resi-STANCE

Earlier this year, I vowed to myself that I would always say yes to the crazy things I didn’t believe that I could do or that I have never done before. Because of this vow, I ended up taking some amazing trips, stepped outside of my comfort zone in ways that shocked myself, and said yes to a lot of crazy workout plans…

Yes, workout plans. Which is why a couple weeks ago I shimmied my way into a spin class at my gym for the first time… ever. It was run by an extremely excited woman with really good legs. I really didn’t understand how someone could be so excited about cycling in one place in a hot, dark room, but we all have our “thing” I guess. As I looked around the room, there were people of different shapes, sizes, age, and gender, but the one thing they all had in common is that they all seemed like pros. They looked comfortable on their bikes, brought towels and cute water bottles, and even knew each others’ names!

I don’t know what it is about me, but I hate being the “new girl” in the room. Maybe it’s my pride of wanting to be the best or my perfectionism that wants to look like I have it all together, but regardless, the feeling of not knowing what the heck I’m doing 1. is terrifying and 2. makes me feel so dumb.

I felt an instant jolt in me to run out the doors, but after locking eyes with the instructor, I felt obligated to stay. So I mounted my  stationary bike and followed the class through the standing, sitting, shifting, cycling, and turning of resistance knobs.

Mid-way through I was getting so discouraged. I felt like I was ready to pass out, while everyone else is still spinning ferociously around me. “Turn up the resistance!” my instructor would chime cheerfully, but I felt like if I turned that knob one more time, my legs might explode. As I looked around, no one else was turning theirs up either. It’s why granny on the other side of the room was able to go so fast and I was struggling- my resistance was higher. It burned. It sucked.

Truth be told, my life looks like this. I often look around and see a lot of people going faster than me. They are graduating earlier, getting the jobs of their dreams, beginning to date and get married. They are watching their ministries flourish, their dreams and visions come to fruition, and they’re receiving revelation every time they open the Bible (while sometimes I’m struggling to even read!!). I’m discouraged. I feel stuck. I feel like the resistance on my life bike is terribly high, and all i can think is, “what is wrong with me?”

“What is wrong with me?” is a thought I hear frequently. Am I not good enough? Not strong enough? Not smart enough? Not pretty enough? Do I not have what it takes? Am I too much? Too little? The list can continue forever…

And maybe you’ve heard these thoughts too. Maybe you are entering this season and this new year and you are feeling like me- your resistance is up and the only stance you want to take on it is lying down. In your bed. Going to sleep. Escaping it all and not having to push through.

You have tried so hard time and time again to achieve that goal, that dream, that ambition, but something is always holding you back. You feel like your race is harder and going faster takes more effort. You don’t feel good at it. You don’t feel as smart. You aren’t as talented. You aren’t as… (fill in your not good enough adjective here).

I get it. I do. But in that cycling class I believe that God taught me the most valuable lesson on resistance and my stance on it: No one gets better without resistance. Think about it… to build muscle and to get stronger, we must turn up our resistance, right? It only makes sense. In the cycling class those who had no resistance went faster, but they weren’t GROWING any muscle, they were only moving.

When I hop off my life cycle, I don’t just want to move through my life. I want to GROW. I want to grow character and strength. I want to learn what it means to have endurance and stamina in the times that I want to give up. I want to embrace my resistance.

So no more convincing myself that I’m not good enough just because I feel resistance in my life. No more backing down and being a coward when the knob gets turned up on my cycle. No more taking out my measuring stick and looking around for comparisons.

Instead, I will face opposition and resistance head on. Ready to push through and ready to fight, knowing that on the other side of it is growth. Growth that may not feel good or make me look good in the sight of others, but will stretch me and prune me into the person I am called to be. It won’t be pretty, but it WILL be worth it.

Here’s to another year of rising up against resistance.

What’s your stance?

Ceeeeeleebrate good times… C’mon!

Parties are my favorite thing to fill my planner with. I love grabbing my markers and different colored pens and scribbling in events- whether it be birthdays, weddings, graduations, etc. I love the idea of celebrating others and buying things that make them feel special. I love writing notes and showing up and dancing and eating cake… Lots and lots of cake. I love everything about celebrating.

Could you imagine if you were having a party, though, and someone came in trying to make it all about them? They brought their own decorations and their own food. They start hanging up banners over yours and rewriting their name on your cake. They bring all their friends and family, and then suddenly your party ain’t yo’ party any longer.

I would feel so hurt and confused and end up crying or leaving… or both. YET, I realized recently that in my own life, I was that person. I was the party crasher.

Whenever someone would come to me with good news or something exciting that happened in their life I would immediately think, “Well God, why aren’t you doing that in my life? What about me?” or “God, I had been working so hard for this, and THEY get it first?!”

I thought that God was like Santa and had just “forgotten” to pass by my house on his way to drop off some blessings. Not only did it make me feel like I deserved something, and God was holding out on me, but it also made me feel the need to compete with whoever was standing in front of me.

That competition always looked different. I would either “one-up the person” making their situation look smaller and mine look bigger. I would completely disregard their situation and change the subject because it made me feel less than. Or I would fake smile, play the part, and leave mad at God for him not giving me what I thought I deserved from all of my “hard work”.

To be quite honest, I was completely jipping each of my friends. The love I gave for whatever news they shared was fake and self-centered. I didn’t care what they had to say because I was too worried about comparing my own life to theirs.

In Proverbs 14:30 it says, “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” If you’ve ever had something rotting in your house, it STANKS. You can smell it from a mile away and you DON’T ever want to go near it.

In the same way, when we are jealous of our sisters around us, it shows. It shows in the way you begin to treat them, speak to them, and even in your body language, and it stinks. No one wants to be around someone who is ROTTEN with jealousy. No one wants to be around a party crasher. People want to be around others with hearts at peace.

What does a heart at peace look like, though? It means a heart content in where you are in life at the moment. It means not needing to compete with others, and it means being secure among others’ successes. You are able to support others without fear that they have stolen something from you or without feeling like their success has made you a complete failure.

A heart at peace celebrates. They are the ones that show up early to decorate the party and pick up the pom poms to scream from the sidelines. They are the ones decorating the cake, sending out the invites, and throwing on the jersey. They are the #1 fan. Because you know what’s the truth about celebrating someone else? It doesn’t take anything away from you.

When you cheer someone on through their good news, it doesn’t mean that you or your current situation is not good enough. It doesn’t mean something is messed up with your life, that God forgot about you, or that you will never get your own celebration. God has a purpose and a plan for each and every one of us. Your season could look like getting everything you’ve ever desired, having to wait for it, or having to accept the fact that you’ll never get it.

Regardless of where you fall along that spectrum, God is not withholding from you. In Psalms 84:11 it says that God does not withhold GOOD things from those who are walking with him. So, if it is GOOD for your season then you WILL have it, and if it’s not then you won’t.

Either way, trust God in the process. He’s molding you to be exactly the person he wants YOU to be. So, feel free to pull out your confetti when someone comes to you with good news. Find security in knowing that God’s got your best interest in heart. Their success does not = your failure. Ask God what he’s trying to teach you through it and be ready and willing to accept whatever answer you get, even if it’s no answer at all.

We serve a good God who loves us so dearly. Never forget that.

Side note: I know you don’t carry confetti in your back pocket to throw every time someone shares great news with you, so celebrate realistically. Write letters, pay for their meal, pray for them, buy cake and put candles in it just because, shout them out on your social media, hug them tight, cheer them on when they feel fearful throughout the process, send them random texts, serve them, but whatever you do… just love them.

I pray your celebrations and love for others is wide, deep, and genuine. You rock. Don’t give up. 💕

There’s more than enough.

As I walked into the house for life group, my favorite person ever came to greet me. His name is Ford (or I call him Fordie). He’s 4 and has the cutest smile and the biggest imagination. He loves Saturday nights because it’s when all the “girls” come over and it’s also when he gets to eat all the yummy food we prepare after we talk. Tonight, was waffle night, and that is apparently his favorite.

So-much-so his favorite, that he made it a point an hour prior to facetime me and tell me that I had to come to the house RIGHT NOW so that he could have a waffle (well, he called them Laffles). I reassured him that I had enough to make a million “laffles” if he wanted, but even when I got there, he seemed skeptical. He stuck beside me the whole time to make sure that I was keeping to my promise. He even begged to be a part of the process of the waffle making to make sure it got done- grabbing eggs, pouring oil, and even checking the temperature of the waffles once done to make sure they were cool enough. At one point he even tried to refrain from using the bathroom for fear that I would make the waffle without him.

He thought that he was going to miss out. That if everyone came before he got a chance to eat one, that there would be none left over for him. What he didn’t know is that I had already prepared to have enough to make him one. I came into the group that night knowing that he would be there and that he would want a waffle, and so I bought enough so that he could have all the waffles his tummy could handle. I even told him before I came that he already had a waffle with his name written all over it, but it was hard for him to trust that was true if he couldn’t see it in front of him.

In the end, as I watched him sitting at the table, shoving the whole waffle in his mouth filled with syrup and butter, all I could see was myself.

All of my life I have felt like I was going to miss out on my calling. That I was going to wake up one day and God would throw his hands in the air like, “Sorry babe, you didn’t get here fast enough. All of the spots are filled.”

If you have ever felt this way before, I don’t blame you. We live in a world that has always said that there’s not enough. There’s not enough money, there’s not enough jobs, there’s not enough success. If you want it, you better start pushing your way to the top and speeding up the process because the spots at the table of dreams are filling up and they’re filling up fast. I’ve even heard the saying “If you don’t do it, then God will find someone who will.”

This created a fear in me. It created a fear in me that my calling is first come first serve and if I don’t get to movin’ then someone will replace me. That God won’t want me anymore. That my calling will go stale, I’ll miss out on purpose, and I’ll have to watch someone else take that place.

Having this mindset made me skeptical about God, much like Fordie was skeptical about my waffle making. I couldn’t see my dreams unfolding. I couldn’t see fruit. I couldn’t see a clear “calling” in front of me. So, I began to assist God in the process. I would step ahead of him, trying to pour oil in areas that didn’t need any, stir up things that weren’t ready yet, and try to cook ingredients that were still missing things.

I have read in his word a million and one times that he has a plan and a purpose for me. I have read that he calls, and he equips. That he works everything out for the good of those who love him. But I was still unwilling to leave for a bathroom break for fear that while I was gone someone would steal my waffle, or I was unwilling to step back and let God work his magic for fear that if I didn’t step in it would never get done.

This kind of fear makes you paranoid. Every time someone around you has a success, it makes you feel like a failure. Every time someone takes on the same passion as you of writing, photography, painting, speaking, leading, etc. It makes you feel as if you’re playing musical chairs with the seat at the table God has set and they just stole your chair from you.

There’s this passage in Luke 9. It’s when Jesus feeds the 5 thousand people in front of him with five loaves of bread and two fish. Now, if you’re thinking like me, then you’re dumbfounded because I can easily eat 5 loaves and 2 fish by myself. BUT somehow these loaves and fish keep getting multiplied and distributed to ALL 5 thousand people and when all have eaten and were SATSIFIED, there were left overs.

I’ve been trying to ask myself the question, “God, who are you in this passage?” every time I read. I want to know about the character of God. When I asked him today, he said “I am a God of left overs”.

See, at the end of life group, all of the girls got their waffles and there were left overs. Ford didn’t have to worry in the first place because there was enough. Actually, there was more than enough to go around.

God is the same way. He doesn’t just give what we need, he gives even more. There is always room, there is always enough. His table is never filled and the chair he has for you has your name written on it. He won’t ALLOW anyone else to take it. You don’t have to fight for it, you don’t have to compete for it. It is yours. It’s been yours since you were created in the womb.

The dreams and the visions and the callings you believe God has for you may not LOOK like they are being fulfilled. You may not see fruit, followers, people, books, or skills quite yet, but trust him in the waiting. Trust him in the process. Your waffles are being made to perfection, and even if you take a bathroom break, no one is going to take them.

Now, if you never step up to the plate of your calling, it doesn’t mean that someone else is going to replace you. It just means that the world misses out. They miss out on the piece of Jesus that God has called YOU to give. God may use someone else to reach the same people, but it won’t be in the same way, the same effectiveness. Only YOU can unlock the calling God has for you. If you try to be anyone else, you won’t be able to unlock their calling, and no one can try to be you and unlock yours.

There is no plan B. There is you. So, find freedom in celebrating others and celebrating yourself. Give tips to people who are trying to do the same things as you and be their biggest cheerleader in their success. Let God work his magic and take bathroom breaks when needed. Eat lots of waffles and know there are so many left overs. You are a world changer, babe. Never forget it!

It’s time to let go, babe.

I consider myself a very clingy person, to say the least. I have a hard time letting things go. I hold onto clothes for years in hopes that one day they will come in handy when deciding an outfit, but all they are really doing is collecting dust in my closet. I create memory boxes full of bracelets and cards people give me that I hold dear to my heart, even if they don’t say anything meaningful. I think it’s because they all carry memories, and I have always been someone who lived for memories. Whether it’s a gift or a moment, memories are the only thing in this world that can’t leave me, no one can take away, and I have complete control over.

It’s these memories that tie me to things- no, not physically being tied to them, but emotionally. It’s why I cried when my cat passed away, feel like a piece of my heart is missing when me and my best friend fight, and why I get completely and utterly destroyed by heartbreak. I get tied to things and I don’t want to let go- even when I know I need to.

Now don’t get me wrong- there are times to grieve and hold on and love and fight through, but there are also times when the people that have made a home in our heart pack up and move out, and we have to be willing to stand at the door and wish them farewell.

There are also times when people come into our hearts and stay a little bit longer than they should. They aren’t pursuing commitment, they’re just using all your heart’s resources for themselves. In your life this may look like holding onto a fantasy of a guy because of the expectation of what “could be”. It could look like flirting and sharing intimate parts of your life with someone that isn’t interested in really settling down. Or maybe, even, it looks like holding onto friendships that are toxic to your life because of the phrase “what if”- “what if they are just saying that to me because they are mad”, “what if they’re dragging me into drama because they care”, etc.

Maybe you don’t want to let the guy go for fear that he will find someone better than you. Maybe you don’t want to let the best friend go out of fear that you won’t find anyone like them again. Maybe because you’ve had so many people walk out of your life, you are scared to actually let someone go that is sticking around but holding you back. Maybe you feel like if you pack up their things, they may never look back. These are fears, and they stem from the lies that you’ll never be good enough or never be complete without this person. Lies that you won’t measure up to people around you or that without this person you will be alone. Just straight lies.

I’ve realized that holding onto someone, or even just the thought or idea of someone in your life, only holds you back from what God wants to do in your life. It’s like trying to run with hundreds of bricks on your back. They hold you down and even when you want to run forward, you can’t. God never intended for us to live lives enslaved to bricks. He said he came to give life and give it abundantly- abundant joy, abundant peace, abundant healing… Paul writes it like this:

2 Corinthians 7 (MSG)

“With promises like this to pull us on, dear friends; let’s make a clean break with everything that defiles or distracts us, both within and without. Let’s make our entire lives fit and holy temples for the worship of God.”

With all the promises that God gives us of abundant life, Paul says to make a clean break with everything around us distracting us or defiling us. Basically, in my own words he’s saying “It’s time to let go, babe. You’ve been holding onto something that’s only sucking the life out of you, and the only way to truly worship God with your whole heart is to kick the person out that’s taking up the most room.”

Letting go does not mean praying one night, waking up in the morning, and all feelings are gone, though. This is not a one-step-fix-it-all process! It means waking up and CHOOSING not to CONTROL the situation any longer. Choosing not to find excuses to talk to him or be around him all the time. Choosing not to let your mind think up fantasies about him and y’alls “future” together. Choosing not to flirt or lead them on to boost your ego or make you feel wanted.

It’s releasing the control and saying under your breath, “Lord, if this is for me, then I know it no one can take it away from me”. That’s the ultimate truth. If THIS is the person God has for you, you could do absolutely NOTHING and God will still make it work. You don’t have to do anything. You don’t have to control anything or flirt in any way to make him stay. God will orchestrate it perfectly if it’s what’s meant to be. Trust him in the process. Trust him in the waiting.

Hannah Brencher wrote a note that I still keep in my phone as a reminder:

“You will need to let go a million and one times in the next few years. Make sure you let go for good. Don’t wait for text messages. Don’t find a way to make people linger and wait in the loss of you. It’s selfish to hold onto a person when you’ve already got the clarity that tells you to let them go. That person is supposed to go out there and love someone different. They’re supposed to mess up with someone else. They’re supposed to kiss someone else and buy flowers for someone else.”

So maybe it’s time to let go for you. You’ve been lingering in the “could be”s, “what if”s, and “why”s. You’ve been holding bricks and trying to run with no luck. You’re waiting in the waiting room for someone to call your name that hasn’t even promised you commitment. You’ve wasted time, energy, and love.. and it’s time to let go.. Delete his number. Unfollow his account. Stop checking if he liked your picture and stop monitoring the last time he logged online. Delete his thread + his DM chats. Don’t find your way into his family any longer. DELETE THE PICTURES. Chuck the memories. Stop listening to Sam Smith or Ed Sheeran late at night- seriously it’s like slapping yourself emotionally- and change your playlist. Don’t try to make eye contact from across the room any longer, and don’t try to find ways to show up for him. When he moves out of your heart, make sure he takes EVERYTHING with him.

And when he does, know that it makes room for something so much greater- God. He offers everything you need and everything you could ever want. He is your freedom, your healing, your love, your satisfaction. He’s everything you could have ever hoped for and everything you’ve always longed for. He’s the best person to make a home in your heart. His grace is sufficient for you. He fills you with good things. He is a comforter and a peace maker.

Letting go is one of the hardest roads of faith I think I’ve ever embarked on. It’s hard and it’s messy, but it’s oh-so worth it. He’s got you babe, just let go.

 

in•security

The world we live in has a crazy way of setting this standard of how you should look. From the transformation body pictures on Instagram to the models posted up on Twitter- all of which you look nothing like- it begins to shape your perspective of “enough”. You won’t be pretty e n o u g h until you have abs like her. You won’t be successful e n o u g h until you have followers like her. You won’t be good e n o u g h until you.are.her. All of these lies are whispered into your ears, and you believe them because you have never been told any different, or if you have it’s hard to believe with this standard hanging over your head. It leads to the defeated life. The inadequate life. The life of feeling like you’ll never measure up. The life of insecurity.

It’s exhausting trying to chase after perfect standards we were never meant to pursue. Kind’ve like a swimmer trying to run track. They’re in the wrong field, playing the wrong game- of course they’re always going to fall short… they weren’t trained for that. In this world, we too, have been trained for a different standard. It doesn’t involve comparing ourselves to the person on the side of us because we all stink no matter how rock hard your abs are or how much your highlight glows. It’s about comparing ourselves to our Heavenly Father. The one who created us and labels us as his own. His royal priesthood, His warriors, His jewels. We are precious in his eyes, and he took his time creating every detail of our body, mind, and heart. We were created to live in•security. His security. The security of knowing that all he’s created you to be, is exactly all he expects.

You’re not alone in this battle. In fact, I’m pretty sure every girl I know is fighting along-side you. So today, I’ve decided to give you a glimpse of your team, your army, the girls in armor right beside you while you fight. They’ll speak life over you and truth they needed to find for themselves. They’ll give you wisdom and they’ll give you reality. They’re here to show that you’re not a one man army- you aren’t alone.


To note, every picture you will see here on out is unedited and untouched, and the girls you will see are ALL natural for the purpose of being completely transparent on this topic.


Aly

“I have been insecure about how I looked ever since I was a little girl. Getting bullied and talked about through elementary school and middle school was tough. When so many lies are told to you on a daily basis you start to believe they are true. My weight and how I look is something that has been a challenge for me. When you hear lies all your life and you finally hear the truth, the truth sounds like a lie. I didn’t start believing and living in truth until the end of 2017. Once it hit me how much God really loves me, everything changed. I began to speak Life and truth over myself. I have always been an encourager for everyone else. But, when it came to myself I didn’t feel worth it. Once I realized my worth in Christ, I began to live in my truth. Everyday I look in the mirror and I speak truth over my life- “You have a purpose!” “You are beautifully and wonderfully made!” “You are worthy!” “You are God’s princess!”. I stopped comparing myself to others and logged off social media when it was necessary. I still did compare myself with it sometimes. Not always my looks, but if I’m smart enough or capable or if I would be successful. The list can go on FOREVER! I’ve noticed that once you’re over one thing about yourself the enemy attempts to bring something else up. But now I am able to decipher between his lies and my Father’s truths.  I had to shift my focus and my perspective to my Lord’s truths. That’s how I find joy in the darkest times of my life. That’s how I’m able to serve even if I feel insufficient. God’s love for me makes my life easier.”

Kathleen

“Before I gave my life to Jesus, my standard on how i should act or look always reflected the world. I use to see other girls who looked almost flawless with or without makeup and I’d compare myself thinking I needed to look better, even if that meant wearing a bunch of makeup. Over the years, as God began to show me my worth, I realized that God embraced my insecurities. I began to see myself through who I was in christ and not who I was to the world. I always use to feel like I had to try so hard to stand out or appeal to others, especially guys. I never felt like I was enough, but now that doesn’t matter. I have realized that yes, I’m far from perfect, but I don’t have to be perfect because that’s why I serve a perfect God. Now, I’m not saying that everyday I wake up and feel beautiful and confident. There’s days I still compare myself to other girls or don’t feel good enough, but even in those days I feel something in me say to myself, “you are enough because I am enough for both of us.” I remember my God and how His thoughts of me outnumber the grains of sand. I remember that He was willing to die for me in the midst of me not loving Him. I remember that He saw beauty in me before I even gave my first breath. The same creator who made the stars and the sunsets and the angels and flowers thought it was necessary for someone as awkward and silly like me to exist. Truths like that keep me going and remind me to stay confident. So in my bad days, where I can’t see the beauty in myself, all that matters to me is that He sees the beauty in me.”

Callee

“When I was five I started swimming competitively so my wardrobe consisted of t-shirts, oversized hoodies, basketball shorts (because they were modest) my converse, and flip flops for the pool deck. My entire childhood was swimming in the bayou and exploring the woods with my three brothers. Everyone always told me I looked just like my brothers. When I was younger I took it as a compliment. However, when I started getting older, as makeup, fashion and boys came into the picture, it started to sound more like “you look like a boy”.  I didn’t think much of myself. I always thought the girls I swam with or the girls in my youth group were so much prettier than me! People would tell me I was pretty and I would just shrug it off thinking “You are just saying that. My shoulders are too big because of swimming. I don’t have cute cloths (because, even in high school, my closet consisted of T-shirt and jeans). My hair is always in a bun. I don’t wear makeup. My legs are too muscular. I’m too tall. I have a gap in my teeth. I’m not outgoing.” And on and on I would go convincing myself that I was not good enough. It wasn’t till I was out of high school when I discovered how to conquer my insecurities everyday, because, I’m sorry, they don’t ever go away. Fortunately, you can overcome them and genuinely love yourself! Number one: I had to understand that my character and my actions were more important than my insecurities. I was a state champion swimmer by the time I was ten years old. I played piano and sang. I was involved in several different ministries. I had incredible friends. But I still felt like a second class person compared to the girls who had boyfriends, cute cloths, big friend groups and outgoing personalities. I had to learn what was important in life before I could place value my life.  Number two: give and receive compliments! If someone is going out of there way to compliment you, choose to believe it. Whether it’s about your looks or your actions, God is trying to verbally affirm you through your brothers and sisters in Him. Also, don’t be afraid to compliment others. A lot of times we become insecure because we see someone else succeeding and we feel less about ourselves. But comparison is the thief of joy while bringing someone else joy multiplies it. And number three: develop eyes like Jesus. Begin to read your Bible and see what he says about you. Maybe there are some things that you need to change in order to become the person God has called you to be, but you will never experience true self worth without knowing God and how He adores you.”

Ashley

“Insecure, unconfident, and self-conscious were the words to describe myself growing up. My childhood was filled with negative words from the people who meant the most to me. My family treated me as if I were invisible. I felt unloved. They constantly made comments about my weight because I was “too skinny”. I started to pick on my self over everything. I was bullied in school. I hated my glasses, height, skin, race and everything you can think of. I started searching, but my security wasn’t found. I felt hopeless. I grew an addiction of trying to find hope in the wrong places. I gave myself to boys. I was confused because I was mistreated by them. I gave pieces of my heart and received nothing in return. I was broken. Then I consumed my self endlessly with drugs, parties, raves and alcohol. Those things made me feel empty at the end of the day. I suffered with depression. One day, I broke down in my room. I had enough. I hated myself. I was ready to give up and commit suicide. In this moment I felt a hand on my shoulder stopping me. It was Jesus. He had seen I hurt myself so many times but He looked at me with nothing but love. When I seen love in His eyes, I felt peace. I gave Him my heart and He gave me His truth and promises. He was my Father. He was my best friend. I started to heal. Walking with Jesus, I saw my worth. I gained so much confidence after I let Jesus invade my heart. I don’t ever want to hurt myself again or go back to those unhealthy habits. I love myself. I am secure in Jesus, made whole, priceless, a daughter of the King, beautiful, pure, beloved, confident, bold, and chosen by Jesus.”

Carmin

“My name is Carmin. Above is an awkward picture of me that I fought hard to stop from being posted. But here you are… looking at it. The moment I was asked to do this, my mind immediately skipped to the answer “NO”! I’m a photographer for a reason, I stay behind the camera. I cringed at the thought of everyone reading about my insecurities. For a very long time, I have had detrimental insecurity issues. Issues that I have hidden so very well. What people don’t know about me is that for years I couldn’t walk past a mirror without being completely ashamed of myself. Every single day I would wake up and let my appearance control my every action. Some days I’d even knit pick every personality trait of mine. Don’t let me fool you, I am still fighting this battle.
In the beginning of 2018 I asked God what my word for the year needed to be. His response was confident. God told me, “It’s time Carmin. You have been running for too long.” This is for the girl who is still running:
Stop. Just stop. You’ve tried time and time again to fix your insecurities. You’ve tried losing the weight. You’ve tried getting rid of the acne. You’ve tried to be more extraverted. Stop trying to fix something that isn’t meant to be fixed. Do you realize that God hand knitted you? That He took His precious time creating every detail of you. Until you appreciate that, you are going to miss out on so much love that God has for you. Not because He is holding it back from you, but because you are literally blocking it. You keep trying to fix things about yourself so that other people will love you. Just stop trying to fix yourself. Let God teach you how to love yourself just the way you are. Tear down the walls of insecurity that are blocking God’s love.
This is me tearing down my walls.”

Kirsten

“Ever since I was in grade school, I was made fun of about my teeth and how they were not straight. All throughout high school, and even after, I was very insecure about smiling and feeling beautiful. I never thought that any decent guy would want to look at me as someone beautiful because my teeth weren’t straight, like every other girl that I would see. I thought that it made me lesser and insignificant, so for years all I thought about were braces…because I thought that braces would make me beautiful. But when I came to know Christ and I began to understand my worth and I got a revelation of who I am and Him. I realized that no matter what I look like on the outside what matters most is how God views me! I still to this day struggle with smiling in pictures sometimes and wanting to smile in front of other people and laughing with my mouth open, but then the Lord reminds me that he sees me as beautiful, and no matter what I think about myself, or what other people say about me, what the Lord says is always truth!”

Victoria

“Thinking about the word insecurity. That word has been apart of my life since i was in elementary school. Growing up something was always “wrong ” with me. Being the fat girl in school, being called an imbecile because I couldn’t understand something the correct way, or being too “ugly” to hang out with the popular group at school. The words that people spoke over me crippled me and still has affected me till this day. It affects my thoughts, on the way I take pictures, it affects my work in my calling,  it has impacted my interpretation of others actions, all the way to the simplest things. And I can be completely honest and transparent in saying that the reading the “Who you are in Christ ” pamphlet and edifying yourself in the mirror doesn’t help me personally… I think what helps me is recognizing the insecurities and locating that hurt, which is definitely not the easiest thing to do, it’s actually very painful and humbling. But bringing the insecurities to light has helped because it can take away some of their power as you increase your awareness of when and how they come into play and how to manage those feelings that come along with it. Straight up insecurities keep us from living into the full potential God has for us. When we are consumed with fear, because thats the root of all insecurity, it leaves little room for the Lords guidance and direction. It leads us to believe in lies, and it will start to tempt us to find reassurance through comparison with others. But the Lord calls us to a higher standard and desires to truly know our hearts. We have to learn (key word LEARN) how to take every thought captive.  Paul urges us to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (Rom. 12:21). Confront your disabling thoughts. Turn them over to God and become who He sees you can be. Sometimes we need to lay the way we feel at the feet of Jesus, sacrifice, and choose to believe his truth over the feelings that consume our minds. And please, let’s not get this twisted and think that I am free of insecurities because that is the FURTHEST thing from the truth. This is me working out my freedom from my insecurities. Us as women, because we are very emotional, we tend to go in the same directions that our feelings are pointing to. And I’ve had to learn the hard way that , that’s very dangerous because,  yes, feelings are valid and are cared about in the eyes of the Lord, but also are very deceptive. My encouragement to us who deal with insecurities on a day to day bases is to agree more with God’s truth over us vs the way we feel, and let us not forget that there is a real devil a real enemy trying to destroy you and rip you in pieces. But as for us as Christians, let us also not forgot the Spirit that lives inside you- the Holy Spirit- and the authority you carry to put those thoughts to rest. He knows your name and He doesn’t fall off of His throne.”

 Shakira

“I remember how my life was a little girl. I had a beautiful family life! My parents loved each other; my siblings and I (although we would bicker at times) grew up having memories of laughing and playing together… It was the perfect life to me. I knew that I was loved. I knew that I was cherished. I was absolutely secured because I knew that my parents loved me and that they would cross the ends of the earth just so that I could know that I was theirs. I was SECURE and there was nothing that I had to fear, until elementary school came. The girl who was once so sure of whom she belonged to and what she was worth, was called ugly for the first time. Although at once she believed she was beautiful, she now began to believe the voices of somebody else. I can remember walking down the hallways at school with my head held down because every time that I looked up, I was afraid that people would make fun of how I looked. To make matters a little worse, I would go home and compare myself to my sisters at home. I would spend days, even hours, as I got into middle and high school, straightening my hair and covering my face with makeup. I became hungry for love and attention from other people and I was lost and broken, until a man name Jesus Christ knocked on the door of my heart. When Jesus Christ came into my heart and into my life, He began to restore the things that the devil had stolen from me. This once very insecure girl, became secure in Christ. One of my favorite chapters in the Bible is Psalm 139 (specifically verses 13 and 14). It talks a lot about how God is aware of every, single detail of our lives. He not only knows us intricately, but He loves us relentlessly and passionately. I want to share with you one of the things that God has helped me to learn through this process of overcoming insecurities: You were FORMED by God INTENTIONALLY. He made you WITH A PURPOSE, ON PURPOSE (His wonderful purposes), and FOR A GREATER PURPOSE than you could imagine. You are not a mistake. You are not a regret. When God created you, He knew what He was doing. He looks at you through the eyes of love. He looked at the dust on the ground, picked it up with His hands, formed you out of it, and He breathed His breath of life inside of you. He makes things that are broken beautiful, and He is absolutely in love with you. Your worth is found in your Creator, not in what others or even yourself may say about you. BELIEVE IN HIS TRUTH. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. Even though God has revealed this truth to me, there are still days where I struggle with insecurity, but I know that God’s grace is sufficient and that He will continue to show me who He is and who I am in light of who He is. We are all works in progress, but God loves us the same. We can rest in Him and have assurance that He is with us every step of the way. He is greater than any insecurity that we face, and we are indeed precious in His sight. Don’t believe me? Take a look at Isaiah 43:4, God can say it better than any of us ever can.”

Brooke

“Since I was young I always had acne. Seriously, I can remember getting my first pimple in first grade- it was kind’ve ridiculous. Since then I have accumulated black heads, pimples, scars, and scabs all over my face and back. It’s something I’ve always been insecure about, and honestly still am. There are days when I just HAVE to put on concealer, for fear that someone will be grossed out or want to look at it while I’m talking to them. I tend to think that I’m saving them from some sort of trouble if I just cover it up. It’s crazy to say I feel more confident that way. I cover up my acne, and most times I cover up my personality as well. I have the “too much” syndrome. The one where I always think I’m “too much” for a room to handle. Too emotional, too sensitive, too obnoxious, too awkward. So I keep to myself most times, afraid that if I am the way I am or look the way I look, then someone won’t like me. It’s been a hard process- especially because social media S U C K S at uplifting people. All you need to do is go to the popular page and you can find 10 reasons why you aren’t good enough the way that you are. For me, my process has been painful. It’s about doing the things you don’t want to do until you want to do them. It’s about choosing not to wear makeup on the days when I look like a pizza even when everything in me wants to pick up my foundation brush. It’s about choosing to take a break from social media even when I want to stay ‘up to date’. And it’s about choosing to look in the mirror and speak life to the darkest places, even if you don’t feel it. You are beautiful. You are special. You are unique. You are enough. You will never be too much. You are secure just being you. God created me to be that way, and when he did, he said, “It is GOOD”. Every part of me I hate and every part of me I wish I could change- it is good. It is good. It is good. Sometimes you just need that reminder that you are exactly who you were meant to be in every way, and your struggle with this doesn’t make you any less significant.”

Today is the day that you stop living the life of a swimmer trying to run track. Pick up your sword, put on your armor, and let’s go to war together. As one army, against one enemy. The only person who can stop you is you. The you that believes the lies and chooses to live in insecurity. Look at yourself in the mirror today and tell yourself truth. You are secure. You were meant to live in•security of who God has made you to be. You are beautiful. You are unique. You are enough.


1 Samuel 16:7
“But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.

Group2*

Huge shoutout and thank you to CARMIN FRISARD who took all of these beautiful pictures/headshots of all of us, as well as ASHLEY GUAN who took Carmin’s pictures so she could be a part of it as well!

Embrace Your Place

To be honest, God has been pressing my heart to write about this for awhile, but I pressed back for fear that I wasn’t ready to write about something I was still struggling with. Still, I am struggling, but onward I write because as much as I need this, you do too. Thank you for being so faithful with tuning into my journey- let’s press forward:

This month is my 8th month since God has revealed to me that I struggle with acceptance in my life, and it has been one of the hardest journey’s I’ve ever been taken on. There has been so many tears, screams, questions, frustrations, and convictions. The Lord has brought me to my knees again and again and continues to push this area over and over with full intention of bringing to completion what he has started in my heart- thank you Lord! A couple months, though, I realized that I had become discontent in several different areas of my life, and it began to breed a root of bitterness against God. Why am I still HERE and not THERE? Why THIS and not THAT? I inquired of God. I was so worried about being in another position or season, that I had lost the luster of the season that I was in. I became frustrated, aggravated, disappointed, and angry to the point where my heart began to harden. At this point, God simply couldn’t use me- I wasn’t allowing him to. I was mad because I wasn’t hearing from him, but I wasn’t actually paying attention either. I was too busy screaming at God about how to do his job that I couldn’t hear his reassuring whisper. God had me right where he wanted me all along, and he had knitted together every area of my life so intricately. As he is doing this for me, he’s doing this for you too. Planning every season, strengthening you, testing you, giving you opportunities to EMBRACE the PLACES he has put you to see his glory in full effect. It’s the process that makes us more like Him and shows the world more of Him.

So let’s look into three areas of life that I struggled with embracing my place in. I’m praying that through these words you would hear God’s reassuring whisper to you. That you would feel empowered and encouraged knowing that He is who he says he is, and He does what he says he will do!

Ministry

My heart burned with anger as I sat on the bus on the way to the local church we were volunteering at for a mission trip. We were getting ready to do our huge youth night, and they were recruiting for certain aspects. I really wanted to be in a skit, but I wanted a good part. You know- the one that people get the spotlight for and everyone applauds them for after. The one that knocks people out of their seat and sends them falling towards the altar for salvation after how great you just performed. That’s the part I wanted, and that’s absolutely not the part I got. I got the backup part. The one that they didn’t have the original person for, so they stuck me in with hopes that I’d do it just as great as the prior. I’m pretty sure you could imagine how discouraged I was. Looking around I started to compare my parts to others, and even the amount of time I had on stage compared to everyone else’s. I felt so insignificant and so stupid until I turned my back around preparing for the first attempt at the whole skit, and God so vividly spoke the words over me, “embrace your place”. It was one of those whispers that knocks the senses back into your prideful and oh-so-emotional little heart. I took a deep breath and told myself, “you are going to be the best actress at this part that anyone has ever seen in their life, you got that Brooke?” And with that I stirred up all the energy I had left in my body and rocked that small, backup part that I got thrown into last minute. I did it with all my heart and strength, and at the end I didn’t really care who was proud of me- I knew that Jesus was.

Much like I did in this skit, I know that so many of us do this in our ministry. We begin to look at others who are in the spotlight, who have jobs on staff, who plan and organize, who speak and preach, and we think, “Man, God, why am I not right there? Why am I still HERE?” And your here can be anywhere. Your “here” may be being the one picking up the trash every service, printing up the order of services or announcements, doing lights, giving the band water, or leading a small group- the list is endless. The point is that you think you’re job is insignificant compared to the others. Or maybe you don’t think that. Maybe you know that you still play a big role, but you just don’t believe that doing your job every service is BIG ENOUGH, and you’re just wishing that God would place you somewhere bigger.

I bet King David felt the same way. In 1 Samuel 16-17, David is anointed as King and then given the opportunity to kill a giant called Goliath. Now, David wasn’t in any high position when he was anointed as king. For one, he was the youngest of his brothers, and usually the youngest was not anointed as the next king unless the other brothers physically couldn’t. Second, he was a shepherd of the sheep that his father owned, which was not the most glamorous job to have considering you walked in the heat all day with stinky sheep. What’s amazing, though, is that after he is anointed, he goes out to battle to talk to his brothers and a huge giant named Goliath comes up. No one has the courage to go against him, so David speaks up to fight. Everyone gets angry and discourages David because he is so young, but in verses 34-36 he says, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has struck down both lions and bears and this uncircumcised Philistine shall belike one of them…” (ESV). To wrap up the story, David ends up killing Goliath with one stone, and everyone ends up going crazy.

I share that story in the Bible because you are David, the shepherd. Your are tending the sheep. Your work feels dirty, useless, and boring. It can be overwhelming and you can be overlooked more often than not. Your work in the field seems daunting and like you’ll literally be stuck there forever- but you won’t. Be encouraged that the place God has you in in ministry is preparing you for the next season he is taking you into. He is going to have you protecting sheep, killing lions, and running off bears in this season because he is preparing you to kill your Goliath. Embrace your place in ministry. If you are doing lights, be the best freaking lights person the world has ever seen. If you’re picking up trash, be the best and most diligent picker upper that the church has ever known. Do everything in excellence, even the little things, because then God can trust you with the bigger things that your heart desires. Know that your part of the body is just as important as the rest. The heart would have no job if it didn’t have a leg to send blood to, and the same in ministry. You matter, and your place matters. EMBRACE YOUR PLACE IN MINISTRY.

Purpose

I was sitting at the desk at the hospital scrolling through my phone as I was volunteering. I volunteer to get some hours down on my resume for PA school in the future, but while I’m there I do a whole lot of nothing (usually just writing in paperwork when it comes). As I am scrolling, I come across a video of a girl. She looks about my age, has the same style, and she loves Jesus, the only thing difference is that she’s standing in front of a crowd of thousands preaching, and I am sitting in front of an old desk in a hospital watching her fulfill her dreams. Immediately, discouragement washed over me. For awhile I had been hearing from God about different visions he wanted to accomplish through me- a youth girls conference, a class to equip high school girls for success, a book one day to be written for youth girls- and here I am, scrolling through Instagram on my phone, feeling like I’m doing a whole lot of nothing while this girl is doing a whole lot of something. I texted my mentor immediately and described how discouraged I felt because I didn’t feel any closer to fulfilling this purpose I knew God had set out for me, and she responded with, “It’s good to remind yourself that dreams take time and even when you feel like all your doing is ‘not doing your dream’ you are actually putting in the time and consistency needed to make those dreams happen. To make opportunities for the dreams to happen. A big part of dreams is patience. So as long as you’re literally not being a couch potato, then you probably are right where you’re supposed to be. Waiting and doing the lowly work is just not as glamorous.”

So many of us have dreams and visions of things that God wants to do in and through us, but it seems so far away. You see all these other pastors and young leaders doing the dream you feel like God has called you to do and you feel like you’ve missed the mark. You’re still living with your parents, still going to school, just sitting in front of a desk like I was and you feel so powerless because you aren’t in the exact position that you feel like God is calling you into. Be patient. Where you are is going to benefit your dream more than you realize. It’s going to open up doors for your dream or give you skills for your dream that are a necessity. God is building you up to be the person he has called you to be for the vision he has placed on your heart. Jesus didn’t start his ministry until he was 30 years old, and he only did his ministry for 3 years. YES! God’s son had to have 30 years of training and learning before he was ready for the 3 years of intense discipleship and ministry ahead. In the same way, God is preparing you. It’s much like a cake that’s being prepared for baking. There are so many ingredients that are put into the mix, and if one is missing or one step is not done right, yourncake will be disgusting once it has been baked. Likewise, if you are given the opportunity to advance your dream, or vision, before your fully prepped and ready, then the outcome will be a failure. God loves you way too much to see that happen, so he is prepping you and preparing your perfectly for that moment. He’s in the waiting. He’s in the preparing. He’s in the process.

On the other hand, you may not even know what your future looks like. When I was in high school, I had the dreams of going to a private college on a full ride for nursing school, and did not end up getting the scholarship. I remember the fear that washed over me the moment I got that call from my mom. The fear of the unknown, the fear of what was to come, where I would be, and what my purpose was. I couldn’t see what was next or where God was taking me, but in order to get through I had to embrace the place God had me- the ministry he called me to, the girls he had me leading, the community I was in at the time- taking it day-by-day and walking in obedience to God’s word. If this is where you are, it’s okay to not know the will of God for your life. It’s okay to not know his plans. I don’t actually believe we’re supposed to know, because if we did we wouldn’t need to have faith and trust. He hems you in behind and before. He knows where you will go and what you will do, and the outcome will never be against you. I mean c’mon, we serve THE God who created the universe. His plans for us have got to be out of this world. EMBRACE YOUR PLACE IN YOUR PURPOSE.

Battles

Soap box moment: this battle with acceptance has ripped me to shreds. I have watched my friends win victory over many things around me. I have watched them fight battles, win them, and move on while I was the girl who was STILL battling with the same thing. I have probably cried to every friend asking them why I am STILL in this place, STILL battling this fight, STILL not where everyone else is when it comes to victory. A few nights ago, I was crying out to God about the same matter. I’m trying so hard Lord, why do I still feel like I’m treading the same battlegrounds of blood, sweat, and tears? In that moment, I felt such a huge peace over me- sometimes they are battles, and sometimes they are wars. Man. Sometimes what you’re struggling with is not just a battle, but a war. And as seen in history, wars usually have far greater gain than battles do. We learn about the wars of the world and are told to memorize them, because they have made the greatest impact on America and from the wars we’ve won, they give the greatest reward as well. Your war that you are fighting will reap reward that will change this world.

Now Like me, you may want the over-the-counter quick fix, or the over-the-night-wake-up-and-I’m-delivered victory, but there’s no character building or becoming like Jesus in that way. Much like when you’re trying to gain muscles, there is no pill you can take to make them grow or inflate. Muscles are formed when old tissue is torn apart, leaving room for new muscle cells to build on top. This means that you have to be dedicated and persistent to working out in order to see results, and it also means that you have to be pushed past your limit to grow. You can’t quit after a couple days, though. Six packs aren’t gained in a week (trust me on this one, I’ve tried and failed). You have to keep going and keep pushing, and always remember that the place you feel MOST stuck is the place where God wants to set you free from MOST.

If you don’t get told this enough: YOU ARE AWESOME! What you’re going through is normal. There are so many people around you who are probably going through the same thing. We have a God that sympathizes with what we go through and how we hurt (Hebrews 4:15). Your war is not stupid. You are not defeated, you are a fighter and you are a warrior. With Jesus, you HAVE overcome this fight. You are so dearly loved and you are so dearly cherished. You WILL get through this. You are MORE than a conqueror. That means you won’t just WIN the fight, but you will BENEFIT from the victory. Hold on to your hope. Take courage. If no one believes in you, I do and God does. EMBRACE YOUR PLACE IN YOUR BATTLES.

Practically, I’ve learned that the devil fights most in the mind. He schemes and he plans for just the right moment to attack your thoughts and bombard you with jealousy, bitterness, and rage. Put on your helmet of salvation, and make “small deaths” to your flesh daily. We may want to dwell in these thoughts because they seem fair and they seem like right to feel that way. Die to yourself. We may want to stay in our pity party because it seems comforting and we’ll get the most attention from people that way. Die to yourself. We may want to jump to a different season that God is NOT calling us to yet. Die to yourself. Die to yourself over and over and over again, remember God’s promises written in his word, and speak them over your life out loud for the devil to hear. Where you are is where God wants you to be. EMBRACE YOUR PLACE.

“You don’t know what I am doing now, but you will understand later.” John 13:7

 

Clock Out

I remember what it felt like the first time I forgot to clock out for work. I woke up the next morning with a notification on my phone reading: “Alert: you have not clocked out for your shift”. I traced back every step I took on the way out of work the prior evening in a matter of seconds, retracing and retracing. I could’ve swore I clocked out last night, did it not go through? I thought to myself. Guilt and shame washed over me endlessly as I laid in bed staring at my ceiling. My gut feeling was that I had tried, but it hadn’t gone through, so I texted my boss and made amends in my heart vowing to NEVER miss my time to clock out ever again.

Many of us make the mistake of not clocking out at work many times in our lives, but my fear is that, likewise,  many of us forget to clock out of working when it comes to the Lord. I’m coming from a place of STILL struggling with this, but God is so kind and generous to make it known to me so that I could share it with you guys as well.

Since I was born, every relationship I’ve ever known was conditional. If I made good grades, I was loved more out of excitement or gratitude. If I made bad decisions with guys, I was loved less out of disappointment or anger. The list goes on- from friends, to mentors, to family, to church people. There has been and there always will be this expectation for every person written on their heart: “If you do this for me and act this way THEN I will like/love you”. Because of this, as you have seen in past posts, I struggled and worked hard to be accepted by everyone. I searched their hearts, found out their secret code of expectation, and catered to it. When I got saved, it was as if that burden trickled into my relationship with God

Working for my salvation

One of the ways that burden followed me was through “working for my salvation”. I knew that I wasn’t good enough, and so I tried to be good enough for God in every way I could (I mean, I did it for the rest of the people in my life, wouldn’t it work for him too?). It was an endless race, much like a dog running in circles trying to catch his tail knowing he will never actually get it, but still I tried. This, my friends, is what I will label as religion. The rules, the standards, the fingers in the face, and the condemnation. I stretched myself as thin as I could, tirelessly volunteering, reading, serving- thinking the more good deeds that I did would get me in better standing with Jesus. In actuality guys, this just gets you burnt out and bitter. For me, it caused me to go into depression. I would spend weeks feeling like I didn’t matter to God because I wasn’t creating decor for my youth ministry or I wasn’t leading a small group. I was pinning my tasks over God’s promises.

In the book “Swipe Right” Levi Lusko put it this way, “We mistakenly think that getting into heaven is based on doing something, but it’s based on believing something- God’s promises.” Salvation is by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), so that means that by God’s grace you are saved, through your TRUST in Jesus. Notice I didn’t say through your VOLUNTEERING for Jesus, through your READING for Jesus, through your HAVING SMALL GROUPS for Jesus, through your SPEAKING for Jesus- just your trust and surrender.

Now this is NOT a stand for complacency or a rebellion against serving. DO NOT BE LAZY. If God is calling you to have a small group, do it with all diligence and excellence. If God is calling you to do lights for services, do it with all diligence and excellence. If God is calling you to share a word with a friend or to your congregation, do it with all diligence and excellence. But do not let the devil let you believe that because you do those things, you have a one-way trip to heaven. In Matthew 7:22-23 Jesus says “Many will say to me on that day [the day of judgement], ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you…”

You are not saved by your good deeds, NOR are you unsaved by your bad deeds. “Salvation is a gift; you can’t lose through bad behavior, what you didn’t deserve in the first place” (Levi Lusko). If you slip, stop questioning your salvation. Get back up and begin again. Now if you’re slipping in the same area habitually with no regard to our Lord Jesus Christ who died for your hurts, habits, and hang ups… Then do a heart check- it could be that you were never saved in the first place. Accepting Jesus into your life is accepting change and hustling for progress.

When you said yes to Jesus, he said yes to you. There’s no if, ands, or buts. It was finished when God hung his son on the cross for you, and he’s already been resurrected so there’s no digging you have to do. Lay down your shovel, embrace God’s grace, and remember that your identity is NOT based on what you DO, but what God has DONE. It is finished.

Working for God’s love

Let me finish before I even begin- God loved you before you were even thought about by your parents, so you don’t have to DO anything in return for his love. His love is not a thermometer that reciprocates a reaction from an action. When your on fire for him, his love doesn’t shoot up, and when you aren’t feeling it anymore, his love doesn’t slowly fall.    Did you read today? his love didn’t go up. Watched porn again? his love did not go down.

Romans 5:18 “but God showed his loved for us that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Okay… Let’s look at this verse. He showed his love for us, that while WE WERE STILL SINNERS. STILL. SINNERS. Still broken, still crazy, still messed up, still disappointing others… He died for us. God never said “Hear yee, hear yee: all who are jacked up, get perfect so that I may THEN love you and die for you.” HE LOVES YOU RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE. When I realized that God’s love for me was the same before my mess up, during my mess up, and after my mess up, it radically changed my life. When you live in this truth, you don’t have to spend your life working to make up to God for the mistakes you’ve made- you can just move forward.

Many of us, though, will never see God’s love for what it really is. The moment we mess up we start decorating. We buy chips and dip, send out invitations, and hang up signs reading, “Welcome to my pity party”. Trust me, I get it. I’ve probably had many more than you. We isolate ourselves, condemn ourselves, and guilt trip ourselves for “losing” God’s love, but it’s not like you deserved it in the first place! Then that’s when the devil comes in… quiet and sneaky. Levi Lusko (yes, his quote again- “Swipe Right” is amazing) says, “He knows that if you are a believer, he can’t take you to hell; but if you let him, he WILL keep you from living for heaven.” You do not LOSE your salvation, and you do not LOSE God’s love.

On top of this, you are NOT branded by your failure or your pain. Your mess ups to not define you. Though others may shame you, God renames you! And it’s not a nickname (as my pastor once said).. It’s a NEW NAME. And the new name is CHILD OF GOD- powerful, redeemed, set free, restored, healed, lovely, wanted, cared for, chosen, forgiven, and LOVED.

Retracing back to the first paragraph, God’s presence and his love his not defined or reciprocated by your performance. He is NOT only with you on your good days, or MORE with you on your good days. He’s not somehow suddenly distant on your bad days, and just not there when you haven’t read a scripture for the day. And that is not because of anything YOU have done, it’s just because of who HE is. Imagine a stranger coming up to you and handing you a $100 bill (praise God!). They don’t know you, but their nature is just giving. You didn’t have to do anything for that, and you never will have to- they just wanted to give. God KNOWS everything about you and STILL he loves. It’s the nature of his being. Lisa TerKeurst, at a recent women’s conference said, “God’s love is not based on us, but PLACED on us.” So live loved.

It’s as if you God has bought you a car, paid in FULL, and there’s nothing you need to do. You are still trying to go out and work for it, though, and while working, you’re missing out on the experience of freely driving a car with no debt. SO DRIVE YOUR CAR. You are debt free. God has paid your ticket, your price, your debt, whatever you owed. He loves you so much. Stand up strong, look past your mistakes. They do not own you, they do not define you. CLOCK OUT, go home, and let God love you.

 

Accepted

A couple weeks ago God shared with me something so special for this next year that I have to get out to the world, and it’s only one word-accepted.

What do I need to do this year to be better?” I asked myself as I stared at a blank sheet of paper titled NEW YEARS RESOLUTIONS. Immediately, thousands of thoughts crammed my brain from every aspect of life: “Stress less”, “Read more of your Bible”, “Pray more consistently”, “Spend more time with family”, “Memorize every verse in the bible”, and the list goes on and on. Many thoughts were super irrational (like memorizing the whole bible), and many were super reasonable (like spending more time with my family). Within about 30 seconds I was overwhelmed by the millions of ideas.

How could I possibly get all of this done by the end of this year… Knowing my resolutions last year were the same and I didn’t feel like I completed any of them. 

With a deep breath, God spoke- accepted. Everything just clicked then, and I can’t even really explain how (by the grace and love of God most definitely).

All of my life I have been determined to become perfect. If that means cursing less, being nicer, smiling more, dressing more modest, encouraging others, quoting scripture, speaking on stage, no matter what, I did it. Looking back I have realized that it never was really for God, but merely for my own image. This mentality was rooted by the thought that I wasn’t accepted the way that I was. To me, I always had to be better in some sort of shape or form so that people would like me and want to be around me… More oddly, I wanted to be perfect so that when it was time for guys to choose their wife, I would be worth fighting for, or in their running line up (super selfish- I know).

Crazy, right?

I’ve always known this was a problem, and I could name it anytime someone asked. I knew the root and I knew the actions, but I never did anything to change it. I guess the idea of being perfect outweighed the idea of being free in some way, so when God spoke to me this word I honestly felt a bit sad.

So you actually mean no more trying to be perfect in hopes to be accepted by you and everyone else, God? That’s a crazy world to live in for me. But I am ready to embrace God’s acceptance.

James 1:18 “…and, we, out of all creation, became his PRIZED possession.”

No more putting on a mask of who I aught to be anymore. Everything that I am is loved and embraced by God. He says that WE are HIS PRIZED POSSESSION! We are to him like our phones are to us in this day and age- we never go anywhere without it, we use it for almost everything that we need, and we would be devastated to lose it (except for the fact that he sees us as way more valuable than a phone).

Psalm 139:13 “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.”

He created you in his own image. He created you separate from the person to the right or left of you. He gave you your own unique laugh, beauty marks, voice, as well as your own interests, goals, and hobbies. He created you and he sees you as perfect in his eyes. We are loved and accepted by him. If we weren’t, then he wouldn’t have sacrificed his son in our place- end of story.

HIS view of me is the only one who matters. Not the friend’s who didn’t invite me to their gatherings or the boys who don’t like me because of the way I talk or dress or laugh. None. Because at the end of the day, I don’t stand before them and give the account of my life, and they aren’t the ones who open the gates of Heaven for me.

So this is my stand against the list of New Year’s resolutions. This is my stand for all teenagers and young women- you are accepted for who you are. You cannot resolutionize (totally made up word) yourself to perfection, and God has never asked you for such a thing. YES- goals are awesome. YES- it is okay to strive to be a better person than yesterday. BUT NO- you do not have to be perfect to be accepted. We will NEVER reach that point on earth. Romans 3:23 says “We all fall short of the glory of God”. We will never be GOOD ENOUGH! But let’s love who we are in the process of going home.

You are L.oved, A.ccepted, and C.omplete – You L.A.C nothing (Psalm 23:1)

 

 

Spirit-less Christian

This past week I went out of the country on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic. It was an amazing experience that would take me days to write about, but I want to focus on a specific ministry God worked through while I was out there- my heart.

While on a mission trip you are immersed and pushed into nothing but the Lord’s work. You have no choice but to rely on the Lord and whatever he wants to do through you. You wake up every morning and go to sleep every night constantly fed by God’s word and surrounded by people with the same focus. It becomes easy to get wrapped up in what God is doing through you, or even what you feel like God ISN’T doing through you.

The first day I was very discouraged and couldn’t believe he did so much through my other team members, but I couldn’t think of one thing he did through me. I didn’t save anybody or heal the sick, I didn’t speak during street evangelism, and I didn’t connect with anyone at their youth service. I didn’t feel called to go on the mission trip by a dream or vision, and there was not any radical miracle of how I ended up there- and that made me feel useless.

My heart was heavy.

I reached out to others about what I was feeling and listened to a sermon my pastor preached, and God spoke. There’s only one thing needed to create a wall in my heart to stop the flow of the Spirit to fully build God’s kingdom and that was myself. It’s like building a house. If you aren’t filled with energy you can still do the work just not with 100% effort, and therefore you probably won’t reap as great of a reward since your work is done with a tired and lazy mindset.

You can be a Christian and still not be spirit FILLED.

The reason why I wasn’t “feeling” like God wasn’t moving through me was because my heart was so full of doubt, comparison, fear, and pride that the spirit had no more room to poor into me. I mean believe me, he was there… But my heart just wasn’t full of him, and because of that my flesh ruled majority of my actions. In Acts 4:23-31 we see that Peter and John returned to the other believers to tell them how they just had been freed from trial for preaching God’s word. The believers all began praying and singing praises, and in verse 31 it says, “After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preached the word of God with boldness.” Sometimes we think that in order to feel the spirit or be filled, we have to do, do, and do some more- preach God’s word, serve in the church, heal, read, do this, do that… But these believers weren’t filled by the doing. The believers sought God and THEN were filled to carry out the mission. Also, in Acts 13:52 it says, “And the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.”

I don’t believe any order of how the Bible is written is by accident. The verse says that the disciples were filled FIRST with joy because joy is an effect of being filled with the Holy Spirit. This begs the question that if you aren’t continually filled with joy, are you truly full of the Spirit?

Yes, you can continue to live your Christian life not filled by the spirit and probably still get into heaven, but is that what you truly want out of your relationship with the Lord? I hope that when I meet Jesus it’s an embrace and not a handshake, a “well done good and faithful servant” and not just a “welcome to heaven”. The only way we can get there is through emptying our hearts of ourselves and things of this world and instead filling it with the Spirit and things of heaven.

So what are the bricks in your life that are building up in your heart to prevent a constant flow of the spirit every day? 

Start tearing them down and allowing God to use you. Not because he needs you, but because he wants you, and if you don’t allow him to then he’ll find someone who will. Be encouraged! Don’t be a christian who is Spirit-less, but Spirit-filled.

Philippians 2:5-8 “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

 

How beautiful art thou

In my last post, I shared about how us Christians should be more aware of how we treat the earth because of the God who created it, but today I wanted to share a new perspective when it comes to the earth and us humans:

I went on to a hiking trail to admire the beautiful things God has created apart from the vast amounts of cement and brick that surround me daily. What I saw was awe-inspiring. I took so many pictures and spent much of my time breathing in the air and touching every.little.thing.I.possibly.could. But God reminded me of one simple fact… He only spoke these things into existence.

So many times we look around us and fall in love with simple waterfalls or night stars and the beauty becomes overwhelming… These moments that we connect with nature can be life-changing and mind-boggling, but if God can speak these beautiful things into existence.. How much more intricate and beautiful are the things he used his hands to create?

“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭139:13‬ 

Humanity has become normalized, the way people look and act has become predictable, and standards have accustomed us to believe that our natural best still isn’t good enough.  Because of this we can live our whole lives defeated and confused because we feel as if our purpose and existence is void on earth…. but God shakes his head in disapproval of this way of thinking.

“Then the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person.”      ‭‭Genesis‬ ‭2:7‬ 

Can you imagine? God spoke our earth into motion for 6 days, rested for a day, and then took a step off of his thrown to bend down and dig his hands in the most defiled part of the world-dirt- in order to create us. Let me repeat it again just incase you missed it: God, as holy and clean as he is, 

  1. Had to rest before he made us (meaning he totally wanted to put his best breath into mankind that he possibly could)
  2. Hopped off of his thrown (THIS LET ALONE IS BEAUTIFUL, and isn’t the only time he takes a break from his thrown for us, just saying)
  3. Dug his clean and perfect hands into dirt (this should be an oxymoron)
  4. Took his own breath to make us come alive in his likeness..

I mean… Wow. Reading this makes me think of Psalms 8:3-6, “When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers— the moon and the stars you set in place— what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them? Yet you made them only a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honor. You gave them charge of everything you made, putting all things under their authority—”

God is crying out to you! “You do have purpose, you do have beauty, you do have authority… The way you see my creation is the WAY I SEE YOU!”

So dear friends, you can walk a little bit taller, run a little bit faster, and smile a little bigger today knowing that YOU are the most beautiful and intricate masterpiece known to this world. In all of your faults, in all of your weakness, in all of your flaws.. YOU were placed a little lower than God himself and have been crowned with glory and honor.

But if you still can’t grasp the idea behind your beauty.. The prophet of Isaiah has a couple words or two..

What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator. Does a clay pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’ Does the pot exclaim, ‘How clumsy can you be?’ How terrible it would be if a newborn baby said to its father, ‘Why was I born?’ or if it said to its mother, ‘Why did you make me this way?’”                                      ‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭45:9-10‬ 

God.has.you.here.for.a.reason. And his promises are never in vain. Especially his promise that “his plans for you are good and prosperous” (Jeremiah 29:11) or his promise that you were “fearfully and wonderfully made”(Psalm 139:14).

How beautiful art thou….