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

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”.

 

when approval addiction is a real life problem

Growing up, I was not the most popular girl in kindergarten. I did get married in the sandbox to my crush though- that was a high point. Anyway, we can blame it on the fact that I was an extreme introvert…or I can be honest and say that it was most likely because I had no idea how to be a friend. I say that because when it came to friendship, I cared more about pleasing others and making sure that ‘everyone’ liked me than being myself and learning to be real with people.

I am about to share a story with you that I know with lead to either pure judgement or you will want to call me up and invite me over to your house. It could honestly go either way. Throughout elementary school I was able to live next door to one of my best friends. It was pretty awesome! We literally spent every day together- either at her house, my house, or the small treehouse in between. I loved hanging out at her house, mainly because it meant getting away from my twin brothers. And on almost ever occasion, when we hung out at her house…I cleaned her room. Weird, I know! But that’s how I showed people that I cared- I did things for them, such as cleaning their rooms! I would organize her room, fold her laundry, make her bed. I was desperately wanting friendship and to please others that I literally would clean their rooms for them. I did the same thing for my sister. I think I more so did it for my sister  because I was afraid she would beat me up if I didn’t, but either way…I did it. Being liked by people meant so much to me that I would literally do things for them just to make sure that they would like me without caring at all about my own feelings. (pathetic, I know).

I mastered the art of people pleasing. In High School I diagnosed myself with “approval addiction”. Of course, I didn’t share this diagnosis with anyone, but it was very apparent that I cared WAY. TOO. MUCH. about what others thought of me. After years of thinking this was what it looked like to be a good friend- it molded me into someone who cared more about being liked than being real and honest about my feelings. I had literally become a human doormat. Not all people pleasers are doormats, but I sure was one.

Now, I am not saying this so that you feel sorry for me or so you ask me to come over (secretly hoping that I clean your entire house). I am sharing this because I think that too often we strive for the attention and approval of others that we lose ourselves. We feel that the real us is not enough or won’t be liked- so we change. We adapt. We become human chameleons.

One day I realized I had had enough. I was exhausted and lonely. I didn’t have any real, deep friendships. I had a lot of platonic friendships- which were okay, but I wanted those real, messy friendships. But in order to get that- something needed to change. The truth is, I had stopped being direct and sharing my honest emotions with people because I was afraid of hurting their feelings. I took everything so freakin personal- and most of the time, if not all the time, I had assumed things completely wrong. And I was assuming that I knew the motives of people and what they thought about me. Assuming is never truly a good thing. Anyway, all of those things left me feeling alone and tired.

I was standing in my own way of having the friendships that I truly craved.

So I took to praying about it DAILY. And two years later, I have some of the most REAL, MESSY, VULNERABLE, HONEST friendships! And I love them. EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM. They aren’t always easy, but they are real.

Here is what I had to learn: its okay if someone doesn’t like me. This is definitely a hard lesson for anyone who struggles with approval addiction. And I was NO different. It scared me to the core at first to realize this- it felt unnatural.

Why couldn’t everyone like me?

I’m pretty likable, right?

But as much has it was a hard concept for me to grasp,  it was a much needed lesson and one that would ultimately change the way I viewed friendships and the way I was intentional in my friendships.

I had to learn to say ‘no’ to people…and not feel guilty about it. Saying ‘no’ felt like I could hurt someone’s feelings- so I was always that ‘yes’ girl. I also had to learn limits and boundaries, for myself and for my friendships. (that took a while, but I am getting a hold of it). And I had to learn to be more direct and honest with those God brought into my life, even if they didn’t necessarily like what I was saying or understand my feelings on the matter. I spent way too many years dancing around subjects for fear of hurting someone’s feelings or being misunderstood. But over the past couple years I have learned that being more direct and honest with my emotions is one of the most liberating things.

I had lost myself in approval addiction for so many years (about 30ish years if I am being honest)! But learning to be real, vulnerable, and direct about things was seriously life changing. If you look at all like how I use to look: easily irritated, working way too hard, going too fast and shouldering all the weight without stopping to ask for help. I encourage you to take time for yourself, to be more direct and be truthful about how you feel in your friendships, and to say no to things that you can’t do. Don’t be that ‘yes’ girl.

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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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.