May 14, 2013

Where Is My Life Headed?

I sat at the table eating lunch today thinking back on what has been juuuust about 26 years of life. I love to reflect back on the past year whenever there’s a landmark or annual holiday. “What was I doing last year at this time?” “Where did I live?” and the question that I mostly love, “Where did I think my life was headed?” Usually where I thought I was going is not at all where I was really going; the plans, dreams and ideas I had in mind were not exactly what God had in mind. Usually the plans God has include a lot more pain - or better thought of as growing times. :) Somehow I forget to include that part in my plans. But thankfully God doesn’t forget the need we have to grow and change and be strengthened in our relationship with Him. If my plans always went my way, I know I would need less and less of God. This past year, God showed me every day that I need more and more of Him and less and less of me.

The details don’t matter so much here, those can be saved for one-on-ones and heart-to-hearts over a cup of coffee. What does matter is every little golden thread woven throughout the rough material of every day life...those golden threads are reminders of God’s love, faithfulness, grace, mercy and strength, they are what holds everything together when it seems to be falling apart. It’s God developing character within us.

So where did I think I was headed last year? Definitely not where I ended up. I had different plans and certainly thought God was on board with them too. When I suddenly realized He had other plans, I struggled with anger and bitterness towards Him and other people. I blamed others for the place I had gotten to. God’s Word fell on deaf ears even though I didn’t really want it to be that way. As hard as I tried to claim His promises, I couldn’t. I wondered how I could trust Him after what I thought was His plan ended up changing. Because of all these things, I didn’t care about other areas of my life that I should have...which got me into trouble. But God’s GRACE and MERCY intervened like a little golden thread weaving itself in and out of my day-to-day struggles. I slacked on my time with Him, but He was patiently waiting for me to come back. He allowed me to hit rock bottom just so that I could find out that He is the rock at the bottom, and without Him I am a desperate case with absolutely nothing to live for. He drew me back to Himself with an even stronger desire for Him than before.

“God’s GRACE and MERCY intervened like a little golden thread weaving itself in and out of my day-to-day struggles.”

Is. That one small word had a world of meaning to me this year. As I was sinking down to rock bottom, I read something in Streams in the Desert on August 5 (scary thought that you can be reading these good books even while you’re sinking...I challenge you to do it! It’s good in the end.), the verse for that day was 2 Corinthians 12:9, but the only word written out from that verse was “Is.” The full sentence in that verse is “My grace is sufficient for thee...” In the midst of my struggle to take God at His Word and claim His promises true and faithful in my life, there was so much power in the truth of those two letters. The devo went on to say “God cannot make it anymore sufficient than He has already made it; get up and believe it, and you will find it true, because the Lord says it in the simplest way: “My grace is (not shall be or may be) sufficient for thee.” My closed eyes and plugged up ears seemed to grasp that in a way that I hadn’t before. I began to search God’s Word and write the words “God’s promise to me” next to every verse that said something that God is to or for me and by every verse that He promises me something. When I wrote that next to the verse, I claimed it as God’s promise to me today. right now. not tomorrow and not in the past, but true for me and my life this very moment. Is. God promises us all we need for this very moment that we’re in. Until I realized that, He was never sufficient for me, not because He wasn’t staying true to His Word, but because I didn’t reach out and accept every little gift He promised me. Taking God at His Word and claiming every promise He has for me is an ongoing learning process, but I’m thankful that He is faithful and His hand never gets tired of extending those promises to us, no matter how long it takes for us to reach out and accept them.

There is so much more within and aside from these things that God showed me this past year, and I know several more are just waiting for me to turn 26 and hit them head on. I don’t have a clue where I’ll be next year, and sometimes don’t even know where I’m headed right now...maybe that’s a better way to start the year off. :) I do know that whatever plans I have or make, I want to hold them with open hands and a heart that is constantly surrendered to Christ. I want to be more purposeful in how I use the time that I have. I know I’ll look back a year from now and be in awe of all that God did, of all the things He did that were different than what I would plan for myself. So where is my life headed this year?? The sheer mystery of it all makes me excited for what’s to come!

“The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.”
Proverbs 16:9


Apr 1, 2013

Bright Young Things

Bright Young Things! - such a catchy name for Victoria's Secret's new line, and apparently catching the attention of bright young "things" is exactly what they're trying to do. Bloggers, parents and even secular news programs are all concerned or at least raising their eye brows about what this is going to mean for the targeted age group of tween girls. What will it do for their self-esteem? What if it pushes them towards maturity too quickly? How will it encourage them in staying pure and being the innocent young girls they should be? Is this good for them or not? Everyone has mixed opinions, but it's definitely captured the attention of many people, whether conservative or not, religious, Christian or not.

After reading a letter to Victoria's Secret from a concerned father, I came across several other blog posts and secular news segments questioning their motive in targeting business from young girls, which led me to things on similar topics. After reading more, I wasn't so concerned with whether the whole idea is right or wrong and at what age the brand is appropriate. I don't think that is really the heart of the issue. Instead, a different issue tugged at my heart…

Who is raising and influencing young girls and women today? Where do we go to find our self-worth? Who or what makes us feel good, loved, complete and accepted? Is it Victoria's Secret? Does Victoria's Secret have more control over girls than parents or those women older than them so that we feel the need to tell them they shouldn't market certain things because it's a "threat" to us? Aside from Victoria's Secret…does the media, fashion designers or the celebrity world have the upper hand in controlling who we as women should be? Too often they do. Maybe that's because most Christian women today aren't taking seriously what God has called us to do first as Christians - encouraging and building one another up (1 Thessalonians 5:11), and even more specifically He has a role for us as women to teach and encourage those younger than us and learn from those older than us (Titus 2:3-5).

"We have an incredible calling to encourage
and build one another up in Christ."

I don't think the real need is to target and label every single thing out there as "good" or "bad," but rather to encourage the things that we know are right, pure and holy in God's sight. As we measure things against God's standard and "walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please HIM in all respects" (Colossians 1:10), we will recognize the things He calls "good" and "bad" and be able to decipher between the two. Telling Victoria's Secret that we don't agree with what they're doing is probably not going to stop them. It's like one of those arcade games where the "bad guy" pops up and you bop him with the hammer, but as soon as you do another one or two pop up and eventually you can barely keep up with them! (Yes, we have to fight and stand up for those things we don't agree with, but that's not what I'm getting at here.) There are so many things against us that to individually say this and that are wrong is near impossible! We are in the world (John 17:14-17)!  This is where God has purposely placed each one of us at this specific point in time, but it's a place that has wandered desperately far from Him. In the midst of it all, we have an incredible calling to encourage and build one another up in Christ and to plant and water seeds among those who don't know Him (1 Corinthians 3:6-7). I've been challenged by this so much lately! Who are the women around me who are younger than I am (literally or spiritually)? Am I encouraging and equipping them with the tools and knowledge from God's Word to live for Christ and do the things that please Him? And am I learning from the women who are older than me and taking the things they say and weighing it with God's Word? We all have people in our lives to both teach and learn from.

My challenge to myself and to you is to seek out those girls and women who God has placed in our lives and reach out to them! Take the issues that come up in life and weigh them against God's Word. Be there for them in these things…if we're not, the world will be! The heart of the issue is not to label each and every thing as "good" or "bad," but to know Christ and how He has called us to live. Know who you are in Christ and the kind of women He has called you to be, and when you walk in this way the choices about what you wear and the things you do and say will be pleasing to Him. I know I've failed again and again in this area, but thankfully for all of our "again and agains" of failure God gives "grace upon grace" (John 1:16). We can make all things right with Him and continue on in our walk. "For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ." -Galatians 1:10

Christ did not free us to be our own;
He freed us to be His and His alone. -W. Wiersbe


Oct 10, 2012

Still, One Thing Remains

It was 10:30 at night and I was finally putting my food on the dirty belt at the checkout line. As the lady rings my things up, the price jumps higher with each item. When I saw my final bill just barely missed hitting $80, I wanted to cry. I hadn't even gotten everything that was on my list and was already planning out a second shopping trip at a different store the next day. That thought quickly went out the window. By the time we got out to the car the tears that were held inside slowly dropped out. The fact that I spent $80 on a fairly small amount of groceries was a big deal, but the bigger problem is that I was at the end of my rope which had been slowly but surely untwining. The last little thread broke off…

Over the last couple months I had gotten caught up in things that were important to me rather than to God, which began to drown out what really matters. I allowed myself to become discontent and frustrated with some of my circumstances to the point that I lost something really important - God's purpose for me right here and now. I was forgetting the bigger picture and getting caught up in the fact that God's plans aren't always the same as mine, I didn't want other people to have a say in how long my shorts should be when I work out outside of my home, I didn't want to have the right attitude towards everyone God brings into my life, I didn't want to have to take time off from work when I got called in for jury duty, and several things like that that were building discontentment in my heart. In short, I got tired and gave in to what seemed easy… allowing myself to become self-focused. Spending more time on Facebook and Pinterest and things that I thought were satisfying me rather than finding joy and contentment in where God has me and investing in others, spending time in the Word and praying about the things I know I should pray about more. I allowed my ministry to become a task and a list of things to get done, missing out on so much more that God has to offer.

What happens when we get tired and allow ourselves to give in to the easy way? Nothing…nothing of any value is accomplished, but everything that destroys and brings a person down begins to thrive. When we lose the focus of Christ and the cross there is no fulfilling purpose to life. There's no true joy in what God calls us to do each day, but those things become a job, a task to cross off, and pointless.

Seems kind of silly that God would use an $80 grocery bill to break the final thread of my rope, but He did. On the way home from the store tonight I turned the music up nice a loud. Partly to drown out my tears of disappointment, frustration, and feelings of hopelessness, the other part was to give my two roommates the picture that we were not talking on the way home, just listening to music and thinking. :) Although I admit that wasn't the best way to handle the situation and we had a good talk later (and even laughed about it), they got the picture and we had a nice quiet (besides my music) drive home. I thought about my grocery bill and several other things that were contributing to my untwining rope that had just broken, and the phrase, "still, one thing remains..." popped into my head. I don't know if it's lyrics to part of a song or a verse or just a random thought, but that's what God brought to my mind. And that's what opened my eyes to where I was at and the real reason I was "crying over my grocery bill."

As I began going through my list of frustrations, I was reminded yet again that one thing remains in the midst of all my disappointments, fears and frustrations. That one thing is Christ's love to the point that He died for me and asks one thing of me - to live for Him. Does having all things work out my way and on my timeline, the length of my workout shorts, people who drive me crazy, and being able to eat healthy yet cheaply really matter in the big picture? Each of those things are important to me, but should they be so important that they drown out what is most important - living for Christ? Can I live for Christ and find complete joy by putting all that I have into serving Him, investing in others, and pouring my whole heart into the ministry He's called me to even when things don't go my way, my shorts have to be kinda long, and I have to adjust my meal menus?  Of course! And probably even more so as I learn what it means that to live is Christ and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21) Joy comes when we're seeking Him, not ourselves. 

The Christian walk requires daily dying to self and seeking Christ. A verse that God has continually brought to my mind and used in my life this past year is Psalm 27:8 - "When You said to me, "seek My face, my heart said to You, "Your face, O Lord, I shall seek."  In the midst of all the things to distract us from seeking His face, still one thing remains - Christ's love and desire for me to live for Him.

I wish I could say it just costs $80 to find out what your problems are, but that's not how it works. God uses different circumstances in each of our lives. I hope that next time you find yourself frustrated and discouraged over your circumstances, you can remember that even in the midst of those things one thing remains... He is worthy of us dying to ourselves so that we can live for Him!

"If you obey My commands, you will remain in My love…"
John 15:10