Falling Into Favor

Hi blog!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I have missed you so much!!!!!!!!!

So my life has been mega busy lately but today I came upon this insane realization about God that fits perfectly anywhere you are in life, but especially for all you people (including myself) whose finals week is upon you or quickly approaching your baggy eyes and sleep-deprived bodies.

I had my Bible Studly today (I call my Bible Study my Bible Studly because those Bible Studies are hecka studly) and it just really smacked me in the face. So here’s the verses that did the smackin’:

“But the Lord was with Joseph, and showed him mercy and loving-kindness and gave him favor in the sight of the warden of the prison. […] For the Lord was with him and made whatever he did to prosper.”

Genesis 39:21,23

WHOA. FRIENDS. TAKE THAT IN. I have got to go to the gym more often and lift some weights because that Word is HEAVY. Wow!!!! What a depiction of how much God loves us in the story of Joseph.

So, what do we see here? We see Joseph. A boy (at least, in this stage of his life) with some serious family feud issues going down. A kid forced into slavery. A human in need of a Savior, with lots of room to curse God (based on human measurement alone). And God, being God, gave him favor in many things, and “made whatever he did to prosper.”

Now, what do we see in the present day? We see ourselves. “Adults” with some serious heart issues going down. But, at the end of the day, we are all just spiritual adolescents in the slavery of sin. Humans, all brought to the common ground of our need for a Savior, who think we, too, have lots of room to curse God (again, based solely on human measurement.)

See some correlation?

Going through many spiritual droughts this past year, it’s been hard to feel like my salvation is still real, and thoughts like: “Dang, she is SO sold out on God. She feels him with every breath she breathes and has a cute boyfriend who leads her well and is basically on the fast-track to joy. I wish I was like her,” don’t help. (News flash: nobody experiences God fully all the time!!!! The spiritual highs are to show you the joy of Christ, and the spiritual lows are to show you how to put that joy into practice. That’s another topic for a different time, however.)

So that’s why it doesn’t come as a surprise to me, knowing myself, that in my heart, I find myself tossing off all those Stories. Stories like Jonah and the Whale, because I feel like my “problems” which seem large as a whale will never spit me back out into freedom. Stories like Ruth and Boaz, feeling like I will never find my husband. Stories like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (excuse my laziness in not cleaning up those spelling errors, because I know they are there), feeling like I will never be brought from the fire of my stresses and concerns into victory in Christ over my oppressors. And, Stories like Joseph, feeling like I have lost favor in God, as opposed to Joseph being showered with favor. I often put off- no, THROW off- those stories in favor of self pity. I choose to not believe those stories, which are insanely important, because I don’t believe those stories can be true for me, too. One and done, right?

LOL NOPE

Our God is a steady, consistent God. Always has been, definitely still is, and always will be. The same God that put Jonah in that Whale for discipline and brought him out, the same God that brought Ruth and Boaz together, the same God that gave SM&A victory over King Nebuchadnezzar is the same God who gave Joseph favor in the sight of the warden and in the eyes of the Egyptian rulers, AND HE IS THE SAME GOD WE SERVE TODAY!!!!! God is constant. Praise Him for that.

So since God is the same Then and now, this story can still happen today!!! Just in a different form.

The main undertone I see of this story is favor, and that begs the question: what is favor? Favor is unprecedented and unwarranted kindness. Favor is not pity. Favor is not empathy or sympathy. Favor is grace.

So God did not say to himself, “Dang. Joseph’s life stinks. I feel so badly for him, so I’ll show him favor.” NO. That is false. God shows favor because He is a God who gives good gifts. Not because events require favor.

My Bible Studly accompanies Genesis 39 with the words, “God wants to give you favor- kindness you don’t deserve. We see mention of God’s favor toward many in the Bible, and there’s no reason to think He can’t offer it to you as well. Learn to believe God for favor,” and goes on to later include the importance of “[confessing] several times a day that you have favor with God and man. You will be amazed at the exciting things that happen to you if you speak God’s Word instead of how you feel.” AAHH. AGAIN. Brb, gotta go lift some weights because that’s some HEAVY stuff.

So fam, we gonna believe God for favor? HECK YA!!!!!!!!

I leave you with a challenge or two.

I challenge y’all reading this (and myself, lol) to believe God for favor by speaking it over yourself and others. Our words have power, friends!! I mean, God spoke us into existence, so words definitely have some measure we can’t comprehend. Lots of times, your heart won’t be in it when you speak favor over yourself, so also pray that God would give you a heart to believe in His favor!! Regardless of how you FEEL, God has come to overcome your feelings. (Blog coming soon on feelings, btw) Let Him and His love take control of your life. Let Him show you favor.

Today I have seen God show me favor in the BEAUTIFUL weather we’ve been having ever since those ‘naders came. I’ve seen favor in the great morning I had at work, in the simplest joy of buying gifts for my friends to encourage them during finals, and in the little boy who waved at me in his car seat at a stoplight from the back seat of his mom’s van (to the mom driving, great choice of car). I also challenge you to acknowledge God’s favor. Appreciate who He is and what He has done, and pray for faith to believe in what is to come. Reflection spurs expansion. Expansion of wisdom, faith, hope, and love.

So fam, you gonna believe God for favor? HECK YA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

xoxo, katswan

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Dreamer

I have dreams a lot.

Not necessarily the scenes depicted as I sleep, but the scenes depicted as I live.

For example, I often dream of having a boyfriend. Or graduating high school. Or even just getting through junior year unscathed by a B. My dreams range from seemingly shallow sights as these, to big dreams, like going to different nations and telling people about a Grace that Saves in the grandest beauty. To having children of my own and showing them how we live out that Saving Grace, and how we know it to be true through the Word we have been given to have and hold; the Word we have been given in which to find hope and blessed assurance.

Today, I found myself falling into one of those dreams.

I found myself looking at the pros and cons of dating, particularly dating in high school (since it seems to be futile from a distance), and to opening myself up to people. I took a candid look at myself: a girl who once wasn’t phased at being transparent, but is frightened at telling the secrets with which I grapple behind closed doors. I also took a candid look at what dating means, or what approaching it could be defined as: it means putting yourself out there and showing who you are, vulnerability included, with the possibility, and high likelihood, that you could be given up at any moment.

And that scared me, my friends.

There’s this phrase that been going around that sings the tune of, “If your dreams don’t scare you, you’re not dreaming big enough.” What the heck, who came up with that? I thought dreams were supposed to include achievement and victory in all it’s ravishing glory for all the world to see. I thought dreams were supposed to be happy, filled with promise and good fortune, but I found myself tonight wondering what could be, both good and bad. I didn’t know dreams were accompanied with the possibility of failure, with the possibility of others’ failure to sustain and fulfill, with the possibility of everything I don’t want.

Back up.

I had texted a treasured friend with whom I have recently grown to be close, and I essentially told her all the aforementioned. I was then met with this:

“Trust in the process. Seek The Lord with your whole heart and be intentional with finding out what The Lord wants you to do. That doesn’t mean a casual, “Hey God, I give this to you.” It means, “God, I trust you with my whole heart and you know what is best for me. Open this door wide or slam it shut and through it I WILL PRAISE YOU.”

This is why I love having friends who are in college because they are profound and wise and steadfast, this being no exception. Yet, her response still wrecked me.

“Open this door wide…”

Heck yeah, God. Open the door wider than you’ve ever opened any door. Make it blatant to me that you want this for me and that it will happen now and you will be glorified.

“… or slam it shut”.

But don’t do that, God.

I think a lot of people have a firm grip on who they wish God was, but they don’t know the in’s and out’s of who he actually is.

Some think God to be this wish-granting-factory of sorts, a vending machine that if they put in x -amount of hours reading the Bible or converting people or serving others they will get what they ask. Ugh, but that’s not what it is!!!!!!!!! That’s not who God is and that’s not how Christianity works!!!!! I get deeply stirred when people mistreat my friends and I inherently take on their burdens as my own, so when I think about why people flippantly toss around blessings, I get upset. You don’t get to exploit God. And He knows it. You don’t get to manipulate his blessings. And He won’t let you. Remember that.

“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.”

Proverbs 16:3

“Committing to the Lord whatever we do” doesn’t mean giving him parts of our hearts. To commit is to dive. To submerse yourself into a cause with whole-hearted belief in the truth and success of the matter. We say we commit ourselves to the Lord while only giving parts of ourselves to him, and when things don’t go our way, we get upset.

“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:19

When I first read that one, I definitely was affirmed. I was encouraged and hopeful that good things would happen to me. But take a deeper look! “[A]ccording to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” doesn’t necessarily mean we are guaranteed good things on this earth! We are promised eternal fortune, as we are promised heaven once the profession of our faith is furthered by word of mouth, but we are NOT guaranteed what we want just because we tell people we say we love Jesus. Philippians 4:19 essentially says we are promised that our needs will be met according to the will of God.

Needs aren’t wants. Remember that.

The will of God isn’t always our will. Remember that.

I can tell you with 100% surety that I am preaching to myself. Yes, I’m frustrated that people worldwide treat Jesus’ love and grace like a joke because it only matters when it works in their favor, but I’m apart of that guilty party.

I found myself tonight telling the Lord I wanted him to accommodate (lol accommoDATE hahahahahahahahahaha) (I’m hilarious) to my emotional wants simply because I say so. How disrespectful of me, Father- please forgive me, I beg.

Another thing I’ve been learning is that I can’t act on my emotions. Emotions are unstable. I’ve been having to redirect my maturity, in that I can’t keep acting based on how I feel because I could feel completely different in 24 hours. I could act irrationally based on how I feel one moment only to be upset at permanent consequences once my feelings have changed. Feelings are not foundation. Remember that.

We have to plant our foundation on what we know is true with consistency, and we find the ultimate foundation in Christ Jesus’ saving grace, am I right?

“… and through it I WILL PRAISE YOU.”

Mmm. What a word.

Part of growth is the unknown, yes? And unknown means powerlessness, powerlessness equating to the relief of all volition. Not going of our own will means trusting in someone else’s will, and if we’re smart, we’ll entrust our entire lives to the will of Jesus!!!!!! I am so at peace in this moment. However short the moment, I find peace knowing I am forever indebted to the grace of Jesus that eternally binds me to His will should I choose it.

I don’t know if I’ve made my point clearly, and I don’t really mind if I haven’t, but I sit here completely powerless to what happens to my relationship status. And it’s hard to say “God, you know better than I do,” because it’s true and I’m prideful in that I don’t like admitting to being low on the power pedestal, but it’s TRUE. All our lives we walk seeking truth, and when we find it, we run away from it because more often than not, truth doesn’t parallel with our dreams. Remember that.

I saved my biggest dream for last.

I think my biggest dream is to be in heaven. When I thought my life sucked back in freshman year, when I felt completely alone, I usually closed my day by crying in my bedroom wishing to be in heaven because nothing could be worse than feeling unappreciated and discredited to all dedication I had devoted to my friends. But it’s less of a cop-out than it was then. I’ve done a lot of growing, and it’s so cool to long for the gates of pearl and the streets of gold because that means being with Jesus, not just that all my problems will be solved.

If we are dreaming for Jesus, that means praising Him regardless of circumstance. It means praising him if we get to go on cute dates with a boy/girl and have someone to look at Christmas lights with around the holidays. And in the same breath, it means praising him if we get dropped for someone “better.” It means saying we love Jesus more than wallowing in self-pity when things don’t go our way. It means abandoning feelings and instability in favor of the Love that will never fail or forsake. Remember that.

So. Here’s to things not going our way. But to chasing our dreams regardless of the fear factor.

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Pretty Powerlessness

A few nights ago, I was bombarded with two major things that I can’t really process. So I came here, to my computer, to hopefully process things. But odds are, even if I get through this blog in one piece, I still won’t have white seperated from black and it will all be a big blob of grey. So here’s to tryin’.

I was reading Scripture on my bed and listening to Hillsong. I had been deep in thought about my state in regards to committed relationships, as I’ve never had one before, but had had my eyes on a particular person who I found to be worth my time (which is rare for me to find. I’m not saying that in a haughty tone, but I’m very discerning when it comes to relationships).  I had been having doubts as to whether this pursuit (or rather a lack thereof) was something The Lord had in my plans, and I had been deeply praying for His Will to be unmistakable, as I’m terrible at inferring what Jesus wants me to do with my life.

Oddly enough, I began texting this boy (which was a big step for me, and I had been giddy for about 7 minutes) and what started out as a “How was your day?” morphed into “What has Jesus been laying on your heart lately?” Long story short, he shared how he was head over heels for this lovely person who seems perfect in every way (so it’s hard for me to have a deeply-rooted distaste for her). He then expressed his doubts about the situation, mostly pertaining to whether or not he saw her as one to pursue at this particular time and place in his life (spoiler: they’re now a going concern). As I began giving him advice, I began saying how it’s crucial to be rooted in Jesus and to have found out who you are in Him before you begin to find out who other people are in Him. And as I ventured on tangent after tangent, I realized that I need to put my money where my mouth was and eat what I had been dishing.

So, as the conversation began winding down, as it was 9:30 pm after all, I got a text out of the blue from one of my good friends.

She communicated that my best friends didn’t like me as much as I thought they did. And I inferred that they didn’t really want us to stay friends.

This coming from one of the people in this circle of friends, I knew it to be true and not something of a rumor. I politely thanked the messenger, she said she could now “go to bed with ease,” and we ended the conversation. I was taken aback.

I mean, how many times in your life do you find out someone actually worth your time doesn’t like you back, and your best friends actually don’t like you hardly at all? And all within 15 minutes of each other! What a time to be alive.

So amidst my tears of tumult, I proceeded reading Scripture. And to be honest, I can’t remember a single passage I read that night, but what I do remember is that God communicated His power and control over my life and my lack thereof. Which hit me like a brick wall.

As humans, we want control. We want security. We want power and clarity and a plan for the future. And I lacked all these things there in those moments of weakness. I, one who plans out my weekend plans by the month, one who schedules events weeks in advance, didn’t have any clue what was going to happen to me for the next few months because I didn’t have anyone to sit with at lunch, or to tell the bummy things that happened in my day, or to hang out with on the weekends. As someone who is deeply invested in the lives of others and longs to please them through intentional friendships, I was struck down and scattered on the floor with sadness and struggle and strife because my sisters had sent me to sea in a ship of solitude.

As I came to terms with this state of powerlessness, I kept thinking “But this still means I have to wait.” All of last year I waited for friends who would love and accept me. For sixteen years I have waited for a guy to come along who would take pictures with me and come to my soccer games and go out to brunch with me and talk with me over coffee. And for both of those things I am still waiting.

Psalm 33:20-22 announces that “Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.” But that doesn’t mean it isn’t hard. Because we still want that control and that vast expanse of knowledge and that peace that comes with knowing what will happen.

So this is what has been reeling through my mind lately, and I have to wonder what the purpose of this all is. Why am I being kept single so long when I deeply yearn for a relationship? And why am I continually found in this pit of isolation when I deeply long for friendships to invest in and memories to be made?

But I guess that’s part of the beauty in Christ. As I look around me all I have found are questions which I can’t seem to find answers for. And I look to my future and am caught open-mouthed with wide eyes at the thought of the unknown.

But take the Crucifixion, for example.

While Christ knew what was to occur and the weight and redemption etched into every thorn and nail, the disciples and others who were deeply close with Jesus knew not of the plans for the future. But as I, a member of the Church, reflect on this event, I treat it with reverence as I know now the meaning behind it’s purpose. Behind the purpose of the Crucifixion. Behind the purpose of Christ.

So as I look to my future, I take joy in the fact that I can look to the past and rejoice in His faithfulness and grace, as daily His mercies are renewed wholly for my benefit. And I rejoice that as I’m searching for a boy who will like me in the least, I can have and hold a heart in Christ because He is my portion and my forever and the love of my life. And I rejoice that while I suffer persecution for my faith through the cutting of friendship ties, I am able to invest in the only friendship that will love me back in ways I can’t reciprocate.

So here’s to relationships and friendships and not knowing what’s ahead of you. Here’s to hard work and perseverance and faith in the One who knows it all. Here’s to believing in Someone greater than you when you feel lesser than the least.

Here’s to giving up your power so Christ can show His.

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The Romance to Remembrance

Tonight I had coffee with a sweet and treasured friend. This past year, the Lord has been SO FAITHFUL in providing the sweetest of community for me, which y’all most likely are well aware is an aspect of life that so deeply circled my thoughts last year, along with my longing for companionship which I felt I despairingly lacked.

This past, recent school year (which has lacked blogging, I’m sorry to say) has been such a turnaround for me. Having depression stinks, but this past summer I had deep chats with deep friends who love me deeply and well, through intentionality and accountability alike. One friend, advanced in wisdom and transparency, dealt with me on such compassionate terms and shared with me an outlook that radically changed my view of life and of the Gospel.

She said to me words to the effect of “Yes, my depression is a sea of sin and a sea of sadness and despair. But it is just one more way that of which I need a Savior. And for that I am forever grateful.”

I walked away from that pool-side heart-to-heart shocked. I was at my favorite place, dancing beneath the pines and taking in the breath of God by the gulp. I knew I would be changed while in the presence of God, but I never imagined I would be transformed in such a way as that.

And ever since, I have been trying my best to put my Savior to use. To rely on Him. To trust that He let this happen to me for a reason, this sadness and this struggle. You can check my previous blogs from months upon months ago– they are strewn with tears, they are marked upon with cries for help. But that is one way, among the many, that my life has been transformed in terms of the Gospel. I better understand the Father loving me so unconditionally, that He would take human form to relieve me of this burden, to relieve me of this stress, to relieve me of this heartache. There are so many other ways I could tell you how my heart has been transformed over this past summer (at another date, however).

So anyways, back to this quality time I just experienced with that treasured friend.

We went to Starbucks (I know, so “white girl”), which I feel like is gaining in attaining a certain monotony to it’s scene, as almost every town across America, or the globe for that matter, has at least one Starbucks on the corner of any intersection. Thus, they’ve lost their personal touch, hence my preference towards all the unique and super vintage, rustic “Mom and Pop” type coffee shops on Peoria near downtown Tulsa, but tonight I learned that while location and ambiance have an effect on the occasion and the density of the vividity in the memory, sometimes even something as common as Starbucks and a grande peppermint mocha can have the same effect as Shades of Brown or The Pheonix (two coffee shops on Peoria which I’m obsessed with).

Now quality time is most definitely my love language, so in the majority of my deep talks with friends I am the one asking the questions to see and learn more about their heart and their take on the matters at hand. This being no different than the situation just expressed, I was asking questions pertaining to the new year coming at hand, as well as relating to reflection upon the fleeting memory that is 2014. The questions I asked were:

  1. What are the top three lessons you learned this past year?
  2. What is your main goal for this upcoming chapter?

I asked and she answered, then she asked me my take on my own questions, which I expected, but for which I didn’t exactly have an answer prepared. And I think that’s part of the beauty of it all. The rawness. The reality. The spontaneity. My answers weren’t thoroughly planned so I could give an elaborate response to make me seem good in the eyes of others, but they were real and they were true. I was surprised by these responses, because I had almost forgotten they had happened at all. And here I happened upon a realization: what a gift memory is, but what a weapon forgetfulness is; for we have such power and capability to lose the preciousness that may sting and bleed at the moment of impact, but the beauty in the scars is the story behind it- that fleeting romance that memory captures and tames, that we might learn to harness this remembrance and treat it with care, grace and love.

So, my answers (these are raw recollections of what I said, so obviously they’re not word-for-word).

Question 1: What are the top three lessons you learned this past year?

Answer: My first lesson would probably be to understand that Christ and Christ alone is the only one who will sustain me, who will carry me, and who can fulfill my want and need to be loved and cherished.

I then ventured into the backstory of why I chose that answer, which is that I had spent my time over the summer and part of this school year in devoting myself to boys and their opinions, and the possible attention I could gain from them. I remember now something I had said when I was grieving the backlash of this mistake the first time it was made, which was “If people tell me I’m so great, and that I’m such a precious jewel that I could easily get a boyfriend if I wanted, then why am I getting rejected? There has to be something wrong with me, there has to be some flaw in my heart that people don’t want anything apart of.” But that’s so untrue. Just because someone who I value(d) doesn’t reciprocate does not in any way mean there is something wrong with me. Yes, I do have my imperfections, but that is what makes me beautiful in the sight of my Maker (2 Corinthians 12:9). And here is an instance where that list of former interests failed me where God never will. He loves me despite my pride, and my controlling nature, and my perfectionism, and every other flaw which lives nested within my soul.

The second lesson I shared was that I keep living in the future, rather than the present, which I don’t think is a good way to live my life. Not because of any spiritual backing, but simply because I’ve missed out on so many lovely happenings because of my silly, overachieving nature. I attended the Pine Cove Shores this summer for a week, then immediately went to the Woods Family Camp at Pine Cove the following week and had received feedback that apparently “the Shores was so much better than the Woods,” which I don’t think is entirely true, but that review set my frame of mind into one that thought of the week ahead of me as one that would be wasted, and the beginning half of that week definitely was wasted. I was stuck in the past, of wanting to be back at the Shores with my lovely counselor and sweet cabin, and in the future, of wanting to fast forward to Week 7 and the Shores for the summer of 2015. And that, ladies and gentlemen, was one of the most stupid things I have ever done. There are many foolish acts I have committed, but that was one I will regret for a long time, if not for the rest of my life. I had yet to realize the beauty that is unique to each camp at Pine Cove, and while most of my friends’ families had discontinued their stay at the Woods, that didn’t mean that I could just check out and ruin everyone else’s experience. I remember my [STINKIN’ AWESOME] counselor at the Woods talking with me while I was crying silent tears at the ropes course because I missed my Shores fam, and she basically told me that she knew what was going on, and that it in no way gave me the right to depress everyone else’s time at camp. Once this resonated within me, I made friendships not only with my peers, but with the counselors on staff, and my regret of this situation is that had I not been so deep in the act of wallowing in my self-pity, I would have been able to strengthen those friendships made with the counselors with even more intentionality than time allowed me to once I came to my realization.

I have caught myself in a similar situation these past couple weeks while I’ve been on Christmas Break. In my opinion, the previous semester at school flew by, so I’ve been silently and secretly hoping that this second semester keeps truckin’ along at the same speed as the first, in hopes that summer will arrive quickly and Pine Cove can come again and I can see the biggest blessings in my life once again. But this is a DUMB outlook. Yes, I love Pine Cove, and God has used that sweet haven in ways which have become deeply rooted in my heart, but that doesn’t mean I can revolve my life around it. Pine Cove isn’t all there is to my life- that would be misinterpreting God’s purpose for Pine Cove overall, and misinterpreting God’s purpose in causing our paths to cross.

I believe everything God has given to us is a gift. This computer I’m using to blog this is a gift, and the clean water I’m drinking is a gift, and the oxygen I am breathing is a gift. But that doesn’t mean we can waste these gifts that can be thought of as commonalities, while in actuality they are rarities graced to us by the power and mercy of our Father. These rarities need good stewardship. Time and existence are two gifts Jesus has granted me, and in no way am I being a good steward of my time or existence by just planning planning planning for the future. Yes, a new semester is upon me. Yes, finals and AP tests will surface faster than prefered. And yes, summer assignments will arise. But that planning can wait, for I have a holiday to celebrate- a wonderful holiday that lead to my salvation, and fulfilled the prophecies one by one to lead to the salvation of the masses.

So, to recount, I learned that Christ has my identity, and that it is important to live in the now. My third and final lesson I answered my dear friend with was God has been teaching me the meaning of hard work and well-earned rewards.

The Pine Cove Shores has offered for awhile now the opportunity to participate in a two-week stay at camp, titled OverFlow, where I would hope to experience a greater spiritual growth than in the one-week experience I attended last year. I am in no way saying that the one-week stay was bad because it most certainly was not; it was the complete opposite. However, I don’t want just one week anymore. I want two weeks of being closer to Jesus than I would argue I ever am throughout the year. I want two weeks of learning and of being refined and of enhancing my grip on the Gospel with the hopes that Jesus would overflow and pour into me so I could overflow and pour into others, and in order to do that, my parents have set the rule that I have to earn up some moneys. I would have to earn half the cost of the regular one-week stay (as I’ve had to do every year I’ve attended youth camp), as well as all the additional cost of OverFlow. That sums to a large amount for a poor high school kid, friends.

This meant I had to get a job, one I was let go from within three weeks of my initial employment. And that sucked. I don’t like using the phrase ‘sucked,’ but it really did suck. My very first job and I lost it within three weeks. They informed me it was due to my availability things weren’t working out (due to high school soccer taking up the majority of my time, that of which I have decided not to be apart of anymore considering this situation), and I went home weeping. How could I ever raise a whopping $1500 by June to pay back to my parents if I lost my first job almost as soon as it was given to me, and right before the holidays?

While in this emotionally fragile state, my mom volunteered that maybe it wasn’t God’s plan for me that I go to OverFlow this summer. This definitely set some anger brewing in my heart. Something I so longed for, to dance on the beaches of Lake Palestine in the great city of Tyler, Texas for TWO WHOLE WEEKS seemed like a dream, one even more distant now that a steady flow of income had paused. I then channeled this anger into a goal, that I would earn those 1500 smackers if it was my dying deed (which I still haven’t completed this task, if anyone was curious). And with this, came the lesson that God created us to work and to reap what we sow, and to understand that nothing comes to be without some amount of effort. For instance, take a look at Adam! When God first created Adam, He put him to work towards naming all the animals. Then, once the fall occurred, Adam and Eve were directed towards raising crops and animals. From this sprouted their good health and survival, just like earning currency in today’s society leads to the availability to pay for the electric bill and the water bill and cooking a meal (or just driving through a drive-thru every once in awhile… or every night, haha).

And I’m sorry, friends, but my answer to the second question I posed to my beloved companion tonight at coffee will be answered in another blog post. Because I’m tired. And I’m emotionally and physically drained. And my flannel sheets and sweet pillow sound pretty dang good right about now, but the point is there are so many things to be learned in this life, and if we aren’t granted the opportunity, rather if we don’t grant ourselves the opportunity to reflect and see those lessons we have been given, we may not even learn it the second or third time it is taught to us (because I can be taught a lesson thousands of times and not learn a thing, thank you Algebra 2).

So, I challenge y’all to be good stewards of your time and decide to rest. Rest and reflect. Dive into Jesus and remember the lessons He’s taught you as we ring in this new year. Dive into Jesus and thank Him for those lessons, for it is because He loves us that He disciplines us (Hebrews 12:6), and that love would not come debt-free had he not abandoned his throne to live alongside us to be mocked and crucified for our sake.

God gave us rest, too. Be a good steward of that gift.

~~~

To learn more about Pine Cove Christian Camps, you can go to this website

http://www.pinecove.com/aboutus/our-ministry

and check out all of what God is doing through a camp which has impacted my life and heart more than words have been given the ability to express. If you’d like to learn more about the treasured Pine Cove Youth Camps, their Shores program and the Shores OverFlow program as well, you can visit these links for your better understanding.

Pine Cove Youth Camps: http://www.pinecove.com/youth-camps/

Pine Cove Shores: http://www.pinecove.com/summer-camps/shores

Shores OverFlow: http://www.pinecove.com/summer-camps/shores-overflow

And hey, what the heck. Here’s the link to their Family Camp website too: http://www.pinecove.com/family-camps/

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Chasing the Shore

I’ve always loved the beach. Typical girl, right? I mean, it’s just so appealing, especially on a hot day or when you’re wanting to just relax and read a book with a smoothie. That’s my ideal day, for sure.

I especially enjoy the water. When your feet are encompassed with the quenching, cool water, no matter how salty and nasty it is to taste (been there, done that, do NOT want to go back). My point being, beaches are just wonderful. Aren’t they? They’re relaxing and fun and just so great my mind can’t process it enough. What a wonderful gift from God, one that replenishes our energy and our attitude on life!

I feel life is so much like a beach.

The waves wash up onto the shore. Wanting, longing, desiring so wholeheartedly to be upon dry land. Yet they are always pulled back in every time by the pull of the moon, pulling them back into the sea. Everyone has their own sea.

My sea is insecurity.

I’ve always been very conscious of it, my insecurity. I’ve always known it was there, looked it straight in the eye and kept its gaze for a few seconds, minutes even, but I’ve never contested it. I’ve never done something about the weeds growing higher and higher by the minute in the garden of my heart. I’ve never plucked the weeds, one by one, not to mention putting good healthy seed in afterward. I’ve never done something about my sea of insecurity. One that easily entangles my heart.

One insecurity of mine is I’m all too aware of others’ opinions. And half the time I’m wrong! Which is absolutely crazy! I place my identity in what others think about me or say to me. What an unhealthy way to live, isn’t it? And why, why oh why, do we do this? I know I’m not the only one who does this nasty habit. Every one of us who takes part in placing others’ opinions so high we can’t reach the shelf to take it down is… What are we? Honestly, what are we? Are we desperate? What are we desperate for? Love? Acceptance, community, value? 

Tell me, what are we doing to ourselves? Who are we to think we are so high and mighty to place others’ opinions on that high shelf? And more often than not, God’s opinion is on the shelf right below it, if not on the bottom shelf. I don’t know about you, but there is definitely something wrong there, to say the least. Who do we think we are, to do such a thing? How prideful! Forgive me for being so candid, but what a stupid thing to do!

Why is it stupid? Oh believe me, I will tell you. IMMA TELL YOU.

It is so stupid, we are so stupid, to place others’ opinions higher than our own opinion of ourselves, higher than God’s opinion of us, because the minute you think you can do this whole “life” thing on your own is the minute you are drawn back into your sea of stupidity. Your sea of insecurity. Your sea of sin.

Bear with me. I say all these things, practically preaching like I always do, in such a hypocritical manner. I know the feeling of rejection all too well. If anything I need to take into account my own words. And believe me, I’m trying my best to.

But I can’t swim through my sea of insecurity, my sea of sin, my sea of temptation, my sea of Satan and everything he has to offer without the Lord.

Pride is something I struggle with as well. I don’t like to admit I can’t do something, and the minute someone asks if I need help I instantly reject their offer, wanting to prove to everyone watching that I am better than they expected. Wanting to prove to myself that I am better than I expected. But I can’t do half the things I do, if not every single one. I just can’t. It’s human nature, none of us can. Yet we build ourselves up, put ourselves up on a high shelf, along with others’ opinions, and we say to ourselves, “I can do this! I can win! I can do what everyone else said I couldn’t! I’ll show them!”

And then someone nudges the shelf just a tad. And we wobble. A second time they shove the shelves, and we sway from side to side, flirting with the idea of letting go and feeling our hearts fall to the floor, and watching in our minds eye the view of our spirit and pride crashing, tumbling, shattering to the floor and dispersing into a million of pieces.

And they shove our shelves a third and final time. And we hurtle.

Same goes for reality, when we place others’ opinions higher than God’s or our own opinion on whether we look good, whether we’re enough, or whether we’ll ever amount to anything.

Recently I’ve been a victim of this dirty habit.

I placed, and to some extent I still do, my friends opinions the highest of all. Naturally, I love the sarcastic people, because their personalities are so diverse and unique and it’s comical to be around them. Naturally, sarcasm can hurt and cut deep. Naturally, I tend to be an oversensitive person. My friends joke and tease, but I was always the only one who didn’t find anything they said funny, yet I laughed when they laughed and I valued the same things they valued. I put on a great facade.

They shoved my shelves. Too many times. And I was cracking. Breaking. Shattering. I couldn’t see past the haze of Satan’s lies to the crystal clear truth of God’s Word. I was back in my sea of insecurity. I was broken in my sea, shattered, and dissolving into the salt water. Becoming apart of the sea which so easily engulfed my small frame. Becoming immersed with the things of this world.

Ya know how the lower things are to the ground the more stable they are? How on a cruise ship the lowest deck always sways the least, and the highest cabin floor sways the most? How the leaves and branches on a tree are rustled by the wind but the trunk is firm and secure? Same goes for shelves. What tends to be on everyone’s bottom shelf? What tends to be on my bottom shelf?

Jesus.

To me, I’m embarrassed by admitting that. I’m a Christian, yes? That’s what I say I am, that’s WHO I say I am. ‘Christian’ literally means ‘little Christ’. Am I acting like a little Christ? If I truly was a Christian like I say I am, aren’t I supposed to put God above everyone else? Not in my world. I placed Him at the lowest. He already experienced life on the bottom once, when people rejected and spit on and trampled over him daily. I can bet you anything He is NOT willing to experience it again! Yet, almost every one of us do it constantly! How utterly terrible is that? How utterly disgusting are we? To the One we say we LOVE?! How hypocritical.

Yet the bottom shelf is always the easiest to reach. Especially if you’re lower than the lowest shelf, in your sea of whatever you struggle with.

But my God can walk on water.

He is always willing to love you. I got to experience that love this summer, but in such an increasingly more radical way than I’ve ever felt.

I was broken. I was open wide and vulnerable to any destructive temptations Satan had to offer. I felt unloved. I felt invaluable. I felt like a failure. I couldn’t fake who I was like I had always done my whole life. I just couldn’t do it.

And Jesus, being the loving, forgiving, selfless Man He is, stepped off of His low shelf I had placed him at, brushed off the dust, and slowly began walking on my sea, standing tall among the waves that easily drowned me when I fell into the sin. Yet they didn’t even attempt to approach Him. He just knelt down and slowly started piecing me back together on the solid, lovely foundation He provides.

All this to say, the things of this world will fail you. They will. That’s something I’m still working on getting through my thick skull. It’s inevitable that nothing in this world can satisfy. But temporary pleasure is enough for us. So we keep doing the things we do that grant us temporary satisfaction, just feeding the weeds in our garden. But out of one thousand steps, if you take a measly, timid, heartless step toward the Lord, he will come running at full force with a smile on His face toward you the rest of those 999 steps.

I am still being pieced back together by my Father who walks on water. And I am ecstatic for the day I am whole again and no longer have to wallow in my sea of pain, and can skip, jump, dance on the shores of His safety and love and true joy and happiness.

I am chasing the shore.

 

 

 

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