Fix My Eyes

“Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.” – C.S. Lewis. 

In our day to day life, it can be so easy to get caught up in our everyday troubles, and miss what matters most. To miss the one thing that we were put in this earth to do; know God and make Him known.

Recently, this has been something that God has been placing heavily on my heart, and I felt led to share. It is something that I have been learning, and processing, and figuring out in my own life. Something that I cannot say that I live out perfectly, but that I have been striving to improve in. Something that I feel like every Christian must grasp in order to grow.

Hebrews 12:2 says much of what I would like to try to say in this blog, as it reads, “Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed – that exhilarating finish in and with God – he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.” (MSG). As Christians, we are running a race. And if we want to achieve full victory, we must keep our eyes on the prize, which is Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

I cannot stress enough how easily it is to stray our focus onto other things. It is something that I battle in my own life, as a Christian college student in the 21st Century. There are a million things that scream for our attention as we struggle to juggle all of these things at once. I have seen this struggle in friends and peers in regards to school. I have seen this struggle with others in regards to work, or a goal of some sort. I know I personally have dealt with this in a variety of situations at various points in my life—ranging  from potential jobs to potential relationships. From lifelong dreams to algebra exams. 

However, last week in my hometown there was a shooting at a local high school. Someone took their own life right in the middle of the school. Tragedies like this remind me how important it is that we always keep first things first, and never let the everyday-ness of life distract from the things that God has put us on earth to do. To never let school, or work, or guy-drama detract from sharing God’s love with those who are hurting or who don’t know God at all.

There’s a world out there that is starving for love. That is starving for someone who is willing to reach out to them, and share the love of Christ. And as Christ’s hands and feet here on this earth, it is our job to spread that love to those around us. To never miss a chance to share the Gospel with someone, even if it may be uncomfortable in the moment. 1 Peter 3:15 says, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” (NIV). This is our calling as Christians, no matter what other callings God may have given us – to share His Word with the World.

To conclude, I would like close with a passage that I believe speaks into this. It’s found in Philippians 3:15-17 (MSG). “So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision – you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it. Stick with me, friends. Keep track of those you see running this same course, headed for this same goal.”

Every day is a new opportunity and a new chance to set our eyes on Jesus. To focus on our Savior and the mission fields that God has given us in our day to day lives.

To, in the words of the Hillsong New York Pastor, Carl Lentz, ‘Occupy all streets’.

What will we do with these opportunities?

What will we do with these chances? 

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How about you? What are some ways you are striving to ‘occupy all streets’ in your town for Jesus? I’d love to hear how Jesus is working in your lives in the comments below! 

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Perfect

“I got a couple dents in my fender. Got a couple rips in my jeans. Try to fit the pieces together. But perfection is my enemy. And on my own I’m so clumsy but on Your shoulders I can see. I’m free to be me.” – Francesca Battistelli, Free To Be Me.

I was approximately nine years old when the song Free To Be Me, by Francesca Battistelli, first aired on the radio. My family was just starting to listen to the local Christian radio station around this time, and immediately, I resonated with this song. I felt like  Francesca Battistelli had written those lyrics just for me. Ever since I was young, I have always struggled with perfectionism.* And, in some ways, it is still something that I struggle with from time to time today.

To give you all some context on this, I’ve recently discovered that I’m an Enneagram 1w9. Ones are notorious for being perfectionists, and they tend to set extremely high standards for themselves. On the surface level, this can look like a good thing. I’ve never drank or used drugs, I’ve always made pretty decent grades, and I do my best to be kind to the people around me. These are all good things. The not-so-good thing is how, at times, I’ve made my faith about me more than God. How I’ve sometimes put my worth in what I’ve done rather than what Jesus has already done for me. How I put weights on myself that Christ never intended for me to carry.

A couple of years ago, back when I was still in high school, I read a book about this by Emily P. Freeman called Grace For The Good Girl. I wrote about it in a previous blog post, here. The author, like me, has struggled with perfectionism for most of her life. She writes, in one part of the book, describing her struggle, “When bad girls perform to get their needs met, they get in trouble. When good girls perform to get the same thing, we get praise. That is why the hiding is so easy for us. We work hard, we do right, and we try not to ruffle feathers. And even if we do all that by the strength of our own selves, we tell ourselves it’s okay. It seems to work, therefore it’s acceptable.It is not wrong to try to do the right thing, and follow God’s ways and His heart to the best of our ability. The problem occurs when we put our worth in what we do rather than who we are in Christ. When we rely on ourselves rather than relying on God.

Here’s the thing guys, Jesus did not come so that we can make a couple small behavior adjustments and throw Him into our backpack along with our grades and our accomplishments. He came to completely wreck our lives with His love and make dead people alive! To quote Emily P. Freeman once again, “The story of redemption and healing is that Jesus came to exchange my not-good-enough with his better-than-I-could-ever-imagine. He came to trade my life for His, my weak for His strong, my ashes for His beauty. He longs for each of us to receive the gift of Himself.” It is only when we fully grasp this truth that we can really experience the fullness of God’s power and the freedom that He intended for us to have in Christ.

If any of you are like me, and struggle with perfectionism, I want to challenge you to sink more into Jesus. To rely on His power more than your own. To realize that this journey with Jesus is so much grander than to-do-lists and checklists and trying to be good. To fall in love with Jesus and live your life as an outpouring of that love. To realize that grace is not simply the thing that we experience at salvation, but the thing that carries us and sustains us through the rest of our days and the rest of our life. 

To live faithfully, clinging to Jesus every day and every moment. 

Bringing your best, and trusting God with the rest. 

Loving God and loving people every step of the way. 

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*Full disclosure: I’m also a tad clumsy. So I can also admittedly relate to that part of the song.😉   

How about you guys? Do any of you struggle with perfectionism, or trying to win the approval of God and others? If so, feel free to share about it below! I’d love to discuss this in the comments! 

International (Christian) Woman’s Day

Fellow Women,

Let us be women of faith, shining an example for others to follow.

Let us be brave, daring to fight as equal partners alongside our brothers in faith. 

Let us be strong, never being afraid to step out, speak out, and defy the status quo. 

Let us never lower our standards for ourselves or our dreams, but dare to be all that God has called us to be – living as the ‘ezer‘ that God has created us to be.

Let us never settle, but choose to wait for a man after God’s own heart, who will love and respect us in equal measures.

Let us be a voice in our generation, daring to live original in a world that expects a carbon copy

Let us speak up for woman around the world who lack the opportunities that we have been blessed with, in freedom and in education.

Let us be compassionate, always remembering that God values our heart more than our appearance or accomplishments.

Let us be leaders, and be the hands and feet of Jesus to those whom God has placed in our paths.

Finally, let us be warriors – for all that is good, and right, and noble, and just, and pure.

And let us never forget that we are loved, valued, and cherished by a God who has created us, on purpose, for a purpose

Let us never forget our identity in Him! 

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Brave Faith

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” – Matthew 28:19-20. 

Over this past weekend, there was a huge Christian revival that took place in Orlando, Florida called The Send. The purpose of this revival was to revitalize a generation to go out and share Jesus with their high schools, colleges, and communities. Unfortunately, I was not able to attend in person, as I got sick that same weekend, but I was able to watch it through a livestream, and it was pretty incredible. Thousands upon thousands of believers – all ready to impact the world for Christ. 

Let’s be honest, it can be all too easy to stay in our foxholes as Christians, never venturing out to do the one thing that we have been called to do as Christians. It can be so easy to play it safe, and miss opportunities that God might be giving us to share His love with those around us. For many of us, it can be hard to even know where to begin.

How can we share Christ with a world that is too often hostile towards our faith?

In many ways, this will look different for everyone. God has placed us all in a unique set of circumstances with a unique call to share the Gospel. Some of you reading this may be being called to full time ministry – as pastors or missionaries in a third world country. Others reading this may feel convicted to be more open about faith at their high schools. Still others may read this and think of a co-worker, or a friend, who does not know Jesus. We may not all feel called to share our faith in the same way, but there is one thing that I know and believe with absolute certainty. We are all called to share our faith in some way with those God has placed into our path. 

This could be as simple as telling someone that you’re praying for them. Or, inviting them to church for a special event. Sometimes God will call us to share our faith in a way that is outside of the ordinary but often, it will just be through acts of everyday faithfulness and kindness. If we continue to keep our eyes on Jesus, and follow Him wherever He might lead us to go, I fully believe that He will show us exactly what we are called to in this season and this chapter of our life. 

Therefore, I want to challenge you to boldness. I want to challenge you to step outside of your comfort zone and be the light that God is calling you to be. Matthew 5:13-16 says,

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

God is calling you to make a difference right where you are.

God is calling you to share His extravagant love with the world.

God is calling you to be the change!

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“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” – John 15:13 

How do you feel that God is calling you to share Him with your world this week? Feel free to comment about it in the comments below – I’d love to hear how God is working in your lives!😃✝️❤️

Guest Post – What Happens When You Give God The Pen

Hey everyone – in honor of today being Valentines Day I have asked my good friend Julia Carvalho (a name you might recognize from a previous post) to write a guest post for my blog. Her story is truly amazing and a testimony to God’s goodness and faithfulness! She has a love story that only God could’ve written and the first time I heard it, I was beyond inspired – and I believe that this story will inspire you the same way it inspired me!

So, without further ado, here is her incredible post and story!

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Once upon a time, there was this girl. When she was thirteen-years-old, she read this cheesy romance novel and the main character mentioned that she had letters for her future husband. As a thirteen-year-old, nothing sounded more romantic than writing letters to a man she didn’t even know existed. However, even though she didn’t know who he was, she knew that God had already set him apart for her.

So, her first entry in her designated “Dear Future Husband…” notebook was not a love-letter, but instead, a prayer. A prayer that God would bring them together in His perfect timing, a prayer for strength for both of them to stay pure and follow His ways, and of course, at thirteen, a prayer that he was the most handsome man on the planet.

As the years went by she continued to write prayers and letters in this little notebook. She would write about her day, what was going on in her life, her struggles, her victories, really wishing she could look into his eyes and speak to him instead of gliding her pen through her pages. Fast-forward to holiday season 2017…or maybe a little before then. She was eighteen- years-old now, and it had been three months since her family had moved from the one city she had ever known, and she was still heart-broken.

Finally, by November, Jesus worked within in her in ways that only He could move, and she realized that she was never alone, that through it all, Jesus was right beside her, holding on to her and guiding her. So, despite craving a romantic relationship so badly, because all her friends were starting to date, she decided that she was content with just Jesus. If that was all she had in her whole life, she would be content.

The same book she read when she was thirteen came out with a continuing series of the
main character’s life following her through her college years. In the second book of the college series, the main character tells God that she no longer wants to hold the key to her heart. She no longer wanted to decide which guy could come in, because they ended up just leaving a mess in there. So, the character gave God the key to her heart and decided to let Him decide when the time was right.

The girl from our story thought that was beautiful, and it was the same sentiment she was feeling in the weeks before, so she prayed the same prayer. For the first time in her life, she truly felt satisfied. And honestly, she thought that since she had prayed that prayer, God’s perfect timing would be lightyears away and she wouldn’t have to worry about boys for a very long time, but, my friends, was she so very wrong.

Not even two weeks later her parents tell her that one of her dad’s lifelong friends from Brasilia (the capital of Brazil) was going to be in Orlando during Christmas time and they would be spending Christmas together. She was so mad. Finally, Christmas Eve arrives and the families are introduced.

Long story short, girl meets boy, girl hates boy and thinks he is a stuck-up brat (boy also dislikes girl). Next day, boy is super sweet and genuine and girl’s heart melts, girl says boy looks like a homeless man who found his clothes in the dumpster (hey, I guess no one told him you shouldn’t wear a super hole-y shirt on Christmas), girl is embarrassed she just called the cutest boy ever a hobo, boy laughs and thinks girl is so incredibly cute and loves her honesty, boy and girl try to get families to hang-out as much as possible during the holidays, boy falls in love with girl, girl falls in love with boy, boy flies 2,000 miles back home to California… *record scratches* wait, what?

“Jesus, now what? That’s all I have to say, now what?”

So, in case you haven’t caught on yet, the girl in the story is me, and we are at the most heart-breaking part of my story. I had finally met a boy who had the same passions as I did, who loved Jesus as much as I did, and who actually liked me back, but now he was flying across the country to go back to school. He would probably forget all about me as soon as he landed. He would definitely find a girl who was prettier than me and funnier than me. Why would he even want to be with me when we lived 2,468 miles apart (yes, I actually looked it up).

I definitely knew I wanted to date him, but I was so fearful that I was just falling into feelings and not into God’s will for my life. I was scared because I had never felt this way about a boy before. I had never been in a relationship before him, so everything was new. It was beautiful, and exciting, and terrifying.

Now, mind you, before he went back to California (and in the span of ten-days from meeting him to him leaving) God answered so many prayers about this boy. Like, so many. (To be honest, if I were to list all the prayers that God answered in those ten-days, we would be here until Valentine’s Day 2020. So, I’ll list the ones that were the most impactful, but if you want to know them all, just ask Courtney for my DM and we can talk.)

I was not afraid to ask God for big things. Things that couldn’t happen unless God was involved. For example, right after he left my house on Christmas, I realized we hadn’t shared any of our contact information with each other. So, I told God that if this boy found a way to contact me within 24 hours, that I would let him continue pursuing me. (keyword: him pursuing me, not the other way around.)

Eleven hours later, he found me on Instagram and sent me a DM. But then I was like, “Okay, God, but come on, it’s social media. Anyone could have found me there. So, if this boy asks to pray with me, then I’ll let him keep pursuing me.” Because what twenty-three-year old boy asks a girl he likes to pray with her?

Three days later, he asks if I would be okay with us taking turns praying every time we talked (we sent a lot of audio messages praying to each other). “Okay, God, I see You. BUT I’m not sold yet, so, if he asks to read the Bible with me, I’ll let him keep pursuing me.” 24 hours later, he asks me if I wanted to start a devotional with him on YouVersion. And my prayers went on for weeks, each time I was bolder and I was more specific in my requests. God never ceased to amaze me. He answered every single one of my crazy prayers within 24-72 hours. It was mind-blowing to me.

Little did I know, that by answering those requests, God was allowing me to be pursued by a man that I deserved.

One month and half of texting constantly, facetiming for 4-6 hours at a time, and tagging each other in memes on Facebook, he flew back to Orlando to ask my dad if he could date me. (Girls, take notes. Men like this actually exist in the world. Wait for them.) Tomorrow, February 15, Davi and I will have been dating for one year. I can honestly tell you that there were moments in my life before him that I wanted to date any boy that looked at me just because I wanted to be in a relationship. And I can honestly tell you that I am so glad that I gave God the key to my heart in those moments instead of letting my flesh takeover.

Women, I beg of you, wait for the one who God has set apart for you. Wait for the man who will take you to Magic Kingdom on your first date because you love Disney, even though he couldn’t care less for the Mouse. Wait for the man who will fly out and surprise you to help your family move. Wait for the man who will hold you while you cry, but who will look you in the eye and tell you the truth even when you don’t want to hear it, just because he knows it will make you a better person. Wait for the man who sees your beauty in Christ, and who wants to treat you with honor and respect. Wait for that man, because he is out there and so worth it.

Men, I beg of you, wait for the one who God has set apart for you. Wait for the woman who will go to a double-header soccer game to watch your favorite team with you, even though she doesn’t really understand the game. Wait for the woman who tells you what you are worth, because you deserve to be treated like a king. Wait for the woman who buys plane tickets to fly out to your sister’s wedding in Brazil. Wait for the woman who sees and respects you as leader in Christ, and who wants to trust and follow your lead. Wait for that woman, because she is out there and so worth it.

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Where Your Heart Is

“Being a Christian is more than just an instantaneous conversion. It is a daily process whereby you grow to be more and more like Christ.” – Billy Graham.

As Christians, we spend a lot of time talking about outward ministry (as we should). How we can be an effective witness to others. How we can share Jesus in our circles of influence. How we can shine our light for Christ. All of this is great, please don’t misunderstand this – I hope that these are questions that you are asking yourself every day. However, if we are going to be effective witnesses for Christ, we must first start inward—with the condition of our heart. We must first start with seeking after God’s own heart.

Jesus talks about this very concept in John 15. He says, I am the sprouting vine and you’re my branches.[e] As you live in union with me as your source, fruitfulness will stream from within you—but when you live separated from me you are powerless. If a person is separated from me, he is discarded; such branches are gathered up and thrown into the fire to be burned. But if you live in life-union with me and if my words[f] live powerfully[g] within you—then you can ask whatever you desire and it will be done. When your lives bear abundant fruit, you demonstrate that you are my mature disciples who glorify my Father!

“I love each of you with the same love that the Father loves me. You must continually let my love nourish your hearts. If you keep my commands, you will live in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands, for I continually live nourished and empowered by his love. My purpose for telling you these things is so that the joy that I experience will fill your hearts with overflowing gladness! John 15:5-11 (TPT). 

As Christians, we are called to be so full of love and so full of Jesus that it is contagious, and it spreads to those around us. People should look at us and see something beyond ourselves – they should see the love of Christ moving in and through us. Jesus talks about this in John 13:35 when He says “For when you demonstrate the same love I have for you by loving one another, everyone will know that you’re my true followers.” (TPT). We are called to fall in love with Jesus and spread this love to everyone that we know.

If you’ve been a Christian for a while than you’re probably familiar with terms like “falling in love with Jesus” or “it’s a relationship, not a religion“. These are terms that I personally have  heard since I was nine years old. However, there have been points in my life when it’s been hard for this message to really get through—for me to really understand this on a heart level. It is easy to go through the motions in our faith; reading our Bible, praying, going to church and Bible studies. It is something else entirely to maintain a relationship with a God that we cannot see. But once we encounter the width and depths of His love, our relationship with Christ will never be the same. 

As humans we are wired for relationships. We are wired to be connected to people in a deep and personal way. It doesn’t take more than a simple observation of children in a Kindergarten classroom to know that there is something in us that longs for connection. It is only in our older age, and acquired hurts that we start to believe the lie that we can go at it on our own. Christ wants us to approach our relationship with Him with the wide eyed innocence of children—throwing off chains of legalism and “religion” that too often characterize our approach to God. God wants your heart – not your perfection and not your works. He simply wants YOU! 

This Valentines Day, I want you to take some time reflecting on a different kind of relationship; whether you are single, dating, or married. I want you to reflect on your relationship with the God who loves you with an everlasting love and who left the glories of Heaven to pursue you. Who wrote love letters to you through His word and who continues to chase after you daily. I want you to see and experience the “overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, who chases you down, fights ’til your found and leaves the ninety nine”* – Fully embracing the fullness of God’s love, mercy and heart and sharing this breathtaking love with the world.

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God still loved us with such great love. He is so rich in compassion and mercy. Even when we were dead and doomed in our many sins, he united us into the very life of Christ and saved us by his wonderful grace!” – Ephesians 2:4-5 (TPT). 

*Words courtesy of Corey Asbury.

Role Models

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12 (NIV).

You are a role model. Whether you think so or not, there are people in your life who are watching you—and looking to your example for guidance on what to do—or, not to do. Whether it is a younger kid in your neighborhood, a younger sibling, or a cousin, you are already a role model in someone’s life, even if you are still relatively young yourself.

When I started this blog almost five years ago, I based my title largely after this theme, and the verse listed above. I was sixteen at this point, and have already had a number of role models who have influenced me in my own life—ranging from youth leaders, to celebrities (such as Bethany Hamilton and Francesca Battistelli), to older girls at my church. I also knew that as a Christian teenager, I wanted to set an example in my own life for those who were younger than me. People who were where I have already been, and who were striving to live out their faith to the best of their ability. I wanted to live out the words of this verse in my own life—and set an example for other people my age through speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity.

It doesn’t take long to look around at our society and see that as a whole, people don’t really expect much from middle, high school, and college students. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard people say “Oh but they’re a teenager! Of course they’re going to do XYZ!” Even at twenty, the stigma remains. It is simply assumed that people my age and younger are going to party, drink, and sleep around*. It is something that is simply thought of as something that is normal for people our age.

However, we have the chance right now at our current age to be the change that we want to see in our culture. We have the chance to rise up and be role models for the next generation, defying the expectations that come with youth. We have the chance to be a leader in our spheres of influence for Christ. To rise up and defy expectations—running passionately after our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Recently, I had the chance to talk to a younger girl at my church who is starting a Christian club at her high school. I know another girl who, at only fourteen has started making Christian vlogs and posting them to YouTube. These people are living examples that you are never too young to make a difference and lead people closer to Christ. You have the chance now—right where you are! 

I want to challenge you to go into your week with this takeaway: you have a chance to be a role model in your generation. You have the opportunity influence those around you in a positive way—it is up to you how you use it. Today, in this day, you have the chance to be a positive influence in the lives of the people around you. 

To lead people closer to Christ.

To encourage kindness in those around you.

To love people like Jesus.

To live a life characterized by faith and purity.

You have the chance to set an example. How will you use it? 

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“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:1-2 (NIV). 

*Note, if you have some things that you’ve done and regret in your past, I want to be the first to let you know that God doesn’t love you ANY less! He can still use you and use your testimony for His glory. I know a number of people who haven’t always been walking with Christ who are now fully on fire for Jesus—and making a difference for His Kingdom every day! You are never to far gone for our God!🙂