Posted in Faith

In the wait… and other ramblings

Change.

What type of emotion does that word evoke in you when you read it?

I know many of us can read that word and feel a sense of hope if we are looking for a way out of a particular job, situation or life event.

Or we may feel the opposite.

What if we are content where we are? Then out of nowhere, a boss, spouse or friend uses this word in a discussion and we know there will be some effort on our part to adapt.

Deep breath…

Many times in my life, I can say I’ve felt the effects, both positive and negative, of that word.  Some of the changes in my life were brought on by something I decided to do on my own, and others were done as a result of prayer or wise counsel that led me to take a step.  The reason I bring it up is that I am in a season with the Lord where I am waiting on Him. I’ve been spending much time in prayer about something, and where I’m hopeful and expecting a change, I’m afraid He may ask me to stay where I am.

Have you ever felt that way?  Does your prayer life ebb and flow?

What does that say about our spiritual lives?  We say we are willing to follow Jesus and put our trust in Him, but if He decides to change our circumstances, life situations, physical living locations, etc., are we willing to obey?

I’m a woman.  Being told to wait usually doesn’t sit well with me.  In my assessment of where I’m at, I’ve pretty much figured out all of the details on my next step, if He would just hurry up and approve my decisions already…

Ah, but you know where I’m going with this, don’t you?

If you know me personally, you know that I took a step of faith in a direction for school, only to have the Lord lovingly rebuke me in February of this year, tell me to withdraw and focus on my family.  I had rushed through a prayer time with Him and taken what I thought was a clear step for me, and in retrospect, it was covered with red flags relationally with my husband.  Where I wanted to excel (my GPA was right where I wanted it, my grades were significantly high, the material easy to understand, the schedule overwhelming, but all students have problems with that, right?), God wanted me to sloooooooooooow down.  This relationship with Him is sure breaking down who I was…

Do you want to know the truth?  

The deepest part of me wants to be told to slow down.

I know that when I get so focused on something, it’s easy to push everyone away and just DO IT.

I don’t need anyone, and I’VE. GOT. THIS. becomes my mantra.

But there’s something that has happened in the last eight years.  I have realized many things about myself that I believe all women need to understand.  Face it, though we are all uniquely created in the image of God, we struggle with the same things when it comes to value.  Trust me, we could talk for hours about our issues, and we would all come up with the same answer: WE ARE BROKEN AND IN NEED OF SOMEONE TO RESCUE US.

Remember as a child, when you got into trouble, and were told to go to your room or were placed in a corner for a timeout?  Some days, I wish someone would tell me to go take a nap and come back when I feel better.  As adults, we are deprived of such direction.  We are over the age of twenty-0ne, so we should know how to do these things by ourselves, yet we just keep adding to the schedule and figure at some point over the weekend, we’ll end up in blankets on the couch watching reruns of Person of Interest instead of looking at the clock and realizing Monday morning is just hours away and the cycle of waiting begins again.

If you’re like me, I’d like to give you some hope.

During this season with the Lord, I have read sections of the Bible I’ve never even thought to look at.  I’ve had verses come to mind that I learned years ago that have carried me through.  The Holy Spirit has brought peace into otherwise anxious situations, all because He can and because I’m learning to trust Him with those times.  I’ve seen miracle after miracle in my reactions to those who have previously hurt me and I am thankful.  I can forgive, love and move on without hesitation.  I have grace as my first response, which is so unlike me, and it just confirms that God is at work in my life.

And do you want to know something cool?  The Bible says that this is considered holiness.

1 Peter 1:13-16 shares the following truth, “Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.'”  He is speaking to believers.  This passage is PACKED with hope and newness for us.  What does this mean?

It means that while we are in our human physical form, after we accept Christ, we are given the Holy Spirit who helps to transform us into the likeness of Jesus.  I want to be clear.  We aren’t perfect as believers.  We aren’t above anyone.  We will never be.  Jesus actually expects us to put others first ALL OF THE TIME.  And if you struggle with selfishness, take that to God in prayer.  He may be requiring you to repent and surrender that part of yourself.

When you became a believer, you were changed from death to life, not a bad person to a good person.  The work of the Holy Spirit is something the Lord does for us as we surrender.  But before I get off on a tangent, being holy means that we begin to manifest Christlike attributes that are contrary to our human nature.  They are supernatural and can be seen by everyone, believer and unbeliever alike.  God wanted us to be different so that those who are lost can see the difference and desire to know more.  This is not done by picketing events we’ve judged, or ranting on social media when someone who is lost ACTS like a lost person…we are to love as Christ loved.  See Matthew 22:36-40 where Jesus commands us to love God first and others as we love ourselves.

I’m still not looking forward to staying put right now, but I have seen Christ in action in my life, and want to continue to walk in His holiness as I learn how to be more like Christ.  I know that He must be preparing me for something I’m not ready for yet, and He still has work to do.  The knowledge that He has my best interest at heart is reassuring.  But it also means that since I’ve agreed to follow Jesus, the plans I have laid out for myself, may have NOTHING to do with God’s will for my life.  So I have to be obedient and continue to trust in the wait.  Many other people throughout God’s Word were told to wait and also benefited from having a deeper relationship with Him as a result.

Do I have hopes and dreams and desires that I know would benefit the Kingdom of God?  YOU BETCHA…but I also don’t want to supersede His will like I’ve done in the past.  I want to continue to trust His will and surrender the part of me that is following my womanhood.  I know He knows the outcome of my life, and I am willing to wait.

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!