Fearless

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

For many people, fear is a familiar face. 

It’s the thing that we feel deep down as we step out of our comfort zone. The feeling that we get when we go up on stage to sing or give a speech. The worry that plagues us as we talk to someone new. It’s likely something different for all of us, but regardless of the specifics, there’s something that we all have in common.

We all struggle with fear in some capacity. 

Maybe not on a daily basis. And maybe we don’t experience it to a crippling degree. But, if we’re honest, we’re all afraid of something. And whatever it is, I believe that it’s something that we can overcome. I believe that we all have the capacity to move past the grips of fear.

2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” God doesn’t want us to live our lives out of fear. He wants us to have peace, to trust Him, and live courageously and confidently through His power within us.

I’m going to be honest, fear is something that has often been a stumbling block in my own life. I touched on this a couple of posts back, in my post about vulnerability. It’s a real struggle for me to open up to people, and let people in. I consider people who open up with ease to be some of the bravest people I know, because it’s one of the things that I struggle the most with. But lately, God has been helping me overcome this. He’s been helping me learn to break down my wall. To let people in and trust that they won’t let me down.

Maybe for you, fear looks a little different. Maybe it’s a fear of public speaking, or of talking to someone you don’t know. Maybe it’s a fear of the future, or of the unknown. Whatever it is, God already knows about it. He sees you and loves you in the midst of it.He’s not disappointed in you for having fears—but as our Heavenly Father, He wants us to have peace and joy. He wants us to lay down our fears before Him and trust that He’ll trade those fears for joy. He wants us to learn day-by-day how to live confidently in Christ. 

Here’s the thing guys, we’ll never be able to live out the fullness of the plans that God has for us if we remain trapped in the prison of fear. God calls us to be bold, and boldness can only really happen when we lay down our fears at the foot of the cross. He wants to use us for big things—and oftentimes, that means stepping outside of our comfort zone, and daring to be uncomfortable. These are the times when we bring what have, and God brings the rest. He will never bring us to something too hard for us to accomplish. In the words of Luke 1:37, “Nothing is impossible with God.”

This week, I want to challenge you to live fearlessly.

To embrace the fullness of God’s plans for you.

To live boldly, to love fully, and to be the change right where you are.

Dare to be fearless; embracing the freedom found in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, in Whom we find our strength, power, and perfect peace. 

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Strength In Vulnerability

You never lose by loving. You always lose by holding back.” – Barbara de Angelis. 

Vulnerability. Transparency. Openness.

There is a lot packed into these three simple words. Things that are scary for many of us. Choices that make us feel afraid. Decisions that force us out of our comfort zone.

But recently, God has been speaking to me about all of these things, and I feel led to share what I’ve been learning with you, in hopes that maybe, just maybe, it might inspire someone.

So, here it goes…

* * * *

For as long as I can remember, I’ve never been good at opening up to people. I don’t have a specific reason exactly – likely some mix of being a more reserved personality by nature and going through seasons where I’ve been hurt by people – but for as long as I can remember, this has always been my story. I could write and speak about my faith and beliefs, but anytime I tried to get personal—about my life and my own struggles, I choked. It was easier for me to talk about things from an intellectual standpoint than a personal one.

This got a million times worse once I got to college. 

My first year of college, I slowly began to feel like my life was falling apart. First my schedule changed, and than my expectations changed, and than little by little, I began to feel a lot of my friendships beginning to change—until eventually it felt like everything that had come together so perfectly towards the end of high school was gone, never to be recovered again.

My life, little by little, began to turn into something of a to-do-list. 

I got up. I went to college classes. I went to work. I did my chores and daily-tasks. 

And shut down almost 100% emotionally and relationally. 

In some ways, I felt hurt. Why was it so hard to get together with old friends? Why were people changing so much? Where was God in the midst of all of this? I began to fear that if I let anyone else in, I would only get hurt—over and over again. And somewhere down the line, I held back from fully letting God in. On the outside, I looked strong. On the inside, I was a total, complete train-wreck—with OCD and anxiety slowly starting to run my life.

In retrospect, I was somewhat aware that I had a problem—even if I didn’t know how to fix it. But to be honest, most days I was trying so hard to just get through that I couldn’t really see the full picture, and how much I really was falling apart. In my mind, it was all just a part of life that I’d have to get used to. 

But recently, things have changed. And that’s what I want to share with you. 

As some of you know, I’ve started going to a new church, which I wrote about here. It has been an incredible blessing, and I’ve loved going, but I had no idea when I first went how much this church would end up helping me. And how much it would change my life.

My first week there, I was blown away by how connected everyone seemed—and how everyone really seemed to interact as one big, awesome, diverse, beautiful church family—taking the words of Jesus in Matthew 12:50 and putting them into action. The following week, I saw it even more up close and personal, as I went for the first time to the church’s young adult/college group. And that’s when things really started to change.

After taking note of how genuinely nice the people in this group seemed, the second thing that I noticed was how they opened up. Like, really opened up. More than I’ve ever seen people collectively open up in a church group before. And not only did they open up to each other—they opened up to God. Being a part of this church, I’ve seen so many people on fire for Jesus—striving to grow closer to Him above all else. And little by little, I heard God, starting to convict me. 

“You need to start letting people in. You need to start letting me in.” ‘

This has completely changed my life, and my outlook on life. It wasn’t a call to come to Christ—I accepted Christ years ago, back when I was still pretty young. But it was a call to give God all of me. My hopes. My fears. My dreams. My carefully laid out plans. 

And it was a call to start really opening up to those around me.

Slowly, I’ve started doing both of these things. It’s been a process—I can’t say I’m where I’d like to be quite yet, but I’ve made progress, even admitting in front of my whole group that I struggle with OCD and anxiety (which, by the way, has slowly been lessening). And I’ve found that the more that you give God your all, the less you worry about being hurt by other people—giving you the freedom to really open up to those around you. 

These last few years have been a journey—but for the first time in a while, I’m living—not just breathing.

And I can’t wait to see what else God has in store for me. 

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#RelationshipGoals

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” – John 15:13

As human beings, we’re naturally and innately wired for relationships. 

From the time that we are children, we’re motivated to forge relationships with those around us. No one has to teach us that we need other people. It is something that we instinctively know; whether introverted, extraverted, or somewhere in between, regardless of culture, gender, race, or ethnicity. It is God’s fingerprint on His creation—and one of the clearest and most incredible ways that we are made in His image.

We were made for relationships with other people.

And, even more importantly, we were made for a relationship with God. 

While it is often easy for us to remember that we need to be in close relationships with those around us to flourish, it can often be easy to forget the importance, and life-altering significance of our relationship with God.

Many of us, if we’ve been in the church for a long time, have heard the old cliche ‘Christianity is not a religion, it’s a relationship’, but in our real, nitty-gritty every day lives, this can be a difficult truth to live out. It’s all too easy to fall into routine with our faith. To read our Bible, go to church, and pray—all while missing the breathtaking beauty of it all. That the God of the universe wants to know us personally, and loves each of us more than any human being on this earth ever could. 

And until we shape our lives around this truth, nothing else will ever be enough. 

The truth is, in my own life, this has often been a struggle that I’ve personally dealt with. Though I know this truth deep down in my heart, there have been far too many times that I’ve tried to place something else where God should be. In some seasons, it’s been an achievement. In other seasons, it’s been a close friendship. Yet in other seasons, it’s been my own struggle with perfectionism. There have been times when I’ve been so focused on what my life looked like on the outside that I’ve totally neglected what was really important—the condition of my heart on the inside.

Sometimes, even really good things can distract us from deepening our relationship with God. Things like pursuing a talent that God has given us, or a relationship with someone God has placed in our life. The problem isn’t always the thing itself, but the weight that we give it. Anything can turn into a negative thing if it keeps us from turning our hearts most fully to the one most important thing.

No matter who you are and no matter what you’ve done, God wants a deep, personal relationship with you. He sees you as His beloved child and friend and would die for you all over again even if you were the only person on earth.

As you go throughout your week, I want to challenge you to fall more in love with Jesus. To see your faith and quiet time with God as a way of growing closer to the One who wants to know you, rather than just a list of tasks. To never stop being captivated by the heart of the Gospel.

To never stop pursuing a relationship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

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“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7

On Dealing With Grief

Note: I plan to finish my series on writing good fiction, but right now, I feel God calling me to write about something that I have been dealing with lately. 

. . .

We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, ‘Blessed are they that mourn,’ and I accept it. I’ve got nothing that I hadn’t bargained for. Of course it is different when the thing happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not imagination.” ― C.S. LewisA Grief Observed

Recently, over the past week, I have dealt with my first significant experience with death. My great grandma passed away. 

She has been experiencing health problems for a while now, and last month, she was rushed to the hospital after being found unconscious. I thought, as she was recovering, that we were past the worst of it, but a couple of short weeks later, she passed away.

The funny thing is, I can still remember her vividly. When I was younger she used to come down to visit on a regular basis, and I can still remember times when she’d come over for the holidays or go to the mall with us, or go to the photo studio with me for Christmas pictures. She stopped visiting as often as she got older, but I still remember the times that she did. Meanwhile, the last couple of days in the present have felt like a blur, like they’ve all blended together in some sort of surreal dream.

Nonetheless, in the midst of it, there’s still a peace. 

Before my great grandmother passed, she used to read books by pastors such as Joel Osteen and Max Lucado. She had a next door neighbor who used to talk to her about Jesus, and my great grandma once told us that she knows Jesus and is confident about where she is going when she dies. And as a Christian, this gives me some peace. 

I’m not going to use this post to give easy answers to life and death. Nor will I try to turn this into an opportunity for some sort of lesson. However, I would like to take the chance to say that if you’re going through a grief of your own, I get it. It may be different than mine, but grief is still grief. I would also like to note that as Christians, there is hope for us when a Christian family member or friend dies.

Revelation 21:4 says of Heaven, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’[a] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.

Meanwhile, in John 14:2 Jesus says, “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?” 

Death is never easy. It is one of the hardest things we have to deal with on this earth, but it is not forever. Someday, God will abolish death when He creates a new Heaven and a new earth, but in the present, God will give us peace when we morn.

In the beatitudes, Jesus gives comfort to those who experience trouble on this earth. 

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:3-12. 

If you’re mourning right now, take comfort in Jesus and give yourself grace as you grieve. Death is never easy—but as Christians, we can find hope in the fact that it is not forever.

Someday we’ll see our loved ones again, in the biggest family reunion of our lives. 

“Christians never say ‘good-bye’, just ‘until we meet again’.” – Woodrow Kroll 

Real

“Oh craaaap, why did I just say that?”

“Is it seriously that late? I’ve gotten nothing done!”

“Please tell me I took my phone out of my pocket. Please tell me it’s not in the wash…”

Let’s be honest. These aren’t exactly phrases you’d typically utter on your average Instagram post or blog. They’re not the kind of thoughts you want to tell the whole blogosphere. As humans, we typically don’t stand on street corners with a megaphone yelling “Hey—guess what?! I’m a hot mess!”

But this is the stuff of real life, isn’t it? They’re the kind of thoughts we think in our everyday real-as-can-be-lives. They’re the kind of things we vent to our best friend about, but not the whole world. And they’re sure-as-heck not the moments we put in a scrapbook to remember ten years from now. They’re messy. They’re embarrassing. They’re the kind of moments you’d find on AFV.

A few weeks back, one of my good friends and I were taking note of this. She noted how on social media, our lives look perfect even if our real lives are falling apart. We post about the relationship but not the breakup. We post about the success but not the failure. We post about the final product but not the hours dying with a glue gun ready to call it quits. We like things photoshopped and auto-tuned. We like things to be perfect.

Now, to be clear, this is not a urge to post your entire life online. Many of us are private people would prefer to keep things between just a few close friends. That’s perfectly fine. Normal even. Nonetheless, there is one person who we should never keep our most embarrassing and painful blooper moments from.

God.

Unfortunately, this can often be far too easy to do. For many of us, being real with God can feel vulnerable or even downright scary. We worry whether we sound church-y enough. Whether we have the “right” kind of problems (as if there are any). We worry God will end up face palming and shaking His head as we give our whole laundry list of all the things stressing us out. But the truth? God already knows.

God knows about that dream you’re worried will never come to be. God knows you’re worried about schoolwork and grades and getting into a good college. God knows about that guy that’s been on your mind more than you care to admit. If you’re older, he knows about your marriage, your finances, and your children. He knows us at our high points and He knows us just as well at our lows.

If you look to the Psalms, it’s clear that David, who was “A man after God’s own heart”, was brutally honest with God. He showed a full range of emotion—from praise, to frustration, to sadness, to anger, to joy. Psalm 69 is a perfect example of King David’s honesty, as it reads…

Save me, O God,
for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me. I am worn out calling for help my throat is parched. My eyes fail,
looking for my God. Those who hate me without reason outnumber the hairs of my head;
many are my enemies without cause, those who seek to destroy me. I am forced to restore what I did not steal.” Psalm 69:1-4

Throughout Scriptures, those with the strongest faith were the ones who were the most real with God, as Paul laments “doing what he does not want to do and not doing what he should do” (Romans 7:15) and Thomas outright asked Jesus for evidence of His Resurrection (John 20:25).

There’s nothing that we can ask or express to Gd that He doesn’t already know.

He is always someone we can feel safe to be real with—even with our most un-instagram worthy moments.🙂Unknown-1

A Poem For Easter

Love Saves

Darkness, darkness aluminates the night

Scattered, battered, running in fright

Do you know him, do you see Him, hang from the tree

No I do not, said Peter, not once but three

Blood flowed, love showed, the sky glowed

Emptiness, emptiness, hovers over the land

As Jesus cries from the cross why has Thou forsaken this man

Who hangs in agony worse than we can know

All the while His love still continued to show

Arisen, Arisen, said the angel to they

Not on day one, day two, but day three

From the lips of angel He directed they

To see the empty tomb where Jesus no longer lay

Because it is finished, don’t you see here now

Love, love has saved us here, taken a bow

Because nothing could keep Him down, not a grave

Finally, with a risen Savior we’re saved

Not by mere man, or a hero in cape

But a God who loved us all, who has changed the day

This is why we celebrate, you see

Because of God’s love, poured out for you and me

Happy Easter everyone! I hope y’all have a great day! 

 

 

 

God Likes Us

Every once and a while, we stumble upon something that jolts us in a way that we didn’t expect.

For me, this happened recently, at my local Publix.

Like on many occasions, as we were checking out, my eyes wandered off to the magazine section, and even though I know most of the stuff over there’s complete trash (not to mention gossip), there’s always a weird impulsion to see what’s going on in good ole’ Hollywood. And, as I looked in the magazine area, I caught a quote by William Paul Young that caught my attention on a religious themed magazine: Not only does God love us, He likes us too!

For those of you who don’t know, William Paul Young is the increasingly popular author of The Shack, and whatever you think about The Shack, you have to admit, that’s a pretty insightful quote. And tonight, as I lay awake dealing with a particularly stressful OCD episode, I’m reminded of that quote.

I can’t speak for everyone, since I am only one person, but for me, this is too often an easy thing to forget. I know God loves me, as well as every other person in the world He created. And as a devout youth group attendee in my early teen years, I know literally every lyric from David Crowder Band’s ever-popular song “How He Loves” (“Ohhhhhh how he loves us oh, oh how He loves us…how He loves us oh!” Sorry, I had to do that). Nonetheless, while I know that there’s nothing we can do to earn God’s love, I often fall into the trap of believing there’s something I have to do (or not do) or say (or not say) or a way I have to act (or not act) to earn God’s “like“.

I’ve been a perfectionist pretty much since childhood, so I’m sure that plays into it. I have always strived for the best grades, to earn all of my teachers’ approval, and be the perfect Christian girl who has it all together (even when on the inside I know I’m not and I know I most certainly don’t). When I fall short it’s often an extremely aggravating experience for me and I tend to be far more dramatic about it than I should. I suppose in the back of my mind somewhere, I struggle with this false illusion (or delusion) that I can somehow be good enough and earn enough brownie points to earn God’s like. And as much as the Bible, churches, and evangelical culture tell me otherwise, old habits can be hard to break. Furthermore, this delusion can get all the more frustrating during an OCD episode, when my thoughts seem to be running in every sort of crazy direction with no control on my part—and I end up asking God for forgiveness 15 billion times for some frightening heretical thought or another.

As an OCD struggler, the lyrics to an old Anthem Lights song often ring so true for me.

Before I even know it I’m right back at the start. I’m doing what I hate and breaking my own heart“.

I think each one of us struggles with something. For me it’s OCD and perfectionism. For you, it may be something different. Maybe for you, it’s a struggle with an eating disorder, or a battle with depression. Maybe it’s self harm, or a temptation of some sort. Or maybe you don’t fit the mold of what you think a Christian should look like, and feel people judge you for it. I don’t know what your personal struggle is, or what difficulties you face, but I do know that even if your battle looks different than mine, the core feelings are often the same. Too often, faith can become a marathon instead of a resting place.

Nonetheless, in the midst of all of our our stress and failures and anxiety—God still likes us, delights in us even. Psalm 139:13 says

“For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.

My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth…”

God knows every inch of our personalities, our pasts, and our scars. He knows about our doubts and questions. He knows about our favorite foods and why our favorite movies touched us so. He knows about that time that hurt like nothing else could. And yet He rejoices in saying that “This is my Creation, this is my son or daughter. There is no one else like them.”

Not only does God loves us, He likes us too!

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