The One He Wants.

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

At some point, I think most of us have felt scarred by disappointment, we wonder if anyone would ever choose us. With gaps that make us feel like candidates for rejection, we hope no one will notice our empty places. Sometimes, it seems the only way we’ll get chosen is if all the good ones are picked first. 1 Peter 2:9 reminds that through Christ we are chosen.

God sent His Son to light our darkness and fill the gaps in our hearts. He wants us to hear Him declaring with all His heart, “You are the one I want!”

I love knowing that through everything, God chose me! We have all been through situations that have scarred our hearts and made us feel inferior or inadequate. It has been nine years since I called off my engagement and it took me a long time to realize that my worth was still the same. For a long time I thought that my value decreased because of my circumstances, but they haven’t.

My circumstances actually made me stronger, just like each experience you go through can make you stronger. We often allow our situations to make us feel worthless, and to take away part of who we are. The situations become who we think we are, and we fear moving forward. Women tend to fear loneliness, and because of that, they feel inferior to others. I was at this point once before, but what is truly amazing is that when we are willing to surrender everything before God, He gives us that peace that transcends those unnecessary emotions.

For years after calling off my engagement I was scared that the only option left for me was to wait until all the “good ones” were picked and then decide from there. But that thought could not be farther from the truth. When we can fully grasp that God is in control and loves us unconditionally, we are able to see our TRUE value.We are not created to wait and see what is left over. He created us with the most perfect plan in mind. We are not the extras in the movie of our lives, we are the lead! Yes, we sometimes allow ourselves to fall into the background because we feel we are too damaged. When we have that mindset, we are only selling ourselves short and decreasing our value in ourselves. God sees us as being a treasure; He would never want us to see ourselves as being worthless.

When Peter talks about God choosing us, he is reminding us that through it all, bad and good, God chose us! No situation is too much for Him to handle. And when we allow God to wrap His arms around us, that feeling of loneliness disappears.

We all struggle with fears, whether we are willing to recognize them or not. I have learned over the years that I cannot let those fears control my life. I had allowed fear to control me for so many years, so I can tell you that nothing good comes from being fearful. When we are willing to recognize what scares us and completely surrender that to the One who loves us, He is willing to comfort our hearts and remind us of our true value.

Our value cannot lie in our circumstances or who we ‘think’ we are- it needs to rest in God and who He created us to be. God loves us, values us, protects us, cherishes us, and guides us- we just need to be willing to listen to Him instead of our circumstances. When times get hard, and you are scared of what lies ahead, remember that you are the one that God wants. He will never make you feel inadequate.

People will judge your behaviors without even looking at what trials you have been through that make you who you are. In today’s world, people are too quick to judge and so often we allow those judgments to define who we are. But our identity is in Christ alone! This world has nothing to offer except jealousy, greed, pride, and loneliness. God is willing to show us unconditional love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness. So compare the two…there is NO comparison. God is the only option if you want to be truly happy and content in who you are! The world may not choose us, but God does.

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Hearing God in the Quiet

“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

 

Work and life can become so busy and overwhelming. The other day I felt the Lord nudging me towards spending some time alone with him, a time of solitude, but you know how that goes—things were BUSY. And loud. And moving fast. I can get really comfortable with that fast pace because busyness covers a bunch of stuff.

We’re all sprinting from one thing to another—running around in a frenzy, stacking our calendars—the busyness can become an escape. And it’s easy to excuse our disconnect with God by falling back on how much there is to do!, which makes this all so sneaky. I am guilty of this. But I made the time to get away and I’m so thankful I did.

Silence allows all that noise and chatter that’s deep in our souls to surface.

I didn’t even realize some of the fears and anxieties I was using busyness to shove back down until I unplugged for a time. I began journaling about all the things I sometimes make my refuge: relationships, social media, financial security, personal devices, entertainment, my career (false security)… It took the quiet to reveal my fears and the quiet to reveal the Lord’s remedy for those fears.

And while I’m still working through them, they’re out in the open before the Lord now, as opposed to being covered up by a packed schedule.

The Lord LOVES when we set aside time to seek Him.

I’ve been spending time in various parts of the Old Testament recently and am reminded continually that God desires His people to love Him with their heart, soul, strength and mind. For me, stepping away from the normal routine, daily relationships and too many iPhone checks was a way of showing God that I love Him. That He is worth my attention and affection. I went into that time with the Lord truly expectant to spend time in His Presence, even if I wasn’t sure what to expect. And as I journaled and meditated on Scripture, I sensed His pleasure.

It is so important to spend some time of solitude with the Lord, even if it’s for an hour or two. We just have to make a plan and stick to it. Set aside the time to pray, read Scripture, worship and journal what the Holy Spirit reveals to us. Find the quiet. Make the quiet.

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remembering who you are.

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (Psalm 139:14)

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“you’re prettier in pictures than you are in person”

Those nine words would define me for the an entire decade.

On a blind date in college, those words attached to me like a sticky name tag. One that I chose to wear for years. “Hello, my name is Cait, I am not pretty enough.”

For years, whenever I thought about my body or my looks, I flashed back to those ugly words. I sadly believed those words to my inner core- that I was not pretty in person- and that ultimately I was not yet pretty enough.

So lets fast forward ten years…the women’s ministry at my church started reading a book called ‘Fervent’ by Priscilla Shirer. One of the chapters is titled “Your Identity: Remembering Who You Are”. I knew it was going to be a tough chapter, but lets just say- I didn’t make it through any page of that chapter without sobbing (I resorted back to my ugly cry). Anyway, as I was soaking in the chapter- the words spoken to me all those years ago came rushing to the forefront of my mind. And there I was- listening to those words on repeat in my mind and feeling completely defeated and insecure.

I immediately put the book down, not wanting to read one more word, and without even thinking about it I began dwelling on those nine words- were those words true? still? was that why at thirty-one I was still single? was I still not pretty enough?

With a reluctant heart I picked the book back up and continued reading- even though I knew it would just be easier to keep the book closed, turn on some Netflix, and not deal with this emotional, spiritual battle.

I had allowed those words from a stranger, who I would never speak to again, to have tremendous power over my life. And coming face-to-face with the enemy on the battlefield did not seem like something I was ready to fight on a Monday night. But it was then that Ephesians 6:11 came to mind, “put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil”. And so I decided to suit up.

I had allowed the enemy to devalue my strength for YEARS, to magnify my insecurities until they completely dominated how I saw myself, disabling and disarming me from being who God created me to be, and living in the truth that in Christ I am enough.

And the enemy wanted me to live in a state of defeat. My defenses down. My resolve weak. Surrendering to an army of insecurities instead of courageously thriving in the sophisticated security of my identity in Christ. But no longer. Not me. Not ever.

Friends, you are so valuable and so loved. Those things that you count as weaknesses and flaws, those things that the enemy is hell-bent on accentuating are not more powerful than the strength you have in Christ. Don’t allow painful words from your past, insecurities, lies from the enemy, or past hurts to have any power in your life. It will only leave you feeling handicapped (trust me, I know this WAYY to well). You are loved by God, endowed with His Spirit, you are His, and in Him you are ENOUGH.

Ezekiel 16:10-13 “I clothed you with an embroidered dress and put sandals of fine leather on you. I dressed you in fine linen and covered you with costly garments. I adorned you with jewelry: I put bracelets on your arms and a necklace around your neck, and I put a ring on your nose, earrings on your ears and a beautiful crown on your head...You became very beautiful and rose to be a queen.”

LOVE THAT!!! We are exceedingly beautiful and we advanced to royalty!!

 

when waiting patiently feels like an impossible task.

“The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.“ Lamentations 3:25-26 (NIV)

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I sat on the bed and unclenched my hands, trying to pray. From my perspective, the past season had gone painfully wrong and I was currently stuck in a season that was beginning to feel more and more like a desert.

My work was overwhelming, with deadlines that came too fast and too often. My relationship status was still ‘single’, which came with endless comments and questions from others. My weight loss journey plateaued, it was beginning to feel like an uphill battle with no results. And my finances came in just as quickly as they went out.

Externally, I was busier than I’d ever been, but on the inside, my soul was barely limping along. So I did what I always do — I tried to figure out how to fix everything. Maybe if I rearranged my work calendar, or worked out more or made more money or was more intentional— maybe then, things would get better. Easier. More hopeful.

But the more I tried to figure things out, the more overwhelmed I became. I started crying out to the Lord, asking the unanswerable question of why: Why were things so hard? Why was there such struggle? Why did I feel so stuck?

God answered me, but not in response to my whys.

As I sat and prayed, God reminded me that all the things I was so desperately trying to secure — life, health and provision — come from Him. I can’t heal myself. I can’t force friendships or relationships. I can’t do my job successfully apart from Him. I was quickly realizing that I can’t in fact run the world. God alone gives us what we need.

All I can do? Pray. And wait.

I pushed out a hard breath as the tears slowed. Waiting is a recurrent theme in my life, but it has never gotten easier. It’s always painful, because it forces me to remember — again — that I’m not in control. I can’t give myself what I need; I can only ask God to heal, renew and provide.

I sat and prayed that God would change our circumstances. Then I opened His Word and read verses that declared that I already have all that I need in Christ. Sitting on my bed, I came to terms with the fact that the Lord has never promised me marriage, He has never promised me a family of my own, or an easy life,  or a full bank account, or perfect health. But He has promised me more of Himself.

I may have to wait for everything else, but I never have to wait for God.

But why is waiting still so hard? Personally, I think it’s because waiting reveals our hearts and how much we want to have control. And in order to wait well, we have to give up that control and stop striving to fix things — and seek Him instead.

Our difficult circumstances may not change easily or quickly, but as we wait on God and put our hope in Him, rather than hoping in a change of situation, we’ll find that He Himself is more than enough for us.  In Christ, we have all that we need.

Finding the Friendships You Deserve.

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” (Ephesians 3:17b-18)
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Last month, I was feeling so insecure and discouraged about friendships. I ended up calling one of my best friends in tears, feeling so vulnerable and in need of advice.

I had been feeling like as soon as I would get close to a friend, we would grow apart. Or that they would find other, cooler, more fun friends and suddenly vibes were weird.  I honestly couldn’t figure out if something was wrong with me or if I did something to screw up friendships. I’d look online and see pictures of cliques and feel even more isolated. I would hang out with friends and watch groups of girls taking selfies, but usually would be the one taking the photo. It would hurt, it would make me feel insecure, and discouraged.

There have been times in my life that I would try to bend and contort myself in whatever way I could just to fit into a group. But no matter how many times I tried to bend and contort, it never really seemed to work.

Friends, if you are struggling to feel like you belong or if you’re having trouble with friendships, I just want to encourage you.  God did not design you the way He did just for you to bend and contort His design to fit into some group or clique it wasn’t designed to be a part of. And you’re not weird or strange and there’s nothing wrong with you if you grow apart from women you have cared about for awhile.

Because you know what? All things are redeemable. And at the end of the day, God delivers who you need, right when you need them, to stand by your side. Some of the girls I honestly thought would be life-long friends (maybe even in my wedding one day) have been some of the friendships that drifted apart. Some of the girls I thought I would grow apart from years ago are the same girls that have invited me to be a part of their special wedding day. And often, those  friendships that continue to build and last throughout the years are not friendships you can fake. They’re disorganized and crazy and a little bit messy — but they’re real. They take time to build.

I think, sometimes, we avoid friendships that require much of us because we are afraid of the risk. When we’ve been hurt or walked all over, we begin to close up and control our environments. I mean, who wants to be hurt again? Trust me, there’s wisdom in guarding our hearts, but that doesn’t mean we have to live in isolation. Though isolating can be tempting to do when friendships haven’t gone our way in the past, there’s a problem with that logic. The truth is, the greatest satisfaction comes from the greatest sacrifice.

Although I haven’t solved the friendship puzzle, I do know that REAL friendships can empower us and bring out the best of who we are.  Real friends won’t judge you for your messy hair days, they encourage you, challenge you, make you better, push you closer to Jesus, support your dreams, they love you through the hard times, and they pray for you. Life is so much better, and easier, and certainly more fun when we walk through it together. I am so grateful for authentic friendships. For raw, real, tough but gentle love.

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Obedience. Not An Easy Thing.

Truth Moment: I’m a procrastinator.

I know the things that I should or need to be doing, but I always put it off- at least for a little while. I have even learned how to procrastinate while I’m in the middle of procrastinating (pretty sure that’s a talent). 

Over the years of growing closer in my relationship with Jesus- I have learned that He is not a dilly-dallier. One thing that accompanies being a follower of Jesus is a little thing called ‘obedience’. Real obedience, like immediate response type of obedience. Not the kind of obedience that you put on the shelf until you can get around to it.

I have learned over the years that our obedience to God is not optional (even thought at times we would like it to be). The more we grow in our relationship with the Lord, the more we see His greatness, and then our response to His commands become more immediate. Obedience to Him becomes a reflex. It becomes who we are, not what we do.

Obedience can begin to feel like a burden if it’s just something we have to continuously stay on top of. But obeying Jesus isn’t about making sure we do one thing and don’t do another. He tells us in John 14:15 that obedience is the result of time spent with Him and flows naturally from our love for Him.  He says, “If you love Me, you will obey Me”.

Over the years I’ve learned that there are different stages of obedience.

First, submitting our lives to Jesus.

This is the start of our relationship with Jesus. Of course, submission is always voluntary. Jesus does not force us to follow Him, but He invites us. And what I love most is that He will never stop inviting us to have a close, intimate relationship with Him. But in order to have that relationship- we need to be willing to submit our lives to Him and His will for us.

Secondly, getting to know Jesus.

A strong relationship with Jesus can’t be built overnight. It takes time. And we get to know Jesus by spending time with Him in prayer and in reading His Word. Even when times are tough and uncertain, the Holy Spirit is there to remind us of how much Jesus had to endure on earth; how He dealt with all life’s struggles and decisions. The more we get to know Jesus, the clearer we can hear and understand His desires for us.

And thirdly, obeying Jesus.

As much as we try to be consistent, we will continue to find it impossible to obey Jesus in our own strength. (Trust me, I have tried). It’s Jesus and His strength that does it for us. Jesus says in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” Our life of obedience is the result of the Holy Spirit in our lives and the fruit we bear from our relationships with Jesus. This fruit shows everyone around us that we belong to Him.

As long as we (the branches) remains in Jesus (the grapevine), we receive the nourishment we need in our lives to produce fruit. Obedience is supernatural evidence of what abiding in Jesus looks like. All of our good deeds and true successes come from His nourishment, not from our own natural abilities, good sense or cleverness.

In John 15:1, Jesus calls His Father the gardener. While I don’t know much about gardening, I do know that a good gardener reaps a good harvest only after putting in hours and hours of work. Rocks need to be removed, weeds pulled, and plants watered. But then there is also pruning. Pruning is when the gardener has to cut away all the dead and overgrown branches. Jesus goes on to say in John 15:2 that “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” Pruning can be painful, but it’s necessary in our walk with the Lord.

Obedience was honestly a tough lesson for me to learn; and immediate obedience even more difficult. We all have our moments and seasons of rebellion.We yell out when God wants to get rid of something we are holding onto so dearly; whether pride, relationships, dreams, etc. But God’s ultimate goal is for each and every one of us is to be fruitful. So when those tough lessons, moments, and seasons arise- remember to submit, listen, and obey.

God’s grace is abundant and it’s through His grace that we experience the fruit of immediate obedience.

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F R I E N D S H I P .

“AS IRON SHARPENS IRON, SO ONE SHARPENS ANOTHER” (Proverbs 27:17)

Growing up, my best friend knew everything about me. She knew which boy I liked, my favorite song, all my dreams. She even knew my secrets. I have learned as I get older that those type of friendships are rare, and these days I find myself longing for a friend like that.

Making good friends in our constant, fast moving society feels like it’s getting harder and harder. It’s not that we don’t want close relationships, but people come and go so fast it’s difficult to establish those long-lasting friendships. But I think it’s more than that. Some of us have been hurt and betrayed so often by those we love and whose friendships we valued that we keep others at arm’s length. Whatever hurt lies in our past, we suffer from that hurt, and we allow unforgiveness and distrust to find a home in our hearts.

I often times find myself praying for solid, godly friendships and while it’s tempting to wish God would just bring me a good friend, more often than not, He asks me to be a good friend to someone else first. That’s when I find that I need to go to Scripture for a reminder of what true friendship looks like- because I have been hurt in the past, so trusting and being vulnerable with others is definitely not comfortable or easy.

The truth is, God knows the agony of broken relationships. We see those stories throughout His Word. But then those are those stories about friendship that give our hearts hope.  One immediately comes to mind- I absolutely  L O V E  the friendship between David and Jonathan.  It’s awesome that we’re allowed to look into their lives and their friendship. That we can see a glimpse of two biblical characters who succeeded at a long, intimate friendship- despite all the tragedy, hurdles, and pain that life threw their way.

Jonathan was the son of King Saul and was David’s closest friend. You may know David from the story of ‘David and Goliath’. Goliath was the giant that David defeated with just a sling shot when everyone else from King Saul’s army was too afraid to fight him. It was actually because of Davids rise to fame that King Saul grew to despise David. David was growing in popularity and God had anointed David to be king — instead of Saul’s own son. Apparently, King Saul did not like that ONE BIT. These things enraged King Saul, and he commanded his aids AND Jonathan to assassinate David. Whenever I read that story- my heart just breaks. Imagine being Jonathan and being commanded by your father to kill your best friend. I CANNOT EVEN IMAGINE! Jonathan knew that David did nothing wrong and had so much love for his friend that he refused his father’s command to betray David.

Yay for Jonathan!!!

And love isn’t the only fruit of true friendship. It consists of sacrifice too.

Jonathan is a picture of sacrifice. In 1 Samuel 18:4, we see that he removed his robe and gave it to David, along with his armor, sword, bow and belt. Jonathan was the potential heir to his father’s throne, but this gift showed that Jonathan recognized that David would one day be king of Israel. Rather than being jealous of David, Jonathan submitted to God’s will and sacrificed his own right to the throne. His actions teach us that true friendship means having a willingness to sacrifice for one another. It is the choice to put ones needs, desires, and wishes above our own.

Loyalty is also a mark of true friendship.

We’re told that Jonathan went to his father and spoke well of David. He reminded the king that David had done nothing wrong. In fact, David had been loyal to King Saul. It can definitely be tough to do the right thing and stand up for what is right. We learn by Jonathan’s actions that a true friend will protect and defend one another. True friends are committed to being loyal and will stick up for each other. Yes- even in the hard times, and even when they’re not around.

And finally, true friends trust each other enough to be themselves.

When Jonathan told David that his father was out to kill him, the two were forced to say goodbye in order to keep David safe. After Jonathan told David it was not safe and to flee, we see in 1 Samuel 20:41 that they wept together”.  They were deeply saddened  to have to say goodbye. I love that.  It shows the genuineness of their friendship and how they were able to be completely vulnerable in their friendship.

When our hearts are broken, we can fall apart and a true friend understands. They won’t try to correct you in your misery or tell you to straighten up. True friends will let each other hurt. They weep together, laugh together. They listen to fears and insecurities. They don’t bail- they stay, especially in the hard times. They allow each other to be themselves.

I am always so challenged by this story of Jonathan and David’s friendship to be a better friend. To check my heart to see if I’m a loyal, loving, selfless and trustworthy friend. To encourage and love on those God has placed in my life. Then I ask the Lord to help me; to help me to become that kind of friend and to bless me with those types of friends.

A good friendship takes time. If things get rocky, it doesn’t mean you just walk away. Friendships take work and you have to be willing to work it out. Give your relationship time to grow- because a true friend is a rare and precious gift.

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