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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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“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

Waiting on the Lord (even if that means waiting twenty years)

“Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD.” (Psalm 27:14)

Do you ever get tired of waiting on God to answer your prayers? I know I do. I can tend to be very impatient- especially when it comes to certain things in my life.

I have found that I get tired of saying the same old prayer day after day, month after month, year after year. Tired of telling God about the same old problems still going on. Tired of hearing myself pray about the same old issues, leading me to wonder if God is as tired of hearing my prayer requests as I am of praying them. I seriously feel like a broken record when it comes to certain areas and seasons in my life.

Recently I got on my knees and just admitted to God that I was simply tired of praying and waiting. I felt exhausted over waiting and felt so defeated.

In a heavy state of emotional exhaustion, I turned to my Bible. I was hoping a few verses would literally jump straight into my heart and give me patience to be content with circumstances in my life where I felt the Lord had me in waiting. I ended up reading about when Isaac’s wife Rebekah gave birth to twin sons. One sentence in particular caught my eye and God used it to speak hope into my soul.

Genesis 25:26 tells us that Isaac was sixty years old when his twins were born; a simple Bible fact, yet profoundly meaningful to me on that specific day.

You see, Isaac had waited patiently for the Lord to provide the perfect wife. He was forty years old when he married Rebekah. That means Isaac waited twenty years for Rebekah to bear children! He was clearly a man of great patience who waited on God. And eventually his patient faith was rewarded.

Isaac earnestly and strongly prayed about his desire. He did not ask God half-heartedly, he pleaded! He begged. He poured his heart out. Isaac trusted that God would provide and continued to pray the same desperate prayer, day after day, month after month, year after year. He never gave up hope that his Lord could make the impossible, possible. And after twenty years, God answered his prayers.

This story is so encouraging! (but also slightly stresses me out). I hope that I don’t have to wait twenty years for my prayers to be answered, but I know that if I do- it is because God as designated that season and time for my prayers to be answered. So yes, it may take twenty years for God to answer our prayers, or it may only take twenty minutes. But today, let’s find comfort in remembering Isaac’s patient faith and take hope in believing that God is not tired of hearing our prayers.

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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