Seasons

We all go through different seasons in life. Some seasons are great while others are just tough. One worship song that has always found a way into my heart is “Seasons” by Hillsong United. This song speaks the truth that God is with us no matter the season we may be in. I don’t know what you are experiencing in your life, but I encourage you to reflect on where you are. Are you in a season of doubt, worry and fear? Many of us are with the pandemic that we are currently experiencing. Or are you in a season where you feel that things aren’t going too bad? We are all in different places, and that’s perfectly normal.

A season that I find myself in quite often is this season of doubt, worry and fear. I have a feeling that I’m not the only one who has faced this season in life. My guess is that many of you are experiencing these feelings currently. Within this season, I often times let worry define me. I allow the worry to make my own decisions and put me in a bad place mentally, physically and even spiritually. You see, mentally, all I do is think of the worst possible outcome of every situation, and it’s intimidating and exhausting. Physically, I wear my body down. And spiritually, I give up. I try to handle it all on my own because I think my ways are best and end up feeling distant from God. This season is one of my weaknesses, and it comes around for me way too often. It takes from who I am as a person and always seems to bring out the worst in me.

When I first experienced this season, I remember feeling trapped. I didn’t know how to get out, and I found it easy to shut everyone who cared out. It took me truly letting it all go to God. And it took a while before I was even ready to give all of this to God. When the moment came that I was ready, I broke down. I told God that I couldn’t do it anymore. I told God I was letting go of it all and giving it to Him. After that moment, I felt free. It was even more freeing when I eventually decided to start letting people in. I wasn’t great at it by any means, but I tried to share more of what was going on in my heart, rather than just bottling it all up. When I started letting go is when I began to feel free.

As I’m going to work in the morning, a new found habit of mine is to listen to the “Whoa that’s good!” podcast by Sadie Robertson. If you haven’t listened to it, definitely go give it a go. It offers some great advice that leaves you thinking, “Whoa that’s good!” ;). Last week, the podcast that I was listening to spoke of Sadie’s season of anxiety and fear. Someone had sent her a message on Instagram that asked how she has handled her anxiety and what techniques she uses to calm her mind. Sadie’s answer to this was Jesus. Sadie acknowledged that relaxation techniques, such as learning to breath deep in stressful situations are important, but only Jesus is the one who can truly calm the storm inside. When I heard that, I was taken back. All of these years, I tried to escape these anxious feelings by trying to find anyway possible that could calm me down and take away the anxious thoughts. I tried learning to breathe better, journaling down my thoughts, clenching and unclenching every part of my body, and while all of this helps, Jesus is truly the only One who can clear my mind. In the moments when I let go and give it to God, I always feel like I can breathe again. I’m given a peace knowing that I’m not alone. Someone is fighting this fight with me that’s a whole lot bigger than me.

Last night I was doing my devotional reading when I read over something that caught my eye. It said, “Thank Me for the very things that are troubling you. You are on the brink of rebellion, precariously close to shaking your fist in My Face. You are tempted to indulge in just a little complaining about My treatment of you. But once you step over that line, torrents of rage and self-pity can sweep you away. The best protection against this indulgence is thanksgiving. It is impossible to thank Me and curse Me at the same time. Thanking Me for trials will feel awkward and contrived at first. But if you persist, your thankful words, prayed in faith, will eventually make a difference in your heart. Thankfulness awakens you to My Presence, which overshadows your problems.” This is from the book Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. What I love about her devotional is how it speaks as if God is speaking directly to us. But oh my goodness, these are such good words for whatever season you’re in. If you’re in a season of anxiety and worry, thank God. Find the blessings in your life because thanksgiving truly does have the power to overcome what you are facing. When you have a thankful heart, you see things from a whole new perspective. You are glad, even in the suffering, because you can see the beauty of life through it all. You have hope when you’re thankful. Try being thankful for even a day, and just see how it changes your life. If you’re in a hard season, it can help you to see the good. If you’re in a great season, then life is only going to get even better. You just need Jesus and a thankful heart.

Right now, I’m in a season of transition. It’s almost time for me to move back to school, and I have no clue what it is going to bring. I could end up moving back home in two weeks if the virus gets any worse. I don’t know. None of us know. This is what I would call a season of MAJOR uncertainty. And for some of us a season of uncertainty brings about another season (the one with a lot of doubt, fear and worry). We truly don’t know what tomorrow will bring. We may end up doing online school. More people may get laid off in the workplace. We may see an increase in the number of cases. We may not. It is confusing and hard, and it can bring out the worst in us. We could be mad at God for letting all of this happen. We could be avoiding Him because of this anger and uncertainty. It’s easy to be upset when our plans don’t play out as we would’ve hoped. I definitely get angry at times. But we need to attempt to remain calm and trust. Remember that God will never leave our side.

I also encourage you all to reach out and pray for people in this time. This is a hard season for all. People are full of fear, doubt and anxiety. People are worried that their plans aren’t going to work out. I know of people who have lost amazing opportunities. Some are in a heavy financial crisis. Asking someone how they are doing could be exactly what they need. We need to be there for one another.

It’s good to remember that in each season of life, the answer is Jesus. Be thankful for where you are, even if you’re in a deep valley. Even a valley can be beautiful. You just have to look for the good.

I can see the promise
I can see the future
You’re the God of seasons
I’m just in the winter
If all I know of harvest
Is that it’s worth my patience
Then if You’re not done working
God I’m not done waiting
You can see my promise
Even in the winter
Cause You’re the God of greatness
Even in a manger
For all I know of seasons
Is that You take Your time
You could have saved us in a second
Instead You sent a child

Seasons – Hillsong United

Wherever you are, it’s worth your patience.

He changes times and seasons;
    he removes kings and sets up kings;
he gives wisdom to the wise
    and knowledge to those who have understanding. – Daniel 2:21

Love Yourself

I’ve always been the type of person that tries to go the extra mile for others. I want people to know that I care. I’ve never really had too much of an issue with putting others before myself. But of course, I do have my very selfish moments. However, most of the time, I’d rather put my own baggage to the side in order to show other people that I’m invested in them. It may sound like I’m bragging on myself, but I’m actually doing quite the opposite. In each stage of my life, I’ve progressively been more apt to leave myself out of the equation of life. I think about others so much so that I forget about me. I forget about my relationship with God. I forget that in order to be there for others, I need to be there for myself.

Relationships come with sacrifice. Sometimes that sacrifice is offering encouragement and positivity for a loved one who’s struggling even when you’re experiencing the worst day of your life. It could be checking up on others even when they often don’t think of checking on you. Throughout your life, I can assume that most of you will end up making one of these sacrifices or others for your relationships. These sacrifices are amazing. They show character, but they also drain you when you feel like you’re making them every day. I mean let’s be real. It’s exhausting when we’re constantly putting out effort for all BUT ourselves.

This is a struggle I’ve faced in my life on numerous occasions. I get into a low valley where I can’t help but wonder how I’m supposed to do it. How am I supposed to put my everything into other people when I truly don’t feel like I have anything to give? I get worn down and bitter because I feel that I’m the only one who cares. Why don’t they check on me? Why am I always the one who has to remain positive?? I’m broken, but I have to put on the face as if I’m on the mountaintop instead of the valley. If you have felt this way, I hope you know that you are not alone.

There is a woman in the Bible whose story I think of when battling these challenges. This woman is Martha. Martha’s story is often told in a different context, but I want you to consider the lesson that her story can teach us about caring for ourselves.

38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Martha and I have a lot in common. I mean A LOT. Just with this little piece of Scripture that we have about her, I can see so much into her character. I can see myself. Usually when I read this story, it’s to remind myself that I need to take a break from my crazy to-do-list and take time for God. But I think there’s more here than what is written. Martha is constantly putting out effort, but not pouring into herself or the most important relationship out there (her relationship with Jesus). If she were pouring into herself, she would’ve been like Mary. Mary took the time to spend with Jesus. Martha was too busy preparing and running around to take that time. If she’s anything like me, she was probably exactly like that within her relationships as well. So wrapped up in others that she forgot about herself. She put aside her relationship with God because all she felt was the guilt. The guilt of feeling frustrated at the people who she poured into that didn’t seem to care for her. The guilt of feeling like she could’ve done more to be there for her relationships. She didn’t even have enough room in her heart or mind to consider herself and her relationship with God. She was too wrapped up in the others around her.

Through my experience as a youth ministry intern and through my experience in life, I find that many people feel this same way. They get so worn down because they can’t find anyone who will pour into them. Many of the people I’ve talked to feel stuck. They feel as if they are not gaining anything spiritually or otherwise in their relationships. This is often when I see people at their worst because they feel alone. They pour and pour and pour into others until they feel that they’re left with nothing. They don’t feel like they have true friendships and relationships, and it hurts.

If I could go back and give advice to these people, it would be to not get stuck. Many people stop in this low place, wondering why know one seems to care about them. But I’d tell each one of them to begin taking a little more time for YOU. Start concentrating on your relationship with God. The second greatest commandment is to love your neighbors as YOURSELF. We can’t concentrate on only the “neighbors” part of this commandment. It’s vitally important to our life and relationships that we realize God commands us to love OURSELVES. It’s not selfish to do this. In order to love yourself to the best of your ability, you need to spend time with God. You need to find ways that work best for you to take care of yourself. It could be through taking time every night to put your thoughts down on paper (journaling is the best!!). You could even just let your guard down, and allow yourself to let out all of the emotions you’ve been bottling for so long. God is there to comfort you. God is our Comforter. If you have someone you trust, you could even care for yourself through reaching out to them and asking for help and guidance. There are many different ways we can be there for ourselves. Caring for yourself will even carry over into your relationships!! When your heart is in a good place, it’s easier to care for others to the best of your ability.

You need to be there for yourself. God wants that. Better yet, God commands that. Putting others first is such a great mentality to have, but it can also be toxic if you’re constantly consumed in lives that are not your own. It’s time to start caring for the amazing person that you are so that you truly can be there for others. And while you’re at it, you can seek and pray for relationships that are life-giving to you.

30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

New Day… New Beginning

New Years is always known as the time to start fresh and new. When you are on the verge of a new year, it seems like nothing is in your way. You can be whoever you want to be and even change those parts of you that you have wanted to change for so long in the past year. Usually I have New Year’s resolutions that I only accomplish about a month into the new year… and then I fail. And I’m left feeling discouraged. I’m clearly not writing this in celebration of a new year because we are far from a new year. I’m writing this because even though we are far from a new year, we still have the opportunity of a new beginning. Every day you wake up is a day you get to start over. You have the chance to be who you want to be. You don’t have to wait for New Year’s Day to come around.

For me, this mentality is hard for me to have. I don’t usually wake up with the realization that I can start over. I keep going just as I have because it doesn’t feel like I have the chance for a new beginning every day. Honestly, this is something I have wrestled with this year. I seem to make the same mistakes that I made the day before. I say things to people I love that I don’t mean to say. I think negatively about myself and others. I don’t let go of the insecurities that prevent me from being who I am. Sometimes, I don’t even open my Bible or pray to God. Instead, I keep living in my mistakes of yesterday. I try to approach each day with a willingness to make a change, but sometimes I just fail. And it’s very discouraging. If I were to guess, many of you all have faced this challenge within this time. Quarantine has made everything so much harder. It doesn’t sound terrible to take a break from our normal lives. It definitely has had the benefits of bringing people rest and restoring parts of people that have been lost in the craziness of life. But it’s also been hard. It’s difficult to stay motivated. This quarantine has often left me consumed in my thoughts and has brought me struggles that I thought were in the past. I get up in the morning, and it’s even more of a struggle to make the changes that I need to make in my life. It’s almost as if life is a blur right now, and we don’t have the opportunity to start over. We wake up, and every day is just like the last.

But life isn’t only like this in quarantine. It’s always hard to realize that God provides us with the opportunity of a new beginning each day. I’d say it feels like we are trapped in our habits of yesterday. I mean think about it. It’s easy to say you will start reading your Bible more, eat healthier or even treat people with more kindness the next day. But it’s really hard to put it all into action. It can be very discouraging when it feels like we consistently keep falling back into the same hole we have been in for so long. We want to change, it just almost feels impossible.

About two years ago, I was hung up on the word “renewal”. I have no idea why. It just kept presenting itself in my life. It is clear to me now that God was placing this on my heart. I specifically remember a night when I saw that word probably five times while going about my normal night routine. I was reading a book, and there was the word. I was reading my devotional, and there the word was. I opened up my Bible for the verses that went along with my devotional, and there it was. I even had a little calendar in my room that had lessons for each day, and there it was!! It was insane. After seeing this word so many times within the span of probably thirty minutes, I started to look more into this word. The definition is “an instance of resuming an activity or state after an interruption”. It can also be known as “the replacing or repair of something that is worn out, run-down, or broken”. This spoke to me because I had been going through a season in my life where I did feel like I was trapped in a “state after an interruption”, and I was broken. I had just faced a battle that acted as a state of interruption, and I didn’t know where to go next. After seeing this word so many times, I realized that God was calling me to repair one step at a time. I was exhausted, but I had to wake up with a mentality of renewal. It was time to repair the broken pieces in life, and get back up. But I remember there being comfort in that it didn’t have to be a fast and quick repair. God was still going to be with me, no matter how long it took for me to change and be okay again. And God was there with me every step of the way. God even placed someone in my life that helped guide me through this season of renewal because God’s timing is perfect. I was not alone. I didn’t wake up and get it right every day, but I tried to approach each day as a beautiful opportunity to take the next step.

It can be so very discouraging when it feels like we can’t take the next step. It really is way harder than one might think to approach each day as what it is… a new day. We get caught in yesterday. We feel the guilt of who we were before, and it’s our nature to fall right back into that same habit that brought about the guilt. But we cannot get discouraged. Even taking the littlest steps in our life can take (what seems like) a good amount of time. That’s okay. Don’t let that make you stop trying. If I would’ve stopped trying in that season I was in, I don’t even know where I would be now. I had to trust God one day at a time. Eventually my heart was able to heal, and I was able to make the changes that were necessary for my life.

The story of Peter’s denial in the Bible came to my mind as I was thinking about this. Many of you probably know this story. Jesus told Peter that he was going to deny Jesus, and of course, Peter said there was no way that could happen. Lo and behold, Jesus was right. Peter did not only deny Jesus one time but three. After denying Jesus the first time, Peter was probably saying to himself, ‘oh no I’m not going to do that again’. And then after the second time he denied Jesus, he probably had the same thought. But then he ended up denying Jesus three times. This story is how I think we frequently feel on a daily basis. We aren’t being who we want to be, but we wake up just to do it all over again. Peter was disappointed in himself, but Jesus forgave him. If I was to assume, I think the disappointment in himself probably lingered on for a while. But our God provides us with the time to change and realize where we’ve gone wrong. This is the process I like to call renewal. So let’s begin that process in our own lives. What is it that you need to change right now? Where is it that you need to heal? Don’t wait until the new year comes around. Begin to approach each day as a new day and begin to make those changes.

Renewal takes time. Don’t be discouraged when change doesn’t happen overnight. We are in a hard time to be living in right now. We have to give ourselves grace and forgiveness when we mess up. I hope you take this journey with me, of living each and every day, one day at a time. We don’t have to live in yesterday’s mistakes. That’s good news!! You have the opportunity to be who you want to be as soon as you get out of bed in the morning.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me. – Psalm 51:10

Attitude Is a Choice

I wake up Monday morning looking at a full week of work/school. I drag myself out of bed, getting ready for another draining week. The weekend was nice and relaxing, and I tried with all of my power not to think about the week coming up. It’s the same routine. I get up. I work/have school. I come home. And I sleep. By the time I’m done with all I have going in the day, I’m so unmotivated to do anything but sleep.

Many of times this is my attitude. I’m not afraid to admit it because it’s true. I’m usually just looking to the finish line, when I get to relax. To be honest, I saw nothing wrong with this mentality. Anytime anyone called out my bad mentality, I was offended. How could they?? Do they not realize how hard it is? I don’t stop. I work so hard all of the time, and not to mention, I devote all my time to everyone but myself. It’s not fair.

I got into this habit a long time ago. It’s easy to get into the tendency of throwing daily pity parties. I’d feel terrible for myself because my continual self-talk was all about how bad I had it. I would tell myself that I’d start enjoying life, once all the work and hard stuff was out of the way. But the truth is, right after one season ends another begins. And chances are, I’m going to find something I don’t like about the next season I enter into. Attitude changes our life. With a good attitude, we enjoy life. With a bad attitude, life is always going to be overwhelming. We’re going to have trouble finding true joy through living with a bad attitude. Believe me. I know from experience on this matter.

Within my church, we observe the season of Lent. Within this season, you give up something or multiple somethings for 40 days. Just like Jesus fasted in the desert for 40 days, we fast something that impacts our life. My sophomore year of high school, I decided to give up something that I knew was going to be very challenging. This was negativity. That seems broad, so I will describe what I mean by this. I wasn’t allowed to talk negatively about anyone. I couldn’t talk negatively about situations. And I had to try to redirect my negative thoughts to a more positive thought-process. Ughhhh talk about hard!! This was way more challenging than I expected it to be. I would catch myself starting to say something negative, probably every hour. Maybe even more often than that. And don’t even get me started on my thoughts. It was terrible how bad of a habit it was for me to think negatively about everything going on in my life. This was one of the first times that I truly realized how bad my attitude was. And I saw that this bad attitude of mine was impacting my whole life. It impacted my sport, my relationships, and even my happiness.

Our attitude can make the worst workload or a time-consuming job a little better or a little worse, depending on the attitude. A good attitude can help us find positive in some of the worst situations. You can find the good in every situation, you just have to be willing to receive it. If you’re having trouble with the environment of people that you are around, take it as an opportunity to show them the love of Christ that is within you. View it as an opportunity, not burden to be around those people. If you are overwhelmed with school work, be thankful that you are being educated to achieve your dreams. If you can’t stand where you work, try to think of one positive thing that happened during the day. That always helps.

God wants you to enjoy your life. He knows you’re going to go through some very challenging times, but He’s there with you to help you persevere. I’ve said this many times before, but concentrating on God and furthering your relationship with Him is a way in which you can improve in many different aspects within your life. One aspect this can improve is your attitude. Actually taking time for God in your day helps tremendously in providing you with the joy from the Lord. The Scripture and your relationship with God provides hope and perseverance which ultimately can lead to a more joyful heart. When you have that joy in your heart, it’s easier to look around at all the good, rather than the bad.

In saying all of this, it’s okay to have bad days, and it’s natural to have a bad attitude every once in a while. There have been so many points in my life where I was just down. While I know I should’ve had a better attitude, it was hard. Some situations in our life are hard, but changing how we approach situations can help. They can provide us with hope and strength to get through the day. But we don’t need to let our bad attitude control our lives. It’s only going to leave us in the valley. And when in the valley, it’s hard to see the mountaintop.

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. – Ephesians 4:22-24

You can always go to the Bible for some good advice. This verse says it all. It’s time to say goodbye to our old bad attitudes that have controlled us for so long. Let’s say yes to a new life with a good attitude. It is our unintended desire to be negative. That was made very clear to me my sophomore year of high school. So let’s start being more aware of our attitudes and strive to be better.

 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! – 2 Corinthians 5:17

Building Character… One Wrong At a Time

Growing up, I was pretty stubborn. It was my way or the highway. And if you would’ve asked me, when I was a child, I would’ve said that I was never wrong. I can still be this way at times, but my parents did a really great job at teaching me the value of admitting that I’m not always right. I’m human, and there are times that I’m very wrong. We all have moments in which we are wrong and where we make mistakes. A hard lesson to be learned in life is the value of admitting that we aren’t always right.

Like I said before, my parents engrained this value into me at a young age… or at least tried to. One reoccurring thing I loved to defend myself on was answering calls/texts/emails. Let me tell you. I was the champion at saying I’d get back with people and not getting back with them. This goes for just holding nice conversations with my friends to even important work communication. I was just terrible at communication (still am not great). Never take it personal if I don’t respond. It’s just one of my downfalls. But I would never admit that I was wrong for not taking up the responsibility to respond to people. My parents would get on to me about it, and I’d argue day and night to prove that it wasn’t my fault. It would’ve saved many arguments to finally surrender to the fact that I was wrong in my actions and needed to work to be better. Admitting your wrong saves you many arguments and honestly just makes you feel better in the end. It feels nice to know that you did the right thing. You’re more respected when you admit that you made a mistake.

As I’ve gotten older and experienced more of life, I’ve seen the true importance of surrendering and finally admitting “I’m wrong” or “I’ve made a mistake. I’m sorry.” . In every kind of relationship, this characteristic is needed. You’re going to make mistakes. It’s inevitable. I can’t tell you how many mistakes I’ve made within my relationship with my family, friends and boyfriend. But for every mistake I’ve made, I can truly say that a lesson has been learned. But even today, within those relationships, I struggle to admit that I’m wrong. It’s human nature. Let’s go back to the first humans on the Earth and see how they reacted when they made a huge mistake.

Genesis 3: 1-13

1 The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?”

“Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied. “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’”

“You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”

The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too. At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves.

When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man[a] and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the Lord God among the trees. Then the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

10 He replied, “I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.”

11 “Who told you that you were naked?” the Lord God asked. “Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?”

12 The man replied, “It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it.”

13 Then the Lord God asked the woman, “What have you done?”

“The serpent deceived me,” she replied. “That’s why I ate it.”

Adam and Eve clearly do not want to admit up to their mistakes. Instead, they point fingers. This proves that from the beginning, human nature causes humans to not want to admit up to their wrongs. We like to be right. We don’t like to feel that we have disappointed. Although, the right thing to do is acknowledge our wrong turn and make it right. My mom and I were talking about this topic, and she mentioned something that really stood out to me. She said that within the workplace there is respect that is given to you when you admit your mistakes. Not shame. Most of the time, there is a solution to what you messed up, and your boss is going to appreciate your integrity. That goes with anything in life. God didn’t create you to always be right. God knows you’re going to make the wrong choices. God doesn’t condemn you for that, but He certainly does value you acknowledging your wrongdoings. Once you recognize where you’ve gone wrong, there are reparations that can be made.

Right now, we live in a world that doesn’t like to be wrong. Our world doesn’t even like to admit we make mistakes, and it’s time to change that. In order to improve our character and live more Christlike, we need to start valuing this characteristic.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. – 1 John 1:9

Just Breathe

A couple of years ago, I was driving in the car alone, when a song came on Air1 that really caught my attention. I remember being overwhelmed in that moment. I was out and about, trying to get a million things done. The song was super fast paced in the first verse, and the lyrics were naming off the millions of things a person had to get done. I remember thinking of how much I related to the person that the lyrics were describing. And then all of a sudden the chorus came in. It said…

Breathe, just breathe
Come and rest at My feet
And be, just be
Chaos calls but all you really need
Is to just breathe

All I remember in that moment was a feeling of relief came over me. I don’t really know why exactly. If I was to guess, it was because I was reminded that it is okay to slow my mind down. It’s okay to slow down, and give myself a break. It’s okay for you to do the same.

But so many times, we tell ourselves that it isn’t okay to slow down. We are constantly caught up in a fast-paced society that doesn’t bring true joy. We may have satisfaction in ourselves when we cross another thing off our to-do-list, but it doesn’t bring us fulfillment. After one thing is crossed off, our mind is just on to the next. Honestly, with living like this, how does our mind ever get a break? Instead of living in the present, we tend to get a mindset where all we think about is what we have to get done in the future.

When the coronavirus shut life down as we once knew it, we were forced to do something that we don’t know very well. Slow down. I didn’t even know how to begin to face this new found reality. I honestly can’t remember the last time in my life where I actually took time to slow down. It took some training of my mind to come to peace with it all. At first, I found myself having little stress episodes because I felt like I was always forgetting to do something or be somewhere. I had lived so long constantly having my mind on everything I had coming up that I forgot how to just live in the present. I would get little stress episodes because my mind was confused. It was confused that I wasn’t going from this place to that place. I didn’t have anywhere to be, and it took my mind sometime to get used to that.

The fact that it is hard to slow down isn’t surprising but definitely is problematic. We live in society that trains are minds to not be content in the present. We are constantly living in our past and future, but when do we even take time to live in the present? We live in our regrets of our past and desires for the future. Living like this is draining. I would know because I’ve been there, and I feel like most people have been in this place. If we would focus on the present, we would definitely free our minds from the fast-paced trap that we all seem to fall into. Instead of looking at our mishaps in the past and the million things we have to do in the future, we can put those aside and focus on the moment we’re in. Think of how much baggage and worry that would take out of your every day life. It’s insane the impact that living in the present can have on your life. It allows your mind to truly slow down.

Another realization I’ve had over the years is that your worth is not determined by the number of to-dos on your to-do-list. Your worth is given to you by God, and it claims you as priceless. It’s always been a terrible habit of mine to compare my schedule to others and base my worth off of that. For some reason, I’ve engrained this thought into my head that if I’m not as busy as another person, then I’m clearly just not living a life worth living. But that way of thinking is wrong. Pick your own pace that allows you to have the time to slow down and concentrate on the parts of life that are actually important. We need to make our faith the priority, not success. We need to make our relationships a priority, not being perfect in all that we do. We need to strive to do our best, but we don’t need to get ourselves to the place where we shut people out because we put all of our time and effort into being perfect in things that will not follow us to heaven.

A couple of years ago, I went to a church camp that named the theme of the week, “Sabbath”. If you don’t know what the Sabbath is, it is God’s command to us to rest. God created the world in seven days and on the seventh, God rested. It’s, in my opinion, one of the most vital days of creation. God taught us, by example, the importance of taking time to rest. The week of church camp, where we were learning about this, I remember one of the leaders asking the question of how we practice the Sabbath in our own lives? I hope you give this question some thought and answer it honestly. My honest answer was, I don’t practice it at all. I never give myself time to rest because my priorities lie in what I have to do next. I definitely have not gotten much better at practicing the Sabbath, but I’ve really tried to be better at giving myself the rest that God commands. God commands rest because God loves us. God knows what we need because He created every inch of us. He knows that we are creatures that are designed to slow down. Rest is a beautiful and life-giving gift from God.

I hope you’ve learned the importance of slowing down and living in the present during this pandemic. I will say that I’ve seen parts of people that I never even knew existed. People have discovered their talents and have been sharing them with the world. I see people sharing their voice through music, drawing beautiful art, and finding new found passions that they didn’t even know that they had. The simple answer to this is we were forced to slow down. We have had time to explore parts of us that we didn’t know were there.

Here’s a thought for the day: Maybe God commands rest in order for us to discover who we are. Don’t miss out on that opportunity by prioritizing your to-do-list.

‘”Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”‘ – Matthew 11:28

“The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” – 1 John 2:17

Are you worshipping the flow or God?

The word “worship” has more power than we think. There is so much meaning within that one word. One way I love to worship God is through music. I have always found a strong connection to God when singing to Him. I especially love when a whole group is together, singing praise to God. But worship doesn’t only come in the form of music. Worship is found in reading the Bible, praying to God, and even in how we live our each and every day. That is why I say that there is so much meaning within the word worship. Worship is an essential part of our lives.

Like I said before, I’m sure that most of you all associate worship with music. Music made it’s way into Christian culture many years ago, and it continues to be a way that we connect with God. This kind of worship has had such a moving impact on my life. We all have those songs with lyrics that we feel God wrote directly for us. God works through music in such a beautiful way. Music is a way that God intercedes through us in order to reach people and connect with them. I’ve been a worship leader for a while now, and it is amazing to see how music moves people. I could go on and on about the power within it. What I have also seen as a worship leader is the need for worship to continue on in our daily walk of life, not just when we are singing praise to God.

Even as a worship leader, it’s easy to have days where I get up to lead people in worship and feel distant. These days usually stem from when I shut God out and attempt to face all that is going on in the world without God. It usually stems from my tendency to not carry out worship in other aspects of my life. The world, right now, is full of so much negativity. There is so much hurt. I get on social media, and it’s all so loud. We have all gotten to this place of bitterness. I see people, instead of coming together, that are telling others to get out of their life. As a worship leader, sometimes I get distracted because all of this is so distracting. The noise of the world is all so loud. This is also not how we should worship God.

Worshipping God is seen in how we live our day to day lives. It’s shown through how we love God’s precious human-beings, that He created. It’s shown through us being the example of Christ that the world needs. Merriam Webster defines worship as the action ” to regard with great or extravagant respect, honor, or devotion”. In order to show God our devotion, we need to worship God by living out our days like Christ would. Right now, sadly, we haven’t been the best at worshipping God. We have been spreading negativity and not been focused on worship. Many of us have been focused on the world. You may show up to church and worship God with all of your heart through your praise, but are you worshipping God in your day-to-day life?

We need to pray. We need to pray for what is on our hearts. What is on others hearts. This is a form of worship. We need to read the Bible, and find where we believe the Bible stands on issues. Don’t have others tell you what to believe. Read it for yourself, and develop your own relationship with God. Your relationship with God is not going to be the same as your best friends’. That’s okay. But remember reading Scripture is a form of worship that is connecting you with God in your own special way. I’ve always regarded worship as a way of connecting. Praying and reading Scripture are just that.

Praying and reading the Bible can be viewed as an armor. They get us ready to step out into the mission field of life. Approach every day as if it is a mission field because it is!! Every day is a beautiful opportunity to love and bring people to know the love of Christ. This is furthering the Kingdom of God. When you step out of bed, the evil one should tremble. That evil one should be scared because you’re going to worship God to the best of your ability. You’re going to shut out all of the lies in the world, and you’re going to defeat them with love. You’re going to get even closer to God through your prayers and Bible reading, and the evil one knows, there is no power that can overcome the power of God. We should sing a little louder, pray a little more, and love with all of our hearts. Worship all starts in the heart. If your heart is not set in the right place, it’s a whole lot easier to fall into the same pattern as the rest of the world.

There was a video I watched when I was younger that always stuck in my mind. The video included a huge group of people that were all dressed the exact same, in grey clothing. They were all following the same flow. They seemed to be walking, almost as they were robots, all in the same direction. All of a sudden, there were others that walked into this crowd, going the opposite direction. They were dressed in very bright colors. There is symbolism here. The grey dressed, big group of people that were all walking in the same direction represented the world. The people dressed in colorful coloring, walking in the opposite direction were the people choosing to not conform to the world. After I watched this video, I did something that may sound comical, but it was actually very helpful for me. I wrote probably fifty notecards that all said the same thing. They said “Don’t Conform to the World”. I hid them all around my house. Every time I’d come across one, I was reminded that I didn’t need to conform. If I caught myself going into the pattern of the world, I stopped myself in my tracks. If we are living out each and every day for God, we are going to be those people in colorful clothes walking against the flow. It’s not easy, but this beautiful imagery demonstrates a form of worship. It shows people giving it all to God, instead of giving it all to the world. Are you just following the pattern of the world? If so, try to live out your beliefs in God, and stop living for the approval of others.

Worship God to the best of your ability. God wants to equip you for the challenges of this world. God also doesn’t want you falling into the trap that the world sets for us. It’s easy to be consumed in negativity, but if we want to worship God to the best of our abilities, we need to choose our relationship with God over it all. Instead of conforming to the world, start worshipping God by being different and being the one who lives for our all-mighty God.

Worship connects us to God, so let’s worship a little more.

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness. – Psalm 29:2

The Struggle of Being Real

I’ve always had this tendency of bottling in all of my emotions. I want the world to see the good parts of me, not the broken parts. I honestly didn’t even realize that I had this tendency until I was a little older. Things started to feel heavy because of all the baggage that I was carrying. But I continued to try to carry the load on my own, and make everything seem great to the outside world. Maybe you relate. Maybe you always feel like you’re putting on a face, and you’re truly exhausted. Maybe you break down alone and feel completely alone because you tend to shut others out. Maybe it’s time for a change.

I have always been that person, not on purpose, but I have. I have always wanted it to seem to others that I have it all together. I constantly worry about how others perceive me. It’s easy to fall into this trap with the society that we live in today. We are always seeing the sides of people on social media that are put together. Sometimes it’s hard to even realize that the person posting that put-together picture is human too and has struggles just like you. They may be different struggles, but every person faces their own battles in life. The issue is we don’t like to recognize this. Instead, we like to get down on ourselves for not being perfect. This leads us to filter out the bad so that nobody but ourselves knows our weaknesses.

My junior year of high school at church camp, we did an activity that truly made me question who I was. In better words, this activity made me question who I displayed myself to be to the rest of the world. Some of you all may have participated in this activity at some point in your life or even have done something similar. It was called “Cross the Line”. When we did this, I remember it was the last night of camp, and we had just finished a very powerful night of worship. I remember being on a spiritual high and being very emotional because of the true connection I had felt with God that night. Afterwards, my church youth group gathered and did this activity. The leaders had all of the group stand at one side of the room. They then told us that they were going to say a series of statements, and if any of the statements applied to us, we needed to “cross the line”, or in other words, go to the other side of the room. They started with surface level questions. For example, they would say, “Cross the line if you have a sibling”. As the activity continued on, they began to make statements such as, “Cross the line if you have faced the obstacle of anxiety”. This one hit home because I had faced anxiety. I had always been a person full of fear and worry, to the point where it all consumed me, and no one knew it until that night, when I crossed the line. As I crossed it, it felt as if a weight was off my shoulders. For the first time, I was being truly vulnerable.

That night is when I realized the true importance of what we see as weakness. I found that truly sharing the parts of myself that I thought were ugly was not a weakness but actually a strength. It strengthened my relationships. I was carrying my burdens with these people I trusted, instead of trying to do everything on my own. I even realized the importance of inviting God in to help me carry my burdens. I had been shutting, not only people out, but also God. I was at a point in my life where I thought everything would be easier to carry on my own. I pushed God to the side and only thought of how I could make it through my struggles by myself.

I’ve found that the places where I have shut out God and other people have truly created some of my weakest moments in life. When in these places, I’m insecure, I usually feel alone, and I feel that everything just feels miserable. The reason for this loneliness is the confidence that I can do it all on my own. Many of us believe this notion. It’s time to start realizing that vulnerability isn’t making us weak but making us strong. God gives us the gift of relationships. Instead of constantly putting our guard up, we need to start trusting the people that God has given to us as a gift. We also need to recognize the gift of our relationship with God. We need to start giving God our everything, even our weaknesses.

The night we did the “Cross the Line” activity my eyes were truly opened to how closed off I had been through the years. Have you closed yourself to others and to God? Are you striving to be your true, authentic self or just put up a guard to everyone you know and love? On the home page of my website it says “beautifully & simply authentic”. Under that, it says “the beauty in being real”. The reason why these words are on the home page of my website is because these words hold importance. There is a true beauty in being your true, authentic self. Being real and authentic is being vulnerable. Work on being more vulnerable. I find myself struggling to achieve this goal, but I have learned, over the years, the real power that vulnerability has. Sharing your testimony is a form of vulnerability. Trusting a friend with an obstacle your facing is vulnerability. Confrontation with a person you have a broken relationship with is vulnerability. Praying to God and asking for guidance IS VULNERABILITY. Through sharing your testimony, you can change lives and provide hope. Through having others help carry your burdens, you may not feel as alone. By confronting a broken relationship, you can mend and make a beautiful relationship with an old friend. By being vulnerable with God, you can face all of your weaknesses because with God you know you’re not alone.

Be vulnerable. It’s hard, mostly in this world we’re living in, but let’s work on achieving this goal together.

 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. – Galatians 6:2

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. – 2 Corinthians 12:9

Perspective

On February 3rd, a tragedy occurred in Moore, Oklahoma. Moore High School cross country students were out on their normal run at practice when a truck went off the side of the road and hit them head on. One student died on the spot, and later on, two students died in the hospital. There were three others that were injured but thankfully recovered. I still can’t imagine what the ones who recovered have faced. It would be painful to experience all of that first-hand and still have memories of such a tragic day. I also couldn’t bear to imagine what the families of those who lost their children that day have faced. Nobody ever would’ve seen this coming.

Since I went to Westmoore High School, this happened in the community I grew up in, and I saw the community completely broken over what had happened to these students on February 3rd. Nobody expected this to happen on such a normal day. In some of my previous blogs, I’ve discussed how life throws many curveballs. We really truly never know what tomorrow is going to bring. That honestly scares me a little bit to think about. I mean, we’ve seen it first-hand with the coronavirus. Who would’ve seen that coming? Not me. We have great plans for our lives, and then life takes wild turns that change our lives forever. You may have lost a family member, suddenly. You may have gotten in the car one day, not expecting the damage that was soon to come. The pregnancy test may have come back positive when you feel not prepared in the slightest to be a parent. You may have lost your job which is what your family needed to keep going. You may have had a child who’s life was taken away due to a reckless driver at cross country practice.

What makes many of us uncomfortable is the fact that we aren’t in control. We love to think we are, but we’re not. We never know what tomorrow is going to hold. A couple years ago, my friends and I got into a minor accident on the way to the movies. We were all perfectly fine but definitely shaken up. If we would’ve known that was going to happen, then we just could’ve called a rain check, but we didn’t know. It’s important for us to admit that we really don’t know what is to come.

I’m not trying to be dark but instead, I’m trying to put things into perspective for you. When we think we are in control, we live like there is a tomorrow. We aren’t nice to our family, friends and significant other. We constantly complain. We get worried about things that don’t even matter in the long run. We don’t make the people that we love feel loved. We worry about what other people think of us. If you knew there was no tomorrow, would you live like that? I don’t think that you would. I’ll tell you all a little something about me. I worry about absolutely everything. People who know me well can testify for me on this. However, if I knew that there was no tomorrow, the things that I worry about would have no power over me. They wouldn’t even matter. One year that I especially worried was my senior year of high school. I had the constant worry of getting into college, picking the right college, and getting the money for that college. I was so stressed. The future can be scary, and I wasn’t sure of what my future would hold. But this leads me back to the Moore students that were hit by the truck. Two of those students were seniors. I can’t speak for them, but if they were anything like me, they were worried about where they were going next in life. In an instant, all of that didn’t matter.

I’m definitely not telling you to just not care about life here on earth because through all the important work you do here, you can make a footprint and positive mark on this world. But instead, use this perspective to help you to live a better life. Don’t be short-tempered. Don’t worry so much. Don’t complain and be negative all of the time. Use this to help your mind to realize who is really in control. By believing the lie that you are in control, you are in for a life of disappointments, insecurities, and more heartache. You won’t rely on God through the hard parts of life because you will believe that you have it all taken care of. You will be down on yourself when you can’t carry it all. By relinquishing all of the control to God, you can breathe. You can face your battles, not feeling alone. You can make mistakes, and rely on God to navigate how to truly repair the mistakes you have made. If you truly know in your heart that God is the only One in control, even your relationship with God will improve. Take comfort in this verse. It speaks works of encouragement because we can be reminded the power of the One who is in control.

In whose hand is the life of every living thing,
And the breath of all mankind? – Job 12:10

So why do we live like we are in control? Why do we worry? Why are we always consumed in drama? Why is it that all we want to do is complain? I think it is just because control makes us feel better. I have always been one that prefers to be the one driving the car if a group of people are carpooling together. This is because I feel the comfort of knowing that I’m in control. BUT the reality is that you’re not in control, and you need to start living like it. If you lose your job unexpectedly, remind yourself that God is in control. Instead of getting down on yourself, get back up, trust in God and keep living. You’ve got this! You only have one life to live, and you don’t know what tomorrow holds. SO live it, even when it’s hard. Remember the God that is bigger than you and that job that you lost. If you lose someone you love, try your best to rely on God through the pain. I know it’s hard. But know that you aren’t guaranteed that tomorrow either. So try to get on your feet, trust in God, and live like there is no tomorrow. If that pregnancy test comes back positive and you feel unprepared, don’t be scared. God is with you, and it is out of your control. Put your trust in the One who is in control. Be excited to welcome life, and love that child like there is no tomorrow. If you are facing a life-changing obstacle, stop worrying. Don’t be afraid. You can do it, with God. There is no need to worry, but instead, there is a need to invite God in to help you. Make the best out of whatever you’re facing.

When we perceive ourselves as being in control, we give ourselves too much power. We give ourselves the power of tearing down ourselves and others. Whatever you’re facing, realize that God is in control and not you. Let’s quit living like there’s a tomorrow.

Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. – Psalm 107:28-29

Hate Divides.

It hurts. The world just hurts right now. Last week, I wrote about the coronavirus, not having any idea that America was going to enter into another heartache. On May 25th, 2020, a man who was black died in the hands of a man who happened to be a police officer. I’m sure most of you all know the story because if you live in America you’re experiencing all of this firsthand. You see your neighbors divided. You see fights for justice. You are most likely experiencing the hurt that I’m experiencing.

If I’m being honest, I didn’t want to write about this. I tried to think of literally any other subject to write about BUT this, and God still made it clear that this is what I needed to talk about. You see, this has been a subject matter that has been hard on my heart. It has been something that has been eating me up for the past week. My family knows this because we have had many good conversations about all that is going on in the world right now. God knows this because God knows my heart and my thoughts. God also knows that I’m not the only one hurting.

As I scroll through social media, I see people arguing and fighting. In my lifetime, I have seen much divide but not like I’m seeing currently. Close friends are divided. Even families are divided. People have different ways of achieving justice. Some people believe that protesting and rioting is the answer to an injustice of racial inequality. Others don’t see this as an issue of race but just as an issue of a man who unrightfully had his life taken away by someone who has made some bad decisions. Some people are angry at police officers while others believe that many police officers are being mistreated. I’m not here to say that I believe this way or that way, but to address the hurt that this divide is having on our country. This is going to sound harsh, but the reason for this divide is hate. Our social media is full of hate right now. I sit on social media for way too long scrolling through only to see all of the hate and arguments. Hate divides while only love can unify us.

To be honest, I didn’t even know where to go from here. I’ve seen all this divide among people, but I myself haven’t known how to approach it. I decided to ask my boyfriend, who always seems to have the greatest insight, where I should go with this. JD responded almost immediately by telling me to ask the question of, what would Jesus do if He were here? What would Jesus do? Do you think He would encourage this ongoing hate, or would He find a way to love all people, despite what’s going on? Jesus would choose to love. Jesus chooses love. Jesus doesn’t care what you believe, He still loves you any way. This may be hard for some to take in, but Jesus loves even Derek Chauvin, the man who killed George Floyd. You know why? It’s because His love knows no limits.

I believe the greatest love story ever known to humankind is the story of Jesus. Jesus gave up His life for all, even the ones who hated Him because He LOVED them. Jesus was hated by the Romans so much so that they ordered Jesus to die on the cross. However, Jesus didn’t hate them because of the hate that they placed on Him. Instead, Jesus showed compassion and love to them by giving His whole life up on the cross so that everyone, even the Romans, had the opportunity of eternal life. Now that is some good news. But when asking this question of what would Jesus do, we are also asking the question of what we should do. Jesus is an example for us to live by, and Jesus chose love. Jesus chose love even to people that were terrible to him, so we need to start doing the same.

Hate is what evil wants, so evil feels like it has the upper hand. Evil tries to break us apart, and that is exactly what it is achieving. We’re letting anger build up within us towards each other instead of giving one another grace. God gives us grace, and we should pass this gift along to all people, not just accept it for ourselves. Start giving other people the gift of grace and of love that God gives to you. Most importantly, don’t forget God during this time. Through this storm, trust in God. Don’t give into all of the hate. Be the person who, instead of giving into the hate, loves all, even those who choose hate during this time. You have a choice. You can choose hate or love. I’ll admit it’s been a struggle for me to choose love, especially during this time, but it’s important for us to recognize what we are choosing and make adjustments. Use the gifts of grace and love that God gives you. Hate will only divide.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7