He Sees Beyond the Fig Leaves

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We’ve all been there. Everything was going so well. Hand and hand with God, talking to Him in prayer, fellowshipping with Him, including Him in those daily life decisions, praising Him, leading by His example with our actions. Those are the best, most peaceful parts of our lives. But all of a sudden, when we aren’t paying much attention, we stray away. We get distracted. Various situations aid in taking our eyes away from Him. These situations cause us to let go of His ever-present hand in order to hold onto something else. Its a downward spiral that usually starts with subtle negligence and ends in a fleeting faith, and a guilty “how did I get here?” The results? We end up feeling lost and distanced from God and that peaceful place we used to rest so comfortably seems far out of our reach. Truth is, that place isn’t far at all. He’s never left.

I need you to know that no matter where letting go of His hand has left you, God loves you regardless. There is absolutely nothing you can do to receive less grace and love from Him. He will never leave you. He will never forsake you. That build up of guilt and shame are exactly what the enemy wants us to be knee-deep in, but its all a deceptive bunch of empty lies. Let me tell you a little secret: God knows everything about us. He knows our passions, our deepest desires, our faults, and certainly our next move. Do you know what that means? He already knew you would stray away, and what distraction would enable that. He knows when you’ll come back to Him and which circumstance it will be under. I say that to remind you, and encourage you not to try to hide behind those fig leaves. He already sees what they’re covering- and He loves you nonetheless. So put all of those condemning voices in your head, the guilt, the shame, the doubts and feelings of inadequacy away because He’s still here, waiting. Waiting for your confessed sin, whether it be through pain-filled tears or prayer. That’s what tells Him we’re ready to grab ahold of His hand again. It shows Him we are ready to replace ourselves on the throne of our lives with Him, and find our way back to peace. Talk to Him.

21 Lessons in 21 Days: Singleness

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

Lesson Twenty One: Its okay to be single

I don’t know if it’s the nurturer nature in me, or the fact that I didn’t have my father in my life growing up that has made me really crave attention from the opposite sex, but ever since I was really young I’ve always wanted a male by my side. I had my first boyfriend in second grade, and it seems like from then on I continued to have one up until this year. I like long-lasting, deep friendship types of relationships. I love taking care of people and making them feel like the most special and cared for person in the world. I love the idea of bonding with and growing with one person for a long time. Somehow, though, the relationships I’m in always end up in a disaster. Anything from being cheated on, physically/emotionally hurt or just a random break up has occurred and left me feeling lower than the ground. I realized that I would place my identity in these people and once our relationship was over, it began to feel like my life was too. So I found myself jumping from relationship to relationship for a long long time.

In May I made a promise to God that I would take this most recent break up as a much needed break from relationships. Though it feels almost unnatural for me, I’m learning that it’s okay to be single. Singleness serves as a time to learn more about self and all the hidden beauties that are almost impossible to see when another person is constantly involved. It’s a time to focus on self without any distractions. It’s an opportunity to try new things without being held back, and a chance to get to know God on a deeper, more personal level. It’s scary, because I’m used to the total opposite, but in these four months I’ve already learned so much about myself and my self esteem is on the rise. My identity is being broken apart from other people and growing more into who God has called me to be. I’m exploring passions and falling more in love with who I truly am deep down.

As of now I don’t know how long I’ll be in this state of singleness but Ive become content within it. I don’t know what the future holds for my future love, but I’m learning what I want that to look like when the time does come. I don’t know what other amazing things I’ll get to learn about myself, but I’m excited to continue this journey of the unknown because I trust in the one who is leading it.

21 Lessons in 21 Days: Paul Perspective

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

Lesson Twenty: Having more of a Paul perspective

The theme of my last mission trip was “press on”, inspired by Paul’s insight in Philippians. Throughout the mission trip we studied Philippians 1-4 together in small bible study groups. I remember being in awe of the way Paul viewed his personal struggles. Despite his terrible setting of prison, he chose to stay joyful instead of displaying negative emotions. He understood God’s purpose for him, so he was able to compare his situation to the bigger, more important picture. He understood what the end goals were and that every situation is gain for the kingdom. Through it all he openly expressed his love for Christ and Christ’s people. How many of us rejoice and express love to others when we’re going through a rough time? I certainly don’t. It’s a hard thing to do.

During the San Diego mission trip I discovered that want to be more like Paul. I want to learn to embrace my struggles and take them as an opportunity to share the gospel. I want to learn how to be content in those struggles. I want to be confident that my trials are advancing the kingdom like Paul was in 1:12, and I want to know deep down that everything happening will deliver me into who God created me to be, the same way Paul did in 1:19. I want to one day be able to automatically see things the way that Paul did, and hopefully my struggles will attract people to God the same exact way Paul’s witnesses did jail 1:14.

21 Lessons in 21 Days: Fasting

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

Lesson Eighteen: Fasting helps you grow closer to God

This year I learned that fasting is a spiritual discipline. I used to think it was just something people did because they either wanted to diet or wanted to see how long they could go without something. I learned that fasting serves as a way to be more intimate with God. It’s an opportunity to become more dependent on Him, rather than those things we feel we need like food, social media, tv shows and phones in general. When done right, it makes you commit to God and focus on necessity.
I fasted for the first time this year and boy was it hard! I felt God leading me to do it. I kept hearing things about it at church and in random conversations, so I decided to try it. I gave up all food and social media for four days straight (it’s good to start short and work your way up). The four day time period I chose happened to fall on the first few days of RA training, which usually means lots of good free food. Whenever it was a meal time I would drink water and either read a bible plan on my phone or continuously say a verse in my head. I was doing really well until one day we had a mandatory staff dinner at a restaurant that served my favorite foods. I had to sit in front of and next to people that were eating my favorites and all I could do was drink my water and pretend not to be dying inside. I made it through the night somehow, but I feel like that was the ultimate test for me. And in the endurance of my fast I got closer to God, making our relationship grow stronger.

When Jesus fasted  he went without food for 40 days and 40 nights. And the same way I was tempted toward the end of my fast, He was too. He was really hungry, and the devil came along to remind Him that as the son of God He could literally turn a stone into bread and eat it. Even through His hunger, though, He knew that the Word of God was more important than food. He was able to keep His fast going because He relied on Gods strength. It’s such a powerful feeling to complete a fast without allowing any temptations to ruin it. So my lesson learned? Fasting is really important for learning to rely on God more, and you have to do it for the right reasons for it to be effective.

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: 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.