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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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!!

 

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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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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Plug Into Your Joy.

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“…Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10

Sometimes I think I’m Superwoman. I try to do it all. I tend to just keep moving until I pretty much just keel over. Well last week wasn’t much different. It was a long week, so walking into church Sunday just felt like another thing to mark off my to-do list. I had been running on caffeine and no sleep. My mind felt overly exhausted, and I had no expectations to be able to take away from the sermon what I am sure the Lord wanted me to. I was running on fumes. And unfortunately when I’m running on empty, I’m a complete mess!

I was feeling exhausted, irritable, I was probably insensitive and stubborn, frustrated. Not at all characteristics of Christ or the woman I strive to be each day. I have fallen into trying to be Superwoman for years, it almost just feels like second nature to attempt to do it all. I’ve learned over the years that more often than not the reason I end up feeling so exhausted and empty is because I stop plugging into my Power Source. It shows me that I didn’t make time to spend time in the Word, that I didn’t set aside quiet time with God, and that I didn’t get refilled spiritually. And when I don’t plug into God, I’m bound to start running on fumes (which isn’t good for anyone).

It is so essential to spend daily time in God’s presence if we’re going to live with the joy of the Lord. The more intimate our personal relationship with Him becomes, the better our fruit will be. Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law”.  Those are definitely all fruits that I want to be growing; not exhaustion, irritability, stubbornness, or insensitivity. 

God wants us to stay joyful even in the midst of the difficulties we face in life, because His joy is our strength. It’s the fruit of joy that strengthens us to go through whatever we have to deal with and make it to the end result. Plugging into His strength is so important, it allows the fruits of the Spirit to grow within us and our lives.

So what happens when we wake up on the wrong side of the bed (because we all have those mornings). The mornings when we feel low, irritated, discouraged or frustrated. That’s when we need to plug into God. If we aren’t living with the joy of the Lord, we need to examine the root of our fruit. We need to be spending more time with God, studying the Word, doing what He tells us to do by His grace, and soon our joy and strength will return.

The key is to lean on Jesus. He has the ability and strength you need.