Posted in Faith

Back to School

I know many of you just reread the title because it’s mid-June and the majority of students have been out of school for two weeks now, so to be writing about going back to school is either extremely late, or a little premature for the fall school year.

I’ll explain.  I’m just now back in school at age 32.  I started my undergraduate degree just this past January and am in my second semester (summer-what was I thinking?) at Liberty University maintaining a 4.0 GPA (raise the roof!).  When contemplating achieving my degree, my goal is to get it done in the shortest amount of time.  Naturally, I felt that taking a summer off would make me remiss, as I didn’t start in the fall.  I’d only started in the spring, so how could I give myself a break already?  And after taking six credits my first semester, I thought it would be a breeze.  My two first classes were easy to keep up with and maintain.

So, jumping in with both feet, I chose to take nine credits in the summer, not accounting for the amount of work involved, or the crazy heat we’ve been enjoying in northeast Ohio!  I’m working a full-time job at a local hospital, and then splitting my evenings/weekends between school work, being a supportive wife and stepmother, daughter, friend, etc. and trying to keep track of what has to be read, posted and written when, and then making sure that the internet connection is strong, and Blackboard (the virtual classroom) is up and running.  Was that a run-on sentence?  I’m too exhausted to even correct it!  I’m already marking down in my 2013 calendar to take the summer semester off!

But I will say that the experience itself of organizing a schedule, buying binders, notebooks, school books, day planners, school supplies, etc. has made me very determined and motivated to push forward.  I’ve always loved the first day of school, the newness of classes, seeing a fresh syllabus, and opening a brand new book where the binding hasn’t even been broken.  You can insert your “cough-nerd-cough” here.

In thinking about moving forward, I was reminded of a passage of Scripture that has been very influential in my faith walk.

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in
Christ Jesus. [Philippians 3:12-14]

You may be thinking, “What a cool verse regarding getting the goal accomplished- that’s totally fitting for school!”  But let’s keep the passage in context.  Paul, earlier in chapter three, is encouraging the church in Philippi to earnestly reject all that is behind them, and live in the newness of the resurrected Christ.  I’m sure this passage gets dissected often and there are many interpretations.  I don’t believe this passage is about going back to school,  even though it is now in my back to school thread.

The church in Philippi was commanded to hold fast to the truths they were learning as new believers in Christ.  Even though this passage is especially motivational, it reminds me that my desire to complete a degree in Christian counseling is definitely in line with God’s will for my life.  Two thousand years after Jesus walked this earth, I am reminded that there is still a world that doesn’t know the truth of the gospel or the reality of the Messiah who has already come, and it’s up to followers of Jesus to spread the news and exemplify Jesus to the hurting world around us.

I believe getting into the Christian counseling arena will bring many rewards.  I cannot wait to see the faces and meet the needs of those who I’ll be helping (whom I’m sure will be helping me as well).  I know that in every session, God will be alongside me, helping me as I listen and giving me insight to help his hurting children.

I know it will be humbling and I’m excited about the opportunity to serve Him in that way.  For me, learning about how many of us deal with issues is incredibly interesting, and has always been.  I know we’re all broken.  We are molded by experiences and encounters with other people on a daily basis, many times without even realizing it.  Sadly, I’ve also come to realize that some experiences can set us up for failure later in life, and we can perceive things in ways that are unrealistic, or we can respond to something in an unhealthy manner.

As shared in a previous post, there was a thought of suicide once in my life, and had I not had my faith or a small interest in God at that time, I may not have been here to write on WordPress.  But because I had the knowledge of God, at that sad moment, I was able to hear the voice of God and instead inquired about His plan for me.  After all, what human doesn’t question their existence, their skills, their purpose?  No matter what worldview you have, we all have an origin and at some point, you’ll want to explore the inner parts of yourself. 

Pauls’ words are that Jesus took hold of his life and it is up to Paul to continue running the race that will get him to his ultimate goal- the presence of Christ.

I can identify with Paul.  I long for the day that I can see Jesus and rid myself of the sin that pervades my life.  I am saved by grace, but memories haunt me of “old Grace” and what I’ve been saved from.  It is a daily struggle to move forward and choose to stay on the right path.  Satan knows just how to ruffle my feathers, and I am still in the process of claiming my victory in Christ.  I know the battle is the Lord’s, but for some reason, I keep grabbing my sword ( my mouth-UGH!).  I’m extremely grateful for His mercy.

So far in my college career, I’ve taken an Apologetics class, an intro to Christian Counseling, and now a Bible/Math/Philosophy combo before the end of August.  My mind has expanded in so many ways, and my eyes have been opened to many different ideas.  Satan, ever present and wanting to rip apart my foundation in Christ has tried numerous times this semester to have me question old truths and new ones I’ve tucked away into my heart.  He is so devious, but he has miscalculated my Lord.  And as I continue to feel the call to listen, help, pray for and minister to individuals who need godly counsel, I realize the need for it in my own life.  We all have reasons to run and hide from reality sometimes, but God calls us to fight the good faith (1 Timothy 6:2) and put on the armor of God (Ephesians 6) so that we can be prepared to defend and stand victoriously. 

A verse that shapes the idea of how to gradually grow in Christ, is Second Corinthians 10:5 where it says we should, “…take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”  It means there is a standard, that we are required to be obedient, and that our thought lives have influence on us.  If we take every thought captive and give it to God, very quickly our negative thoughts and actions will be changed and reflect more godly thinking so that we can be obedient to Him.

A friend of mine has recently shared with me the idea of being “emotionally hijacked” when someone/something causes an emotional response in us that is not usually a positive one.  She and I have been praying for quite some time to be aware of these moments when they happen, and to seek God when we are ready to reply with our explosive reaction.  By noticing the causes ahead of time, we can pray and stop our effects.  And as Christians, we have the gifts of the Holy Spirit readily available to assist us.

God doesn’t long for us to struggle.  He longs for us to realize our insane need for Him and run to Him as children who run to their parent.  He is our heavenly Father, which means He is able to provide and always available.  If your earthly father lacked these values in some way, pray to forgive him and instead run to the one who won’t leave you hanging.  God is capable of completing everything He’s ever begun, because it is His creation that glorifies Him.

God has a unique plan for all of us.  Even if you’re not in school, have no desire to go back, or are maybe contemplating the idea, I invite you to talk to God about your own journey.  Many people are living lives meant for others, and that is unnecessary.  We each have our own individual, significant lives.  Each one of us has been made in the image of God, in some way, and we mirror some of His greatest qualities.  I believe there is A LOT of unused potential out there, to bring about some great ideas, and to exemplify Christ and His message of hope and love.

The Bible states that, “He who doesn’t love, doesn’t know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8).  I invite you to have love…have GOD.  Not the artificial kind (we’re all aware of the superficial, artificial kind), but the kind that is freeing from the inside out, genuine, selfless, other-first love…there’s no risk in adding Him to your life.  He’s desired that from day one!

We could all go back to school on letting go of that which holds us.  If we set our sights on things above, God’s love can prevail!

Was that the starting gun?  Gotta run!

Posted in Faith

Enough is enough

It’s time I stop believing the lies that have been put into my mind.  I don’t know when, as a believer, I started to believe that I was never good enough, or that there was something wrong with me. I absolutely despise that I’ve given Satan so much time in my life to whisper His lies into my ear, over the words of my Father.

I’ve realized many things lately.  I was born into sin (as we all are), but at the age of twenty, I gave my life to Jesus.  I know I am a child of God.  I am not perfect, nor will I ever be.  I am very flawed.  Because of issues of bullying when I was younger, and dealing with verbal abuse, I don’t have the best self-esteem.  I do believe I’ve been restored in my thinking with Jesus’s help (and the loving man who is now my husband), but there are still some lasting impressions from patterns of behavior.  My defense mechanism is to lash out and make others hurt like I have in the past.  I’m aware of it.  My reaction is to apologize to make up for it, but that doesn’t take away the scars I’ve left behind.

I am a Christian who should be displaying Christlikeness (and I know I do), but, some days I feel like a constant failure because I haven’t fully released anger and hurt that has worn heavily on my shoulders.  Satan wants me to be distracted, because when I am focused on myself, I’m not making room for God, nor am I giving Him glory by showing the world what He’s done with me.

Satan also wants me to believe that God can’t truly heal my scars.  And in some ways, I guess I’m guilty of milking that way of thinking.  I hate to admit it, but I want the scars to show, to be felt by me, to be examined.  Each one tells a story and when I get to talk about them, the focus is on me.  I get to self-pity and be prideful as I describe how I went through something.  Ugh.  It makes me sick just writing that.

Maybe it’s okay, though, to look at the scars.  They represent hurt and a time of pain, however they are proof that I survived, I certainly didn’t die, and IN NO WAY can I compare my agony to what Christ endured for me.
The greatest thing about scars is that they do carry a huge amount of significance, because for there to be a scar, there had to have been a cut at some point.  And that’s where I’m at today.  I’m getting ready to cover my scars because they no longer need the attention I’ve been giving them.

So now for the good news: One of my spiritual gifts is the gift of exhortation (definition by Merriam-Webster: “using language to incite or encourage”) and that is why I’m choosing to do something with my life to glorify God by helping those where I see a specific need.  In praying for where God wants me, I feel that I should be counseling others.  I’ve looked into getting a bachelor’s degree in Psychology with an emphasis in Christian Counseling.  And I choose to move forward with that degree come January.  Thank you, Liberty University.

I didn’t write this note to get pity comments or pats on the back, so you don’t have to respond to this.  I wrote because I like writing.  I’ve been dealing with some heavy things, of late, and in helping someone else, I’m reflecting on a lot of things in my own life.  Not for the sake of stealing the glory, but because I think Jesus wants me to see the areas of me that is fixing.  He needs me to be clay again, instead of hard rock, so He can form me.  He is the potter, after all.

I’ve been told by many that I have a gift with words, that I communicate very well, and that I should be a writer (and I’m grateful for those compliments-they give me purpose).  If you are a close friend of mine, you may at some point have gotten a card or letter or email written by me where you flipped the card over to keep reading, or scrolled for hours to see what my point was.  I obviously feel I have a lot to say (it’s okay, you can laugh there).  If you ask me, I’m still in my infancy stage with writing.  I’ve been out of practice for some time, but I do believe God is going to use those gifts in me: writing and counseling.

I would love to see something I’ve written published.  I’d love for someone to read something I’ve written and be moved to tears and into a relationship with Jesus.  I know these things will come in time.  Before any of that happens, God wants me to focus on Him and walk through every area I’ve hidden from myself and take it to Him.

God is breaking through, not just in me, but in believers all around me, who are experiencing newness and communication with God in a new way.  There are some who were intentionally drowning Him out and they are hearing Him for the first time.

I keep thinking of a story my sister told me once.  She explained how she and a friend of hers, wrote down specific names of people and issues they were struggling with, on balloons.  Then they walked outside and released the balloons, in a way symbolizing that they were going to let go of the people who were hurting them, and the issues they wanted resolved.

balloons

I think it’s time I bought some balloons.  Right after I sit down and reread some of the greatest stories ever told, in the Bible where Jesus tells me He took my sin on Him and that I am free to live under grace and with His righteousness.  I need to embrace what I know to be true.  I need to not let Satan blur the lines.  I need to be quick to forgive and quick to love.  THAT is true Christlikeness.  No more Christian copouts…”I’m a work in progress” stuff…let’s get to the meat of the issue.  If you’re still staying that, you’re not really letting Him take the problem away.  I need to start “walking in the truth” as the Bible says.

So if you took the time to read all of this, (wow, you have a lot of free time), please just pray.  When you have a moment and if I pop into your mind, just lift me up.  Ask God to continue to chisel away at old Grace so that new Grace can continue to come forth.  I know He’s working daily in me, and I have to live life the way it was meant to be lived…FREE!!  I want others to know the grace He gives unconditionally and the love He pours out without restraint.  I want to be covered in it.  Also pray for others who are walking the walk and are struggling too.  Every believer is a target, and every one of us is vulnerable.  If it weren’t true, the Bible wouldn’t equate Satan to be “prowling around like a lion looking for prey”.  Be aware and be on guard.  And stand firmly on the Rock that is higher than all of us.  Enough is enough…clarity from here on out!