Beaten, Burdened, Broken.

Downtrodden is a word that you don’t really hear in every day conversation, but it’s the word that describes my mood of the day. No, the word that describes the season I thought I was in. Apparently when I feel downtrodden I also exaggerate. I was just driving to work, staring at the road through tear filled eyes and it just hit me, “Oh no, I’m downtrodden!” I’ve never even used that word in my life, but there it was. You know when you have a bad day and you just say “I HATE MY LIFE!” and really life is pretty darn good? That’s what it’s like when perceiving life through downtrodden colored glasses.

When visualizing the word downtrodden, picture a field of grass, a meadow, if you will. Here in the middle of this meadow, there’s an area where the grass has been stepped on over & over. Taking the weight of the daily happenings and it’s become so trampled that it’s now flat and discolored. It’s not like the surrounding grass, green and blowing all carefree in the breeze. It looks, for lack of a better word, sad. It’s sad grass. That’s what it feels like to be downtrodden. You feel stepped on, flat, and lifeless while everything else around you is bright, beautiful, & full of life.

Downtrodden is where pity parties happen. Down there at the bottom, in the muck, by yourself. Or at least you think you’re by yourself. You’re so caught up in being beat down, broken, and unsatisfied that you are only thinking about yourself and you don’t see everything else that’s going on around you. You lose sight of the bigger picture because you feel as though your spirit has been crushed.

When we’re in these times we have to stop focusing on what we FEEL and start focusing on what we KNOW. God has made us so many promises and the Bible tells us so many things about ourselves, and these are the moments when we need to recall every “cliché” Bible verse that we can think of. We only call those verses cliché because we hear them so often. The reality is that it’s usually the ones that we hear the most, the cliches, that are the ones we’re going to need later and they’re there right when you need them because you couldn’t forget them even if you tried. We will need to be reminded that God has a plan and a purpose for us. We’ll need to remember that God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

Our feelings are what we often refer to as our heart… and the heart deceives. The heart grabs hold of whatever’s there at the moment, whatever our emotions are telling us we should be feeling. And feelings are good! They have a time, they have a place, and they let us know a lot about what’s going on around us. While these feelings are valid, we need to check where they’re coming from. Are we having these feelings because maybe we’ve lost our peace as a result of wandering outside of God’s will for us? Are we having these feelings because we’ve stopped communicating with God and we’re not on the same page, so it causes us to grow frustrated? Are we having these feelings because we’ve become stagnant and complacent and too comfortable where we’re at spiritually? Are we having these feelings because maybe we’re in a time of testing? Maybe the enemy is trying to discourage us in whatever particular season we are in. Perhaps the lesson we are learning is helping prepare us for something greater. That’s why we need to turn to what we know.

We have to remain secure in our identity. Being secure in our identity eliminates insecurities and the effects & influence they have on our emotions. It makes it easier to decipher where everything else is coming from. It makes it easier to actually search your heart and know where those feelings are coming from. It’s so much easier to search for something when there’s less clutter taking up space. I can find my car keys so much faster when I clean my purse out. It’s ridiculous. When we focus on what we know instead of what we feel it helps us get to the root of why we are feeling it. If it contradicts what we know, then we don’t need to spend too much time validating that feeling.

We need to be better at differentiating between the voice of the world, the voice of God, our own voice, and the voice of the enemy. We must make sure we’re taking those thoughts captive and sorting them out, deciding which ones we need to keep and which ones we need to dismiss because focusing on anything other than what we know about God and what He says about us is a waste of time and will not help us navigate our situation in a godly manner. If we don’t we’ll be stuck there at the bottom, in the muck, all downtrodden at our pity party for one. Or worse, we’ll sink lower and lower and then you’re just stuck in this deep, dark pit of despair at what’s referred to as “rock bottom.” But hey, at least there’s nowhere to go but up from there! You know… unless you just stay there, which won’t happen if you actually want out. Sometimes that’s what it takes: hitting rock bottom. To be completely out of control so that we can rely on the One who is in total control. But wouldn’t you rather just save yourself the pain & the heart ache and let Him help you where you’re at right now?

The point is that when you’re all downtrodden and focusing on “me,” it takes the focus off of God and everything that He’s going to accomplish through you. I understand sometimes we get spiritually frustrated because we feel like we’re not doing enough. We feel like we’re not doing what we’re called to do. But we’re called to wait on the Lord. We need to remember and we need to trust that everything will happen on His time. His watch may run faster or slower than ours, but it’s always on time. That’s the big picture. That’s what we don’t see when we’re down there focusing on us and the things we are dissatisfied with.

We need to realize that it’s OK to have those feelings sometimes. In fact, those times are necessary part of our Christian walk; to build strength & character & smooth out certain areas that need to be dealt with. That frustration shows us that we have a hunger to serve, we have a hunger to do more. It’s a passion and that’s a good thing! It shows us that we’re not satisfied with being complacent and stagnant. We need to make sure that we don’t misplace that dissatisfaction on God. He gives us what we need when we need it and He is always enough. So if we’re discontent we need to look at where that’s coming from. Are we discontent because we’re not doing what we’re called to do and He’s trying to get us moving in that direction? Like I said, we have feelings for reason. God doesn’t do anything without reason including blessing us with so many different emotions.

So we need to check our motives and check our heart, make sure they’re pure and hopefully that feeling of being downtrodden doesn’t last your “whole life,” that you don’t “hate your life,” that it’s just today: a bad day where maybe your emotions got the best of you. Or maybe you were focusing on what you feel more than what you know. Know who you are (your identity in Christ) & know Whose you are because when you know Who you belong to, it puts everything else in perspective.

Advertisements

Abiding: Fruit & Figs

I’ve really been into “Fruit” lately. No, not the members belonging to a certain food group. I’m referring to the fruit of the Spirit. I thought I’d share some of the thoughts I’ve compiled in my journal lately.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23

Notice how it says “fruit” of the Spirit, not “fruits” of the Spirit. Yes, fruit can be both plural as well as singular. “I love fruit” being a general, all encompassing phrase. When you use “fruits” you are usually referring to different kinds. “I incorporate several fruits into my diet daily.” The significance being that “fruits” indicates that they grew from different types of trees, vines, or bushes. They all grew from a different source.  But we aren’t receiving fruit from different sources.

“I am the vine, you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

We have one source and all good things come from Him.

“Every good and perfect gift comes down to us from God the Father,  who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.” James 1:17

While the bible tells us not to judge others in a condemning, hypocritical way, we are to use good judgment & discernment. We’ve totally twisted the definition of “judge” into something negative. If I’m going to throw a ball to someone, I need to judge how hard and how far I need to throw it. Fortunately, my ability to gauge situations is better than my coordination. My point is, people are going to look at your life and judge you by your fruit. YOU are going to look at your life and judge it by your fruit. There are a lot of folks who can talk the talk, but you can tell by their fruit if they are walking THE walk. Fruit is like a spiritual unit of measurement. If I want to check my tires, I use an air pressure gauge. If I want to check the temperature, I use a thermometer. If I want to check my spiritual growth, I inspect my fruit, and I’m not the only one:

“By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.” Matthew 7:16-18

Fruit is evidence. Yes, it absolutely benefits us. But the Holy Spirit from whom that fruit belongs uses us as a vessel to bless others with a glimpse of Jesus. If we aren’t bearing fruit, we aren’t fully serving our purpose.

“Seeing in the distance a fig tree, he went to find out if it had any fruit. He went to it and found nothing but leaves on it.  Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And the fig tree withered.” Matthew 21:19

Can we just take a second and think about this fig tree? Have you ever seen a fig tree? I always pictured a smallish, sapling of a tree, not much bigger than Jesus. Until I googled it… Jesus didn’t curse no shrub! It was massive! They saw that tree from far off in the distance. A big, strong fig tree. They probably couldn’t wait to get some figs off of this tree. But once He was up close and personal with it, He saw it bore no fruit. (Dude, what the fig?!) And then he cursed it. What’s interesting is that Jesus gives life. So why didn’t he just put his hand upon it and cause it to grow fruit right then and there?  I came to two conclusions:

  1. Because fruit starts as a seed, and though it is given to us upon salvation, it needs to develop. We have to make sure we’re abiding so we can grow and develop into our potential. Every small group I throw out the phrase “The Christian life is an intentional life.” When you’re abiding, you are totally submitted and resting in God, our source. Sometimes the hardest part is to continually abide. It takes a lot of work to not act like you have to do all of the work. So often we end up striving instead of abiding. Let me break it down: Striving is a state of constant doing. Abiding is a state of constant being. Reminder: You are a human being, not a human doing. If you intentionally abide, continually remain in Him and tapped into the Source, you will produce good fruit.
  2. He cursed the very thing we used to cover our shame.

“Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.” Genesis 3:7

That’s either coincidence or symbolic and I’ve come to find there are no coincidences in the intricately woven Word. When we feel guilt and shame over our actions, over our decisions, over our past, we immediately want to cover it up and hide from God. (as if we could) Guilt and shame are not of God. They’re tools the enemy uses to drive us away from God. A Holy sense of conviction drives you to God. You cannot both hide and abide. You cannot be with someone you are hiding from.

I love the symbolic gesture of raising hands fully extended above your head in worship. It represents letting go, giving everything to God. I want you to picture yourself carrying a load of laundry. No basket, just a huge, wadded up load in your arms. That load consists of all your shame, guilt, worry, fear… To fully worship, “arms high and heart abandoned”, you’ve got to drop that load. You can’t carry something and freely and fully lift your arms. You have to make a choice: to hold onto those things or give them to God.

“Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you…” Psalm 55:22

Jesus came to bring freedom and he cursed the very thing that made us feel like we could cover it up and deal with it ourselves away from God. He wanted to abolish the mindset that once we “fix it” then we can come back into His presence. He wanted to remind us that He desires us as we are, and He’ll save us from whatever we need saving from by making Him Lord of our heart and the One we abide in.

 

You’re So Vain, You Probably Think This Post is About You. (It Is.)

image

I was sent an article last week that was very timely in this season. It was about insecurities. So it’s basically timely anytime because I know I personally struggle with insecurities to some degree pretty much constantly. While I felt the post was well written and made valid points, something about it stuck out to me as “wrong.” Not totally wrong, just maybe could have been conveyed more accurately? Right now I’m totally being that person. You know, the person who knows what you were trying to say, but tries to correct you anyway. She said being insecure is really a pride issue.

I get where she was going with it and she got her point across, but I feel like it’s a far stretch at trying to really flip the spectrum and redefine the word “pride.” I will say this: Insecurities do make you self-centered. When you’re insecure, you take the focus off of God, worrying about you and your inability rather than God’s infinite ability. We have to remember that if we truly believe He has a plan and a purpose for us [Jer. 29:11], then we need to exercise our faith and allow ourselves to be used, focusing on his amazing way of taking the ordinary to accomplish the extraordinary. Using the natural to accomplish the supernatural. “It is no longer I that lives but Christ living in me.” [Galatians 2:20] So then we need to remain Christ centered. Doubting ourselves, dwelling on our insecurities, only delays and distracts us from passionately pursuing our purpose. And remember, we’ve been called according to His purpose. [Romans 8:28]

If He called you, He will equip you. So all of that “self doubt” is really doubting God. That sounds so awful, right? Nobody wants to think of themselves as a “God-doubter.” I squirmed just writing it. But if we stand on the facts above, that’s really what it all boils down to: Do you trust Him? For me, it usually goes back to “I know I’m called, or supposed to do [this], but what if that’s later on? I’m not ready for that right now.” Or “God put this on my heart to do, but I feel like I’m not good enough. So and so can do this way better.” Those thoughts contradict everything He’s told us. That’s why we are to take each thought captive. [2 Corinthians 10:5]

That thought comes into your mind, your territory, and you need to interrogate it. Figure out where it came from, who sent it, and what its purpose is. Who’s voice are you hearing? Is it the voice of the enemy, trying to plant those seeds of doubt, the same doubt that delays a distracts you? Is that thought there to steal, kill, and destroy your dreams and your secured Christ-identity? He sure as heck doesn’t want you receiving the God-given desires of your heart or accomplishing anything to further the kingdom. And the enemy knows we won’t be focusing on him, so his best shot is to get us to focus on ourselves. In the garden of Eden, his tactic wasn’t turning the focus on him. He used the temptation to shift the focus from God to personal gain.

Or maybe it’s your own fleshly voice? Die to it daily. Perhaps you’re hearing the voice of the world, or of others, causing a bunch of white noise and static making it harder to focus on His voice. Tune it out. The problem isn’t that the Holy Spirit isn’t speaking. It’s that the noise of the world, the noise of your life is too loud & you can’t hear. Adjust your spiritual antenna so you’re on the right frequency. Allow for that quiet time to make yourself available to hear from Him. Then when you hear from Him, obey. Where there is no obedience, there is no guidance.

Don’t let your insecurities cause you to miss out on those God-opportunities. Remember the previous post [Flying Under the Radar] discussing our potential? If we wait until we are “comfortable” to pursue the greater things He’s called us to, we end up doing those things in our own strength. We are focusing on ourselves. But when we put Philippians 4:13 into play, when we step out in faith and do what He’s placed on our hearts with our eyes focused on what’s right with Him instead of what’s wrong with us, relying on His strength, then He gets the glory which is the whole point to begin with.

Flying Under The Radar 

While driving around a few weeks ago, God gave me a phrase. I’d been praying for a topic for my small group & I knew instantly this was the answer.

Flying under the radar is a phrase we most commonly hear in reality shows or competitions. It’s a strategy to achieve an end result. This person will lie low, hoping that nobody sees them as a threat. They aren’t awful or the weakest link, but they aren’t excelling or standing out. They do just enough to get by without being noticed or gaining too much attention. Then, towards the end of the show when it’s getting to the final few, you realize “Oh wait, this person is still here?” And you don’t really know much about them. They survived on being mediocre. Or another way to phrase it would be, overall, they are lukewarm. The purpose for them was to remain “unseen.” FYI- God sees you.

In life, flying under the radar is a strategy to avoid an end result. In a church setting, this isn’t the person who is by themselves, sitting alone, easily spotted by people who are looking to include them. Nor are they the person who gets super involved and builds relationships. These are the ones standing in a group not really saying much. The “what was her name again?” people. Purposefully not leaving an impression.

Again, that’s the definition of mediocrity. It literally means “halfway up the mountain.” The story goes, people would set out to climb this mountain, and about halfway up there’s a city full of people who didn’t reach the top. They settled right there, halfway up the mountain. Mediocre. It’s in the middle, coasting by, not gathering any attention and that’s no way to live.

Especially in our spiritual walk. Going to church… most of the time. Reading our “Jesus Calling” devotional… when we remember to. Getting fed just enough to sustain, but not enough to where we are overflowing, pouring out into those around us. Knowing we are called to more but not utilizing the gifts that have been instilled in us, or intentionally developing our walk to accommodate and incorporate growth. That is untapped potential.

I have some brownie mix. I don’t have brownies. I also have eggs, oil, and water. I still don’t have brownies. I have all of the ingredients I need. I have a pan and an oven. I have the equipment. I still don’t have brownies. I know that I could have brownies if I wanted them.

And when you are flying under the radar, that comfort of knowing it’s there if you ever need it is good enough. But those ingredients, those gifts and those talents, aren’t doing any good sitting on the shelf. They aren’t serving the purpose they were created for. You aren’t doing any good if you aren’t serving the purpose you were created for.



Jeremiah 29:11 says God has a plan and a purpose for you. I love that verse. I am willing to bet it’s in every Christian’s top 5. It’s comforting, it’s reassuring. You remind yourself of it, you mark it in your Bible, tattoo it on some body part, but unless you pursue those plans and that purpose, it’s just a comfort knowing it’s there on the shelf should you ever need it.

Are you worried you don’t have what it takes to be a good leader? You aren’t good enough to start that blog? You don’t want to commit 100% to go on that mission trip? Are you scared because you know you’re called to more, but you don’t know what that “more” looks like so you say “No thanks, I’ll pass” or “I’m just not ready yet”? Guess what? You usually never “feel” ready to do what God called you to do because if you did, if you thought, “Yeah, I got this!” then you’d be confident and comfortable operating out of your own strength. God wants you to operate out of His strength (Philippians 4:13). He’s got this. You just have to consent to take the first step.

You have to decide you want those brownies. BE INTENTIONAL! Preheat that oven! There’s your first step. It’s saying, hey let’s do this. And if you just take that first step, God will take the other 99 and meet you where you are. Then take all of your potential, let God go to work in you to show you the steps it takes to cultivate it. It could take a while. Everyone’s baking time is different. 21-24 minutes can seem like forever when you’re hungry for it. Things might get hot. It gets uncomfortable. “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” Terrible advice. Straight up lie from the devil. You know who’s not in the kitchen? Those who are flying under the radar. Stay in the kitchen! God’s developing you. He’s cooking something up and He’ll give you the strength to endure the heat. I promise you, the end result will be delicious. He’s a good, good chef.

The key is identifying where we are in our development. We all are at least at the brownie mix stage. Maybe you feel like you’re waiting for some other ingredients or the equipment. Don’t worry about the equipment. I don’t have to worry about an oven every time I need to bake. It’s already there. It’s supplied. God will equip you. Why? Because “God doesn’t call the equipped, he equips the called.” That’s all of us. We are all called. Maybe you’re in an oven season. I’ve been in the oven a couple of times. You can’t be lukewarm. God wants you hot and fresh. Sometimes it feels like forever, you want to be “done” already. But God doesn’t do microwave ministry. Maybe right now you’re in a season where you’re getting to enjoy the end results. Reaping the brownies you’ve baked, fresh out the oven! Doing what you are called and developed to do. Those are some of the best and most satisfying seasons. But because God created us to grow, eventually those seasons will start to feel stagnant and complacent. He’ll call you to more and you’ll continue to grow and develop, so what started as untapped potential is now uncapped potential, always resulting in something hot, fresh, and delicious.

Guarding Your Heart

Ever have one of those weeks that has an underlying theme? This is one of those weeks. I keep coming across Proverbs 4:23. In my devotional time, in a church message… It made me go back and dig up an old message I prepared about 4 years ago. I like revisiting old messages and journal entries. I also like creeping myself on Facebook. I’m pretty hilarious. Anyway, I thought it seemed an appropriate & opportune time to share this little nugget of wisdom that God laid on my heart a few years ago.

Proverbs 4:23- “Guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.” Wellspring is the starting point. What starts in the heart will flow outward and into every area of your life. Our brain, according to all conventional wisdom in psychology, has 2 sides. 2 independent systems working at all times; Rational & Emotional. The rational side of my brain sets my alarm to wake up early so I can work out. The emotional side hits the snooze button 3 times. Jonathan Haidt, U of V psychologist, refers to them as the Elephant and the Rider in his book “The Happiness Hypothesis.” (I didn’t actually read that book, but I read a book that talked about that book) The Emotional side is stronger and usually wins the battle for instant gratification. I know mid-day I’ll kick myself, but in the moment I feel the need to sleep. I rationalize with my brain, but I feel with my heart. The heart is made up of many emotions ranging from momentary surface emotions to deeper, more substantial feelings.

So the surface would be things like happiness, contentment.

Under that maybe worry, bitterness, motivation.

Dig a little deeper and you’ll find vulnerability & risk.

And in the deepest parts, Love.

Ok if you’ve ever watched the Bachelor, you’ll totally know what I’m talking about. There’s always some girl talking about a wall. “I want to let him in, but I’ve just built this wall up around my heart” blubbering on about how it’s just sooo hard and this is some awful thing that only she deals with because she’s this incredibly complicated person. You got a wall? Good. The bible tells us to guard our heart. You can’t do that very well if you’re wearing it on your sleeve, by the way. Put that thing away. Our heart encompasses all of our emotions, not just love. By guarding our hearts, we are keeping ourselves in check by listening to our rational side; “Be slow to become angry” and all that jazz. The bible also tells us the heart deceives. When we ignore our rational side, things like infatuation, addiction, and impulsive behavior get the best of us, deceive us. This wall is in place to remind us to think before you act. This is where it’s sometimes hard for us to find balance. Some people are so guarded, they’ve practically got their heart in a maximum security prison, Hannibal Lecter style.

We were created to love deeply, just as Jesus loved deeply. We have the capacity, it just requires a patience and an effort to get to that deeper level. Those surface level emotions don’t usually require much work and are easily expressed. Someone brings me a donut & I’m happy. It’s not that complicated.

Bitterness, worry, motivation are areas where we need to rationalize a bit, but those are battles where we can easily come out victorious most of the time. Other times we might lose these battles if those emotions are stemming from deeper roots.

Those will be in that next level with vulnerability and risk and all of those other emotions that go against all of our rational thinking. These are those snot in the carpet, come to Jesus meetings that really battle those tougher issues of fear and insecurity. No pain, no gain.

That last level, to be able to love deeply, requires us to work through all of our other issues to be able to obtain that uninhibited love. Every other level was a battle. And thanks to Pat Benatar we all know love is a battlefield.

In order to win these battles, we have to change something. We have to change the way we think, convincing our emotional side to be on the same path as our rational side. Our heart will justify a relationship. Justification is our emotional side trying to rationalize with our rational side. The elephant is bigger & stronger, so on its own it wins. We do this because people naturally don’t want to act differently than they think. Your head is telling you one thing, your heart another, so our heart bullies our head into shutting up and just going along for the ride. Eventually though, we come to our senses. Unfortunately it’s usually when something drastic happens and our heart finally sees what our brain new all along. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

A clear example lies in Joshua 6. I mean you might as well just name your heart Jericho. It will probably take longer than 7 days, but it’s the same principle. Patience, persistence, & prayer and even the walls of Alcatraz can crumble.

The Seven Year Itch

images(5)

Holy smokes. I’ve been single for 7 years as of yesterday. Yeah, I know the date and keep track, what of it? I just so happen to have a creepy memory, so I couldn’t forget it even if I tried. Anyway, every year around this time I reevaluate where I am. In fact, the first post I ever wrote on here was at the 5 year mark. Funny Story: So when that 5th year was approaching, it was like this big, looming, ominous cloud of despair. I even had a dream that I was filling out some routine form for something (age, gender, birth date, etc.) As they were reading back my information to me they said “and you’ve been single for seven years.” I freaked out in my dream and when I woke up, I prayed, “Please God! Do NOT let me reach 7 years!!!” Aaaaand here we are! Year 7. Well played, God, well played.

First, let me clear something up for all you readers who don’t know me personally. When I use the term “single,” I don’t just mean unmarried. I’ve never been married. I mean 7 years since my last serious relationship. I dated a little after that, but I haven’t even done the whole dating scene in probably 5 years. Hung out with potential interests? Maybe a couple of times. But no legit dating. I think, as in every season, singleness has its ups & downs. It has definitely been great for ministry. I mean, I did get to be the director over a singles ministry, so I suppose I was qualified. Being able to relate to and encourage other women (and men) in their own journey of dating and singleness has been such a blessing to me. But I’ve had to check my heart frequently in my own journey. I’ve been jealous of others who entered relationships or got engaged/married. It’s hard not to question it. “Why her? She doesn’t have her life together! She doesn’t even brush her hair!” And I’m not gonna lie, the older I get, the harder it is, especially witnessing younger people who I’ve deemed “not ready” get the greatest desire of my heart (aside from my relationship with God). Then I feel the Holy Spirit giving me the equivalent of “the look” and I’ll stop those thoughts and start to pray for the relationship of the person I was just hating on. That’s probably the biggest battle for me. Making sure I don’t play the comparison game. You’re either picking other people apart to make yourself feel better or your telling yourself that if you were more like someone else maybe then someone would want you.

It’s hard not to play the “if-i-lost-20-lbs-and-dressed-like-so-and-so-or-did-my-make-up-like-so-and-so-then-bought-an-amazing-push-up-bra-i-could-get-a-guy” game. Okay let’s be real, if I did all of those things, there probably would be an influx of males who’d be attracted to me. But I would hate to think that God’s potential match for me is going to boil down to a smaller waist, choice clothing, and if my eyebrows are on fleek or not. I’m not saying don’t take care of yourself. Brush your hair & your teeth. Put that best foot forward. But don’t put all the focus on your outer-self. Sure, you’ll attract more guys, but you need to make sure your inside isn’t so neglected you can’t obtain anything real. I’ve never fooled myself into thinking I’d attract a guy based on looks. No, he’ll have to be suckered in by personality. At some point in my singleness journey I discovered that it sucked way more for a guy to think you’re pretty but dislike your personality. Whoa whoa whoa, buddy. Hold up… you do realize how ridiculously cool I am, right? No? Oh man… am I obnoxious? Do I talk to much? Am I too sassy? So now aside from that push up bra, I have to figure out how to “sports bra” my personality. I’m either too much or I’m not enough. Isn’t it awful how we haven’t figured out we are “just right”? Look, it’s like Goldilocks & the 3 bears. If a lumberjack had walked into that house, he probably would’ve liked Papa Bear’s porridge. If Granny walked in, she would’ve liked Mama Bear’s chair. Maybe the right person hasn’t come along who sees that you are “just right” and you sure as heck don’t wanna find the wrong person sleepin’ in your bed! (Can I get an Amen?)

I’ve reached the point where I’m done thinking that it depends on me, that there is something I can fix that is hindering me from getting that relationship. God’s not sitting there with The Hubs in His hand saying “Well, I’ve got him right here, but you’re not perfect yet so you just keep working on it.” All I can do is make sure I keep the focus on God. You can’t make a relationship or the idea of marriage an idol in your heart. And for Pete’s sake man, get off that freaking wedding Pinterest board! Obsessing only clouds reality and distracts you from everything else. I’m convinced obsession is a tool of the enemy, fashioned to try and replicate passion. Don’t let yourself get entangled in that mess. Make sure you’re on the same page as God. You can definitely do things to prepare. While I’m a huge believer that singleness is the greatest blessing for you spiritually and that it shouldn’t be wasted by spending all that time obsessing over getting a boyfriend and married, I believe that being actively single (single with a purpose) not only helps you grow and find out what God has for you as an individual, but doubles as a season of preparation for when that relationship does come along. Esther basically spent like a year in a bubble bath as preparation. I don’t recommend that. Pruney isn’t a good look for anyone. We can prepare, though, without obsessing. Pray for your future spouse. Call them forth. Pray that you’ll not be distracted by counterfeits. All those things that you think will be fixed with marriage won’t be, so work on those now. If you picture yourself waking up early to do your morning yoga & have coffee ready for when he wakes up but you currently sleep until the very last possible minute & end up rushing out the door for work, you probably need to start getting up earlier now. If you imagine having all of these elaborate dinners on the table for him when he comes home from work but you don’t know how to cook, start getting in the kitchen now.

Right now it’s just the waiting game. Our spiritual maturity can be measured by how we wait. We need to stop worrying about “why” we are still waiting and focus the “way” we are waiting. I think that pretty much sums up this last year for me. Focus on the Way, not the Why.

Time Well Spent

Image result for vintage clock

What do we know about time? We’ve heard it said that “Time is Money.” Well, it is. Maybe not in the context the saying originally meant it, but it holds true enough. Time, like money, is quantifiable. You have a set amount of years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes, seconds, milliseconds here on earth. No more, no less than what God has allotted us. In essence, “Your days are numbered.” And just like we often feel there is never enough money in the bank, we also find there’s never enough time in the day. That’s where we use the phrase “ I’ll make time.” We are not God. We cannot “make time.” We can “borrow time” or “steal time” away from something else. Lose an hour of sleep so you can study or milk time with friends. Leave work early or cut lunch short to get errands done. At the end of the day we all had the same 24 hours. Or how about my favorite, “Time heals all wounds.” Yeah, oookay.

Let’s look at this one for a second. Time heals ALL wounds? Physically? I might buy that, but even then the deeper the wound, the deeper scar, the more scar tissue there will be leaving evidence of the event, of the trauma. But this particular saying refers to emotional wounds. How many know that the spirit is much more complicated than the flesh? That emotional wound is much more tricky to heal, especially if it runs deep. So: Time heals all wounds… That would depend on how you spend that time. You spend your time just like you spend your money. It’s a currency. You can spend years harboring bitterness and guilt. That one time in kindergarten when Jessica stole your My Little Pony and you ran into her last week at target and gave her the death stare for something that happened 20 years ago… Ok so maybe it wasn’t a pony. Maybe it was your boyfriend in high school 10 years ago. Time isn’t helping that heal, it’s helping it fester, become deeper rooted like a weed.

Though you may not believe it now, as a child I was always outside climbing trees, catching lizards, & pretending I was Xena warrior princess. Occasionally I would run around & pick flowers trying to find out if Taylor Hanson loved me or loved me not. Anyway, I’d pick the little purple flowers, the little yellow flowers, and the little fuzzy flowers you blow on to make a wish, like I wish Taylor Hanson would marry me. By the time I was done I would have a nice little bouquet & I’d take them inside. 5 minutes later my mom would say “Alisha Marie, get these weeds off my table!” Weeds? That’s when I learned the difference between flowers & weeds. You have to nurture flowers, work to help them grow. Weeds will grow wherever they can without any help. All they need for you to do is ignore them so they are free to spread out and take over, effortlessly taking life from flowers you’ve worked hard to grow. IF you let them. Sometimes those tricky weeds will disguise themselves as flowers to make themselves attractive. The Anger that gives you a sense of power over someone when you are the one overpowered… that’s a whole other post in itself. The point is (and this is about to get real cheesy, real fast), in the garden of our hearts, we need to keep in check what we let grow. We need to uproot those weeds. All time does is allow whatever is already in your heart to keep rooting itself deeper & deeper. It’s about what L I F E is doing in that amount of time that can heal our wounds. I think people often confuse the two, life & time. Like I said, our time is quantifiable, finite. But how would you measure life? If your life is through Christ, you can’t. It’s eternal. So how do we differentiate between the two. I love this quote: “People often overestimate what they can do in a day [time], and underestimate what they can do in a decade [life].”

Time, like money, depending on how it’s spent can contribute to your quality of life. If you spend your time frivolously your life will become bankrupt in one or more areas. It could be emotionally, physically, spiritually. Your goals/relationships may suffer. It just depends what areas you’re investing more time in. What areas are you stealing/borrowing time from? Take Bob for example. He’s got a great paying full time job that takes up 40 hours a week. Bob also has a serious girlfriend that he sees at least 5 days a week. We’ll call her Ally. Bob also hits the gym for at least an hour a day because his health is important to him. So his career goals are met, his relationship is going well, and he’s got a hot bod. Unfortunately, Bob has become spiritually bankrupt. Because of this, Ally breaks up with him, and he gets depressed so he sits at home and eats Cheetos & ice cream all day and loses his job. Sad day.

Let’s note the difference between spending and investing. I spend money at Starbucks, I invest money in a Keurig. I spend time on social media, I invest time in the Word. I spend my Sunday morning recovering from a hangover but I invest in my morning by being fed the Word & building connections in fellowship. To spend something is to use, consume, dispose of. It lasts for the moment of transaction, usually an instant gratification. To invest is to put to use in something offering profitable returns or an appreciation in value, or to devote for a purpose to achieve something. It will benefit you more than it’s cost. You can tell a person’s priorities not only how they spend their money, but also by how they spend/invest their time. Invest your time to improve your life.

Now it’s not about spending all your time reading the word, hearing the word, sharing the word. If you did that, you’d be the hermit on the side of the road with the sign that says “The end is near! Repent!” and that’s not exactly the way to reach people. It’s about prioritizing and finding that balance. If we put God first everything else will align (Matthew 6:33). Tithing for example. The bible asks us to be obedient in giving that first 10% and God blesses the other 90%. As previously mentioned, our time is a currency. And if you’re like me, your 10% of income isn’t much. But you can do a lot with 10% of your time, & I can control my time a lot more than I can control my paycheck. Getting to church an hour early for a connection group in addition to a main service, joining a bible study or small group, serving your church in one or multiple areas. Just showing up and being consistent is not only an investment of your time to God, but that’s investing your life to add to the lives of others. All of that and keeping that special one-on-one time with God is probably the best investment you’ll ever make. If we could really focus on what God want us to not only get out of this life, but also what to put into it, if we will pray for that vision and prioritize our lives putting God as a constant at the top of the list, we could maximize our potential to lead happy and productive lives.

So, now that we’ve got this perspective on time & life, my question is what are you doing with it? Time passes you by but life won’t happen on its own. That was my little nugget of truth. That was the thought that kept me awake at night journaling these thoughts. “Life won’t happen on its own.” I know that there are people everywhere who have asked themselves and asked God the proverbial “What is the meaning of life?” question. Especially when you’re stuck in a rut. “What am I doing with my life?” When the world thinks of the phrase “Live your life” it sort of takes on the meaning of “if it feels good do it”… “Oh, you’re just living your life.” #YOLO. Well you know what felt good last night doesn’t always feel too good in the morning. Don’t live the life where the choices you make are accompanied by negative consequences. Live the life where your choices result in reward & blessing.

I’m sure a lot of you have bucket lists. I do. It has some pretty cool stuff on it. We all have these goals whether we’ve written them down or not. Some are of the dream sort, others are of the “life plan” variety. How many do you plan to cross off? Is it just a nice idea? It makes you feel good just to write it down and acknowledge the possibility. If you’ve never read “The Last Lecture” I definitely encourage you to do so. Randy Pausch had an insane bucket list. Like being in zero gravity, authoring an article in the World Book Encyclopedia, meeting Captain Kirk, and being a Disney Imagineer. And he did it all by the age of 47 before dying of pancreatic cancer. He saw all life had to offer and he made the most of it. If we could wrap our heads around all that our life with Jesus has to offer… the possibilities are as endless as our God is limitless. He’s promised us plans for a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11), He’s promised us a purpose (Romans 8:28), He’s promised us not just life, but a life more abundant (John 10:10). Are we content just nibbling on the appetizer? Think about if God were a chef. I mean, He’s already everything else. Jehova Chef. He’s prepared for you the finest 4 course meal and we stop at the 1st course and say “Thanks God, this is great.” I’m not saying we shouldn’t be thankful. We should give thanks everyday. But the chef has already prepared it. It’s there on the table, yours for the taking. There is no such thing as a spiritual diet. Eat up! You finished all 4 courses? The kitchen is still open & there will always be more for the hungry.

Are we taking advantage of everything He has for us? Are we praying for that vision? Are we pursuing it once we receive it? Or is it “just a nice thought” like everything else. He’s not going to spoon feed us. Are we using our time wisely to contribute to our life more abundant? We need to stand firm on those promises. We have a big God, we can have a big vision. Remember, life won’t happen on its own, you have to pursue it with intent.

1986-20??

You have absolutely no say on when you will be born. You have little to no say when you will die. But you do have control in how much life you can fit in the dash.