Tag Archives: God

Don’t Pretend they’re Strawberries

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How many times have you ever asked someone how they are and you get the, “I’m fine” response, even when you can tell that something is wrong? Have you ever given someone that same answer, covering up so as not to expose your weaknesses to people?
I know I have.

Our first instinct always seems to be to hide ourselves away, to not let anyone see our pain or failures or insecurities. Nowadays there are lots of posts, articles and programs geared toward making one’s self ‘better’ by disguising real life and heart problems through changing looks, diet, schedule, motivations, or by covering it up with makeup or surgery to hide the fact that not everything in life is always peachy. And we as humans tend to buy into the lie that if we don’t have it all together or if our lives aren’t perfect that we’re somehow inferior to others who (appear as though they) do. Some hide behind their money or a smiling picture on Facebook; others behind a mask of self-confidence or the classic “I’m fine” to their friends; while others hide behind bottles that drown their sorrows or behind closed doors where nothing and no one can get through. Even in our churches, we hide our weaknesses, for fear of being thought of as “less Christian” or “unholy” by our fellow believers.

Why is this?

Maybe it’s for fear of rejection or being misunderstood that we put masks on to hide our imperfections. Maybe it’s because we see ourselves as not being good enough for someone to actually care. Maybe it’s because of a rejection or betrayal in the past. Maybe it’s because we’re afraid to change or don’t know how. Maybe it’s because we see others around us who look like they’ve got it all together and we don’t want to be compared. Maybe we don’t want to be a burden on someone else. Maybe it’s because we’re afraid of letting people in. Maybe it’s because we know if we start crying we may not be able to stop. Maybe it’s the fear that God couldn’t possibly love us anymore. Maybe it’s for a different reason.

While being real means opening up ourselves to more hurt or vulnerability, being open and honest gives us more ways to connect with other hurting souls. Pretending that life is all roses puts walls between us and others who are in the midst of the thorns. It prevents us from helping each other. It keeps us from being able to offer support or encouragement. It means carrying the weight of our owns burdens, rather than sharing (and lightening) the load.

So easily, we buy into the lie that tells us if we make ourselves vulnerable, people will lose respect for us. They will think things about us, or judge us unfairly, or reject us. We think that if we can control things that show on the exterior (our words, actions, appearance, etc.), then we will be able to control what’s going on in our minds, heart and thoughts. But no one can change themselves. Not for the better at least.

If you’re living your life for God – does it really matter what others think? So what if they see your tears? So what if they have their own opinions of you because you express a need for support? So what if you’re not perfect – and if people know it? Will the opinions of others change your decision to fully commit to trusting your Creator – even when you’re broken in the process?

And what if we go to church, or our jobs, or the mall and we pretend that we’re fine when people ask? What if we try to contain our tears behind the wall of a forced smile and don’t share the hard things we’re dealing with? Things like broken hearts, suicide, sickness and health issues, worries about our families, brokenness, loneliness, feelings of despair, worries about jobs or finances, the death of a loved one or even just having a bad day. What good does it do for us or the people around us to pretend that we’re “fine”?

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My life has changed drastically in the past month and a half. It started with the decision to surrender my life back to Jesus Christ. With that came a whole new outlook on my life and the way I was living it vs. the way I should be living. And so a chapter (one of my own selfish ruin) has closed, and a new chapter is being written in the story of my life.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come!
2 Corinthians 5:17

But that doesn’t make life easy. Living for one’s own selfish ambitions only leads to heartache, brokenness and distance between you and God (and sometimes others).
One cannot go on doing the same things and expecting a different result.

So hard things have to be done. Changes have to be made. Repentance and forgiveness has to be sought after. And it can be really, really hard. Hard to give up the things which were once considered so important (by my own standards). Hard to die to self in order to become like Christ. Hard to forgive myself for wasted time.

I’m not going to go into the specifics of my life changes, as that matters so little in comparison to the hope for our lives that is made available to all through the Lord Almighty.

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness though our knowledge of him
who called us by his own glory and goodness. 

Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises,
so that through them you may participate in the divine nature,
having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness;
and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control;
and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 
and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 
For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective
and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind,
forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.
2 Peter 1:3-9

It is so reassuring to know that, through the blood of Jesus shed on the cross for me, I have been forgiven, made new, and I am loved immensely by my Faithful Creator. And although it’s hard to even fathom sometimes, I can cling to the hope that my life is worth the living (every. single. day.) because He Lives, and He holds my future in his hands. He knows my hopes and my dreams, and He is working in my life today to prepare me for the future.

With all this being said, some days can still be plain ol’ hard.

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Sometimes it feels like we’re all alone in the fight to pursue holiness, or like we’re by ourselves in the middle of the trials of this life. One thing I realize the more I share the victories and struggles in my life – I’m not the only one. I’m not the only one who’s ever felt alone, or confused. Or had a broken heart or dreams that weren’t meant to be. I’m not the only one who’s ever struggled to find meaning in my life, or been broken by the hurtful actions of others. I’m not the only one who has said or done things that I regret. I’m not the only one who has gotten trapped in a web of lies and/or sin. I’m not alone in my daily walk with God. And we’re not meant to go it alone or close ourselves off from others.

In Acts chapter 2, the writer tells of how the “believers were together and had everything in common” (2:44). They sold their possessions, shared meals, praised God and worshiped together. They were the Church to each other. They didn’t keep to themselves and go on living their separate lives, hoping things would get better or that their problems would go away. And I’m pretty sure they didn’t always have meetings together that were happy and joyful every time. These were people who heard the Gospel message and had to repent for the forgiveness of their sins. They weren’t perfect people, and their lives didn’t automatically become perfect just because they decided to believe in Jesus. They still had to go through the process of changing their lives (just like the 12 disciples did when they followed Jesus). But they went through it together.

The letters that were written by Paul, Peter and John weren’t just written to individuals who were struggling on their own. They were written to the Church – the body of believers! In order that they could work through the things that kept them from being wholly devoted to following Jesus – together! That’s what the Church (all the believers) is for – for spurring each other on in our walks with God, for carrying each others burdens, for accountability and encouragement through the Word of God. No one is supposed to go through life pretending to be “ok”!

So my challenge for you (and for me) is to start being real. And not just when you’re by yourself, having alone time with God. Get involved in a small group (I did last week). Find an accountability or Bible study partner. Open up to someone you can trust who inquires about how you’re doing. You never know what opportunities will come up for you to share (or to be encouraged by another’s story). And you don’t know what you can do for someone else by being open. It might even save someone’s life.

If life has handed you lemons, don’t pretend that they’re strawberries
and try to convince everyone around you of that.

The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled 
so that you can pray.
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.
Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others,
faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.
If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God.
If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides,
so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.
To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever.
Amen.

2 Peter 4:7-11

 

I’ve been Shaken

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Open my eyes and help me see
There’s a world outside of me
I’m no different, I want to make a difference tonight

The words don’t always come out right
And I don’t normally cry
But you didn’t see the look in her eyes

I’ve been shaken from my head on down to my toes
Lord, use me, take me where You want me to go
I can’t help it, my heart has been replaced with a face
I’m ready, these hands are dedicated to change

~ Hawk Nelson, Shaken (2009)

Listened to this song yesterday and it got me thinking back to my Manila trip last year. There was a great photo of me (taken by another volunteer) of me holding a sweet child on one of the feedings we went to. She was clinging to me when I was walking around carrying her, yet I don’t even know her name or age (she wouldn’t tell me it and neither would any of the other kids there). But she wasn’t the one who stole my heart.

There’s a child named Anarea (ah-nah-REH-ah), whose story and photo I can’t post online, but who captured my heart while I was staying at the KIM base. All she ever wanted was to be pushed on the swing set or sit next to me and watch videos of herself and the other kids on my camera. She would yell “Tita!” (aunt) to me across the yard until I came over to her. My favorite video of her got lost somehow when I was transferring photos to a drive to bring back.

Maybe I’ll never see her again, but this is the child I think of and pray for often, who shook my world and planted a seed of love in me for the children in the world who are often looked over or abandoned, or who may have stories similar to hers. She is a child of God and I will always love her.

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There I was, Here I am

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If you asked me when I was in high school (or any time up to about a year ago) whether or not I liked outdoorsy things like hiking and camping and nature, my answer would have been along the lines of, “Yes, I love nature as long as it doesn’t invade my comfort zone.” That basically meant that as long as it didn’t involve bugs, getting dirty, sleeping on the ground, not having access to toilets and running water, or not having hot showers that I was alright with it. I refused to go camping or spend unnecessary time outdoors when there were swarms of mosquitoes or when the chance of getting ticks was likely.

Then there was that one time in the summer of 2012.

My family was spending the weekend at Prairie Bible Institute (where I went to school 2012-13) during the summer for their class reunion. The teens all stayed in tents (outside) while the adults stayed in the dorms (inside). Well, me being the person I was, chose to stay the weekend inside in my own room.

On that Friday, all the teens went on a float trip down the river. It was supposed to be an approximately 2-3 hour trip and then we would head back up to the school campus. Long story short, due to unforeseen circumstances, this group of about 40 kids (and leaders, of course) was out on the river (on inner tubes and a couple of rafts) for 9+ hours — with NO food, no clean water, no cell phones, no shoes, no dry clothes, no fire starting supplies, no shelter, or anything. There were plenty of mosquitoes however.

We were eventually rescued and had the best chili dinner I can ever remember. And I did end up going back to study there and having an incredible year (if you’ve read any of my other posts, then you’d know this already).

Why do I tell you this story? Because this past fall (to the present) I have been working in – get this – Outdoor Education. And what is one of the programs I get to teach? Survival Hike (a.k.a. how to be prepared to survive in case the unexpected happens). Do I now enjoy being outside all the time, hiking in the woods, building tons of fires and getting eaten alive by mosquitoes? Absolutely! Well, maybe not that last one. But it sure does make me appreciate when they’re not around.

The point of this isn’t to showcase how much I now enjoy ‘getting my hands dirty’ (although I really do) or how excited I am about going backpacking this spring, but rather to point out a greater reality – that God can use even the most trivial of things to mold us and change our perspectives, to open our eyes to the things unseen. He can use all of our experiences (pleasant or not) to prepare us for the future and to help us out once we get there. God can use the most earth-shattering events as well as the things we wouldn’t think twice about in our lives to teach us and reveal Himself to us. Maybe there are things in your life that you’ve done or been through (a class, a float trip, a heartbreak or loss, a break-dancing tournament) and now you’re thinking that it might have been a waste of time or energy because it’s not currently making a difference in your life. Take heart, my friend.

Because there I was that summer, SO miserable that we got stuck out on that river, and here I am today teaching kids the importance of survival skills and being prepared; using the example of how unprepared we were on that trip for the unexpected to happen. There I was taking (what I thought were the most random and possibly even unpractical) classes at the community college, like Arabic and geology, and here I am using them today – not just in my job, also in finding little things that I have in common with people that I meet in everyday life. There I was, wondering why I had to see my grandfather suffer in the hospital from cancer? What good could possibly come out of that when it hurt so much? And here I am, realizing how easily I can relate with people who are, have or had family in the hospital with cancer, because I know what it’s like.

So live life, and soak up as much as you can. You never know when your extensive knowledge of Furbies will come in handy.

Faith on the Mountain Peaks

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God is so good to me.

Just last week I graduated from college after being out of high school for only a year. During that year, I traveled to new places, met new people, made friends, bought a car, sang karaoke for the first time in front of a bunch of people, went to a haunted house, and learned a second language. I have a good job, good family, friends, dreams, and more than I could ever hope for.

Looking back, it’s incredible to see how much I’ve accomplished and how far God has brought me in the past couple of years, from a shy girl who couldn’t make eye contact to now – being bolder and more confident in myself.

I don’t ever write to say that I’m perfect in any way – not at all!! I have messed up so many times and made so many mistakes. I have hurt people that I love. I’ve had my share of heartbreak and loneliness. I’ve been through times of discouragement, confusion, regrets, and frustration. Even through it all, God still loves me unconditionally and has the best for my life.

This afternoon I went to the pool with my mom and brother. I was sitting on the edge of the pool with my feet in the water, relaxing and swishing the water around. Then this little girl came and sat next to me, mimicking me by putting her feet in and swishing the water with her fingers. She looked up at me with this cute little grin and I thought, Maybe He put me here for such a time as this.

Even though I don’t know what the future holds I know He has a purpose for my life.
 I am not a mistake (and neither are you).
I don’t have any answers as to why things happen in life (good or bad) but maybe it’s just so that we can point back to God and say, “He was faithful to walk with me through it.”

Faith in the Valley

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This week has been great – I finished up my last couple of finals and on Thursday I walked with the Class of 2012 and graduated with an Associate’s degree. My grandparents came for the commencement as well as another good friend and we were able to spend time together visiting. Earlier this week I also got to go see the Marvel’s Avengers movie. It was a lot of fun and the giant strawberry shake afterwards was an extra bonus. 😉

But there have also been times this week when I have really struggled with what God wants me to learn or how I need to grow.

I know that God has a plan and purpose for everything that happens, and I know He holds my entire future in His hands. But I have a hard time comprehending why He would let certain things unfold the way He has when those things turn out to look hopeless or seem to have no purpose except to hurt or disappoint.

I’ve been thinking about Psalm 23 a lot this week, especially where it says, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.”
My own “valley” is filled with uncertainty, fear of failure, fear of rejection, loneliness, heartbreak, and questions.

It’s easy to have faith when the right answers and reasons are right in front of you. It’s easy when no one else is involved, when there are no consequences, or when you’re not required to give anything up.
But it’s hard when you don’t know what the right or the best thing to do is. It’s hard when you don’t understand all the ‘whys.’ It’s hard when there seems to be no hope, when things don’t seem like they can ever get better.

Through it all I still believe that He is with me – through all the trials, with every tear and hurt, in decision making, in the good and the bad, every step of the way – He is faithful.
If He could give the blind their sight and make the lame walk; if He could provide a wife for Isaac at a random well in the desert; if He could die and come back to life 3 days later, then He can and will be enough for me.

“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine…to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever!” ~ Ephesians 3:20-21

Almost There!!!

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And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
~Philippians 4:19

Here it is: the last week and a half of finals before the close of the semester, graduation (Associate in Arts degree), and summer vacation!! It has been a good semester – not necessarily an easy or painless one – but good nonetheless.

The biggest thing I am facing now is what to do next. And of course everybody wants to know, “What are you going to do? Where are you going to go? What are you going to be? What are you doing with your life?”

I don’t know yet!

But one thing I do: God is infinitely greater than all challenges, insecurities, and decisions I face. And His plan (whatever it may be) is going to be far greater and better than I can imagine or work out for myself.

I checked out the Army National Guard earlier this year after going to a job fair and talking with a recruiter. Then a week or so later, I started having knee pain while running, which was a hindrance to running and going to see what the drills were like. That option kind of seems like a closed door for now.

After completing EMT-B certification, I applied for entrance into the Paramedic program at the community college for the fall 2012 semester. I will have wait until June or July to hear if I was accepted or not.

Other options I have considered for next semester are a) work full time; b) study auto mechanics (something I have always been interested in); c) travel; or d) none of the above. As cliche as it might sound, I’m just going to trust God to work everything out at the right time.

As for this summer, there are a few things that I am excited about…
~ My sister and I are doing our first 5k ‘Color Run’ together in July!
~ Skydiving for the first time!!  (I don’t know when or where yet)
~ Spending time with my family! (road trip! road trip!)  

Another thing I am excited about: I bought my first (used) vehicle last week!! It’s a gorgeous red SUV and I love it! God has blessed me more than I could hope for or deserve!

In 9 days, I will have a college degree, a paid-for vehicle, freedom, and support from my awesome parents to go out (or stay) and do whatever it is God has for me this summer!! And I’m excited about that!

A Girl Like You

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A Girl Like You

You should smile more; I haven’t seen your beautiful smile in too long; look people in the eyes when you’re talking to them; show respect to get respect; respond with “yes ma’am” or “no sir,” not ‘yeah’; have you read your Bible yet today?; visit friends who are in the hospital, they may need cheering up more than you know; keep your home clean in case people come over unexpected; keep extra cash in your purse in case you ever need a ride; go outside to get fresh air; use sunscreen so that you don’t get cancer; don’t buy clothes that are ‘dry clean only;’ fertilize your roses with the old coffee grounds and they’ll grow larger; write your thank-you notes within a week; put a little extra water in your rice so it doesn’t turn out too dry; call home so we know what you’re up to after midnight; I know you’ve had your heart set on getting that tattoo and you know I don’t approve; if you do, you’d better tell me so I’m not the last one to find out; don’t give your heart away to the first boy who comes around; cover yourself up so you’re not on display for anyone other than your husband – but I don’t even have a husband – and don’t talk back; you will have a good husband someday if you make good choices; this is how you take care of your children; this is how you teach you children right from wrong; this is how you put together a healthy meal on a budget; this is how you pick ripe fruits and veggies; this is how you organize coupons to save money; this is how you clean a fish tank; this is how you take care of your neighbors; this is how you stand up for yourself – always stand up for yourself; I know you’re a good girl; God has a perfect plan for your life.

(English class writing assignment, February 5, 2012. Modeled after Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl”)