All My Words

I’m only 23 years old. It is young, even though it can feel old at times. When I was in my early teens, I decided that the perfect time to start blogging would be my late thirties, or later. The reason was so that I would be able to share something tested and meaningful from real life experience. But the older I get, the more I realize: it’s all a journey and part of “arriving” is realizing you don’t know much and never will.

So here I am, ready to offer who I am, writing with all my words and what I have learned so far. The transition to adulthood has been characterized by much pain and loss and struggle, of one type or another. But I’m starting to accept these things as reality and move past them. It’s a process that I have wished was over many a time (and even now I wish for that)! It is a humbling process, but it sends me to the feet of Jesus and there’s nowhere else I would rather be! “The central message of Christ is that suffering and death bring resurrection and transformation” (Emotionally Healthy Spirituality). Embracing the hard, painful things that God leads me to and being thankful in the everyday trials are what I’m called to as a Christian.

I would love to be writing about this years from now, when I have learned these lessons fully. But that time will never come. There is always a new area that needs work; an area that requires me to wait and have faith and hope in Jesus. Living in the limbo of learning and being transformed must become my new normal. One thing I’m grateful for is that He isn’t done with me yet, though! He will eventually finish the good work He began in me and bring it to completion! This is what I have to share, with all my words, the words I’ve been given. This life has a lot of hard stuff in it and I do not intend to ever downplay that fact because God can use the struggle in incredible ways when we surrender to Him. But at the same time, I don’t want the hard seasons to determine how much I “give.” I want to keep pouring out through every age and every season. May you be encouraged to do the same! No matter where you are in life, you have something valuable to give to the people around you!

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Emotional Wisdom

Faith is the art of holding on to things in spite of your changing moods and circumstances.” — C.S. Lewis

Emotions play a significant role in our lives. They help us interpret the world, interact well with other people, and discern God’s leading in our lives. Over the past months, I’ve been learning a lot about my emotions. I feel other people’s emotions to an extent, which is called being an empath. This, along with the way God has wired me, allows me to connect with other people very quickly (instantaneously in some cases). So the past months have been a journey of distinguishing my emotions from other people’s emotions, learning to name each one I feel, and determining how to act on them. I am far from mastering the art, but I’m excited to learn more about this gift God has given me!

Each person you meet has been molded in deep ways they often do not understand by their parents’ way of approaching life. This includes the both good and the bad. By being aware of these things, we can understand why we make the decisions we do and begin taking steps out of bad habits. For example, on the negative side, I learned the attitudes of depression and anxiety. But I also gained the gift that I mentioned above, being able to connect readily with other people. God will use the things we inherit, but we must be aware of them so that they do not permanently handicap us instead.

Shutting down emotionally does no favors for anyone: the person who is shut down, nor the people around them. We are emotional beings and are made to feel and express. The emotional realm can be scary to enter, but it is one we must explore to know ourselves fully. And we must know ourselves to be able to truly know God and other people. When we can understand our emotions and moods, we are able to set them apart from God and how He feels about us; we can stop assigning the way we feel to God’s attitude toward us. The same goes for other people. Also, if we do not feel freedom to be ourselves, then we will not give the people around us the freedom to be themselves. And that is a travesty because God created each person to be uniquely special and to reflect Him in a way no one else can!

Emotions are not just helpful “tools”, but are a part of who we are as people. In being who God created us to be, we will feel and show emotion to an extent. That does not mean that our emotions control us, but they are a vital piece that allow us to live the life God has for us.

 

Adventure Awaits

The older I get, the more I learn about myself, life, and relationships, both with God and other people. I spent a lot of time this past week/ weekend with people who are at least a few years older than me and it taught me a lot. Most of them were Christians: living out a committed relationship with Jesus. They have let life and God teach them as the years have gone by. Watching them made me realize that some things can be only learned with the passage of time. And those are very possibly the most important lessons you can learn.

Place the Lord first in your life. Know God and make spending quality time with Him each day a priority. Read the Word and pray. Whenever there is a conflict between a commitment made with God and a worldly option, choose God. His way is better by far and everything is for Him at the end of the day. When this is done consistently over time, you will get to the point where one day you will look back on life and be amazed at how far you have come and how faithful the Lord has been!

Invest in the people around you. Life is about relationship with God first, and people second. The goal is to be good at communicating with, caring about, and encouraging those you come into contact with every day. Christians are to be known by their love for one another and everyone. To know and be known while offering and receiving acceptance is one of the most beautiful things in life. It is how we were made to function! Life is so much better when lived in community!

Take note of how you are wired. How do you respond when exposed to new situations? What are you naturally good at? What makes you feel alive? What drains you and what energizes you? Knowing these things will help you be more intentional about the life you choose. These things will help you understand how to create the best life rhythm for you. In the process of crafting the life you were made to live, you will thrive, be of great help to the Body, and ultimately bring God glory in all of those areas you choose to put time and energy into!

Enjoy the journey. Life has highs and lows, but when you let God shape you through them, each season and part of life is bringing you closer to who God created you to be. Let life play itself out and step toward what God is teaching you in the moment. Always engage. There will be times when your plans and goals crash and burn; you won’t always understand why something happens. Yet, the journey goes on. Joy and passion will return in a new way with time if you keep stepping forward.

God provides life and… everything! The Body of Christ is the family we are made to be connected and committed to as children of God. The journey may (and will) take unexpected and painful turns, but God is writing a beautiful story that points us and others to Him. My heart breaks just a little bit with the knowledge that I can’t live amongst the community I entered for the week; I know God has placed me elsewhere for now. His story is the best, so I will cherish the memories of refreshment, pray for my friends/ family who are hours away, and look forward to a future visit. In the meantime, I will be taking steps to live out in my hometown these lessons I learned in that short week.

Jesus Works; We Respond

“But when Simeon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord'” (Luke 5:8).

It was morning. Peter and his fellow fishermen had not been able to catch any fish after trying all night long when Jesus told them to cast out again. Their nets came up full to overflowing! They hadn’t asked Jesus to do this, and yet He had chosen to show them His power. Peter instantly knew who Jesus was and did not feel worthy to even be near Him. Is this our response when we God reveals Himself to us? Do we fall on the ground in awe and fear?

In response to Peter’s fear, Jesus’ response was, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men” (Luke 5:10b).

“Do not be afraid” is repeated over and over in the Bible. In this case, Jesus was inviting the men to join Him, instead of fear Him. So often that is the case. Having a fear of the Lord is normal, but we have also been invited in to work both for Him and with Him: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). A mixture of reverence and acceptance is where we get to live a life of faith from!

A man sick with leprosy saw Jesus and “fell on his face and begged him, ‘Lord, if you will, you can make me clean'” (Luke 5:12b). The man had full confidence, but he also knew the decision was in Jesus’ hands as to whether He would choose to heal him. In response to the sick man, “Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, ‘I will; be clean'” (Luke 5:13). Jesus willingly healed when it was asked of Him.

Some men brought a paralyzed man and lowered him down through the roof, so that he was at the feet of Jesus. Because of the men’s faith, Jesus said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you” (Luke 5:20). God accepts the faith we have for another person as for them. Then, when Jesus perceived that the Pharisees questioned His authority to forgive sins, He said, “‘But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’ — he said to the man who was paralyzed — ‘I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home'” (Luke 5:24). The man did exactly that, glorifying God! “And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, ‘We have seen extraordinary things today'” (Luke 5:26).

Jesus was able to see into the hearts and minds of everyone present: whether they doubted or had faith was clear to Him. He was also gracious to all in the situation, proving Himself to those who doubted and healing to confirm the faith of the men who came seeking. And ultimately it all resulted in God being glorified!

God gives quite freely! Some people He chose to give to without their having asked, such as Peter and the fishermen. Other people asked of Him in faith and He responded positively to their request. Both situations resulted in God’s glory being shown and people praising God! Do we seek God and expect Him to perform healing and miracles? And when we do see Him work, do we take the time to be in awe of Him, glorifying Him with our all?

Basic Aspects of Health for a Human Being

Health. The thing we can so easily take for granted, but desire so much when it fades. There are multiple aspects to being healthy, and it means living a healthy lifestyle before the bad health comes. Each person is a whole being: they are made up of spiritual, emotional, physical, mental, and relational aspects that all are connected to each other. When one aspect suffers, so will all of the others; when one aspect improves, all the others will shift positively as well. As a Christian, I believe that sanctification is the refining and purifying of each area of our lives, and ultimately God is working to remove sin and transform each of us back into the unique human being that He created us to be. This journey will be completed when Jesus comes back (or takes us home). In the meantime, we work out our salvation and strive (by the Spirit) to live this life as best we can for God. A way that we do this is through developing health in multiple areas:

Spiritually, each person is on a journey. We were made by God to know God and live in relationship with God. Because of sin we were separated from communion with God, but Jesus came to die and rise again to restore our relationship with God! The stages of faith have been mapped out based upon the collective experiences of countless saints and while they are too black and white for reality, they do provide some insight into where a person is at spiritually:

Stage one is a life changing awareness of God and where the need for mercy is realized and a relationship with God is begun.

Stage two is getting connected with a community of believers and learning about what it means to be a Christian.

Stage three is about actively using gifts for the service of God and others.

Stage four is a journey inward and includes “the Wall,” a time of doubt and struggle that needs to be surrendered.

Stage five is journeying back outward, this time from a more solid assurance of who we are in Christ.

Stage six is characterized by love: being perfected by God’s love: giving it to others and back to Him. (http://www.emotionallyhealthy.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/JOURNEY_THROUGH_THE_WALL_Toby.pdf).

Where a person is in their relationship with God will affect all the other aspects of the person. Sometimes it will be smooth sailing, and at other times, it will require great wrestling. Of all the different aspects of a person, it has the strongest power because it is a relationship with the God of the universe, who is unfathomably majestic and powerful. When someone has a breakthrough spiritually, the power of the Holy Spirit unleashed will almost always produce remarkable freedom in other areas of that person’s life.

We are not only made for relationship with God, but also with people. “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ will be subject to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be subject to the fire of hell. Therefore if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:22-24 NIV). It is very important for a person to have healthy, positive relationships. This means that conflict is addressed and encouragement is spoken. When this is done, it creates space for the person to be themselves and live in freedom.

The state of the physical body also plays a role in health (big surprise, I know!). “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ESV). While this verse is talking about the spiritual level of being a living sacrifice, it is specifically talking about the importance of the physical body. It is a gift that we should steward well. Exercising helps the body to continue working well, the way God designed. On the macro level, it effects the way a person feels and how well they can perform daily activities. On the micro level, it produces hormones that improve a person’s mood and outlook on life and even boosts the vital reactions of the body! The same goes for eating a healthy diet. The body has certain nutrient needs and when those are met through the ingestion of nutritious foods, all of the body’s systems will run better. When the correct foods are eaten, the person will feel better overall and be able to function in a more positive, energetic way.

The thoughts that cycle through the mind have incredible power. They can determine actions, belief systems, and emotions, which all eventually can lead to physical pain, etc. Learning to guide where the mind goes is important for anyone who wants to be healthy. Mindfulness is the secular name of the goal, but the principle is found in the Bible as well: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV). “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things” (Philippians 4:8 NIV). There are certain things that should be purposefully thought about and other things that should be banished from the mind.

Being healthy emotionally means living most of the time from internal positive emotions, while also being able to handle the negative emotions well that inevitably come in life. “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4:26). Feeling an emotion is different than letting it control your actions, pushing the person toward something sinful. Emotional maturity is also feeling the right emotions at the right times and knowing how to express them. In the context of a relationship with God, it means finding satisfaction and joy in Jesus. That provides an overflow which can be given to others, instead of going to others seeking affirmation and positive emotions. A person cannot be more spiritually mature than they are emotionally mature.

A person is complex, and therefore, being healthy will involve many aspects that are on a spectrum of positives and negatives. Everyone has aspects that they need to grow in at any given time. Tackling every area at once may not be the best idea, but this life is a journey. What is your next step toward being a healthier you?

 

Walk by Faith

Faith is believing that God will work. It is much more than simply believing that God has the ability to work. That is how we are to read our Bibles, pray, and live this life. Promise after promise will be brought to fruition in our lives when we apply the Truth in faith!

God is God and that means that He has the resources to work in any way He wishes. “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder” (James 2:19). Part of believing in God is knowing that He is powerful and in control. “The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty… The voice of the LORD flashes forth flames of fire. The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness” (Psalm 29:4, 7-8 ESV). God has many characteristics that determine how His power will be used, though. He is just and righteous, merciful and kind. He is loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled (Galatians 5:22-23 NIV). We can count on this because He never changes (Hebrews 13:8 NIV)!

Walking by faith is done out of love for God. Knowing God leads to loving God, which leads to trusting God, which finally leads to obeying God (‘Righteousness and Rewards’ by Matt Chandler). “This is love for God: to keep his commands” (1 John 5:3 NIV).

The kings of Israel, written about in the Old Testament, provide many examples of how following God leads to victory and success and flourishing and rebelling leads to downfall and destruction. For example, one time the Israelites broke the commandments. “Though the army of the Syrians had come with few men, the Lord delivered into their hand a very great army, because Judah had forsaken the Lord, the God of their fathers. Thus they executed judgement on Joash” (2 Chronicles 24:24 ESV). There were not many kings who managed to follow God all the days of their lives, but Jotham was one! After noting all the his accomplishments in rebuilding and securing the kingdom, it says, “So Jotham became mighty, because he ordered his ways before the Lord his God” (2 Chron. 27:6 ESV). This Old Testament principle still applies to us, even though we are now under the blood of Jesus. The difference is that we now have the Holy Spirit to help us live the Law from our heart.

Suffering is a major theme in the New Testament because it is something Christ followers will deal with. Life is not happy all the time. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17 NIV). James focuses on suffering a lot and he was specifying that the suffering does not come from God. God is the giver of good gifts! Paul also wrote about suffering and then said, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 NIV). This is one of the most glorious promises given to Christ followers! Everything that happens, either good or bad, to someone who loves God and is called by Him will be used for their ultimate good!

David says, “The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing (Psalm 23:1). Jesus claimed to be “The good shepherd” (John 10:11). “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Sheep look to their shepherd for guidance, food, shelter, and protection. Jesus is our leader, protector, and provider.

One of the sweetest promises to cling to says, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6 NIV). “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1 NIV). To have faith, it is necessary to believe that God is capable, but it must go further. Walking in faith requires a strong assurance that God will work: our salvation will be worked and brought to completion. We can get to know our good God, live life according to His commandments written on our hearts, live out of security and provision, and claim the verses in the Bible as true for us!

The Moment

 

Birds singing, a person smiling, a long, winding conversation.

This is the present, slow and beautiful.

Rain falling, a page turning, light shifting across the room.

This is now, full of rhythm.

Never a moment quite like it again.

Hurry and stress accomplish what,

If we never notice the small things?

Never notice the skitter of leaves upon the ground,

The clouds inching across the wide, blue sky.

How much we can easily miss in the hustle and bustle!

Each moment, a gift.

Do we throw it away in our rush for the next?