Peering into the Mirror of My Soul… Pondering 2013 and Hoping for 2014

It’s the closing of 2013, and I can safely say, looking into the mirror of my soul, that I do not well recognize the girl who began this year.  I’m not sure what I expected for 2013, but I’m fairly certain that very little of it came to pass.  Instead, God had better plans, more exciting plans, plans to grow me and challenge me.

To begin 2013, I chose a word (or should I rather say, God chose a word) as a theme for the year: TRUST.  The funny thing is, that’s the word that defined 2012 as well.  Apparently I didn’t learn my lesson the first time. = ) When I prayed about the upcoming year and what word might set the stage for its arrival, God really surprised me with this one. I honestly never thought I had many issues with trusting God, and any that I had were taken care of the year before. But apparently, that was because I hadn’t been through the Refiner’s fire enough.  Too much of my life had been “in my control” and mapped out, for me to really know the life-changing impact of that one, little word.  Praise God that He didn’t choose to take me through a completely chaotic season to teach me, but He certainly did guide me through a twisty road.  A road upon which I traveled, unable to see around the next bend… or even past the next step.  Many times I felt (and feel) like Abraham, going to a land that “God will show me.” A land of promise, yet cloaked in mystery.  I am still walking this twisty road, one faltering step after another.

I started the year as a part-time freelance editor, college graduate, “in-control”, prideful woman, and most confidently of all, NOT a teacher.

Let’s just say I’m ending the year as an Associate Editor at Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas (still doing freelance), a woman who’s learning she’s not-so-in-control but can trust the One Who is, a woman who still struggles with pride, but is fighting it in God’s strength, and most shockingly of all, A TEACHER.  God sure has crazy awesome plans, overabundant grace, and a sense of humor, doesn’t He?

Most incredible of all are the changes in my life that probably only those closest to me can recognize, and which words cannot adequately capture.  God is truly taking this weak soul and making it strong by His grace.  He is taking brokenness aside and making it beautiful.

This year, God has taught me so many beautiful, yet difficult truths, that I barely know where to start.  He has taught me that, believe it or not, life is not about me, my comforts, my desires, or my wishes.  Yes, He loves me and wants HIS best for me, but that doesn’t always look like MY best.

I’ve learned that life is complicated and things don’t always go as I plan, but God has it all under control.  This year has breathed a whole new meaning into James 4:13-15:

‘Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’

This is a lesson I feel like I’m still struggling to learn, but God has shown me how futile it is to make my own plans apart from Him.  He’s shown me the pointless vanity in “never”s, “I will”s, and “always”s.  Instead, I’ve found that, when I submit my plans, wishes, and dreams to Him, His plans are so much more incredible than my own.

Reigning supreme this year is the all-consuming reality that God is fully in control, He has a plan, He loves me and cares about the details of my life, and that His plan is way bigger than me.  Only when I am fully satisfied in Him, fully surrendered to His plan, can I be bringing Him the greatest glory.  It is no strength of my own or self-righteous sacrifice of my desires that He asks of me.  Instead, it is acknowledging my weakness so He can be made strong, and delighting myself in Him so that all other desires pale in comparison.

I’ve also discovered that relationships are messy and often difficult, because they are two (or more) flawed, messed-up, complicated individuals joining different parts of their lives together.  I’ve found that this joining, no matter to what degree or in what setting (whether passing contact, or life-long friendship), requires sacrifice and effort.  But you know what?  I’ve also learned that it is so worth the sacrifice.  Because relationships with other people are beautiful.  They’re beautiful because God designed them, He made us to crave relationships, both with Him and other people.

God uses relationships as mirrors to show us faults in our own lives, reveal blindspots, and uncover hidden weaknesses.  But, He also uses them to challenge, encourage, and strengthen us as we grow.  Over and over, I’ve learned to give the benefit of the doubt, think of a situation from the other person’s perspective, and recognize that my imagination is almost always worse than reality.  I am beyond blessed with family and friends who have stood by me through many obstacles, challenged me to persevere, shown themselves faithful, and who make me smile and praise God when I think of them. These are the people who I have laughed with, prayed with, waded through life with, worshipped God with, and been raw and real with.  You guys know who you are; thank you for your faithful friendship.  I love ya’ll!

All of this is barely scratching the surface of what God has taught me and the ways He has turned my world upside-down, but for the sake of brevity I must end my rambling reflections here.  I pray for myself and every one of you reading this, a year in which God does whatever it takes to bring each of us to a place where He is our everything and where we bring Him the most glory.

And now, as I peer through squinted eyes into the foggy shadows of 2014, I see beams of sunlight silhouetting the outlines of what is to come.  I sense even more change and growth, I anticipate the many decisions I must make, and I eagerly taste a hint of what floats mysteriously in the air: hope.

It’s the closing of 2013, and I can safely say, looking into the mirror of my soul, that I do not well recognize the girl who began this year.  I’m not sure what I expected for 2013, but I’m fairly certain that very little of it came to pass.  Instead, God had better plans, more exciting plans, plans to grow me and challenge me.

To begin 2013, I chose a word (or should I rather say, God chose a word) as a theme for the year: TRUST.  When I prayed about the upcoming year and what word might set the stage for its arrival, God really surprised me with this one. I honestly never thought I had many issues with trusting God, but apparently that was because I hadn’t been through the Refiner’s fire enough.  Too much of my life had been “in my control” and mapped out, for me to really know the life-changing impact of that one, little word.  Praise God that He didn’t choose to take me through a completely chaotic season to teach me, but He certainly did guide me through a twisty road.  A road upon which I traveled, unable to see around the next bend… or even past the next step.  Many times I felt (and feel) like Abraham, going to a land that “God will show me.” A land of promise, yet cloaked in mystery.  I am still walking this twisty road, one faltering step after another.

I started the year as a part-time freelance editor, college graduate, “in-control”, prideful woman, and most confidently of all, NOT a teacher.

Let’s just say I’m ending the year as an Associate Editor at Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas (still doing freelance), a woman who’s learning she’s not-so-in-control but can trust the One Who is, a woman who still struggles with pride, but is fighting it in God’s strength, and most shockingly of all, A TEACHER.  God sure has crazy awesome plans, overabundant grace, and a sense of humor, doesn’t He?

Most incredible of all are the changes in my life that probably only those closest to me can recognize, and which words cannot adequately capture.  God is truly taking this weak soul and making it strong by His grace.  He is taking brokenness aside and making it beautiful.

This year, God has taught me so many beautiful, yet difficult truths, that I barely know where to start.  He has taught me that, believe it or not, life is not about me, my comforts, my desires, or my wishes.  Yes, He loves me and wants HIS best for me, but that doesn’t always look like MY best.

I’ve learned that life is complicated and things don’t always go as I plan, but God has it all under control.  This year has breathed a whole new meaning into James 4:13-15:

‘Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’

This is a lesson I feel like I’m still struggling to learn, but God has shown me how futile it is to make my own plans apart from Him.  He’s shown me the pointless vanity in “never”s, “I will”s, and “always”s.  Instead, I’ve found that, when I submit my plans, wishes, and dreams to Him, His plans are so much more incredible than my own.

Reigning supreme this year is the all-consuming reality that God is fully in control, He has a plan, He loves me and cares about the details of my life, and that His plan is way bigger than me.  Only when I am fully satisfied in Him, fully surrendered to His plan, can I be bringing Him the greatest glory.  It is no strength of my own or self-righteous sacrifice of my desires that He asks of me.  Instead, it is acknowledging my weakness so He can be made strong, and delighting myself in Him so that all other desires pale in comparison.

I’ve also discovered that relationships are messy and often difficult, because they are two (or more) flawed, messed-up, complicated individuals joining different parts of their lives together.  I’ve found that this joining, no matter to what degree or in what setting (whether passing contact, or life-long friendship), requires sacrifice and effort.  But you know what?  I’ve also learned that it is so worth the sacrifice.  Because relationships with other people are beautiful.  They’re beautiful because God designed them, He made us to crave relationships, both with Him and other people.

God uses relationships as mirrors to show us faults in our own lives, reveal blindspots, and uncover hidden weaknesses.  But, He also uses them to challenge, encourage, and strengthen us as we grow.  Over and over, I’ve learned to give the benefit of the doubt, think of a situation from the other person’s perspective, and recognize that my imagination is almost always worse than reality.  I am beyond blessed with family and friends who have stood by me through many obstacles, challenged me to persevere, shown themselves faithful, and who make me smile and praise God when I think of them. These are the people who I have laughed with, prayed with, waded through life with, worshipped God with, and been raw and real with.  You guys know who you are; thank you for your faithful friendship.  I love ya’ll!

All of this is barely scratching the surface of what God has taught me and the ways He has turned my world upside-down, but for the sake of brevity I must end my rambling reflections here.  I pray for myself and every one of you reading this, a year in which God does whatever it takes to bring each of us to a place where He is our everything and where we bring Him the most glory.

And now, as I peer through squinted eyes into the foggy shadows of 2014, I see beams of sunlight silhouetting the outlines of what is to come.  I sense even more change and growth, I anticipate the many decisions I must make, and I eagerly taste a hint of what floats mysteriously in the air: hope.

The Spiritual Catnaps of our Chaos

Today, God decided, in the midst of a hectic season, to spread out an effortlessly delicious day in which someone could lose all their troubles.  Well, at least it seemed that way to me.

 

I headed out for a run and God treated me to a getaway.  I believe that on days like today (or almost any day for that matter) it is impossible to stand outside, peer up at the sky, and be stressed. (Well, this works for at least a short time!) As the sun seeped into my skin, the breeze licked at my cheeks, and I squinted up at a blue sky streaked with wispy white clouds, I felt like all was right with the world.  If only for a moment, time stood still and every worry melted into a balmy sigh.  

 

I firmly believe that God sends us little moments in the midst of our mayhem for us to revel and rest in.  The question is whether or not we see them.  Think how many delicious little moments – spatters of sunshine, breaths of air, touching scenes, encouraging words – we miss in our tunnel-visioned rush.  God used a fresh Florida day to remind me that, not only do these moments exist, but I often brush past them without a second glance. It’s simultaneously alarming and exciting.  Alarming because I miss them, but exciting because they are there to find.    

 

We are talking about a God who knows the hairs of our head (Matt 10:30), is distressed when we are in distress (Isaiah 63:9), and rejoices over us with singing (Zephaniah 3:17).  It isn’t too far-fetched to think that He creates little moments to still our rushing hearts and turn them to rest in Him, is it?  

 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m very aware how life can be pretty crazy sometimes. Many people who are very dear to me are suffering, whether physically or emotionally, and although I’m very blessed with relatively good health and life, things can get pretty hectic in my life as well.  I’m certainly not trying to say that all of life is sunshine and rainbows.  Quite the contrary, actually. 

 

BUT, I’m also discovering that this is precisely why it’s so important to start searching for little ‘God moments’ in the mundane or the chaos. I’m not saying they fix every problem or eradicate stress.  But they’re kind of like the spiritual catnaps of our chaos.  They give us little extra bursts of hope and rest to keep us going.  And God knows exactly when we need them most.

 

Above all else, rest in the truth that God PROMISES to be our hope, our refuge, our strength, and our peace.  No matter what.  

 

Solace in the Sparkle of Christmas

I’ve always been a little sentimental, and this time of year has always held a bit of sparkle or magic, no matter what my life is like at the time.  Maybe it’s the way everything seems to glisten, or the fact that it is perfectly acceptable to have jingling music about my Savior playing everywhere 24/7; or perhaps it’s the feeling I get when I lay under the tree and stare up through all of the little twinkling lights.  Whatever it is, every year I am filled with renewed wonder.  Just a certain Christmas song, a special ornament, or the bleary glow of lights seeping through squinted eyes can bring a flood of memories.  And with those memories, I am instantly returned to a time in my life that was a whole lot less complicated, where I took things at face value and lived life as it came.

Just like the moments before sunset where the earth holds its breath and the skies whisper soothing words to my soul, Christmastime is a season where time stands still and all is well, even if only for the time. There is peace in the familiar and rest in the constant.  There is also something about knowing that you are not alone in such blissful moments. That your joy transcends the moment, your location, and your life. That somewhere, at the same time, someone else is experiencing the same pleasures; someone else is listening to ‘What Child is This’ by their Christmas tree or basking in the watercolor sky at dusk.

I never want to take these moments or seasons for granted. God created us to seek refuge in Him and seek rest in our hectic lives, and I believe He offers us little respites like sunsets and glittering Christmas lights to slow the whirling in our hearts and refocus our scattered minds onto the familiar and the beautiful.

This season, no matter what pain you face, stress you are under, or anxiety you battle, enjoy the solace of the small things and seek shelter in God.

You Don’t Have a Soul-Mate, But God Has a Plan

Admidst the plethora and pendulum of relationship articles circulating the christian corner of the world wide web, there is little left to be said that hasn’t been, and even fewer ways left to say it.  And yet, as is often the case, I am bubbling over with thoughts too long repressed that have been left to simmer on the back burner of my overactive mind.  I don’t claim any special knowledge, wisdom, or understanding superior to those who have written before me.  Neither do I aspire to refute their viewpoints. Rather, I simply hope to capture some of my roiling thoughts in some controllable, understandable fashion, almost more for my own sanity than others’ benefit.

My goal is not to endorse any relationship ‘system,’ be it courtship, dating, dating with a purpose, prearranged marriage, or betrothal.  Honestly, the more I think about it, the less any of those defining terms matter to me.  Kind of like walking with Jesus, romantic relationships transcend legalistic terms, rules, and conditions.  Yes, rules and guidelines are important, just as they are when following Christ, but they should be symptoms of an end (a state of heart) rather than a means to that end.  Basically, all I’m saying is that it doesn’t matter what ‘system’ you use to pursue a deeper relationship with someone of the opposite gender.  What matters is the motivation behind that pursuit and the hearts of those involved.

Okay, that was my rabbit trail for the day, but the main issue I want to address is one that has been making its rounds through my head, but now demands to be let out.  Recently, I’ve noticed a large rebellion forming in response to both the rampant hollywood ideal of ‘soul-mates’ and the more conservative belief that God has ‘the one’ picked out for each of His followers.  This fledgeling movement of God-seekers quickly attracted my attention with its counter-cultural stand and bold message of biblical love.  It declared independence from the bondage of believing in a single soul-mate roaming the planet somewhere, eternally seeking their other half, and leaving behind a trail of shattered homes and broken hearts.  Instead, this movement promised the freedom that Christians may marry whoever they please, whenever they please, so long as the other person is a spiritual equal.

Frankly, this sounded groundbreaking and insanely liberating!  No more long, agonizing hours spent storming God’s throne, begging Him to show me whether or not each guy who came along was right for me.  No more thoughts wasted poring over what His will was in my romantic life. Best of all, no more worries that I might marry someone who wasn’t ‘right’ for me!  Basically, as long as they were a Christian pursuing God, I was set! The bottom line in this recent revolution was that there was no ‘one’ person picked out for me, but whoever I married would become the right one.  Love is a choice, and should be approached as such.  I loved this refreshingly committed way of thinking and saw much biblical basis for most of it.

But, somehow the thought as a whole just didn’t sit right with me.  I tried to make it settle in my heart and head, I really did.  But it just wouldn’t.  I began to seek God about it, asking Him to show me biblically how all of this related to my life and my walk with Him.

Suddenly, as I read through scripture each day, verses began to pop out to me about God’s individual will and purpose for each man’s life.  Verses about Him guiding our footsteps and directing our paths.  How could God, who has a purpose for my life, directs my path, and leads me step by step, cut me loose on one of my biggest life decisions?  Would He really just wish me luck in finding a life partner and leave me to my own, sinful, finite devices?  Whew!  I sure hoped not.  And the more I prayed and searched the Bible, the more convinced I became that He would not.

So how did this compute with the movement which was so quickly growing and held such appeal to me in a world of love ‘em and leave ‘ems?  Could the two patterns of thought be unified into one, balanced approach?  My optimistic side said ‘yes!’  And so, after sorting it through in my own heart, I have come to these basic conclusions: yes, love is a choice, no, there is not one ‘soul-mate’ wandering around out there for me, and yes, whoever I marry will become ‘the one’ by God’s grace, because divorce will not ever be an option. BUT, that does not mean that God has cut me loose and has no opinion or say in the matter.  He may not have *one* person picked out for me, but I firmly believe He has a ‘best option’ for me for where I’m at in my life and the path I am walking.  No, I’m not doomed to life of celibacy or wedded tragedy if I miss God’s call to California and stay here in Florida. Nowhere in the Bible does God say that He has one soul-mate roaming the earth, waiting to bump into me.  However, doesn’t it make sense that, if God is all-wise, all-powerful, and all-knowing, we should seek His will before making the biggest decision of our lives?  Wouldn’t it stand to reason that, if our lives are not our own, we should consult Him before joining them to another person?

So how does this affect the way we should pursue romantic (or any) relationships? By reminding us that we aren’t solo agents, set loose by a distant God who doesn’t care what we do.  That instead, we are following a Shepherd who LEADS us, who guides us, and who, by knowing our futures and hearts better than we ever could, has a plan for us.  This doesn’t mean His plan is easy.  I’m pretty sure no one in the Bible ever had a fairytale life, but those who committed their lives to God found fulfillment in Him. Every time. Will we face His wrath or be doomed to a terrible, ineffective life if we don’t listen to His guidance in seeking a spouse?  No.  But is it a good, even logical, biblical, idea?  You betcha.

Sunburns and Gratitude

I wrote this post a little while ago and forgot to post it… sorry it’s been so long. My life has been beyond crazy, but once again, I’m alive and still blogging!  

Ugh! How easily I forget God’s goodness, and how pathetically ungrateful I can be!  Today, God, as He is so good to do, reminded me of this particular weakness in my life.  

 

See, it all started with a sunburn… Now, I never get burned, so when I do, I really freak out… like, ‘Help!  I’m on fire!  Will it ever heal?  Am I dying?!?!?’  And if I peel, oh heavens!  Needless to say, my easily-burned mother and brother enjoy a few laughs at my expense when this does happen.  

Well, very unfortunately, I managed to get a nice little burn last week after spending all day at Sun N’ Fun, in full sun… with expired sunscreen.  As a result, I now look like a molting duckling and, unlike usual, am hiding from any overly friendly rays of sunlight. 

 

Anyway, I was push mowing in the heat of the day today, (yeah, I have great timing, I know…) so my poor mottled shoulders and neck were once again mercilessly exposed to the sun because the yard I was in had only a few patches of blessed shade.  Well, I had been talking with God while I mowed, when suddenly, I thought to ask Him to please bring clouds over the sun when I had to venture forth from those patches of shade.  Sure enough, God, in His graciousness, did just that!  

 

But, did my ungrateful self think about why my sensitive skin was shaded from more scorching, or thank the One who provided that shade?  Nope.  It wasn’t until a bit of sun peeked back through the clouds and I began to complain that I realized how long God had been answering my prayer.  It was as though those few rays of light were His reminder to me of how blessed I had been in their absence.  

 

Through my silly sunburn fiasco, God was showing me how much I took His blessings for granted.  Realizing how ridiculous I was, I repented of my ungratefulness and thanked God for granting even such a petty request.  I love how much God really does care about the little things in our lives!  

Anyway, amazingly, despite how undeserving I was, He gave me a mostly shady mow and kept me from burning again.  Although this may seem small and silly to some, it was yet another way that God reminded me of His goodness, mercy, and patience in my life!

 

As I retold the story to my mama, I began to see parallels to my daily life.  How often do I pray for something spiritual or physical, (like clouds over the sun) then God grants the request, and I forget to credit and thank Him?  It’s humbling to realize how often that happens.  And usually, like the shade today, it isn’t until that blessing is taken from me that I realize how wonderful it was.  

But most important of all, is God’s reminder that no matter how undeserving I am, He still loves me, He still listens to me, and He still will bless me.  I can never deserve His goodness, and yet, He mercifully says that I don’t have to!  

It Is For Freedom That Christ Has Set Us Free!

I don’t know if it’s partly due to my personality, or my often unconventional way of looking at life, or immaturity, or what… but God has recently been making it very clear to me that I have a problem.  Ok, I have more than one… but He’s been driving a few into my head more recently.  

I struggle to accept God’s forgiveness and the clean slate He freely offers.  I do.  And it’s pretty pathetic.  What’s more pathetic is that I’m just now realizing it.  

About a month or two ago, I was (yet again) lambasting myself for failing in some area: bible study, prayer, relationships with others… I don’t know, but I was pretty frustrated.  I had asked God’s forgiveness and even for His help on a fresh start, but I felt like I couldn’t move forward until… what?  I really wasn’t quite sure.  

Suddenly, I had what I call a ‘eureka’ moment!  (These moments are usually defined by a ‘why-haven’t-I-thought-of-this-before’ realization and me running to my mom excitedly blathering about my discovery…she’s pretty awesome and knows me well enough not to be alarmed when I come screaming out of my room! hehe)  Anyway, in the midst of my self-lecture, God put on my heart Galatians 5:1-2 – ‘It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.’ and Romans 8:1 -‘There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.’  Can I get an Hallelujah?!?!  Honestly, hearing God whisper those words to my heart was one of the most freeing things ever!  He has set me free from guilt, and sin, and the obligation to perform for His love.

I realized that I’d been putting God inside the pathetic little box of finite humanity.  Think about it, if I was to betray a dear friend or family member in some way, and then apologize, they’d still love me and of course forgive me, but our relationship would need a bit of mending.  Whether it was time, or, depending on the offense, regaining their trust, I couldn’t just apologize and pretend nothing happened at all.  It’s just how human nature works.  BUT, God’s nature doesn’t work that way!  When I confess my sins, He casts them as far as the East is from the West (Psalm 103:12).  Just like that, they’re gone, and our relationship is restored by Christ’s blood!  

WHY HAVE I NEVER EMBRACED AND REALLY REALIZED THIS???  Seriously, it’s one thing to know it in your head, and a whole other thing to let God sink it into your heart!  If you haven’t accepted His grace fully in this area, please please please ask Him to help you do so!  It will change your life and your relationship with God!  = )

Oh, and to make it all even more awesome, a day or two later, I went to a college worship service (Nav Night) I usually attend at USF, and they were teaching on the SAME. THING.  And, it seems since then, I’ve been bombarded with verses, teachings, and people all talking about the same thing!  Ever feel like God’s trying to tell you something?  

So anyway, I just wanted to encourage ya’ll not to let guilt weigh you down and hinder your relationship with God.  Confess, accept His forgiveness, and continue pursuing Him!  I believe that conviction is from God, but nagging guilt is from Satan.  Conviction drives us to our knees before God, and pesky ol‘ guilt tends to push us away with the thoughts that we have to earn His grace before coming to Him.  

Remember, it is for FREEDOM that Christ has set us free!  <3  

Why Hello There 2013!

It seems that these end of the year/NewYear’s reflections are becoming a tradition for me.  I think this is partly because they offer me a chance to regroup and get my thoughts on paper, but also because I love sharing how God has made Himself strong in my life each year.  The hardest part is always sorting through a whole year of lessons, joys, pain, surprises, and above all, time with my Savior, and trying to sum it all up.

 

At the beginning of 2012, when challenged to choose a word that would sum up my resolution for the year, I felt God strongly putting ‘trust’ into my heart and mind.  A year later, I laugh, thinking how little I really knew about the word at the time.  As usual, God knew, and He has faithfully taught me trust in a million different ways, from little, day-to-day situations, to what felt like life-changing decisions.  

 

Looking back, I can very honestly say that my life would not be where it is now if it wasn’t for God leading me here.  Without Him giving me the grace to trust Him, I have a feeling that I would have made some pretty poor decisions and missed out on a lot of opportunities.  I marvel at how I still fail to trust Him sometimes after He has proven Himself, not just in my life, but worldwide throughout history!  

 

2012 has probably held the most changes for me of any year in my life.  One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn is trusting God, not just when it’s easy, but trusting Him when I can’t see around the next corner.  When I’m peering anxiously ahead, trying to at least see my next step, wishing He would just give me the 4 step, 6 month plan I so desperately want, that’s when He just whispers ‘trust me my child.’  If I knew my life for the next 6 months, would I have to stay as close to His side?  Would I cling to Him and seek Him every step of the way?  I’m afraid that in my sinful, forgetful nature, I wouldn’t.  So when I get frustrated that He won’t let me see my next turn, I’m learning to be thankful that He’s using it to pull me into His arms.  

 

Life doesn’t always go the way I plan for it to… actually, I’m learning that it rarely does, but I’m also learning that’s ok.  

 

Another very important thing that I’ve learned is the importance of relationships.  Not just the importance of having a lot of friends, but the absolute importance of having one-on-one, vulnerable relationships.  I’m learning that people must come before busyness or my agenda, and that the time invested in them is more precious than that spent accomplishing things or furthering my goals.  I thank God for wise parents who He has used to remind me of this and continually encourage me in many areas of my life.  Most importantly, they have been faithful to point out when I put anything in my life before my relationship with God.  It’s easy to be blind in this area, as I have been, but I’m thankful that they have opened my eyes over and over.  

 

I’m in the process now of not just saying that God is first in my life, or thinking it, or even playing at it, but actually letting Him make that true in me.  I’m learning the importance of complete, humbling surrender, and of letting go of me and letting His strength be made perfect in my weakness!  I can be so prideful sometimes, often without knowing it, and I’m thankful for friends who are vulnerable with me and unknowingly showing me this while admitting their own pride.  By thinking that I am not proud, and that I have that area of my life (and others!) under control on my own, I have been demonstrating terrible pride.  Oh, the irony of life and the deceitfulness of our own hearts…

 

It’s hard to explain, but I feel like the world has opened up to me exponentially in the past year, and not necessarily through opportunities, excitement, or enlightenment.  Somehow, I feel like I’m finally learning what it means to live, love, and grow.  I always thought I had all of that down, but it’s like God has taken what used to be concepts for me and made them deepening realities.  I’m learning the fragility of just about everything in life, and how naive I have been in refusing to believe that.  It’s like my eyes have been almost rudely opened to ‘real life’ in the past year, but God has made it a beautiful thing.  He has shown me how shallow I’ve been, how petty, how silly, and is showing me what it means to live deliberately and with purpose.  Obviously, I still don’t have it all figured out, and never will, but I’m excited to be discovering more every day!  The bottom line is that God IS good, it’s not just something we spout out in a burst of Christian excitement, but it is a lasting, recurring, vitally true statement about the very being of God.  He is unchanging in the midst of instability, and loving despite our failures.  Never be ashamed to cling to Him, to cry out to Him in the most childish fashion, or even to ask Him ‘why?‘   He’s our Father, and He LOVES us.  

 

Well, I have rambled on long enough, and could continue on indefinitely, telling ya’ll how awesome my God has been, but I hope and pray that my stumbling journey somehow encourages you.  I love you all dearly, and appreciate the influence, inspiration, love, and encouragement each of you has given me.  I truly am blessed and I apologize for taking ya’ll for granted, and even putting my ‘busy’ schedule ahead of time with ya’ll.  I want to deepen, develop, and rebuild my relationships with ya’ll this coming year.

 

I pray that God uses this coming year to challenge, grow, and humble me, and that I become more like my Savior through it.  As I continue to learn ‘trust’, it seems that my theme for 2013 will become ‘let go.‘  I need to let go of my pride, my plans, my selfishness, and well, myself, in order to let God have full reign!    

A Busy Heart and Soul…

Well, once I again, I find myself sitting down to write and realizing that it has been wayyy too long.  Again.  And, once again, I find myself apologizing and making hopeful promises (which hopefully I will keep more faithfully this time) to write more often.

What’s my excuse for this complete negligence of my teensy piece of internet real estate?  Oh, the usual… I’ve been super busy, and life’s been crazy, it’s the Christmas season… blah, blah, blah…  Now don’t get me wrong, all of that is true, and not even bad excuses, but, in the midst of a hectic schedule and similarly clouded brain, I’ve been realizing that I have more control over my scatteredness than I realize, or perhaps even want to realize…

I was reading a book called ‘The Praying Life’ by David Paulison a little while ago (AMAZING book by the way!  Seriously, one of the best I’ve ever read besides the Bible… I very much recommend it!) and I came across a quote that has stuck with me ever since.

‘It’s okay to have a busy life.  It’s crazy to have a busy soul.’

When I read it, I was definitely convicted, because I have the tendency to let the state of my soul match my circumstances… which, quite often, tends to make it… busy.  Which, if I think about it, makes NO sense!  I mean, the lyrics to one of my favorite hymns ever, declare beautifully that ‘…whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul.’  And as long as I’m letting my circumstances toss me around like a kite in a stormy sky, then I’m not embracing the promise my Savior has given me of a peaceful heart.  Because of His love and sacrifice for me, the peace of my soul is completely independent of my circumstances.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” – John 14:27.

The state of my soul may be independent of my life, but the state of my life is dependent on the state of my soul, which is directly dependent on my relationship to my heavenly Father, and daily surrender to Him!

My encouragement and challenge and prayer to and for all of you is that you would come before God and pray that the state of your soul would not match your circumstances.  Pray that He would be the Master in your heart, mind, soul, and life so that you can honestly say, ‘it is well with MY soul…’

A very Merry (and peaceful!) Christmas to you all!  = )

Jesus: He’s Been There and Suffered That…

So I was sharing some of my thoughts (or I guess God’s thoughts…I can’t take credit for them!) from my devotion time with a friend of mine the other day and she suggested that I share them on my blog with all of you.  Which, since I’m now apparently gravely overdue for a ‘real’ post, sounded like a great idea.  The issue was finding a time where I could sit down, collect my thoughts, and attempt to convey them in a semi-coherent fashion. It seems that now is as good of a time as ever…

So, I was reading in Hebrews, which is one of my favorite books of all time by the way!  I mean, it’s so complex and rich and comforting and enlightening and… you get the idea!  I still have a hard time believing I used to shy away from this book in the past because it was too complex (which it is complex, but it’s still so cool and I get something new from it every time!)  Anyway, in Hebrews chapter 4, it says:

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.  Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

WHOA WHOA WHOA!  Stop, think about what you just read.  Seriously, do. it.  If you aren’t just blown away and crazy excited, re-read it and think again.  If you still aren’t at all moved by your Savior’s logic-defying love, then… wow… let me attempt to, by God’s grace, help you out!

So, not only did Jesus come and live on our little planet and die a horrific death, just for the terrible stuff we do, but He also suffered in all the same ways we do!

Think about it: as God, He could have chosen to just come and die, or come live on the earth and avoid the stuff humans go through, then die.  Instead, He chose to live like we do and subject himself to all our our human suffering so that He could say to us, ‘I’ve been there and I know what you’re going through, I’m not only hurting for you, but I’ve hurt WITH you.’  Wow!  Pretty much, Jesus lived just like we do and suffered just like we do, except He didn’t sin.  Doesn’t that take His already insanely amazing love to a whole new sacrificial level?  Isn’t it twice as comforting to know that Jesus really truly understands what you’re dealing with?

I was then thinking that meant Jesus suffered every pain we experience except guilt, because He never sinned.  BUTTTT, then I realized He endured that too!  When He died on the cross, He ‘bore our sins in His body.’  So, He not only suffered the agony of guilt and separation from His Father, but He endured the guilt of ALL MANKIND.  The physical suffering He experienced must have been nothing compared to the spiritual anguish.

When we sin and are struggling with guilt, Jesus understands how we feel, not because He did anything that would deserve guilt, but because He chose to endure it for us.  Whatever you are suffering from or struggling with, take it straight to Jesus.  He doesn’t ‘just’ care, He understands because He’s BEEN THERE.  He says to approach His throne with CONFIDENCE and we will find mercy and grace when we need it most!

Praise God He doesn’t turn us away when we come crawling to Him with our pathetic sinful selves, begging for mercy and forgiveness.  ‘For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.’ – Ephesians 2:8-9.  Hallelujah!  What a Savior!

I’m Still Alive…

Whoops! It’s been far too long since I’ve posted… you know it’s bad when people start asking if I’ve abandoned my blog…

See, I’ve had this problem… I somehow got in my head that the only time I should post on here is when something semi-noteworthy or significant occurred in my life.  And then when something exciting has happened, I’ve been too busy experiencing it or too forgetful to actually post.

Crazy thing is, that whole philosophy goes against why I started this blog in the first place.  I staked out my tiny piece of the world wide web so that I could share my random ramblings and many musings with whoever cared to listen, not just to document significant happenings!

Anyway, my goal is to post much more often now.  Especially because I would like to use this blog as an outlet for sharing anything that God has been teaching me, verses that I love, or His fingerprints all over my life.  Rather than selfishly keeping these blessings to myself, I want to share them with ya’ll, no matter how ‘small’ they are, in hopes that it might make someone’s day better!

Now, the trick to to remember that I plan to do this, find the time to do it, and actually carry it out!  If I don’t, feel free to… well… um… bug me until I do… *grimace*

Oh, and regarding my life… it’s been crazy and busy as usual but still one big adventure that I’m tryin’ to live to the fullest by the grace of God!  I hope all of ya’ll’s lives are going well and saturated with our loving God!