Harvest Time

Life is all about the seasons; some are good and some are bad. Sometimes we are hesitant to the change of a season, and other times it is embraced. As we immerse ourselves into fall, I’ve had seasons on my mind. They come like clockwork, and we all know the patterns: the weather starts to cool off (sometimes a little slower than I would like), and the leaves start to change color and fall off the trees. The trees go from lush, green, and full to dry, bare, and frail. We see this process and find beauty in the dry and barren trees, because we know that in just a few months the trees will flourish with new life and beauty. I want to look at my own life like this, but some days it is too hard to see the beauty in the empty parts of life. But we serve a God who faithfully turns our seasons over to new life and flourishes the barren places into beauty and restoration; He’s the one who creates rain after drought, and spring after winter. He’s the one who produces harvest after pruning.

Pruning is essential in plants. It removes the dead and broken areas and actually produces a greater harvest. Think of it as getting rid of the excess. It’s an essential step in growing, and spiritual pruning will beautifully mold us just as it does to a garden of roses. Though it does have a beautiful outcome, it’s the process that’s painful, uncomfortable, and confusing. It’s a process of development and faith in the new life to come. This new life is a full life that glorifies His goodness. He will delete the unhealthy areas that are harmful to growth and show decay, and give our fruitfulness better quality to the pruned areas. He rearranges the things that were once good for a past season, and produces the higher quality for what you are about to walk into. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful (John 15:2).

Ecclesiastes 3:1 reminds us there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. We have little control over the grand scheme of our lives as well as the details that go into each day because sometimes life is just an unpredictable mess, but God divinely arranges the seasons in our lives. He’s never early and He’s never late, and He’s oh so detailed. We are sure to bear fruitfulness when God is the source of life that we draw from.

God is well aware of the season you’re in. It is part of your story, and it’s a carefully orchestrated plan. Maybe you’re in the best season of your life (harvest), or you find yourself in a difficult one (pruning). He’s got it all mapped out, and He is a very detailed and careful planner who has the harvest in mind. I know that we can embrace our process of pruning as we realize that God is faithful in what He starts, and He won’t leave us empty.

Get ready. Your harvest is coming.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9).

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Thanks a Bunch

I’ve learned quite a lot about thankfulness in the past year, and it’s changed my life. Whether in the middle of organized chaos or your mountain top season, thankfulness will turn your heart upside down, and you’ll realize God is actually fighting for you, that He keeps His promises, and that He sees you. We can be thankful because…

The Bible says to. This is our number one reason for living a sincerely thankful life. When our hearts are sincerely in awe of God’s character, we begin to realize that we don’t deserve the way He made through Jesus, which truly turns the attention to Him. Thankfulness is entirely about God, not ourselves. Our existence is to glorify God; our very nature of living our lives out for God is an act of thankfulness. It’s our pleasure to do the will of God, because we were made for it (Philippians 4:4, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Psalm 32:11).

It displaces fear. And when I say fear, I am also talking about its close relatives too (worry, anxiety, stress). When we are busy putting Philippians 4:6 into practice, we are spending more of our time trusting and relaxing in the faithfulness of God to carry us through. I want to be there. I used to fear trusting in God (ironic, yes) because it would put me out of my own control, and leave me available for plans and possessions to be ripped from my hands. On the other side of surrender, I can assure you that God is not out to get you, but He does in fact want to give you an abundance of life at a higher quality than what you’re currently clinging onto for dear life.

It increases your awareness of Him. Sometimes I feel like God has taken a lunch break on me; maybe He left and decided someone else’s prayers were more interesting. Or maybe He is right in front of me, holding my hand as I carefully maneuver through every moment. Thankfulness makes me aware of who God is: never changing and always faithful in the darkest, coldest, lowest valleys. It makes me aware that even in the middle of my sorrows, He provides peace, comfort, and joy; that is something to be thankful for at any time of life.

It destroys discontentment. Discontentment is a competitive, negative, and exhausting disease. It will nag at you, persuading you that nothing is good enough. A “nothing is good enough” mindset can apply to any area of our lives in more ways than one if we’re not careful to keep it in check. However, a thankful heart will recognize the blessings already around you, and you realize God is sustaining it all so you don’t need to strive to keep up. Living in discontentment will actually create a hurdle that keeps us from doing what God has called us to do (Philippians 2:14-15; 4:11). It becomes all about shifting our focus to God, rather than to the ever-changing stuff.

 

It creates peace. By being thankful, we are celebrating who God is. Philippians 4:7 says that when we combine prayer and thankfulness, peace will wash over our hearts. This peace goes beyond what we can even understand. Again, it is completely from God, and not anything we could do for ourselves. It removes anxiety, replaces it with peace, and opens the door for God to move in our lives because worrying in circles is long gone. His warm presence will be openly invited when you decide to be thankful.

It is surrender at its finest. “In everything,” is a little part I like to skip over sometimes in Philippians 4:6. But I want to help you out here: God is not asking you to be thankful for a bad day, week, or year. I’m personally not thankful for what I’m going through right now, but I am incredibly thankful at how God is holding my family and me up in the middle of the most outrageous time in our lives. He asks that in the middle of your toughest (or best) times, be thankful for all of it. It’s easy to question God’s plan sometimes. But just when you think He’s misguiding your steps, you realize He was graciously arranging you to fit His mold in a way you could’ve never dreamt up if you tried. By being thankful, we are also expectant for all that God has in store in seasons to come.

These are only a few reasons to be thankful, and your reasons will be beautifully personal to your own life. But I hope that when life rains on your parade, you have a little umbrella to keep yourself dry. Oh, and remember to use the umbrella when it’s sunny too.

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The Day I Was Mad at God

Now before you read the title of this post and get concerned, let me inform you that I love God with all my heart, but this is an extremely raw post.

As many of you may know, my mom passed away on July 29, 2015. It was a day I never imagined I would be walking through as I barely stumble into adulthood. I needed her to help me pick out my wedding dress, and I needed her to help me as I raise my children someday. Not only those things, but I needed her prayer, love, and advice as I do everyday. It’s not fair. So not fair.

A few things led up to the day that dramatically changed my entire life. I was just coming home from an insanely amazing trip, excited to share what I experienced at Bethel’s WorshipU; I was bursting with everything I learned about music, Jesus, and myself. I was excited because we would soon go on a family vacation to have a break from life, and we would have a sense of “normal” to our interrupted life. But a whopping four days later, we got heart-wrenching news that my mom’s cancer spread viciously to her liver (which was then pronounced stage 4), with multiple lesions attacking it. When my parents came home with this news, it felt like someone took my stomach and tried to wring it out. I’ve never hated cancer more in my life. More importantly, I’d never been so angry in my entire life. And that’s what caught my attention.

You know, I’ve never understood (even through the initial diagnosis) why people become angry with God. I always wondered why they were angry toward a God who loves them, cares for them, and is good. That day I knew exactly what people meant. Let me be even more honest: I felt like God was sitting down just watching me cry as His arms were folded. I got in my car and I screamed as loud as I could handle. It felt dark, it felt lonely, and I felt stranded. I thought God left me. But He never left me. He’s also not going to leave you.

In this moment, I was not thankful. These were raw emotions to be felt and given back to God as our family moved forward into the terrible days ahead. I had to make the choice to not become bitter at my circumstances. A very hard choice.

From there it was a hard, consistent battle between trusting in God, and not acting like my mom’s life was not being threatened by a disgusting disease. What a difficult balance. Our family’s verse ever since the diagnosis is Psalm 112:7 which reads, “They have no fear of bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them.” This verse became more stripped down than ever, because in the midst of bad news, God would guide our family through it. We could confidently trust God to care for us. The Holy Spirit is our comforter, nurturer, and he’s with us everywhere we go at any moment that we call on the name of Jesus.

I know that my reasoning for being mad at God may not be the same as yours. I won’t pretend to try and know your reasons, because there are reasons very specific and personal to your life. But let me tell you something very important: God is not the source of your sticky situation. It’s not His will for your life to fall apart. It’s not His will for disaster, disease, loneliness, loss of a job, or whatever else you may be dealing with. All of earth’s beauty and order was destroyed the moment Adam and Eve ate the wrong fruit. But I’ve seen that God loves to turn things around for good, and He’s amazing at it (Romans 8:28) even if our “good” is not the same as His. He swings doors open that I couldn’t pry open for myself, and He closes doors to protect our paths.

It’s okay to be mad at God. He can take it because He’s pretty tough. It’s when we soak in our sorrow, wallow in self-pity, and remain in bitterness that we actually shut God out, making the problem far worse than it all ready is. Life is rough, and I know it’s excruciating when we don’t allow God to go before us. In as little as a week and a half, I’ve learned a few things that I hope will help you as you find yourself in a mess in this crazy life:

Remind yourself who God is. You may not believe the characteristics at the moment, but just do it. Write down all those verses that reveal God’s character. Remind yourself that He does see, He does care about details, and He does love fiercely. This is the perfect time for all your Sunday school memorizations to come out.

Acknowledge that your heart doesn’t line up with your head. Your head has all the Bible verses memorized, and it has the audacity to tell your heart that trials will increase your faith, but your heart doesn’t quite know if that’s honestly true. Your heart could care less about James 1 right now, and your heart doesn’t want to trust God. It’s this beautiful tension here on earth that we can bring these two areas of our being to the feet of Jesus, leave it there, and ask him to mend it. I’m learning that this is probably the most authentic form of worship.

Get into God’s presence. When you have no words, when you have no idea what to pray, worship. God’s presence changes your entire being the second He floods your space. All we have to do is call on His name and He comes running. Thanks Jesus for what you did on the cross for us. I don’t think we’ll ever say it enough.

Don’t power through and be “Mr./Ms. Super-Christian.” It is such a dangerous mask. The world is aching for authenticity, especially from Christians, and we cannot offer it if we are lying to ourselves about our emotions. Feel them and bring them to God. But please, I’m begging you not to mask your tender and real God-given emotions with a half-believed “God is good.” Get to the bottom of this so you can whole-heartedly believe it!

I don’t know what your situation is. But I hope these small amounts of realizations help you overcome your battles. The best part is God all ready won our battles, but we actually have to claim that over our life. Let’s claim it today.

“This is what the Lord says: Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord. He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives. But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” – Jeremiah 17:5-8

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When Your Emotions Run You Over

Sometimes I think I have enough emotions to go around. It just takes a downward spiral of events through the day for me to burst. We can pretend we’ve never had our fears, sad days, and pity parties (or cried embarrassing amounts of tears during The Notebook). As people, we are made to feel. I know this allows us to live colorful lives of joy and compassion, but I also know it comes with feeling the pain of life, whether it’s your own pain or someone else’s.

We have gradually become a culture that believes in following feelings, emotions, and hearts at all costs. This world is chanting the subliminal motto, “If it feels good, do it.” And this might be true… depending on where our compass is pointing.

There is a balance. We are constantly in a raging war over what we as humans desire, and living to be like Jesus with the help of the Holy Spirit. But it’s our greatest joy to win this battle; we get the chance in the midst of suffering on earth to purely love God. Galatians 5:17 tells us our flesh and Spirit are constantly conflicting so that we don’t live based on impulsive decisions. The tension of flesh and Spirit causes us to struggle, but it also allows for God to reveal His goodness.

God is not circumstantial. Isn’t this amazing? We are circumstantial; we get frustrated when things don’t go our way, and we love when they do. But God is always steady and constant. God is the very rock we are grounded on. God would be very unorganized if He only met our needs when He felt like it… or when we felt like it. His faithfulness does not depend on how I feel; this is why we see good things happen in the very middle of our sin. God is always faithful regardless of our feelings because He is head over heels in love with the ones He creates.

Keep your thoughts in line. The heart is our center of emotions, and we need it, otherwise we would be numb human beings with no substance and compassion. But anything headed for destruction (or life) starts in our thoughts. We have the power to think as Philippians 4:8 guides us: about things that are true, pure, and excellent. Our thoughts determine our speech and actions, and this is why Paul advises us in verse eight not only to think lovely thoughts, but also to practice them.

Walk with the Holy Spirit. We cannot accomplish godly thought patterns and actions just by trying super hard to be super Christian so we can look super perfect. No, the Holy Spirit produces love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness when we walk close to him (Galatians 5:22-23). It takes the pressure off of trying to live perfect because God carries that weight for us. James 3:10-12 also reminds us that we can’t live life by both the flesh and Spirit, just like fresh water and salt water don’t come from the same place. Only submitting our emotions to God can produce a Spirit-led life.

Our emotions are chaotic, but faith is not. Sometimes our emotions can take us on a roller coaster, and it’s a nightmare. However, it does not mean we camp out in our mess of emotions; we prayerfully choose to give our emotional chaos to God because He came to take it from us ages ago. Just because we have the choice of joy does not mean life it’s rainbows and butterflies; but it does mean God will empower us to walk in that choice. Although surrendering our own feelings may seem like our control is being stripped from us, it’s actually our greatest freedom to put our mess into God’s hands.

We are not empty human beings. We are created to love and be loved. When we submit all of our craziness to God, we walk in the power of feeling through our human heart while also walking in the power of God. Next time you need the steady heart of God, create space for Him to enter your mind and walk forward in this peace.

* Cue dance party to Taylor Swift *

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The Grace Mistaken for Perfection

I think we tend to have this odd, twisted perception of God’s grace sometimes and it causes a misunderstanding about how we as Christians should treat others (Christians or not) when they mess up. There are a lot of different ways to respond when you hear someone’s deepest secrets about their past, and I am not dismissing that sometimes there are painful decisions and consequences we all face because we’re human.

I believe it’s in moments of giving advice to others and walking people through to the other side of their mistakes that we find what’s really holding our own faith together. It’s our chance to show people how God sees them: chosen, forgiven, loved, and holy. It’s not a chance for us to condemn, shame, point fingers, tell them what they shoulda-coulda done so we can look like the perfect ones. We are only able to show people how God sees them when we have been changed by His heart for ourselves. Our reaction to others’ mistakes is often related to our view of God.

An attitude of condemnation teaches others that it’s all about playing the part of the “good Christian” and following the rules so God will like us. But I have great news: God has always loved us despite any good or bad action. That love from Him is never earned because it has always existed anyway.

Perfectionism and legalism say that we have to act good so that we are then worthy of God’s grace; anything below perfect has a negative connotation (side note: as a fellow perfectionist, the struggle is so real but it is okay to mess up). But this is a completely self-centered perspective rather than Christ-centered. If we are going to live in freedom, we have to change our thought process. So whether it’s to experience the fullness of God’s grace for yourself, or help someone else along the way, here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. You are not defined by your sin.

You have heard this 100 too many times especially if you have grown up in church, and it’s probably getting old, but I just reminded you again because it’s a true and powerful statement. John 1:42 describes Jesus and his first disciples, and Jesus gave Simon son of John the new name of Peter. Peter means “rock”, specifically for the foundation on which a church is built. The irony here is that Peter was the exact opposite: he was unstable and doubtful, but Jesus called him Peter based on what he would become solely by God’s grace. The Bible gives us a living example of how God sees us as a new person through His grace, and any damaged view of ourselves does not change this love!

  1. We are not the standard for someone’s actions; Jesus is.

A lot of times the most finger-pointing will come from people with hidden baggage because they may not have fully received the freedom of grace, so they depend on their human ability to play the part of God. We can’t afford to be the ones who allow our pride to get in the way of someone’s freedom and breakthrough because there’s just no time for it. Ultimately, are you looking for the credit and control, or do you want others to truly catch a glimpse of God’s heart?

We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.” -2 Corinthians 10:12

  1. Conviction is not the same as condemnation.

Conviction is from the Holy Spirit to gently draw us closer to the heart of God. It brings freedom, surrender, and sheds light on situations that seem dark. Condemnation often brings feelings of fear and shame, and also keeps us bonded to our sin while often keeping it hidden. Many times when the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, we have to take physical action to break free and this might be scary depending on the circumstances. However, the fear in each conviction and condemnation is much different: conviction makes it hard to stay the same in your sin, while condemnation will bring fear that causes you to hide.

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” – Romans 8:1-2

 

  1. Obligation versus love:

 

When we receive and experience God’s grace and love, we realize that we truly do not deserve it. It is out that recognition that we obey and please God. This is the difference between a love-driven action rather than religiously following “rules” and “what-not-to-dos.”

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age…” –Titus 2:11-12

 

  1. Nonbelievers are being misled.

It’s tough when we care about the hearts of people when they’re not living for God. But our harsh attitudes leave people running scared (or not even caring) and staying bonded to sin because of how we Christians have treated their mistakes. They are left with a misleading perception of who God is, and for the thousandth time they’re over being preached at. But our example of living according to the dos and don’ts is a life living in bondage and walking on eggshells in order to maintain the perfect picture that people have from the outside. It is the most destructive way and it’s the opposite of living in freedom under God’s beautiful grace that Jesus paid for. This was the gift of the cross, and it has gotten lost in translation because of our desire to keep things looking pretty and put-together from the outside.

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God… There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” – 1 John 4:7;18

 

Be reminded that we are privileged to live for God and obey Him. It’s not a chore, rather we do it out of love because we are so rarely chosen and treasured in the midst of our biggest mistakes. Because of the cross, we are not bound by the slavery to the law. We don’t have to spend our lives gaining God’s freedom and approval like we so often do for people. Allow this transformation in yourself to be a light that points others to the same truth.

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Digging Deeper

Roots are so important. We rarely see them, but they produce what we do see. If we see a withered plant, we can assume that the roots aren’t healthy. We as Christians need strong roots if we are ever going to survive in this world without looking like it.

If you have ever carved your name in the sand or built a sandcastle, you know that water or wind will erase it and it will crumble. In Matthew 7:23-27, we hear all about this concept. The man who builds a house on the rock (God) will be able to withstand any rain, wind, or storm because the foundation is secure. Anything else will crumble, like the man who builds his house on sand. The exact same thing goes for our lives: when our foundation is secure in Christ, our actions will reflect that foundation, and we will not be shaken. So how can we get to the place of healthy roots?

We have to kill the weeds. Weeds count for all the “bad stuff” in your life that will keep you from having strong roots in God. When we have strong roots in God, our lives will reflect that. Likewise, when our hearts are unstable, it will cause our actions to be unstable too. God can’t bloom the good things in our lives if we hoard the unhealthy things.

Remember He’s the source of our strength. Without the strength of a firm foundation, we have no room to grow and establish a stable heart that looks like Christ’s. John 15:4 reminds us that we can’t do anything without God. We can’t produce good fruit in our lives unless everything we are doing starts with God in the first place. When our foundation is prayer and the Bible, we will always produce the right fruit. This is especially key for the hard times; when our roots are strong and they rely on God’s strength, we are stable.

Trust God to supply your need. Once our actions show that God is our true source of strength, we can trust Him fully to give us what we need. The Bible says it better than I ever could: “But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7-8). Even when it doesn’t seem obvious that our needs will be met, He always follows through, so we don’t have to waste our time worrying. We will always bear the fruit when we root ourselves in Him.

You will harvest what you plant. This is simple, yet hard to accept when we want to go through life the easy way. It’s hard because a lot of times I want the results without the work. But I can’t lie to myself that way, and neither can you. Matthew 7:20 says, “Thus by their fruit you will recognize them.” If we back up to verses 17 and 18, Jesus explains that a bad tree can never grow good fruit, and vice versa. But we can’t live in denial and act like the poor actions that we sow will reap good results; if we want to establish ourselves in God, we have to see this reality. When you use God’s word as your foundation, it’s never a bad thing.

The world is watching and waiting for anything real and genuine. This world needs solid God-loving people who have solid roots. Let the world see the best version of God through your solid foundation. If you want change, you always have go back to these roots. This goes for challenging yourself, checking your motives, and redirecting your focus. The best part about God is that when we do find ourselves in a mess of dead roots, He breathes life into us to plant a completely new version that looks more like Him.

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My Plans Are Great, But…

I spent 30 minutes on Pinterest and I planned out my entire wedding: colors, dress ideas, food, venue, makeup, you name it (not realistically, but you get my point!). It’s quite enjoyable. Then again, I like to plan a lot of things. I like to plan tomorrow, and set myself up now for things five years down the road. I like to know what’s happening, where we’re going, and I like to know it right here, right now. I stay organized and on top of everything, and even think a week ahead of my to-do list in some cases. When I have a plan, I stick to it. And planning is all good…to an extent.

Over the past year, the most incredible thing I’ve learned is that God is a better planner than I am. He taught me very quickly and dramatically that I can make all the plans I want, but they really don’t matter, because God’s purpose always wins when I put Him first. My life looks nothing (seriously, I do mean in every aspect) like it did last April, but I love that. I love that God took me and placed me in this exact location at the perfect time; I love that I could’ve never dreamed it up if I tried. And that’s what allowed my perspective of trusting God to shift dramatically. I saw that even when I wasn’t looking, and even in moments I was resistant, He still cared for me enough to show me how faithful He is. Because here’s the thing: when we just simply let God take control, He arranges, plans, and organizes the finest details of our lives in a way that we never could. He takes our dreams and desires and makes them come to life as we surrender them.

One of the most assuring verses to me is Proverbs 37:23. The Bible explains, “If the Lord delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.” As we plan out our steps with careful wisdom, God will make them firm because they are decisions grounded in Him. But I also love that He works all things for our good when we fail from time to time (Romans 8:28). I believe one area we fail as Christians is to let the fear of messing up or making wrong decisions paralyze us. We get too scared to “be outside the will of God” so we just stay where we’re at in the safe zone. We don’t take the job, talk to the friend, or get where we need to go. But how could we ever believe the lie that we humans could mess up God’s plan? He is so much higher and bigger than our mess-ups. If He wasn’t, the cross wouldn’t change us.

God is ahead of us and behind us and right with us now. As we use God’s word to light our path, He will show us the way, and baby step by baby step He gives us the wisdom to go where He wants us. Trust God to establish your plans as you surrender your dreams and plans. They’ll always be better than you ever imagined (Ephesians 4:20).

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Victoria’s Secret Ruined Us

Identity, identity, blah, blah, blah. When is this not a hot topic? I am just beyond tired of this. When will we stop being critical of ourselves and stop comparing one girl to the next? I’ve tried to figure out what the issue is, because if we all know our beauty is found in God alone, what is so hard for us to change our thinking and behavior? We know the facts, yet we behave and think the same way. Maybe we can blame our sexually saturated culture and maybe we can blame the fact that our culture says we have to look perfect in order for a man to accept us. Maybe it’s the seemingly beautiful and perfectly proportioned girls plastered over the Victoria’s Secret that leave the men struggling for purity, and leave the women’s idea of the looking perfect yet another bar higher. But it’s not reality… it’s a result of the lies that beg us to believe happiness is found in them.

I’m annoyed because in a sexually twisted world, everywhere we turn there is a half-naked girl waiting to be noticed by drooling men, even if it means eating a burger on a commercial. The problem is, it’s got every other girl trying to measure up so they can be noticed too. But here’s where we all went wrong: we started chasing the wrong thing, and it left us empty.

I’m fed up with believing the lies. I’m tired of a generation of girls being fed the lies of insecurity and comparison. I don’t want our generation to grow up and become mothers that feed our daughters this sick and twisted view because we decided to believe it too. Instead of feeding it, we need to starve it. Basically I’m saying we need to do the hard thing and not the easy thing. But how?

1) Cut the comparison. I believe this is one of the hardest battles we as females will fight. Social media, glass windows, movies, and magazines entertain the idea of comparison. But when we fight the battle through praying God’s word, and really trying to not compare, I believe that’s where the true freedom is because we can embrace the life God set out for us. “Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.” – Galatians 6:4 (MSG)

2) Appreciate others’ beauty without envy (it’s completely possible, ladies), because you can know yours is found in God. If he wanted you to have others’ qualities he would have. Walk confidently in God. When we know who God is (by spending time with Him), we begin to know who we are in Him. This, ladies, is called love, and we can’t love others correctly if we don’t know how to love God. “Jesus said, ‘…So love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy… Love others as well as you love yourself. There is no other commandment that ranks with these.’” – Mark 12:31 (MSG)

3) Look past the weight you’d like to lose or gain, the eyebrows you want to draw in, the clothes you want to buy, and realize this is earthly stuff. Just stuff. It feels good to look good and you should try to be as healthy as possible, but when that’s all said and done your character is what stays. “Instead, [beauty] should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” – 1 Peter 3:4

4) Transform your thinking, and cut out the thoughts that don’t align with how God sees you. You really can’t just pray away these feelings and still strive to be like the bar that society as set. You have to strive to be like God, and ask Him to make you into the best version of yourself from the inside out. Once you’ve transformed your mind, your actions will follow. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- His good, pleasing, and perfect will.” – Romans 12:2

I don’t want to be a generation of women that repeats the same problem over and over. I’m so tired of battling this, and I’m tired of feeding the beast. But if we want this change in ourselves, we have to make that change. And when you mess up and have a meltdown in front of your closet, in the words of Tay Tay, shake it off.

“Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.” – Galatians 5:25-26 (MSG)

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The Edge of Burnout

So here’s how today went: I was scheduled to sing on the worship team at church, and I completely missed my alarm and got up ten minutes before I was supposed to leave the house (ouch), was at church until about one o’clock, got called into work, and did some cleaning in between. That’s just one day of this busy life and I know I’m not the only one who feels like sometimes you just can’t catch a break. It almost seems like you’re trying to race against yourself just to keep up with life. It feels like you’re being stretched from every angle until you’re about to snap. This is a recipe for stress followed by a meltdown (guilty)… unless we can learn to handle it the way God would have us.

When I face burn out I know that I have been doing things with my own strength for far too long. It’s too much noise and not enough silence. The answer is to sit in the presence of God and just listen to Him. And no, our flesh does not like this; our flesh loves control, planning, and knowing the future because we can cause our results. But despite our mile-long to-do list with thoughts spinning out of control with questions, our best answer is always resting in God. In this rest, God restores us and renews our soul.

In Luke 10:38-42, Jesus is at Mary and Martha’s house. Verse 39 says that Mary was sitting and listening to the words Jesus said, and Martha was distracted with all the preparations she was making in the house. But in verse 41 and 42 Jesus tells Martha, “You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken from her.” What a moment Martha had that’s so similar to ours. She even got upset and wanted Mary to help her out!

See, a moment with God can heal you far better then hurrying yourself along throughout your day. His rest renews us. And most of all, the end of our rope reminds us how valuable God’s strength really is, which gives God the credit anyway! It’s a moment, a day, or even a month of stress that can help us realize only God’s strength is what is best for us, and it is far better than any human strength that we could ever possess. But without this strength from God, I’m going to face burnout as I give all my human strength in every area of life, with not enough re-filling in God’s presence.

Maybe the cause of stress isn’t something you can actually take out of your life (work, school, etc.), but you can increase your dependence on God and give yourself grace in a moment of weakness, because there’s just no way that life can be perfect! We can draw strength from God because He’s the source of life and He’s our portion forever. When I hand over my control, my list of to-dos, and my busy mind that doesn’t know how I’ll ever check off every box, God’s gracious love pursues me, and reminds me of what I truly need. You don’t have to spend five hours praying… a simple deep breath and even the most sincere and helpless “Jesus, please help me,” uttered will draw God near to you because He’s a God that turns His ear when we call. Take on today before tomorrow, simply because you’re not in tomorrow yet. When we live for tomorrow, we can miss today all too easily. By doing this, we know that God will provide the strength for us as we trust Him to follow through. And look out for this provision, because it is coming and it will bring special awareness of His guidance.

“’My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” –2 Corinthians 12:9 (NLT)

 “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” -Matthew 5:34 (NIV)

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Patience in the Middle

Just by the title, you probably thought of something you’re waiting for. We are almost always waiting on something, whether it’s a goal to accomplish, dream to achieve, promise delivered, or an answered prayer. Oh, and the lines at Disney.

There are always beginnings, middles, and ends to situations. The beginning of a new job, a marriage, new friendship, or new semester at school is fun and exciting. The ending might result in a promotion, the start of a family, lifelong impacts, or graduating with a degree. The middle, however, is not as sweet as the beginning and end. There’s a lot of waiting around, maybe some tears, a lot of perseverance, and a lot of hard work. Perhaps God intended it to be this way so he could use the most vital part of a situation to mold the best version of you.

Romans 8 (MSG) encourages that “we are enlarged in the waiting.” Oh, how true this is. We are stretched far and wide in “the middle.”

A lot of times we try to rush through seasons of our lives that are God-given, instead of growing though them at the pace He intended. We don’t have to know the reason behind our circumstances, but we do have to remember, “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:4). God’s design is to bring you to your “end” with a deeper knowing of who He is with a heart that deeper resembles Him. Here are four things to know during your middle:

  1. The enemy is a liar. Okay, it’s no secret the enemy does not want you to grow closer to God. Instead, he wants you to fail miserably at being effective for God, and knowing who He is. He steals our joy, magnifies the negative, and whispers the lies that God is not working even in the middle of our waiting (which He is). After we’ve established this, we can now take hold of any negative thoughts that may block our sight of God and redirect them to the truth of God’s Word.
  1. We will go where our eyes are fixed. “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal” (Isaiah 26:3-4). God’s love, faithfulness, and mercies never run dry. That’s amazing. When our eyes are fixed on His faithfulness while we trust in Him, we are consistently moving toward God, and not backward. When we allow ourselves to become a slave to our emotions and our no-good days, we do the enemy a favor, and we remain ineffective for Christ. We all mess this part up over and over…it’s impossible to be perfect. So what’s the good part about this? God’s grace covers these mess-ups and pity parties, and we can pick up and keep moving forward.
  1. God sees you, and He hasn’t forgotten. There were several people in the Bible who had to wait for a LONG time. Imagine never seeing rain before, God telling you it’s about to flood, and trusting Him to clear the water off the earth so you could get off your boat? I’m glad I wasn’t in Noah’s place! After 150 days of waiting for the rain to stop, Genesis 8:1 says that God remembered Noah, and the waters receded. This is such a familiar story that shows God’s faithfulness. I love that God doesn’t forget, and because I know this, I can have full assurance in His provision without worrying whether or not He will.
  1. Be joyful in the waiting. This is the hardest thing to do in my opinion (seriously, though). Who can actually say they love to wait? Although it seems like the hardest thing to do, it might be the easiest in some ways. If I step back and think about who God is, I don’t see my problems as big, and my waiting as long. If I know God has good plans for me, that He doesn’t forget His promises, and that He has divine timing for every dream of mine to align, then I can be joyful for the day that His plans will pass. The “when” part makes me impatient, but it comes down to a matter of trust, surrender to my own plans, and knowing that God will nurture me from now until I’m ready to move to the next season of my life.

Hold onto those desires deep within your heart. They’re God-given dreams and they’re seeds carefully planted by Him. They take watering (a time of growth and maturing) and they take patience. But we are enlarged in our waiting, and those dreams will bloom like the flowers on the trees in the springtime. God has impeccable timing. Wait on those desires, nurture them with God’s Word, prayer, and worship where you’re at, and in the season you’re in. After you’ve obeyed and trusted God to do His part, you’ll find your labor wasn’t in vain.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” –Galatians 6:9

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