Is God in this story?

“Where is God in this story?” is a question religion majors here at OCU ask quite often. We are taught that this is one of the key exegetical questions to ask about a piece of Scripture. Why? Because it’s important to know the role of God in each story. It’s important to see how God is working in the midst of heartache, depression, conflict and persecution. It is also important to determine where God is when God doesn’t seem to be present in the book. For example, God is not mentioned one time in Esther, so where would God be?? Better yet, where is God in our story? Doesn’t it sometimes feel as if God isn’t present in our book? It seems that I am usually able to find God in a book of the Bible, but in my personal life… that’s another story. So where is God in my story? In our story?

These past two weeks have been crazy to say the least. This week we’ve been facing an insane election. Last week, here in Oklahoma, a powerful ice storm whipped through and took all of our electricity for days. There are people that are still out!! It was so sad to drive down the street to see so much destroyed. All of the trees still had leaves on them, so when the ice came, the trees were more weighed down and were destroyed. Not only that, but everything was dark. I would drive down the street at night with not a trace of light. Honestly, it kind of reminds me of this election week. There’s darkness encompassing us all with seemingly no trace of light. Everyone is angry and fighting. Every once in a while, I’ll see a post encouraging positivity, but even that makes people angry. People want to be mad and bitter right now, and they’re spreading the bitterness to the entire country. There is so much darkness. Where is God in it all?

I believe we are always subconsciously asking this question. When we’re going through hard times, we search for God whether we know it or not. God is in our inmost being, and though it may not seem like it sometimes, we NEED God. We cannot face life alone. God didn’t create this life for us to live it by ourselves. I mean think about it. Are we not always searching for meaning? We’re always wondering why bad things happen to us. We’re always curious to know where we’re supposed to go next. When we stand outside and see all of the beauty of nature, we’re intrigued with how something could be so perfect. We’re always searching for meaning. We’re always searching for God. God is the hope we’re searching for the bad times. God is in our future plans. God created nature and called it a masterpiece. We’re always searching for God whether we know it or not.

Even in this time, we’re looking for God. But if you’re anything like me, it’s been a hard search. The world just feels heavy. The great thing about the Bible is that biblical figures often related to us more than one may realize. Biblical figures were people too. Although they faced different struggles, they felt what we feel on a daily basis.

Paul is such an interesting person in the Bible. He was terrible when we first meet him. His name wasn’t even Paul. It was Saul. And Saul persecuted and killed early Christians for their beliefs in Jesus Christ. Early Christians avoided him because they knew he was a killer of Christians. But he changed. God changed him. Through an encounter with a man named Ananies, he converted to Christianity, the religion he persecuted. His name became Paul, and he became a devout follower of Christ, who went around spreading the good news. He went from the persecutor to being persecuted. Within Paul’s ministry, there were many times when he got in trouble by public officials for his proclamation of faith in Jesus Christ. In one of these instances, Paul was with a man named Silas. They got in trouble and were locked away in prison.

25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, 26 and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. 27 When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” 29 And the jailer[e] called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. 34 Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God. – Acts 16:25-34

Rather than Paul and Silas, I want to focus on the jailer here. He was in a great darkness, so much so that he was about to kill himself. This man knew that he didn’t do his job successfully, and the authorities would kill him for it. He assumed it would be better to end his life himself. Darkness in our life leads us to do things that we otherwise would not. Sadly, sometimes it comes to ending it all for people, and I pray if you are at this point to please reach out to somebody and seek help. However, darkness can also cause us to be bitter, hostile and hateful. It can cause us to be people that we are not and do things we normally wouldn’t do. I believe this is exactly what is happening in our world right now. We are allowing the darkness to overtake us. The election, the in and out of quarantine, the deaths and the unexpecting nature of 2020 has caused turmoil within us. We are encompassed in darkness. So where is God in the story?

The story of the jailor didn’t end here. Paul and Silas stopped the jailor from ending his life. They gave him hope. They were God working in this story. They said, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here”. Paul and Silas weren’t the only ones there, so was God. When all hope was gone, God was there. And God is not just in this story. God is in our story too. Just because it is hard to see doesn’t mean that God isn’t here. Sometimes the greatest works were carried out in silence. Sometimes the silence remains for a very long time. But that doesn’t mean we are alone. God doesn’t just work in the loud, light-filled place. God works also in the silent, dark spaces of our lives.

There are times God calls us to search. There are times when I’m studying the Bible in class and really struggle to find God. But I keep looking until I do. Start searching in your own life. Don’t expect your faith to always be easy because it’s not. You’re called to seek and not give up, even when you don’t seem to hear from God for a really long time.

At the small group I help lead, one of the students mentioned how it was sad that all the trees were destroyed because of the ice storm. One of the other leaders came back and said, “But isn’t there something beautiful in them even though they’re broken?” Where is God? God is in the destruction and the heartache. God is in this election, no matter the turnout. God doesn’t leave, just because things don’t go the way we want. We can’t expect everything to be perfect. We can’t always expect everything to work out because the world is made up of humans. But that doesn’t mean that God is gone. God is still present and working, in the midst of the heartache.

Let’s start searching a little more and remember that God most definitely is in this story.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” – Matthew 7:7

Living Life Beyond the Screen

This week has been really busy. Usually on a week like this I’d feel miserable, but I haven’t. I have found myself living more in the present than I have in a very long time. And there is one big reason I think this is. Social media. This week I made it a goal to not get on my social platforms hardly at all. Not to be dramatic, but it changed the whole trajectory of my week. I was able to focus more on all of the homework I had. I even found myself spending more time with people, even though I was slammed. It is crazy how much one component of our lives can change literally everything. Yes, social media has its’ perks. But yes, it can also be one of the leading causes to depression, sadness and anxiety.

Social media is great for sharing fun memories. It’s also great for connecting with people that live far away. However, I feel like we use these reasonings to justify being on some sort of social platform for HOURS. It’s great to connect with others through your social media (that’s what it is made for), but that doesn’t necessarily mean we should spend all day looking at a screen. We miss so many good parts of life by doing that. And that’s what I realized this week. You all would be shocked by how many times I picked up my phone to get on Instagram, only to stop myself five seconds later. It has become such a big part of my life that it’s a struggle to let it go.

Last week was pretty rough. I didn’t necessarily know why, but I almost felt depressed. It took me talking to my mom to put the dots together that it most likely was stemming from social media. I was tired of seeing the negativity. I was even more tired of seeing people having fun ALL THE TIME. I was quarantined last week, and all I could think about the entire time was how college has never been what I expected it to be. I thought it’d include hanging out with friends all of the time and making fun memories every night. And social media told me that is what college is for a lot of people. Clearly, social media can lead to comparison. Every person is posting every little good part about their life. After a while, it can make us wonder why these people have such a seemingly perfect life, and we just seem to be on the struggle bus. You might feel lonely, and all you see on your Instagram is all of these people having a great time with their close friend group. You may feel as if you are not beautiful compared to all of the people you see as you’re scrolling. You may be tired of seeing people who have hurt you post and act like someone they are not for the rest of the world. And you may not even realize that social media is tearing you apart like it might be.

Social media acts as a sort of addiction. Our mind enjoys being occupied with other peoples’ lives, and these different social platforms are always finding new ways to keep us hooked. They do such a great job that it’s really hard to put the phone down sometimes. And I think this affects us in three major ways.

First of all, our time is completely consumed with social media. We stop engaging in real life and instead, we engage with an unrealistic world. This week I truly had so much more time for my relationships than I have had in a while. I was actually getting work done, and finding ways to take time for myself. My attention was finally on the present moment and not the media. I also found myself being more positive. Currently, the media is full of an insane amount of negativity. It is unhealthy for us to consume all of our time focusing on the conflicts occurring in our world. It’s important to be aware, but it’s not important for us to wrapped up in it all constantly. We have one life to live, and we were meant to enjoy it. Focusing on the media and what is going on in our world 24/7 is not going to allow you to live in the present or possibly even be happy.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. – Philippians 4:8

Do you believe social media is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable and worthy of praise? Just something to think about.

Secondly, our internal being is impacted by social media. As I was saying earlier, we sometimes feel lonely, sad and consumed in our imperfections because of social media. Since social media has come around, anxiety and other mental health issues have gone up. It literally sometimes feels like it has come into our lives in order to steal all of our joy. This is because we allow it to. We need to know our limits. If you find that you’ve been comparing yourself constantly to other people, it is probably time to take a break. You need to take that initiative to limit yourself for as long as you need. No one else can do this for you. You’re worth is priceless, and if social media is telling you otherwise, it’s time to get off. My worth was being impacted which is why I decided it was time to put some limits on my screen time, and it has helped more than I could’ve ever imagined.

Lastly, our self-control has seemingly gotten worse because of social media. I have a feeling I’m the not the only one who can’t get enough of it at times. I will sit down and scroll for hours. I know I should stop, but it really is so hard sometimes. Often times, our relationship with social media is toxic. Social media is always wanting your attention and takes away from your good relationships in life. You could be making memories of your own but instead you can’t quit looking at other peoples’ memories.

for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. – 2 Timothy 1:7

God gave us a spirit of self-control, so it’s time to start using it. There are some things that are not bad in moderation. Social media really isn’t terrible, but it needs to be used in moderation. Our whole life should not be centered around something that isn’t real or true. People often portray an image of themselves that isn’t who they are at all. People probably think I do. I will admit that I usually always share the good parts of myself, but let me be honest right now. Those little memories I share are not who I am. I am made up of those good things and also so many imperfections. What you all do not see is the tears I have cried, the insecurities I have faced and the moments I have been at my lowest. You aren’t alone. We don’t share these parts of ourselves. And that’s not a bad thing. In saying this though, it’s important for us to realize that people don’t live perfect lives. Everyone has struggles of their own.

Is social media taking over your life? Really think about that question. You may not like the answer, but you need to be honest with yourself.

Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. – Hebrews 10:25

Let’s not forget about the value of relationships beyond the screen.

Drop the Stigma

We don’t like to talk about it, but many people are dealing with it. Sadly, there’s a stigma paired with it, and although I wish the stigma didn’t exist, it does. The stigma of mental health. Now more than ever, I hear of people struggling with mental health. I firmly believe the reason for this is the pandemic. We are in and out of quarantine. People are having to be self-isolated. We have to constantly keep our distance from those we love. The politics are tearing people apart. And on top of all this, we are trying to keep up with school, work and life. We have so much on our plate. I know many people who are depressed. All of this is leaving them with no hope. I know people who are struggling with anxiety. Their to-do-list and all that is going on in the world leaves them anxious and overwhelmed. Life is weird and really hard right now. No wonder we’re struggling.

I wanted to write a blog over mental health because today is World Mental Health Awareness Day which is SO VERY important!!!! Mental health is an obstacle that so many of us face. I have faced mental health struggles on numerous occasions in my life. And I want to share one of my experiences so that you know wherever you are, you are not alone.

I’ve always been an anxious person. When I was only ten years old, I struggled to fall asleep at night. My mind was always racing and wouldn’t let me catch a break. When it got to the point where it was affecting the amount of sleep I received every night, my parents then decided it was time to try to find something that would help me. I went and had a sleep study done. There was nothing wrong. I went to the doctor. There was nothing wrong. Finally, they decided it might help if I went to counseling. And it did. I talked through my struggles, and that counselor helped me navigate a solution. Just talking to someone gave me the help I needed to eventually help me to slow my mind down and fall asleep at night. Overtime, my sleep was fine, and I quit going to the counselor. But as I began to grow up, I came face to face with another issue. Stress. Stress impacted my life in such a way, that the anxiety just came rushing back in. It’s as if it took over my life. The overwhelming feeling of anxiety was present in my life 24/7. The question of what if? never let me catch a breath. This consumed me all the way from junior high, through high school and even sometimes into my today. However, now I finally know the importance of getting help. For the longest time, I refused it. I told myself I was stronger than a little stress. But it wasn’t a little stress. It was a little stress that had welcomed in the monster named “anxiety”.. And I couldn’t face it on my own.

Mental health issues didn’t start with you and I. They actually date all the way back to biblical times. Take David for instance. He wrote the Psalms, and through these verses, we can see that David was suffering from a deep sadness.

Save me, O God,
    for the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in deep mire,
    where there is no foothold;
I have come into deep waters,
    and the flood sweeps over me.
I am weary with my crying;
    my throat is parched.
My eyes grow dim
    with waiting for my God. – Psalm 69:1-3

These verses reflect the dark place that David was in. He was depressed and had lost all hope in life. But something that stands out about David. He knew he couldn’t face this pain alone, and he was crying out for help from the Lord.

But for some reason, there is a stigma for getting help. People think it is a sign of weakness. But I’m here to tell you what you’ve heard a thousand times. Getting help IS NOT a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of STRENGTH. I cannot stress this enough!! Hopefully, if you haven’t listened to the hundreds of other people that have told you this same thing before, you’ll listen to me. I know this from experience. It took me all the way up to my Freshman year of college to finally realize that I couldn’t face this monster all on my own. I decided to take advantage of the free counseling we have at my school. When signing up, I felt like I was giving into weakness, but after a few counseling sessions, I felt strength. I was proud of myself for finally admitting that I couldn’t do it all on my own. I wasn’t weak. I realized it took courage for me to take that step, and I did it. If you need help, take the next step. If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably told yourself that you’re making up your problems. First of all, you’re not. Second of all, you don’t even need a reason to go get help. Just having someone to talk to about life helps to relieve the pressure life puts on us.

After you finally decide to get help, one of the first things a counselor will usually tell you is that you need to take some time for yourself. I struggle with this. Ughhhh it’s hard. It’s easy to tell myself that everything else in life should come before me. I mean let’s take school for example. School is very important, but I’m going to be brutally honest. School is not everything. It is a blessing, and we should give it our best. But there are other aspects of life that are much more important. It has taken me a long time to realize that, but I’m so glad I have. We can’t keep allowing school to wreck our mental health. We need to work our hardest, but also realize that sometimes we need to ask for the extension on that really hard paper. Sometimes we just need to go to bed, instead of editing that assignment five more times. You’re probably not going to end up changing much anyways. Just turn it in, and get the sleep that your body needs. And quit stressing about how you’re going to get it all done. Everything always ends up working out. If you get a bad grade, shake it off. I promise it’s not going to matter a year later. When you mentally begin to let go of worries like this, eventually it becomes easier to take more time for yourself.

Go for a walk. Take a weekend (socially distant) trip with your friends. Go for a drive and sing at the top of your lungs. Take time to have fun. This helps boost our mental health. It reminds us that there is so much good to life. We don’t need to spend all of our time in life forgetting that we only have one life to live. If we do that, then we might just forget to enjoy it.

But don’t take just my advice on how to improve your mental health. Find what helps you to feel happy and better about life. I’m still learning. I’m at the point in my college career that life is just insane for me, and my mental health often suffers because of it. But I want to make it a goal to not get back to the point I was at in high school. I want to ask for help and find ways to enjoy life because I know these things improve my mental health. Do the same for yourself. Do a favor for the God who created you, and seek help, enjoy life, and find ways to care for yourself. God loves you immensely and wants that for you.

“Throw all your anxiety onto God, because God cares about you.” – 1 Peter 5:7

Learning to Live with God-Confidence

“You don’t look good.” Why did you mess that up?” “You always ruin everything.” “You’re not good enough.” These are just a few thoughts that I think have gone through many of our heads. Sometimes we beat ourselves up, until it feels like there’s nothing left. Low confidence comes to steal our joy and leaves us broken inside. When we don’t believe we are good enough, darkness creeps into our lives. There are many reasons we get to this place. One of the main reasons is through the people by which we are surrounded. Sadly, a hard reality of life is that not everyone wants us to succeed. Sometimes a way for people to deal with their own baggage is by bringing others down. And that someone they’re bringing down could very well be you right now.

Low confidence has been one of the biggest struggles I have ever faced in my life. I go through seasons where my self-esteem is great and then others where it seems nonexistent. When I’m facing a time of low confidence, I’ve realized that many MANY aspects of my life tend to get a whole lot harder. In these times, I question everything I do, rather than just enjoying the life and opportunities that I’ve been given. Maybe you’re in a place similar to this. Maybe you can’t quit looking in the mirror, searching for all of your imperfections. Maybe you have a gift that you’re scared to share because your confidence has been shattered. We all have these times. Some of us may face these times more than others. No matter how many times you’ve come face-to-face with low confidence, it’s hard.

At the end of my sophomore year of high school, I started something new. Singing. And I loved it. It was something I had always wanted to do. In fact, anytime my parents would leave the house I would belt out some Adele or Taylor Swift. I didn’t think of it as anything I would ever pursue because I didn’t think I was any good at it. But I sure did enjoy it. At the end of my sophomore year, I was feeling vulnerable and told my parents I wanted to take vocal lessons. They were surprised but more than willing to sign me up. They were even more surprised to hear that I could sing. Stepping into this unknown territory for me was hard. There were some days I didn’t know why I was doing it because I had a total of zero confidence in myself. Eventually, I started leading worship, and I still struggled. I knew my focus should be on God, but instead, it was on my voice. It was on every little teeny, tiny mistake. I would think about that one mistake for days. My parents saw many tears around this time. I was discouraged. I wanted to lead people in worship, but I was scared and unconfident.

Over time, I overcame this struggle, and I began to sing every note for God, good or bad. But that’s not to say that there hasn’t been a few roadblocks along the way. I’ve faced times since then where I go back to the same broken place I was in before. I’ve let people’s opinions get to me and allowed low confidence in other parts of my life to trickle into my singing. We are going to have setbacks throughout our lives. It happens. But if there is anything I have learned from these setbacks, it’s these three things:

  1. God-confidence is key

A lot of you are probably thinking… what is she talking about???? Well let me explain. I was in a small group a couple of years ago where we learned about this idea of “God-confidence”. What we learned is that this is a confidence that points upward. When we have vertical faith (setting our sights on the God above), we are able to focus on the One who is above all the insecurities. We’ve been talking about this idea of “vertical faith” a lot at church lately. The opposite of vertical faith is horizontal faith. “Horizontal faith” is placing all of our trust and identity on the things of this world. Well of course we aren’t going to be confident with horizontal faith!!! The world just tears us apart. The world is made up of so many imperfections and so much hurt. So instead we should have vertical faith… this gives us a confidence that is centered in our relationship with God. A good, true relationship with God can overcome all that this world throws at us. When we find our identity in Christ, we are able to realize that we are chosen, loved, gifted, and equipped for what the world throws at us. So, let’s remember that God-confidence is key

2. You are you, so don’t try to be someone else.

There are way too many times in my life that I’ve looked at someone and just wanted to be them. Comparison is the thief of joy. It makes us forget what is special and unique about ourselves. If God created us all to be the same, life would be boring. If we all didn’t have the parts of us that are unique, life would not be the way it is meant to be. God wants us to bring our own gifts and characteristics to the world. God intended this so that we can further the Kingdom of God. We need to be confident in who God made us to be because God made you for a purpose. Even if you feel that you don’t have anything to offer, you do. We need to embrace who we are. Way too often, we compare our imperfections to others. What we need to realize is that nobody is perfect. It is likely that the same person you compare yourself to, sees characteristics in you that he/she wishes to have. Quit belittling yourself. God made YOU with a purpose, just as God also made the person to which you compare yourself.

3. Don’t let the opinions of others make you lose sight of who you are!!!!!!

I have let this happen all too often in my life. There have been people that I have allowed to break me down. When I’m around them, I forget I have a purpose. I forget about the gifts that God has given me. My advice is to stop caring. This might sound insincere, but it is essential that we stop letting others define us. If we are constantly letting people’s negative opinions get into our heads, we are going to lose sight of the gifts that God has given us. There is a fine line between constructive criticism and belittling. Constructive criticism comes out of love. Belittling is the desire to make someone think less of themselves, which is usually because the person doing the belittling doesn’t feel good about themselves. Sadly, bringing others down can make people feel better about who they are. Try to lock out the negative opinions. It’ll make you more likely to believe in yourself and love yourself.

All of this is probably nothing new to you all, but for some reason we still struggle. I’m giving you all this advice knowing full well that low confidence is still a daily setback for me. It’s almost as if there is a tug-of-war going on in our lives. The things of this world are pulling us into a negative view of ourselves while God is pulling the other way, trying to get us to realize our value. But instead of just being a flag in the middle that goes to whoever pulls harder, we have a choice. We can either let the tug of the world reel us into a pit, or we can go to the God who loves us more than we could ever imagine. I choose God; however, I know that sometimes the tug of the world can be very strong. Some days, it will feel as if the world has won, but it hasn’t. God has overcome the world.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

Blessings and Struggles of Relationships

They’re hard. I have lost friends over them. They have caused some of my deepest scars. They have included harsh arguments and tears. They have made me feel small. My confidence was lost because of them. They also have made me feel on top of the world. They have provided me with love and support. They are one of the biggest blessings in life. They have ultimately made me stronger and helped me to grow as a person. Relationships.

I’m talking about any and every kind of relationship. In our life, we have relationships with friends. We have them with our significant others. We have them with our parents. The list goes on and on. And relationships have a strong power over us. Who you are associating with usually has an influence on who you are. If you grew up with abusive parents, chances are you’re going to have your guard up in order to mask the pain. If your relationship with your significant other is toxic, you may have a negative self-view of yourself because of words that were said in that last fight. Relationships clearly have such a stronghold on us. However, this isn’t always a bad thing. Since relationships are so powerful, they also have the ability to lift us up, bring us confidence and make us feel as if we are not facing life alone.

I’m taking a class called “Adolescent World” that devotes study to the things in life that influence teenagers. We are looking deeper into the hardships adolescents face and the lives they live. Yesterday we wrote down and discussed all of the things we believe impact adolescents’ perceptions of themselves. As we were doing this activity, something stood out to me. Almost everything that impacts a teen’s life revolves around relationships. Their family, coaches, friends, teachers, and even social media influencers impact them. Their relationships often define their answer to “Who am I?”. They might believe they are a certain stereotype because of their friend group. They might think they have no chance at being successful in their sport because their coach said so. They may even believe they are a failure because that is what their parents call them. And I believe this doesn’t stop at adolescence. I definitely still let my relationships define who I am, and I have no doubt there are times you do the same.

Personally, I am a very guilt-driven person in my relationships. What I mean by this is if I do anything wrong (or if I feel like I did something wrong), I shut down. There was a very extreme case of this I had a couple years ago. I felt guilty, and it made me hurt deep down all of the time. I was broken to pieces because of all the guilt I felt. Honestly, I didn’t even have much of a reason to feel guilty, but I still felt it. This has been a cycle in other relationships within my life. In my relationship with my parents, my boyfriend and friends. This is something I have trouble with and something that makes me put my guard up. What about you impacts your relationships? Do you let them define you? Think about what relationships really impact who you are and why they affect you. Are you in toxic relationships? Or do you feel confident within your current relationships?

Whether your relationships are great at this moment or not so great, I am going to give you three tips on how to approach relationships.

  1. Discover who you believe you are instead of allowing your relationships to define you.

Really try to discover who you truly are. Get rid of the other opinions for a little bit and focus on yourself. Believe me, this makes all the difference in the world. If we go into our relationships confident in ourselves, things are just better. You will be able to stand up for yourself. Most importantly, you have a better chance at loving yourself despite what that relationship brings into your life.

Going along with this, we need to find out who God says that we are. And God says we are worthy, loved and qualified. We are children of God. With that definition of ourself, we can have a drive to face whatever comes our way in our relationships. God is the only being that can truly define us. So don’t let others define you. Be confident in who God says you are. If someone else says otherwise, know your worth and don’t let them drag you down. Let me tell you, confidence in yourself will make all the difference in your relationships. So try. Try to discover who you are and be confident in that before jumping to the conclusion that your relationships say who you are.

“I have called you by name; you are mine.” – Isaiah 43:1

2. Build others up!!!

Make sure that you are doing your part in all of your relationships. People need to know that same promise of them being worthy, loved and qualified for what they do in life. SOO let them know it!! Support them in what they love. Relationships are something that could last a lifetime. Instead of shutting people out because you’re always “too busy”, actually try to make time. It’ll be worth it. In order for relationships to be healthy, you have to commit time. It’s not always easy, but it’s vital. How will a person be able to come to you with problems they’re facing if you’ve never taken the time for them? There are many of times when I shut out everybody I love because of the craziness of life. But if there is anything I’ve learned from living that way, it’s that it only leaves me full of regret.

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

3. Look out for yourself.

There are some relationships that just aren’t healthy. They break us down, and they take away from our confidence. Instead of these people pouring into us, they are constantly thinking of themselves. It’s important to love these people, but we don’t need to live in the toxicity. Sometimes it’s just better for your own well-being to let go. If there is anything I’ve learned throughout my life, it’s that you can’t go into relationships wanting to “fix” people. You can always love people to the best of your ability, but you don’t need to be constantly trying to change who a person is. And sometimes it’s best to love at a distance. Relationships can tear you down if you aren’t careful. Do me a favor, and just look out for yourself. Pray for those who hurt you. You can even send them nice “how are you?” texts, but do not live a life where you have forgotten about yourself.

“For no one ever hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as Christ does for the church” – Ephesians 5:29

I don’t know where you are in your relationships right now. Only you know that. But I do know relationships are a beautiful thing. There are so many good and wonderful things that come through our relationships. But there are also some hard things that come with relationships. However, good things are sometimes very hard. There are days when I’m rude to the people I love most and vice versa. But we grow from those moments. Those moments make us learn lessons and learn how to be better as a person.

Love yourself. Build others. Look out for YOU.

 “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” – 1 Peter 4:8

Not As Bad As I Thought

This past week was crazy. The homework ramped up, and it felt like I had a million things to get done each day. One thing especially I needed to do was practice piano. I was leading worship with my boyfriend, JD, at the First United Methodist Church in Durant. I was playing piano, and he was going to play the guitar. Piano is sort of new to me because I haven’t taken the chance to really devote time to it until this year. I think I can say we were both a little concerned about our preparedness, but we were trying not to worry about it. Finally, Sunday came, and we made it to Durant, Oklahoma. We got there a little early, so we could hopefully get some good practice in before the service actually started. And then things seemed to go south. It felt like nothing was going right. It was frustrating. We were both hoping the actual service would be a whole lot smoother than our practice. However, we felt the service still didn’t go the way we had hoped. We wanted to be able to lead worship to the best of our ability, so the congregation would have the opportunity to connect with God through the music. But JD and I both felt like we were not able to give them that opportunity.

In life, we have times like these. There are moments when it seems like the whole world is against us. I have a habit of always thinking the world is against me. When any little thing goes wrong, I feel that everything has gone wrong. I can be a bit overdramatic now that I think about it. But I think we can agree we all have our moments.

Perspectives change everything. We look back with hindsight 20/20 into a time in our lives when we were going through the absolute worst time, and we miss it. This is because it usually wasn’t as bad as we may have thought it was in the moment. That sums up many of my experiences in life. When I was playing volleyball back in high school, I would tell you it was the worst time. I loved the sport, but I was so overwhelmed. I was overwhelmed with the practice, homework and fatigue from all of the late nights. But looking back, all I can see is the good memories, the fun of the sport and all of the wonderful friendships I had in my teammates. Not to say that any of what I was facing at the time wasn’t difficult, but there was so much good all around me. However, I chose to ignore the good and concentrate on all of the negative. Looking back, things were better than I thought they were at the time.

“Therefore we do not lose heart, but though we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” – 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

There are a few points I want to make through this verse.

  1. “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”
  • Don’t lose heart!! Sometimes when we are in the present moment, all we are consumed in is the bad around us. This is our human nature. It is proven we have more negative thoughts running through our head in a day than positive thoughts. It’s a little sad, but if you think about it, it is very true. First of all, let’s start trying to see the good in the situation we are in. Second of all, let’s not lose heart. Don’t give in when life gets hard. It’s going to get hard. Instead, use it as a motivator to keep going. Don’t lose who you are when something isn’t going right. On Sunday, I was in a terrible mood. You wouldn’t have wanted to talk to me then… believe me. I was losing heart even though I had a great opportunity to lead worship. Instead of seeing the good in the opportunity, I let every. single. little. mistake eat away at me. Don’t lose heart, and also realize that you are inwardly being renewed each day. Instead of waking up to focus on the bad of yesterday, wake up with a sense of a new beginning. Let’s change the fact that we have more negative thoughts than positive thoughts in a day.

2. “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”

  • Read this over and over and over again until you feel a sense of comfort and peace. The time you’re in right now might be hard, but your troubles are only momentary. Better yet, there’s an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. It doesn’t just outweigh them. It FAR outweighs them. Where you are is not where you will be forever. There are better days to come. There are eternal days to come.

3. “What is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

  • All that is in the world right now is temporary. Your failures. Your sadness. Your hardships. They are all temporary. And definitely not in all cases, but in some cases, things may be better in your current place than they seem. It is just human nature to fix our eyes on the bad. You may look back years later only to find this hard time you’re in right now was one of the most memorable moments of your life. This time you’re in is not going to last forever. Take that as comfort, and also take it as encouragement to enjoy the moment you are in. Above all, be reminded that what you cannot see will last forever. Spend time building your relationship with God and spending time with God because that relationship is eternal. It will not come to pass; the situations you are in right now will.

I never finished telling you all about Sunday morning. We listened back to some of the songs in the service, only to find we didn’t lead terribly at all. All of those little mistakes we kept making didn’t matter in the long run, and we were probably some of the only ones in there that heard them. In reality, we were able to lead people with good words that some people in the congregation may have needed to hear. I mean that’s what worship is all about. It’s not about perfection. Through worship, we are able to bring our imperfections to God.

I guess you could say things were not as bad as we thought.

I think you all could read this verse one more time.

“Therefore we do not lose heart, but though we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” – 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Forgiven and Freed

As he went, the crowds pressed in on him. 43 Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years; and though she had spent all she had on physicians,[l] no one could cure her. 44 She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his clothes, and immediately her hemorrhage stopped. 45 Then Jesus asked, “Who touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround you and press in on you.” 46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; for I noticed that power had gone out from me.” 47 When the woman saw that she could not remain hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before him, she declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. 48 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.” – Luke 8:42-48

This story came up at my church’s high school small group on Sunday. I usually do not help lead this specific small group, but I had the opportunity to help out the other day. This small group has an awesome goal of reading all of the Bible together. They have made it pretty far already! They read everything on their own throughout the week and then come back and talk about all they read. They are getting to read amazing stories because the Bible is FULL of them… and this one always speaks to me. One of the other leaders said that this story always touches her. She said it is an emotional story. I think this is because it has so much power within it.

This woman most likely did not live a great life. She did not only have hemorrhages, but she also was a woman. Women had very great roles within the Bible, but a sickness such as this one would impact a woman’s life greatly. Many women were arranged to be married at a young age, and they were able to build a life alongside their husband. If I were to guess, that is not how it worked out for this woman. She was probably all alone because of her sickness. She had no money because she spent it all on physicians. And she was considered dirty and impure. Life wasn’t the same for her as it was for others. When she reached out to Jesus, you can just feel the longing she has to be healed. She wanted all of the dirtiness and sicknesses that was within her to leave her body. The cool part about all of this is you can tell she had the faith that Jesus would heal her. She trusted in His power. She had faith that she would be free, as long as she touched Jesus’ cloak.

There was a time in my life that I felt like this woman. I felt dirty with my mistakes and wrongdoings. I was constantly sick with guilt because I knew I wasn’t being the person I wanted to be. My mistakes made me feel as if no one would want to be around me. More importantly, I felt that God would want nothing to do with me. I wasn’t physically sick like this woman, but I was spiritually ill. My heart was heavy with all I had done wrong. And I don’t think I’m the only person who has experienced this. If I were to guess, many, if not all of you, reading this have either been in this place at once in your life or are experiencing this currently. You feel as if you’re too dirty to approach God or to be okay in any of your relationships. We know God is forgiving, but does God have limits?? You might ask yourself if there is really an opportunity for you to be healed and forgiven again.

I’ve talked to many people who feel this pain. And those of you who haven’t, it is likely that you will at some point in your life. I’ve talked a lot in my past couple of blogs about new chapters, new opportunities, and new seasons. While these new things can be great, sometimes they do not go as we would’ve planned. Sometimes we get caught up in the wrong crowd. We may fall into an addiction. We may get into a toxic relationship and stay in it, rather than get out. We may make little, tiny mistakes that add up and leave us feeling untouchable. While many exciting things are to come in a new chapter, there are also many hardships that could come with it. We don’t know.

I don’t say all of this to discourage and scare you, but rather, I say this all to prepare you and give encouraging words. The woman touches Jesus. She’s dirty, but she has faith that He can truly heal her. And Jesus feels her touch, through all of the crowd pressing up against him. WOAH! Those are some good words. Think about it. People are reaching out to Jesus every day. There are millions of us on this earth reaching out to Him, and Jesus feels YOUR touch. He wants His power to take over your mistakes and all of those things that make you feel dirty. People here in this world may shut you out, but God never will. God knows you. Jesus knew that woman. Jesus knew that she had been sick, and He loved her so much that He cured her of her illness. Because that’s what Jesus does. Jesus forgives us. Jesus heals us. And Jesus loves us unconditionally. Some of you may not be able to even fathom this idea of unconditional love because you’ve grown up in a situation where you’ve never felt loved. But our God doesn’t stop loving us when we do things that seem unforgivable, or when we are in the greatest places in our life. There is not a moment God forgets about you and doesn’t want to show you mercy and grace.

This story is not the only one that shows Jesus’ healing power. Jesus’ entire life is a display of His healing power. Jesus died for our sins. Our wrongdoings. Our mistakes. The goal of Jesus’ life was to provide a gateway for us to receive the gift of eternal life. Jesus knew He had to be the bridge from life here on earth to heaven, because our sin would have us fall into death. Jesus’ whole purpose was to save you and forgive you, so now it’s our turn to have faith in Him.

It’s time for you to reach out, no matter where you are. Jesus wants you to reach out and touch his cloak because He knows He can end the suffering. He just wants you to have the faith to believe He can. The woman did, and that is why this is such a moving story. It’s not only a display of Jesus’ power, but it is also a display of a woman of great faith. She trusted that Jesus could heal her. We need to take her story as an example and start living it out in our own lives.

It does not matter who you are or what you have done. It matters what Jesus has done and who Jesus is. Through Jesus, you are forgiven and free.

“Not because of who I am
But because of what You’ve done.
Not because of what I’ve done
But because of who You are.

I am a flower quickly fading,
Here today and gone tomorrow.
A wave tossed in the ocean.
A vapor in the wind.
Still You hear me when I’m calling.
Lord, You catch me when I’m falling.
And You’ve told me who I am.
I am Yours, I am Yours.”

Who Am I – Casting Crowns

I’m Not My Situation

This week my classes all started. To be honest, I thought this semester’s workload wouldn’t be too rough, but I was wrong. The way it’s looking from the first week I’m going to have a big time commitment to my studies. Even though I know it’s going to be a lot, I also know that I’m going to have the opportunity to learn many new things this semester. One thing I especially hope I learn is how to live each day with a willingness to have joy and not let the stress of work get to me. Yesterday was my first day to go to my “Art and Human Values” class, and my professor said something that I felt I needed to share. He told us this class would teach us that “we cannot let people shape who we are”. I don’t know about you all, but there are many times when I let people shape who I am. There are also times that I allow my situation to shape who I am. Instead of being who God made me to be, I allow the world to dictate what I do and how I live my life.

Throughout my life, I have gotten into a bad habit of becoming what I’m surrounded by. If I’m surrounded by a stressful situation, I’m most likely going to be stressed. If the people around me think Taylor Swift is not good at what she does, I may act as if I’m not a huge fan… even though I am. If I feel that people don’t like me for who I am, I’m most likely going to put my guard up and feel lonely. As you can see through all of these examples, the situations and people clearly define who I am. All of these examples also show the world breaking me down, taking one piece of me at a time.

The previous student intern at my church demonstrated well how this process works. She used this demonstration strictly for relationships, so I’m going to change it up a little bit to fit what I’m trying to display. First of all, you take a full piece of paper. Then, let’s say you’ve been in a situation for a while where you’ve allowed your friends to dictate your actions. Because you’ve let part of you be taken away, you need to rip off part of the paper since that’s a part of you that is now gone. Now, let’s say you’ve been really stressed with work and have let that change your persona. You’re not happy anymore and always take all that you’re feeling out on the people you love most. It’s time to rip another piece of the paper away because you lost that joy that people have always loved within you. Let’s say you’re in a terrible relationship and keep telling yourself that you can’t get out. You let the hurtful words of that friendship or romantic relationship tear you apart. Those hurtful words feed lies into who you are, so you put your guard up. Tear off another piece of that paper. Lastly, let’s say you have started a new chapter and you feel completely alone and as if you don’t have any friends. Instead of seeking those good relationships where you can be yourself, you hide who you are in fear that they won’t like the real you. Tear off another piece. You are that paper. At one time, you were full, but now you are ripped into pieces. However, don’t worry. There is a solution to this problem. You can tape the paper back together. And God can tape your life back together. God can help you get back the person God made you to be. Of course, there will still be scars, but we all have to learn to look at those scars and know we made progress. I encourage you all to do this activity and write the things that have taken away from who you are as a person. Dig deep and figure out the parts of you that you need God to help you patch up. What situations have defined you for so long? Have they taken away from who you are as a person? What relationships have torn you down? Or is it a lack of relationships that has left you feeling lonely?

This all reminds me of the story of Esther, which is one of my favorites in the Bible!! In summary, Esther was a Jew and grew up with those of Jewish descent. She was raised by a man named Mordecai. In her story, King Ahasuerus puts out a decree for all the young women in her land to be set before him, so he could choose his wife. Esther was loved by the King immediately, so of course, she becomes the new queen. Within this time, a man named Haman was appointed a position of very high stance by the king. The king ordered all servants to pay homage to Haman, but Mordecai (the man who raised Esther) refused. This made Haman very angry, so he decided to go to King Ahasuerus and tell him to order all Jews in the kingdom to be killed since Mordecai was Jewish. The king did what Haman said and ordered the decree. When Mordecai became aware of what was happening, he was greatly distressed. Esther was also greatly devastated because the Jews were her people. Even though this put great danger upon her, Esther decided to tell the king to put an end to this order. In this time, she could have been killed for going into the inner court to talk to the king. It was not allowed of a woman. However, Esther was brave. She didn’t let her situation make her weak. She allowed a bad situation to aid her in displaying her bravery. There are many more details to this story, but I will skip to the end. She exposed the evil within Haman and saved the Jews by telling the king to stop the decree put out to kill them.

Esther was in a very bad situation. She was practically looking death right in the eye, but she didn’t change who she was. She could’ve let her situation turn her into a fearful human being, but instead, she let her bravery shine. I aspire to be like Esther. There are so many times when I just give in and let the world change who I am as a person. The world takes my confidence, my bravery, and the little things that make up who I am. Are you like Esther who stayed who she was even throughout the bad, or have you gotten to a place where the bad around you has changed who you were made to be? It’s okay if you feel that you have let your situation define you, but now is the time to make a change.

Many of us are stepping into new chapters right now, and some chapters of your life will not be easy. But we don’t need to let the difficult times define us. Instead, we need to face each situation that comes at us with bravery. We also need to let go of all the control and give it to God. If you feel like you’ve given up parts of yourself because of people or the situation you’re in, let God put the pieces back together.

You are so much more than where you are or where you have been. Be you because you are amazing.

“Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.” – Esther 4:16

Breaking Through Barriers

My little brother is now entering a new chapter of his life. He’s about to be a Freshman in high school. The other day he approached me about sharing my experience in high school and how I grew as a person in that time. Like him and probably most people, when I was a Freshman, I was so pumped for the chance to start over. It was a whole new experience, and the newness of it all felt good. I felt that I could finally change the parts of myself that I had been wanting to change for so long. We all have those times when we truly feel as if we have the opportunity to have a new beginning. That’s how I felt going into high school. My goal was to finally break through my comfort zone and through all of the walls I built up for the longest time. It was time for me step up to the challenge that would make me who I am today.

Many of those who know me now but did not know me in my younger years would be surprised to hear that I was incredibly shy growing up. “Meet Your Teacher Night” in elementary school was my dreaded worst nightmare because I actually had to talk to my teachers… and honestly I usually didn’t. I was too shy for any words to come out, so my parents did all the talking. I was SHY. Just like in elementary school, I was timid in junior high. I was a little better but still knew I had a lot of improving to go. One of my teachers in junior high even had to have a conversation with me about communication. She pretty much told me I had to improve my confrontation skills. In the moment, I wasn’t happy she called me out, but I later found that she was right. I had to step out of the box that I had put myself into my whole life.

So when high school rolled around, I was ready to change. I saw it as a chance to finally get out of my comfort zone. I’d be surrounded by some new people (my high school was a combination of two junior highs) and also by new opportunities that could help me to branch out. And I’m happy to say that I did it. I became more outgoing and pushed myself to overcome the barriers I had faced for so long. The reason I was able to accomplish this is because of my willingness. I didn’t want to stay the same person I was, but instead was willing to change. I allowed myself to be more outgoing in my relationships (or in other words, I finally let my guard down). This gave me the opportunity to meet some of my absolute best friends that are still by my side today. I ran for an office position in National Honor Society (which entailed talking to a big crowd of people). I pushed myself to start leading worship at my church, despite my nerves. I even pushed myself in my sport (volleyball) to be more aggressive and give it my all.

Someone who has a lot in common with me in this chapter of my life is Gideon. As many of you all probably know, back in the Biblical days, Israel was not always great about following God’s command. They would worship other idols and place God on the back burner. Because of this, God would allow trouble to come upon them. When things started going wrong, they’d turn back to God, and God would send them someone who would deliver them from the turmoil. This cycle repeats over and over again throughout the Old Testament. Part of Gideon’s story takes place in this time. Israel was disobeying God, so God allowed the Midianites to take them over. Of course, they cried to God for help, and God decided to send Gideon to protect them from the Midianites. Gideon was completely taken off guard and immediately began doubting himself. The best way to describe Gideon when God called him was fearful. Just like I was for all of those years. Fearful. Gideon even tested God to make sure it was him that God chose. He set fleece on the ground (that was covered in dew) and told God that if the fleece was still dry by morning, he’d believe God’s calling over him. After doing this, Gideon was STILL unsure so he asked God to show him with the fleece yet again. Of course, God left the fleece dry, and finally, Gideon believed. However, my guess is that even with the proof, Gideon was still full of fear. But he did it. Him and his army of three hundred defeated the Midianites.

Gideon’s story is powerful because it’s super relatable. His story speaks volumes by reminding us that we can do anything, we just have to believe. We need to believe in ourselves and most importantly, in God. When I was going into high school, I finally trusted that I could do it. And overall, I trusted that God could do it. We need to quit letting fear make our decisions. Our mind tricks us into thinking that we don’t have the ability to be uncomfortable, but we do. It’s necessary for our lives to be uncomfortable every once in a while. It’ll help us to get out of our box.

When I first decided to step out of my comfort zone, it was a struggle. I faced many challenges. But with now having hindsight 20/20, I can say that the challenges made me into a better version of myself. If your comfort zone consists of remaining to yourself, challenge yourself to reach out to others and let your guard down. It can be really hard, but you’ll thank yourself later. If you want to try new things like sports, do it. You may have a lot of work to put in for that sport, and I know sometimes it will be discouraging. I’ve been there, but I can tell you it’s possible to improve. You just have to work hard.

I wanted to give you all these words because some of you all are starting a new school year. Some of you are starting college!! Some of you may be starting a new job. Some of you all may not have any change coming up, but you still have the opportunity to challenge yourself. Ever since I decided to challenge myself my Freshman year of high school, I have been more motivated to keep getting out of my comfort zone each year. You’d be so impressed with what you can accomplish if you believe in yourself and your Creator.

Quit giving in to your fear. Get out of your comfort zone. We’ve only got one life to live!!

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