life changes, but God’s faithfulness does not.

This year has been a year full of change and transitions, none of which are easy.

I turned yet another year older. I started my Masters in Social Work after taking a 9 year break. I took on more responsibility at work, which bumped me up to about 50 hours a week. I moved out of living with my roommate, who I had lived with for 7 years. And I had hit my heaviest weight EVER and decided it was time to tackle weight loss.

I have always heard that the only thing guaranteed in this life is change, and we all know that to be true. But that doesn’t make dealing with unwanted or difficult changes or new seasons of life any less trying. However, instead of surrendering to pouting (which I definitely wanted to do), I decided to intentionally dedicated myself to praying and positive thinking, reminding myself daily that although life changes, God’s faithfulness never does.

I have learned throughout this season that when we dwell on God’s faithfulness and let it nourish our hearts, our faith and trust in Him grows. When we focus on doing good things, our attention and thoughts won’t stay fixated on the changes we don’t like. Instead of allowing our minds to wish things were like they used to be or feeling discouraged or upset over a hard season of life, we can place our trust in Him and live with peace and joy, not stress and distress.

 “Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)

Being delighted in the Lord, which can be hard for me to grasp at times, means that our hearts find peace and fulfillment in Him, REGARDLESS of the season of life we are in or the changes we’re facing.  When we look back to see how God has been faithful and trustworthy in the past, we can better trust He will be faithful in the future.

With each day this year, I continually sought God’s peace and joy to fill my life. I have prayed over and over for new opportunities and for Him to guide me in this season of life. I asked Him to take away the loneliness and purposelessness that I allowed to creep into my life. I desired for Him to fill my life with people and purpose. And to trust in His plans for my future, instead of doubting Him.

This morning I was spending time with the Lord and praising Him for His faithfulness. It was then that I began to see His faithfulness and answered prayers over the past couple months. My friendships were blossoming, and new friends came into my life as well. My church community group continually helped me to feel loved, wanted, supported, included and less alone when I was struggling with feelings of loneliness. New doors opened for me, which not only gave me new purpose, but also new direction and excitement. And I watched God provide and protect me in this season.

God has allowed every season of our life and those seasons may include trials and changes. We can either fight change or we can trust God has a plan and purpose for it.  We can allow our trust in God’s faithfulness to be the foundation for joyful living. We can change the way we think about change.

fall yall

trust Him in the waiting.

God has seriously been checking my heart lately when it comes to dating. I am 32 years old. I have had one serious dating relationship, in which I was engaged to be married. I have not dated in three years. Constantly, I hear the same things. Why aren’t you dating anyone? Maybe you are just too picky. You’ve just got to put yourself out there. Want to go on a blind date, I have some single guy friends?!

While all the voices around me are constantly calling for me to date and “just put myself out there,” there is a much quieter voice that tells me to wait. As I listen to it, it becomes easier to hear it more clearly. It says, “Be still.” God is busy tugging at the door of my heart to focus on Him. I believe that in this season of my life, God is calling me to draw closer to Him and focus on my relationship with Him. One of the many things I love about our God is that He has purposes and plans for our lives.

God wants to focus on healing my heart from past hurts BEFORE I date, marry and have kids. He is enlisting me in a season of abandonment from all the distractions and reckless pursuit of His heart for me.

You see, so often, women put their hope in the opposite sex.  We need to get in the habit of checking our hearts. Are we putting our hopes in guys or the idea of dating, marrying or falling in love with a guy?

Personally, I love when God lovingly corrects me. Again and again, when I have gotten ahead of myself and started to fix my eyes on a guy, God corrects me. He lets me know that he wants my focus on Him. No man should come before Him. No man, not even my future husband. He wants my heart, every last part of it.

Wherever you fix your eyes, there your hope will be as well. When I would date a guy, get all those butterfly feelings and watch myself fall in love, what I was really doing was making a guy my hope.

But. No. More.

I believe God is calling us, his daughters, higher. He wants our hearts. He wants us to rest and find our hope in Him.  Friends, stop seeking men! Stop pursuing their hearts! Stop chasing after that guy!  You can rest in the Father’s arms. He has plans and purposes for your lives. He wants to show us them, but we must first learn to rest in Him. To fix our eyes on Him. And to pursue Him with reckless abandonment.

Image result for waiting on God

 

having faith in Jesus and showing favoritism are not compatible.

Most of us would like to think that the law isn’t black and white, but it is. Rules are rules! And we cannot choose which of the laws to obey and which ones to ignore. If I were to choose to follow the speed limit, but neglect to wear my seatbelt, then I would still be breaking the law. I do not get the luxury of choosing which laws to follow and which to ignore. In the same way, we do not get the luxury of choosing to follow only the parts of the Bible that we are like and the ones that fit into our lifestyles.

My community group has been going the Francis Chan study on James. And I am absolutely LOVING it. I have always enjoyed the book of James and the realness within the chapters. The book of James is a letter from Jesus’ brother to the early church in Jerusalem about the hypocrisy happening among Christians. Sadly, like a lot of us today, the people of the early church struggled with committing EVERY part of their lives to Jesus. Too often, we commit the areas of our lives to the Lord that are going as planned or that we don’t desperately want to remain in control of. The people of the early church welcomed Jesus’ teaching on grace and salvation, but seemed to be ignoring His instructions on how to treat others. Those who were wealthy and had titles were given special treatment, while those who were poor were easily dismissed. However, Jesus warns us against showing partiality and favoritism. James’ instruction is to fully obey the law and says to demonstrate the same level of love and mercy to others that we experience from God.

James 2:8 reminds us to “love our neighbors as yourself”. It did not come naturally to the early church and it doesn’t come naturally to most Christians today. Our natural disposition is selfishness. We often want to impress those we want to be like and brush off those who are different. In our society, people look to what they can get from others. Do they have nice things? Do they dress like they just walked out of a J Crew magazine? Will they get us more likes on social media? Do they take artsy pictures? Do they drive a nice car? Do they have a good, glamorous job?

While it makes sense to treat our bosses as we would want to be treated, what about the guy in the corner asking for help? I have frequently wondered, what does loving ones neighbor get us in return? The answer is simple, a life that better represents Jesus.

Jesus does not call us to follow the commands that are easy or the ones that we like; He calls us to follow them all. Our spiritual lives will progress when we listen to God’s Word and follow it wholeheartedly. Yes, with some, it definitely feels easier to judge rather than show love and mercy. However, God asks us to love them as He loves us. This might be as simple as saying “Good morning” to someone or saying a prayer for them.

To follow Jesus’ example, means looking beyond the prickly, dissimilar, or disagreeable person that we see to find the valuable, lovable person that He sees. Being a Christ follower requires us to make hard choices and we have to decide if the reward is worth the sacrifice. The Message reads, “kind mercy wins over harsh judgement every time”.

 

embrace your season.

Sometimes life has a mind of its own. I am loving and learning how to embrace it!

I had a plan for my life- and as many of you can probably guess, it did not turn out like I had planned. I mean lets be honest, do any of our lives truly turn out like WE planned? My guess is no. Over the years I have learned the importance of being able to embrace that life doesn’t always go as planned. And I like the unplanned seasons (well, least I am learning to). But I do love seeing how God uses those unplanned seasons.

When I was a senior in college, I had plans for what my future would look like! I planned to get married by the age of 23 and finish my Masters by 24. And everything was going PERFECTLY as planned, until it wasn’t. My fiance and I called off the wedding and I withdrew from my classes after the first semester of graduate school. It has been about 9 years since my timeline took a hit. However, as I sit here starting my orientation for my Masters in Social Work, I feel so grateful for the journey God took me on to get where I am. It was definitely a rocky, off-road type of journey, but I am thankful for it and all the lessons that I was able to learn along the way.

Seasons of life are inevitable. They will come and go, some lasting longer than others; some wanted and some unwanted; some exciting and some terrifying. But I encourage you to live in each season and to allow yourself to learn ALL that God has for you in those seasons. Regardless of what lies before us, how we choose to look at and think about those seasons will determine whether or not we walk through them with peace, hope and joy, or with heartache, anxiety and fear.

When we intentionally choose to believe that God’s seasons for us are good, we can step into it with courage, bravery, a positive attitude and an unsinkable faith. Letting go of our own timelines and expectations frees up our hearts to embrace what God has for us.

I’ve learned that I find more peace when I let go of the clutter and focus on the joy of being a faithful steward of the season God has brought me into.

Image result for God seasons of life

remove the mask.

Today at church I was reminded of a time in my life when I felt so much shame over decisions in my past. And I realized that we can give shame way too much control in our lives. If we allow it, shame has the power to make us feel unworthy and steal our joy.

I remember when I chose to open up about my past to one of my closest friends, someone I completely trusted- let’s just say, I quickly regretted it!!! I immediately felt their judgement, rejection, and disappointment in me. And it hurt. It was the worst feeling. It felt like a sandbag weighing on my heart. I felt so embarrassed, ashamed, and the need to hide my past. And so I did, for many years. I allowed my shame and my fear to control so many areas of my life, including my relationships with others. I was so worried that if anyone knew my past that that’s how they would define me. That they wouldn’t be able to distinguish my past from the person I have become.

My pastor today stated that “many of us wear a mask because we are afraid to be judged and condemned”. And immediately my heart broke for those who felt that way, because I was one of those people for SO long. Trapped in an endless cycle of isolation, shame, and sin. And having no idea how to stop that cycle.

We hide in our shame and fear because we don’t want to feel the weight of others judgement and rejection. I prayed for years to be surrounded by people who I could do life with. And He brought me to my current community group. They are amazing Christians who are living out their faith and who extend God’s grace and love. And THAT is the gospel. That is how we are called to love one another. Not with our expectations placed upon their shoulders, but with His grace and His love.

When we truly turn over our past and the shame we feel from our past to Jesus, we receive His compassion and a NEW life. Because the truth is that we are fully knownandfully loved!! It can be a HARD concept to grasp, I know.

I encourage you to take off that mask!

Don’t be ashamed to tell your story—the whole story, not just the edited version. Don’t be afraid like I was- it literally consumed years of my life. Be honest about what you’ve been through. We need to hear one anothers stories to remind each other what our God is capable of carrying us through. We need to remind each other of God’s faithfulness, of His unconditional love, and of what it looks like to do life with other believers.

We need to share the brokenness so we can share the redemption.He can make us new, and better, and whole again, and that’s a story worth being proud of.

Related image

Abiding Hope.

 “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

In church recently we discussed how there is no other source of abiding hope outside of God. As I sat in church intently listening, I felt a small pull at my heart and I knew exactly what it was. The Lord was asking me, ‘Where do you place your hope? Where do you surrender your anxiety and your future plans?’

The Lord was prompting me to examine my heart . I was not too excited to oblige, I knew it was going to be quite the process.  As I continued to listen to the sermon, the Lord reminded me of how sovereign and gracious He is- because all too well and all too often, I forget. I started to think of all those other gods that so easily take God’s place in my heart and in my life.

For those of you who don’t know me, I can tend to be a very anxious person. Peace was not something I experienced often for most of my life.  For years, I had no idea how to even have God’s peace.

What did it look life?

What did it feel like?

Would my life look much different?

I definitely thought I was trusting Him, but the fruit of my life, my thoughts, motives, words, and actions showed an entirely different story. I finally began to understand that loving and trusting God is about completely yielding control of every area of my life, no matter what! (sounds scary, I know).

 Our God is sovereign, gracious, good, and just! And as we see God’s goodness and as we continue to grow in our trust of Him, eventually we realize that trusting God wholeheartedly is the best place in the world to be.  “Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of our Jesus our Lord”. (2 Peter 1:2)

At times I can quickly start to feel overwhelmed. When I feel that way, most often it’s because I’m not putting my faith and my hope where it belongs. I can find myself idolizing the opinion of others and putting my will above His. When I first realized this, it felt like I was about to jump off of a big spiritual cliff. But the more I studied who God was, understood His character, and got to know Him more intimately- I realized that God was so much bigger than I could ever comprehend.  And the more I realized that, the more I saw the importance of being able to face my fears. I may not know what my future looks like, but I trust His heart for me.

And that is enough.

As you draw close to Him and allow Him to transform your heart and mind to be like His, you will begin to understand that if you have Him, you have EVERYTHING that really matters. But, if you don’t have Him, you have nothing!

It’s an amazing feeling to know that we can trust God and rest in His peace even when we don’t know what our future looks like. (especially to an anxious person like myself).

God will allow trials to come into our lives and the enemy will try to derail us into fear and paralyze us in our spiritual walk. But we can face our deepest fears and we can lay down our greatest dreams. 

God gives us times of uncertainty because those times build our faith as we learn to turn to Him. If we will receive His love, His healing, His truth, and His goodness, He can set me free from all doubt, fear, worry, and anxiety. I love that!

Image result for 2 corinthians 12:9

 

 

giving God the pen.

 

From my own past struggles with singleness and with talking with many of my single friends lately, I have realized that the biggest fear that us single women deal with is that we believe that if we don’t take matters into our own hands, then we will miss every opportunity to be married. I know that might sound absurd- but it’s a real fear that we carry around with ourselves, believing it to be truth.

Today’s guys aren’t often times the most well-trained in the art of winning, pursuing, and cherishing the heart of a woman. But can we blame them? Look at all the modern movies where men are made to look weak, or the fact that women are taking the reins and being the ones to pursue the men. (It’s all very confusing). Continuously I hear women talk about how they feel that they’re playing a game “Survival of the Fittest”, in which the available men quickly get claimed by the most aggressive women, while the ones who guard their feminine mystery and focus on Christ alone get passed over. It truly breaks my heart to see and hear this!

And lets be honest, the modern voices and the urgent whisperings of the enemy don’t make this battle any easier. In the past I attempted to “give God a hand” in finding my spouse (not quite sure what I was thinking), but I was annoyed with the waiting process and believed that I could give God some assistance. Recently I have talked to many girlfriends who feel that EXACT same way; that they need to be strategic and assist God in finding their future husband.

So here is the hard truth…when we believe those things and feel as though the God of the universe who created ALL things needs our help, we are displaying how little faith we have in Him. We are taking the pen out of His hands and attempting to write our own story. But, and this is a big but, if and when the time comes for us to be married, God will orchestrate our love story.  And in the meantime, our focus should be on serving Him and pouring our life out for Him!!! It should not be wasted on desperately seeking a spouse.  Because ultimately, the timing is up to Him, not us.

Why am I so convinced that we are to remain fully dependent upon Christ in every area of our life, including this one?  Because throughout our lives, whether we are willing to acknowledge it or not, God has always been faithful. He sent Jesus to this earth to be a perfect example of living our lives with purpose, His purpose. Jesus did nothing of His own accord, but only did what God instructed Him to do, when God instructed Him to do it.

In John 5:19 Jesus said “most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.” And it’s not that Jesus was actually helpless – rather, He deliberately chose to be completely dependent upon His Father for every word, every choice, and every action. What if our lives looked like that? How much different and more fulfilling our season of singleness would be, if we deliberately chose to be completely dependent on God with every word, every choice, and every action!!

Certainly there are steps we can take- I absolutely love praying for my future spouse, whomever it may be. And I’ve learned to focus daily on being obedient to God’s voice as He guides my steps in the process. In this season of singleness, our focus should be pursuing Christ and our relationship with Him.

So here’s the application piece: Allow the Holy Spirit to search your heart!! Are you attempting to give God a hand in finding a guy and getting married? Are you trying to create a relationship with someone who you know is not who God has for you? Do you really believe that Christ can fulfill you at the deepest levels of your soul? And are you willing to make Jesus your first love?

These are difficult questions to face. I came face to face with them a couple years ago. I learned that God cares so much more about this area of my life than even I did. He desperately wants to be first place in our hearts, so that He can bless us beyond all we could think or ask. Our God is a loving, faithful, and awesome God! And a heart that is focused on Christ is a doorway into an abundant life, into the most glorious relationship we could ever imagine. I encourage you in this season of singleness to pursue a daily romance with the One who loves you more than you can ever comprehend. He tenderly cares about each and every detail of your life- and yes, that includes who you marry.

_____________________________________________

“The Lord Jesus acted at all times on the assumption that His Father was handling the situation, and Jesus simply took care to obey His Father’s instructions.  Even when He was being reviled and tortured, ‘He left His case in the hands of God’ (1 Peter 2:23) By this submission to His Father, Jesus ‘learned obedience’ (Heb 5:8) as a Man, and the obedience was total; ‘He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death – even the death of the Cross’ (Phil 2:8)  Now, as God, He asks the same of you and me.”  Ian Thomas