and doing what He asks. It is as simple as that. Hearing from God is one thing and for those of us that have heard from God, it is amazing, right? It is amazing to hear from God clearly because His plans are so good! But how we measure our success is not in how much money we make with our gifts, how many people see our success on TV, how nice of a house we own, or how good we feel about ourselves when the day is done. Our success is measured in our obedience to Christ.

When we choose to be present on the stone on which we stand, we learn to live for the moments that are fleeting. Instead of worrying about the next step, we plant our feet and look around at the view we may not have noticed before. Instead of moving ahead too quickly, we stay in the place where we can see clearly and not a place we have to walk around blindly. If we move too quickly, we may find ourselves stumbling in the dark.

Let God reveal your next step. Let Him walk alongside you in the journey of reaching your goals in life. Have dreams and have ambitions but let God get you there. His gifts are your gifts. You are made in His image. When you know your Father better, you will better know yourself and the gifts He has given you. Every good thing comes from Him. There is so much goodness He has in store for you not just in the future, but where you are right now.

Think back to the picture of the stepping stones. Where are you now and where do you want to be someday? At the end of your life, what do you want to be known for? Think of your ultimate goal, what is awaiting you at the end of your stepping stones. For me, I see a cross at the end of my path. When I think of the person I want to be and become, I think first of how I can pick up my cross daily. That is my goal every step of the way. I pray that as a Christ follower this can be your goal every step of the way as well.

Continue on the journey that you have embarked on, young traveler. Take the time to stop and smell the roses in the forest. Don’t look back at the mistakes. Only look, for a moment, at the times that made you grow stronger. Be careful not to stray from this path because the Light is showing you this path for a reason. This path teaches you patience, faith, hope, joy, and contentment. Don’t lose sight of it because it leads to good things.

‘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.

Man of Sorrows

I want to begin this blog post by stating this: it is okay to not be okay. Sadness is something we all deal with. It is real and brings us to dark places. But often we hide our sadness under a smile or shade of happiness we applied to our faces that morning. We may think there is no time or space for our sadness amidst the busyness we have signed ourselves up for. Our schedules are jam packed, we get little sleep, and we have so many people to please. Has anyone ever felt this way?

I go to a Christian university, and love the community that I have the privilege to live in. But something I’ve noticed is when life is difficult and heavy, we think we have to have it all together. It feels to me like sometimes as Christians, we think there is no time in the day to deal with struggles or loneliness or grief or sadness. We know the verse in Ecclesiastes 3:

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.”

But how are we dealing with the heavy burdens life brings our way? I’ve said it before, and I’ll keep saying it: If I’ve learned anything this semester, it’s that it is okay to not be okay.  I’m confident in this because of a verse in Isaiah 53:3:

“He was despised and rejected—
    a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief…”

Jesus was the Man of Sorrows. He came on earth to die for all humankind; billions of people who knew and didn’t know Him. He fought for our salvation by carrying our burdens and sorrows to the cross. All of the pain, sin, and darkness of the world was placed on His shoulders for a world that had turned away from Him. He knows sorrow. He knows pain. He knows sadness.

These past three weeks have shaken my world and opened my eyes to how we deal with pain. My grandma passed away, three weeks ago now, to be with the Lord in Paradise. She was ready to be in the Lord’s presence and it gave me peace knowing she passed peacefully. God gave me the incredible opportunity to see her the night before her passing; to tell her how much her testimony and love meant to me. It was a beautiful time because we know that because of Jesus, she is now healed and complete in Him. Now separated from suffering and darkness, she is living in the light of Christ.

I live with seven other girls in a suite at my school. I love them all dearly and again want to thank them for their comfort and protection during my time of grieving. A community that is full of compassion helps bring healing to hurt.

On the day of my grandma’s funeral, my phone blew up with messages about another one of my roommate’s grandpa passing away. The hurt and pain that I was feeling was no longer just mine. My dear friend got to see her grandpa before he passed, but still came back to school with the loss of a loved one.

Our dorm room was feeling the weight of loss and grief that week. We were shocked by these two losses happening so close together and dealt with it with as much grace as we could. And to our surprise, another wave came rolling in. My roommate got a sudden phone call a few days later with the unexpected news that her grandma had passed in her home. I cannot tell you the heaviness of that day as we carried on throughout our classes in disbelief. We kept asking each other, What is happening to our room?

Many tears, many hugs, and many prayers later, we all rallied around each other in community for the loss we continued to feel for each other. The love I felt for these friends grew so much in those few days.

As I write to you now with a heavy heart, I write of the news that another one of my roommate’s great-grandma has passed away suddenly. Another shock that seemed too much like routine in our room. The heaviness and weight of loss still rests on our shoulders as we grieve for our dear friend and roommate.

This time will always serve as a memory, definitely not a fond memory, of how we deal with loss in a broken world. I hold onto that verse in Isaiah to remind myself that Jesus was the Man of Sorrows. He came and suffered with us and for us. He understands loss. In the book of John, we’ve all memorized a small verse in John 11:35: “Jesus wept.” I remember this verse because Jesus mourned when he heard of his friend Lazarus’ death. He felt pain. He knew what it was like to lose someone to death. He was human, like us. I look to Him during this time of loss.

God does not like death. He mourns with us and calls us as the Church to deal with loss together. He does not want us to be alone. I hold tightly to Him in a time of deep sorrow and am thankful for the community He has given us in His Church. Thank you for support and love from those that have heard about what has been happening over the past few weeks. We appreciate your prayers in this time. Not just for comfort, but for protection in a time where much seems lost. We hold on to the promises of the Lord and trust that He will bring blessings out of sorrow and pain.

Psalm 23:4,6: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. … Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”

Matthew 5:4: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

2 Corinthians 1:3: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.”

Just Let It Go

A few days ago became a holiday for me. August 16 was a day of celebration. This is the day I decided to wait for since last summer. In the summer of 2015, I felt challenged and called to give up shopping as I stared at my overflowing closet. Crazy, right? For one year I didn’t buy myself clothes that would just keep ridiculously filling my closet. Yes, it was a challenge. But challenges can bring out the best in us and I learned so much about myself throughout this year. August 16 was the day I decided to end this endeavor. It was a rewarding day to say the least.

I’ve had a few people ask me how I feel after the year and what I’ve learned. It has been a few days and I’ve bought a few clothing items that I’ve been saving up for over the past few months. My mind has been jumbled with little time to sit down and remember where I was one year ago compared to now. Here I am with a challenge conquered still wondering why in the world did I give up shopping for one whole year?

I gave up shopping because it was something I knew I needed to do. Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever had a gut feeling that wouldn’t let you think of anything else besides that one thing you had to do? Those feelings haunt me and don’t let me sleep at night. When I knew that this was something I had to do, I couldn’t let myself find excuses for an escape. I accepted the challenge and looked ahead to this new adventure. Difficulty awaited me but so did reward.

The biggest change I faced this year was how full my wallet was. There was actually cash in my wallet, people. From being a person who spent all her paycheck on shopping, coffee, and food, I noticed a slight increase in my savings. My money wasn’t coming to me for a quick visit, I actually had money camping out in my purse! Crazy, right? I never had to worry about gas money or food while on the road or expenses that needed to be paid. God continued to provide for me and instead of swiping my card at the mall, I put the money in a place where it was needed or where it could grow.

My eyes were opened to where I put my money. Where we put our money often shows where our hearts are. I wouldn’t say I  was putting my money towards my looks and outward appearance last year. I would instead say I was spending all of my money on myself. I was selfishly throwing money away for my wants not my needs, creating a mentality that what I was being given was all mine with no room for generosity. Focusing on our wants more than our needs creates an empty life. Yes, we need clothing. But if I never shopped again, I have enough clothing to last me the rest of my life! But if we have the resources and ability to bless people with what we’ve been given, that brings so much more meaning and purpose to life than a full closet.

What this year has left me with is a perspective on our grasp of things. When I first decided to give up shopping, my hand was in a clenched fist. It was very difficult to see something I wanted to buy and not go try it on with the possibility of a purchase. As the days and weeks and months dragged on, I slowly let go with empty hands. How much more freeing it is to go about life with empty hands! No burdens, no things to weigh you down.

Holding on to our things can be dangerous because they are temporary. When that thing fails to exist or gets lost or breaks, we are left disappointed and dysfunctional. We may not know what to do with ourselves. Imagine losing your phone for three days. A device you use for weather, time, communication, entertainment, capturing moments… What would you do without it? There’s a scary question.

If I can leave you with one thing today, it would be a challenge that you can take or leave. Let go of something for awhile. A day, a week, a month, or even a year. Let something go that has a grip on you as you hold it in your hands. What is one thing that absorbs your focus and energy that could be used for a better purpose? What can you give up in order for you to give more to others?

Not spending my money on clothes gave me more reason to bless others with my money or be able to create more memories with friends on trips or special events. Giving up something leaves a space for something better to fill it. If you feel challenged today, I encourage you to not let this gut feeling pass. Trust yourself and see what happens when you let go. See how you react without that one thing and how much you rely on it. I promise you after the difficult beginning of your journey, you will experience freedom with a new perspective on who and what you are living your life for.

 

 

 

 

Fear For Breakfast

I am a breakfast person. Coffee, french toast, bagels, bacon… the works. If I were to pick one meal of the day to eat for the rest of my life, it would be the first meal of my day. You have probably heard people say breakfast is the “Important Start To Your Day” meal. It “sets you up for success or failure”. As a very independent person, I never wanted to believe that something other than me could determine how my day was going to look. I thought no matter what I ate, I would be able to turn my day around through my attitude and strong will. But food is a funny thing. What we consume affects every aspect of our lives. It not only affects our physicality, but our mentality and spirituality.

I’ve been very conscious of what I consume this summer. So conscious that I even gave up unnatural sugar for one month. For the month of July, one month of the year where ice cream becomes my actual friend, I stuck to a diet that consisted of vegetables, meat, nuts, little grains, and little fruit. There were snacks here and there without sugar I would find and treasure. You would be surprised at how much food has added sugar to create an addictive taste!

What I noticed during this month was how much more energized I was during the day. I wasn’t depending on coffee or naps to keep me alert. The days didn’t feel too long or drawn out. I wasn’t day dreaming about going to bed early that night. It was a wonderful thing to actually enjoy my day and the company I was with because my body was feeling energized and capable of anything! All because I was conscious of what I was consuming.

So yes, I am a strong advocate for healthy consumption. It determines a lot and gives us a launch pad with energy for the day. Breakfast is emphasized by health nuts because a good beginning promises a strong end. If I start my day by eating a donut, I might just feel like a donut at the end of the day. Donuts still look good on the outside but lack a significant substance to contribute to one’s health on their insides. If I don’t benefit my health on the inside, how can I be my best self without the energy to do so?

What we consume can change everything. It can change our thoughts, opinions, attitudes, and struggles. And in a season of political importance with many decisions to be made, we need to talk about what we are consuming on the daily.

We are in a culture where we are constantly consuming fear. We eat it for breakfast. We are exposed the moment we wake up and unlock our phones. It creeps in our dining rooms and kitchens when the TV chimes in from the living room. We discuss it in our break rooms and cafeterias. It even comes back around when we gather for family dinner after a long day of work and school. How do we escape this fear when we are constantly consuming it?!

Living in fear is like living with cancer and not doing anything about it; allowing it to creep into every part of us to affect all that we do. It is burdening and toxic to those around us. Fear can be passed down from generation to generation because of the unexplainable influence it has on us. Why are we so easily taken over by fear?

Just like consuming food, we consume many things the media tells us. The media tells us that we should be afraid for the future of our country. The media tells us there is no hope. The media tells us our leaders will ruin our lives and bring despair to future generations. Without going into a political rant, I want to give you a reminder this morning.

Our hope is not in a politician. It is not in a law or an amendment. Our hope is not in fair pay for all. Our hope is not in equality. Our hope is not in man. Humans have messed things up since the beginning of time. Why is now any different? Why do we think now is the time to find some person we can depend on to “save” our country?

Our hope is in Jesus Christ and He is who we look to for these issues we face and so desperately hope to fix. We can hope for equality, fair pay, good laws, and good politicians. We cannot hope in these things. If life hasn’t already smacked you in the face with this truth, let me tell you this: Life isn’t fair! Things don’t always go our way and yes, there are many problems our country and world faces today. We are constantly being confronted with new problems that seem to make our hearts sink again and again. But let us not forget the constant that has always been and still remains to be our hope and salvation.

Jesus Christ is a man worthy of our faith and trust. He is the Son of the one who has a plan to ultimately glorify Him and His people. When there are times of trouble, He tells us not to fear. He has the final say and the ultimate victory in the end.

I once heard someone say, “Fear did not come from the Lord. So where does it come from? The devil. We don’t want anything from the devil! Give it right back to him and receive the courage and strength from God. He has much greater gifts to give than the devil.” If we are to be like God, we cannot hold onto fear because it is not of God. As His people, we must practice trusting in Him and not letting fear cripple us. It is how we can see this world change.

Let us not fear tomorrow! Let us not fear today. Don’t constantly consume messages of fear that want us to tremble and look to temporary things for a distraction. Those things are of false hope. Instead look to the one who wants to guide us through this mess of a world to our final destination of union with Him. That is the hope we can hold on to. That is the hope that should wake us up every morning and energize us to serve others in our lives and be our best selves.

Let’s consume His hope before we are faced with fear. Wake up and open your Bible first before opening your phone. Let’s have more conversations about solutions than about the problems. Pray instead of worrying, and pray without ceasing. And learn how to trust in these times. Learn how to lean on Jesus who is in control of the end of it all.

Don’t be crippled by fear. It is something this world wants us to hang onto. But God commands us to not fear. He instead commands us to be strong and courageous. I’m sure you’ve heard a verse like that before. It is time to start living it out!

Trust in Him and point to Him; our hope and our salvation. Jesus Christ is Lord of all and has conquered sin. Let us remember that in times of trouble.

 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

“An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.” Proverbs 12:25

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

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.

Touch The Sky.

These words have hit me this week:

“I touch the sky when my knees hit the ground.”

Those words are from a song called “Touch The Sky” by Hillsong United. They mean so much for you and me if we choose to follow Jesus. In today’s culture, everyone sees surrender as a bad thing. It’s seen as a weakness. But as these lyrics sink deep in me, it reminds me of the freedom I have in Christ. Yes, I do surrender my life to Him but that is why I am free.

We are either slave to sin or to righteousness. We can live in the ways of the world and we can be trapped. We get hurt, we get lost, we get addicted, and we get weary with everything life throws at us. As a Christ follower, I decided a few years ago to completely surrender my life to the One who gave it all for me. I lay myself down for a better purpose and a better life. Now I am living a life that is surrounded by an everlasting love. He is my protecter, my friend, my Father. God broke off those chains that the world so happily locked on my wrists. Now I run free in the grace of God, living a life for a beautiful purpose of growing closer to Him.

That is what He wants. A relationship with you and me. He wants us to grow together and be together because He loves us so much. So much that He died for you. He forgives and loves us daily in spite of the mistakes we make. We can lie, cheat, hurt people, steal, be self-absorbed and greedy… But He still sees us through the eyes of a loving Father.

There is so much freedom in surrendering. When I am on my knees, I feel like I can touch the sky. That is where I meet with God, my Creator. That is where I find my life and purpose.

God is beautiful. I encourage you to get on your knees today and spend time with Him. Don’t put off time with your Father anymore. Experience His goodness and His presence. Whatever is going on in your life right now, I know that He has an answer and is the solution.

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