21 Lessons in 21 Days: Thankfulness 

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This post is apart of the blog series 21 Lessons in 21 Days

Lesson Seventeen: Being more thankful to the Lord.

Today I taught my kids about the story of the healed leper in the bible. In the book I read them called The Thankful Leper, there were 10 men with Leprosy- a skin disease that makes you break out in sores. The men would cover up their diseased skin with cloth and they’d have to yell “unclean!” each time someone passed in fear of getting others sick. Well, one day Jesus healed all 10 of them because, you know that’s what He did, but surprisingly only one of the men thanked Jesus for His miracle. It’s easy to read about that story in present times and judge how ungrateful those other 9 men were, but when I look at my own life, I can shamefully say that I have done the same.

I noticed that I thank God when something big (in my eyes) happens, like an obvious answered prayer, or an unexpected blessing. But I don’t thank Him for the everyday things I take for granted. The things like waking up in the morning, the opportunity to be teaching the precious little ones about Him, and the relationships I’m building everyday. It’s not that I’m not thankful or grateful, I just forget to mention them in prayer sometimes. Reading that story to my little ones today reminded me how much God should be glorified for the blessings He’s placed into our lives. That includes the everyday things we may not think too much about. This year I came up with an idea where each night I would write out a list of things I’m thankful for, no matter how big or small. I found that it helps me see positives in each day that I wouldn’t have thought about otherwise. I’m so grateful for Gods subtle reminders of what’s important to Him.

21 Lessons in 21 Days: Context

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This post is apart of the blog series 21 Lessons in 21 Days

Lesson Sixteen: We should always consider the context when dealing with difficult people.

We all know atleast one person that is almost impossible to deal with. I’m talking about those mean-spirited, bitter kinds of people that talk to you with so much disgust in their voice that it feels personal. If you’re anything like me you tend to stay far away from them, and you probably talk about them from time to time. But what if we took the time to think about why they act the way that they do, instead of reacting in the way we normally do?

Life hurts sometimes, and our pain can sometimes cause us to act in ways that are not like ourselves. If you’ve read my last blog, you know that I really value taking time to completely heal from past hurts. What often happens when we don’t allow ourselves to heal is this massive build up of bitterness and anger. The build up can get so big that it ends up affecting all that is around us, and we quickly become that mean-spirited person we try to avoid. That’s all it really takes. We are all just a few steps away from being that person.

Knowing this, we should consider the context when dealing with those really difficult people. The same way not everyone knows what we’ve been through on a bad day, we don’t know what a person may be going through when they act that way towards us. Just think about what it is that they could be dealing with that has made them the way they are when you encounter them. Think about all of the people that avoid them, or reciprocate their negativity instead of being loving towards them. The majority of people they run into probably won’t even care what has made them that way, but we are cut out to react differently. So let’s try to act the way Jesus would. Be understanding. Don’t react in their same manner. Meet their mean words and attitudes with kindness. Don’t take their ways personal because truthfully, they’re having a battle within themselves, not with you.

Not long ago this year I was traveling with a group of people, and one of them pretty much complained the entire time. Nothing we did or said seemed to make her happy. We kept quiet for the most part until she completely insulted another member of the group one day. All throughout the trip we kept our frustrations to ourselves, but once she “crossed the line” we all lost it. We couldn’t hold back the way we were feeling about her negative attitude and how much she was ruining the trip with it any longer. It was bad. She ended up being so upset that she cried. At first I was so annoyed that I didn’t even care about her being upset, but soon I started to wonder why she acts the way she does. I felt bad for her. I couldn’t imagine being so unhappy that it spreads into any and everything I do. I had to put things into context and really try to understand where she was coming from, which wasn’t easy because it meant I had to put my pride to the side and put her needs before my own. That day I definitely was reminded to treat people the way Jesus would have.

21 Lessons in 21 Days: Healing Takes Time


This post is apart of the blog series 21 Lessons in 21 Days 

Lesson Fifteen: The healing process takes time. Don’t run from it, learn from it.

Did you ever get hurt as a child, and get frustrated at how slowly your wound(s) were healing? If I remember correctly, it especially sucks when you’re on a sports team and your wound prevents you from participating for a while. In the same way, internal wounds can take a long time to heal, leaving us really frustrated that we can’t immediately get back to regularly scheduled programming. Our internal wounds can come from a wide variety of things like divorce, break-up, sexual assault, infidelity, addiction and abuse. While these things are truly painful to go through, it’s important that we don’t rush the healing process (or try to ignore it as a whole). When we try to go back to regularly scheduled programming while we’re still wounded, we end up doing an ineffective job. It’s kind of like a soccer player trying to play in a game with a broken foot that hasn’t healed all the way yet. It will only hurt yourself and those around you.

Healing takes time. Our wounds can only begin to heal once we allow ourselves to focus on them. It’s a process. And the best way to prolong the process, which is not ideal, is to pretend that it doesn’t need to happen. So, allow yourself the appropriate time to fully heal. Focus on the wound. Learn from it. Endure the process so that you can return to your life ready to effectively take on the world.

21 Lessons in 21 Days: Spiritual Gifts

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This post is apart of the blog series 21 Lessons in 21 Days

Lesson Fourteen: spiritual gifts can reveal undiscovered passions

I remember the first time I found out that God gives all of his children spiritual gifts. I was so interested to know which ones He gave to me specifically. After some research I learned that the reason we have spiritual gifts is to minister to one  another. Not everyone had the same gifts, so we’re supposed to use our personal gifts to help those that aren’t gifted in those same areas (1 Peter 4:10). Gifts are given for us to carry out the work of Jesus in the world. 1 Corinthians 12: 27-31 talks about the various spiritual gifts, such as prophecy, mercy, faith, wisdom, and teaching.

When I dug a little deeper on my research, I found that my gifts were of  mercy, wisdom, and faith. Each description for those gifts explained me completely. The gift of mercy is all about the sharp, sensitive awareness of another person’s needs. Merciful people sense other people’s pain and share it with them. The gift of wisdom involves using experience and God’s Word to give advice/feedback. A person with the gift of faith exhibits a simple confidence in God and it shows in everything they say and do. That’s me in a nutshell.

Since I’ve learned some of the gifts God has woven into my being, certain ministries have become really appealing. I love being in a position to take care of and love people while sharing their pain and experiences. I love sharing my wisdom and expressing the faith I have in God for all to see. My passion for mission trips makes sense when you think about my gifted areas. I get to love on/hang out with all kinds of people while sharing things like a culture and faith stories. As Christians spiritual gifts are such a huge part of our lives. It explains so much about our characters and uniqueness. If you don’t know which gifts God has blessed you with, I encourage you to find them out. This year, while I was doing all of my research, I came across some ways to help learn which spiritual gifts a person possesses. Here is a summed up list of what I found.

1. Learn about the spiritual gifts. Study scriptural passages about them and gain a good understanding of them.

2. Pray for guidance. Whether you think you have an idea of your gifts or not, pray about them. God will reveal them to you with time.

3. Make a commitment to God. He often shows us our gifts through opportunities to act them out. Trust in Him and do whatever He asks if you.

4. Examine yourself. Look at how God has already been at work in your life. Review past accomplishments and present interests. What are you good at? What do you love doing?

5. Seek confirmation. Do other people recognize the same gifts in you?

6. Try out the gifts you think you may have. Volunteer in ways that you can use your gift.

7. Look for results. Effective? Use this gift in ministry, take training opportunities, expand your knowledge, read books and speak with other Christians that have the same gift. Ineffective? Look to try out new gifts.

8. Continually pray for guidance and strength in the use of your gift(s) and ask God to open your eyes to the needs of others that your gift may address.

Once you find your gifts, you’ll know in your heart. Never stop using them, and helping others discover theirs too.

21 Lessons in 21 Days: Be Still

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This post is apart of the blog series 21 Lessons in 21 Days

Lesson Thirteen: you can hear a lot more when you take the time to be quiet.

In a world that constantly bombards us with new things to do and look at, it can be difficult to just sit and be still. I find that I have to be really intentional with isolating myself sometimes because it’s so easy to be sucked into what’s going on in the world. What’s on social media, what’s in the current news, what everyone is doing in the moment are all things that are continually being brought to our attention. You tune in for what’s intended to be a few minutes, and end up losing hours at the blink of an eye. The thing is, when we’re constantly distracted by the world we don’t leave any time to spend with ourselves or with God. How are we supposed to be in tune with what’s going on within if we don’t take the time to listen? And how can we expect to hear from God if our attention is always focused on our screens?

We hear the most when we’re quiet. Ironic, isn’t it? Its in moments of silence and solitude that we can clearly hear our own thoughts and Gods voice. There have been countless times this year where I set aside time to just sit and be still, and my thoughts automatically revealed feelings id been harboring without noticing. In fact, most of my blog ideas come to me when I’m sitting alone with God and my thoughts. I challenge you to try it. When you have the urge to pick up your phone, or to turn on the TV, don’t. Sit and think instead. Free your mind. Draw, write, go outside and admire what’s around you. I promise that all your suppressed thoughts will flow right then and there.

21 Lessons in 21 Days: Making Unpopular Decisions 

This post is apart of the blog series 21 Lessons in 21 Days

Lesson Twelve: Sometimes you have to make healthy decisions for yourself even when they’re not popular.

Taking the road less traveled sucks. Here you have a crowd of people going in one direction and you’re the one person leaving that crowd to do your own thing. That takes an enormous amount of courage. You have to worry about what other people will say about you, or how you may look to everyone else. It’s hard, but the road less traveled is usually the better road to take, especially when the road leads to a healthy personal decision.

Life is full of choices. In any given day there are a large variety of things to choose from, whether it’s the amount of time you hit snooze in the morning, or which pair of shoes to put on. Those tend to be some of the more simple choices in life (ok, maybe not the snooze part), but what about the more difficult decisions? Things like choosing whether or not to leave that friend or significant other that only brings negativity to your life, or choosing a college/career. We tend to lean towards the more popular choice, which is usually the opposite of the healthiest choice. Always choose the option that will benefit your personal welfare. If it comes down to it, part ways with that friend/significant other that doesn’t treat you well. Choose the college or career that best suits you rather than what is most popular or most known. Choose to leave that place that has left you stagnant and take the road to new experiences.

This year I was put in a position where I had to choose between staying in a place that was no longer good for my mental health or leaving. I was seriously considering staying because of how many amazing relationships I built in this particular place. I knew they wouldn’t want me to go. I also knew, though, that I would not be able to strive there any longer, and that I would be hurting myself by staying. So I chose the hard decision to leave, even though it was the least popular route. I know that a healthy decision is the best decision, and that only I know what’s best for me. As long as I continue to follow God’s direction for my life, I’m confident that everything will be just fine.

21 Lessons in 21 Days: Actively Living Out Our Telos 

This post is apart of the blog series 21 Lessons in 21 Days

Lesson Eleven: Everything we do should revolve around our telos

This is a fairly new lesson learned for me this year. About two weeks ago a rather popular pastor, Judy Peterson, spoke at the Sunday service I attended at Pilgram Pines camp. It was a message that really stuck with me. She talked about the Greek word Telos, which means the point of everything. If someone asked you what the point of your life was, what would you say? I hadn’t really thought too much about it until I sat there that Sunday morning listening to Judy speak. She talked about how the world tries to sell us a point, and our friends/family think they know our point, which can sometimes leave us feeling like we’re all over the map. And it’s so true. When you aren’t sure of your “point” you can be easily swayed by the endless opinions of others. It’s easier to carelessly give up on things that could be important, and as Judy says, detours end up derailing us.

So, what is the point? What is our point as Christians? Judy led us to the greatest commandments to answer this question for us. 

Matthew 22:37-39 NLT

37 “Jesus replied, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

With that being said, our everyday life and day to day details should be aligned with our point. People should know our telos just by our actions. The way we talk to and treat people should be a direct  reflection of it. How can we make sure we’re actively practicing this? Judy suggested that an effective way is to ask ourselves what the point is (without a sarcastic tone) throughout each day. She suggested that we remind ourselves of why we are here and why we do the things we do. When we remind ourselves, we can make decisions that revolve around our point. We’ll be more inclined to be kind to someone who is always mean to us, or to forgive someone who isn’t even sorry.

21 Lessons in 21 Days: Disciplined Prayer

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This post is apart of the blog series  21 Lessons in 21 Days

Lesson Ten: Consistent, disciplined prayer is key.

Now I don’t know about you, but I’ve always struggled with praying. Before eating a meal I would say a speedy prayer, and I would say a very desperate one when bad things were happening in my life. Aside from that, my prayer life was pretty much non-existent. I think what made consistent prayer so hard for me was how boring it seemed. I felt like I was just talking to myself, and I didn’t really understand the point of prayer in general.
Over the past year I’ve learned so much about prayer and it’s importance. Prayer is direct conversation with God. It’s the best possible way to communicate things to Him. I learned that not all prayer is the formal “Dear Lord…. In your name I pray…Amen” kind of prayer. It can be just a regular conversation, the same way you would talk to another human. I learned that prayer can be as long or short as we would like it to be, as long as it’s genuine. It’s the content God cares about. Aside from being our direct contact with God, prayer is the biggest way for us to fight on one another’s behalf. It is so important to pray for people who don’t know how, or are too weak to pray for themselves. It’s critical that we pray for the healing, safety and protection of those that really need it. Prayer is how we fight in the spiritual realm.

Once I learned how vital prayer was, I began to wonder how I could be better disciplined at it. One of the first things I was told was to pray for a stronger desire to pray. I had to laugh at the fact that the answer to a better prayer life was to pray. The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. So that’s exactly what I did. Another suggestion I got was to start praying really small prayers throughout the day so that I didn’t feel the need to force a long prayer out all at once. I started to do that. I said prayers like “thank you Lord for this day”, or “Thank you got waking me up this morning Lord”. I started finding ways to make praying more fun. I would pray for someone in my head after just meeting, talking to or walking by them. I created a “prayer jar”, where I put a bunch of people’s names and prayer requests on pieces of paper and picked a few out each day to pray for them. I started praying for people that randomly came to my mind throughout the day. Today I pray alot more than I did a year ago, but of course I still have my days when I forget or just get too busy. Consistent, disciplined prayer is still a work in progress for me, but maybe it is something we can now work on together.

21 Lessons in 21 Days: God Doesn’t Cause Pain. He Works Through it.

This post is apart of the blog series 21 Lessons in 21 Days

Lesson Nine: God doesn’t cause pain. He works through it

Often times I find myself asking the question, in a despairing voice, “WHY ME?”. It’s usually during or after something really painful and challenging has occurred. Lately I’ve been asking myself that question a lot as I process through my most recent traumatic events. As much as I ask myself that, you’d think I didn’t know the answer, but deep down I do. We live in a broken world, where sin runs rampant and awful things happen to all types of people. This was not at all Gods plan. This is not how God created the world to be. There will come a time when He will put an end to all of the brokenness within this world but until then, we have to endure through the unfair, painful hardships and focus on the goodness of our Lord.

After years of working through the most painful moments of my life, I realized that God doesn’t cause our pain. In fact, once it happens, He redirects the pain for our benefit. He loves us so much that He takes every negative thing in our life, meant to destroy us, and creates beauty out of it. He teaches us lessons through our pain. He shows us glimpses of our characteristics, like perseverance and strength, that we didn’t even realize we had. He teaches us to rely on and trust in Him through our pain. It’s in our hardest times that He is most intimate with us, as long as we allow Him to be. He takes heartache and turns it into empowerment. He takes hopelessness and turns it into a strong faith in Him. He uses our pain as an opportunity to shape us into the very people He created us to be. He reveals our ministry to us through our pain, because it fuels our passions.

No, we don’t want hardships to come our way, but isn’t it so cool that when they do come, they’ll serve the purpose of feeding our growth for God’s kingdom?

21 Lessons in 21 Days: Discomfort Makes Way for Self-Discovery

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This post is apart of the blog series 21 Lessons in 21 Days

Lesson Eight: uncomfortable situations make way for us to discover aspects we never knew about ourselves.

Discomfort is one of those concepts people tend to shy away from. Most want nothing to do with it. Truth is, though, uncomfortable situations breed growth and a new level of self-awareness. Some people cringe when they think about intentionally placing themselves in uncomfortable situations because they automatically think of the worst case scenarios. Discomfort doesn’t always mean painful and dramatic situations, though. It usually just means a new experience, like saying or doing something you normally wouldn’t. Discomfort means taking an essential risk. It seems to be impossible to get where you desire to go in life without being uncomfortable at some point along the way. We have to embrace discomfort in order to explore and expand our capabilities.
Some of the things I’ve grown more comfortable with this year, that I would’ve cried my way out of before, are praying out loud and talking in front of alot of people. In the past I would refuse to do it no matter what it meant to the person asking me to do it. I realized that my fear was stemming from insecurities. I didn’t want to look or sound dumb in front of others. I didn’t want to say or do the wrong things and get made fun of. The only way I grew more comfortable with it was by saying yes to the opportunities I was offered, despite how much I wanted to say no and hide somewhere instead. I still struggle with praying out loud and having to talk in front of a bunch of people, but each day that I allow myself to experience that kind of discomfort, it becomes a little less scary. I never thought I would be able to grow in these areas, yet here I am! Last week I gave awards away at camp without having any anxiety. Progress.

You, too, can grow more comfortable with the things that make you cringe. Ask yourself what you’re afraid of or uncomfortable doing, and instead of shying away from those things, walk towards them. You’ll be amazed by how much you learn about yourself during the process. Make sure you have people around that will support you and keep you accountable in conquering those things. And remember- Some of God’s deepest work in our lives comes during times of discomfort, and that’s because it’s within those times that we are in a position to rely on Him more.