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.

21 Lessons in 21 Days: Friends Come in Seasons

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

Lesson Seven: it is inevitable to both lose and gain friends on this journey.

I believe that as we age and grow through life, we learn about our personal preferences- including the types of friends we surround ourselves with. And as our lives change, our priorities do too. When our priorities change, our preferences usually follow. My priorities used to revolve around my ex boyfriend and constant drinking/partying, so I used to only hang out with him and people that liked to party. But when he was no longer my priority, and partying/being drunk were no longer high on my to-do list, I stopped surrounding myself with the people associated with my old ways of having fun. I changed, and so did my priorities. Anyone who didn’t like the change seemed to disappear on their own.

Friendship pruning is really important. We have to rid toxic, energy-draining friendships so that healthy, rejuventing ones can begin to grow. We have to let go of people who aren’t supportive of who we are and what we stand for.  This year I lost friends that judged me and gained some that are understanding, and love me no matter what. I lost friends who saw no importance in what my life revolves around now, and I gained friends that have the same goals and pray for my success. I lost friends that did not have my best interest in mind and gained ones that are sensitive, supportive and aware of what goes on in my life- good and bad.

This year I learned that every friendship has its purpose. Friendships come in seasons. Whether short lived or long lasting, each one contains lessons learned. I’ve learned that we have to be the friend we want to have, and that selflessness can take us a long way in a friendship. Most importantly, I learned that we should be praying for our friends- their lives, purposes, relationships with God, their struggles and victories, their hopes and dreams, and their families. I’ve learned to be content with who God has placed into my life for a particular season because a friendship that only lasts 24 hours is just as important as a life long one.

21 Lessons in 21 Days: Mimicking the Freeness of Children

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

Lesson Six: We should try mimicking the sense of freeness little children have

There are so many different reasons I love kids. Perhaps the biggest reason is that I really admire the freedom they have at their young ages. Have you ever taken the time to just sit and watch the way kids act? If you have, you’ve probably noticed that they do whatever their little hearts desire. They say the funniest, most honest things. They have absolutely no filter because they don’t fully know what one is yet. They can dance and sing as if no one is watching. The smallest things make them happy. They’re silly and spend most of their child life laughing.

I often wonder what age, what moment in life that this sort of freeness ends for us. When does it fade? And how do we get back to it? Oh what I would give to be that young again, way before society bombards us with instructions on who we should be, how we should look, act and think. This year I’ve met a few people who still seem to have that fresh, child-like freeness little kids have. Even though they’re “young adults”, they still do things like carelessly sing and dance no matter who’s around. They still act silly in public and spend a lot of their time laughing. Small things still make them happy. I’m learning to be more like them. If we could all mimic the freeness of children, we’d be much happier and at ease. After all, “adulting” is highly overrated.

21 Lessons in 21 Days: Vulnerability

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

Lesson Five: Vulnerability is about interconnectedness

My most vulnerable moment was almost a year ago- the day I got baptized. Before I got into the water, I was asked to share my testimony with those that were there to witness the special day. I had never shared my story before, and I was so nervous to do it in front of so many people for the first time. I was wrestling with myself about how much I would share and what parts I wanted to cut out. I knew that the whole point was for me to honest about the things I was going to be leaving behind me and my motivations for getting baptized into the body. So I decided to do just that. I talked in depth about the pain I was moving on from and what I was looking forward to in my new life. Within my testimony, I shared about being sexually assaulted, not realizing that it would benefit someone I didn’t even know at the time just a few months down the road. Let me explain.

One day a girl, who is now dear to my heart, reached out to me asking to talk. She told me that she was going through the hardest time if her life and that multiple people directed her to me. She said she didn’t want to reach out to me at first because we didn’t even know each other, but my name just kept coming up every time she spoke to someone. After I talked with her a little more I found out that she was dealing with the same exact thing I had dealt with in the past. I found out that the people who directed her to me we’re all at my baptism. They must’ve remembered the things I mentioned in my testimony. I was so taken back by the realization that I was still witnessing the positives of my baptism so many months later.

Vulnerability is about interconnectedness. It fuels healing. It teaches people what they can help you with. It enables others to feel comfortable connecting with you about common struggles and encourages then to be more open too. When you deny an opportunity to be open and honest, you might sever a chance to help someone else. The conversations I had with my new dear friend were so meaningful. On multiple occasions she told me that I was the only one who understood exactly what she was going through. I wonder what would’ve happened if I decided to cut some parts out if my testimony that powerful day.

21 Lessons in 21 Days: Getting Plugged into a Solid Christian Community

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

Lesson Four: Getting plugged into a solid Christian community is extremely beneficial

One of the very first things I prayed for the moment I accepted Christ into my life was for a community of God’s people that I could grow and learn with. The very next day I was invited to a new church by a friend of mine. Little did I know how much that invitation would soon change my life. There a few things that drew me to this particular community of believers. The first is the way they welcomed me with open arms. Have you ever been the only new person in a particular place where everyone just stares at you and makes you feel completely out of place? Yeah, me too. After two years of looking for a church, thats the kind of awkwardness I was used to. This community was the total opposite. Instead of making me feel even more uncomfortable than I already was, people came up to me and were really interested in knowing who I was and what kind of background I was coming from. From the very first day there was a strong sense of belonging.

The second thing that drew me to this community was the value they placed on fellowship and relationships. There were so many events going on the summer I joined them. They would have church BBQs, women’s swimming nights, and even a baptism event. It was not uncommon to be invited to someone’s house for lunch or dinner just because they wanted to hang out and get to know me better (and it certainly was not uncommon for this hungry college student to agree!). They even threw me a birthday party once they heard I didn’t have anything planned for it! Hope Community Church became my home away from home. They truly made me feel like family.

Through reflections I’ve realized how impactful this community has been on my life this year. They openly loved and accepted me from the moment I walked through their doors. They kept me focused on God’s word and the purpose of this journey we call life. They showed me examples of what the body of Christ should look like, each part of the body holding one another up. They encourage each other and become strong where others may be weak. I learned that there is power in being vulnerable, and that healing usually follows. I’ve been taught the importance of healthy relationships and the accountability that comes with those relationships. It was within this community that I was motivated to get involved in some ministry opportunities, such as teaching children’s church, and going on my first mission trip.There is so much you can learn from being in a healthy, solid Christian community. The right community will help you evolve more and more into the person God has created you to be.